Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A farewell treat: more 'hoopy' basslines

Although I am hoping to still add a few more 'Top Five' music posts retroactively to my 'Music Week' at the start of this month (my grandiose plans for that were much disrupted by my VPN and Internet connection going on the fritz), this will officially be my final music post before the end of the world on Friday. Well, OK, the penultimate music post; I've got one more lined up.

Today, we have a long planned conclusion to my Great Basslines series, a further roundup of what I have come to call 'hoopy' basslines, where the playing is more varied and intricate, rather than just propelling the song along.

Since this is the last entry in the series, I should perhaps apologise for some of my more egregious oversights in compiling it. I just haven't had time to consider jazz, for example. Or reggae, which is noted for its deceptively tricky lilting basslines. And, while I am aware that there are some outstanding exponents of the bass in the realms of funk and soul, these are not areas of music that I know very much of. I'm sure I probably could have had at least one 'Top Five' just of James Brown numbers, but I'm not famililar enough with his oeuvre (oh, go on, then - have a little blast of William 'Bootsy' Collins playing bass for him on Soul Power, from a great live show in Zaire in 1974). Michael Jackson is perhaps an even more glaring omission: songs like Billie Jean, Thriller, The Way You Make Me Feel and Smooth Criminal are certainly amongst the strongest and most recognisable basslines recorded (apparently it was Louis Johnson who played for him on the Off The Wall and Thriller albums, and Nathan East on Bad - although he is mysteriously not credited in Wikipedia entries on the individual songs). But, while I can't help but like such hooky songs, I never liked MJ; even before all the weirdness, the plastic surgery disasters and the paedophilia allegations, even when he was a little kid, there was something about him that just creeped me out. And that feeling got worse when he relaunched himself as an adult star; I never could stand that high-pitched voice, and his attempt to reinvent himself as a rock'n'roll bad boy - all that swagger and sneer, and the crotch-grabbing - struck me as ludicrous. So - sorry, Jackson fans, it has been a conscious prejudice of mine to leave him out of this series.

Having got that out of the way, here we go....

Another Top Five 'Hoopy' Basslines

5)  This Is Not A Love Song
We had Public Image Ltd in the first of these 'hoopy' selections as well, but you can't have too much of a good thing. I confess, though, I had thought this was still the great Jah Wobble playing. Music Mike pointed out in the comments below that he left the band after their third album, and this, from their fifth, actually has Louis Bernardi on bass. [The video for the album version is here.]

4)  Pusherman
Joseph 'Lucky' Scott is widely considered to be one of the greatest of all bass players, and this Curtis Mayfield track (from his score for the 1972 blaxploitation classic, SuperFly) may be his finest hour.

3)  War Pigs
We've had Black Sabbath in this series before as well, with Paranoid being one of the essential bass 'chuggers'. On this song, though, especially in the introductory section, Terry Butler isn't just the band's engine, but really gets to show off what a technically accomplished bass player he is. [This is a great live performance from 1970. You can listen to the album version instead here.]

Trivia note: There's an interesting coincidence here. Terry Butler is, of course, invariably known by his nickname 'Geezer'; and it just so happens that Jah Wobble chose Memoirs Of A Geezer as the title for his autobiography. And what a great title that is!

2)  Taxman
A special treat for Music Mike, who has been a regular comment-thread sparring partner of mine over the last year or so and was the main inspiration for me getting started on this series... and is also perhaps the world's biggest Beatles fan, and thus regularly complains about my omission of Paul McCartney from this series so far. I've been delaying this post largely for the fun of antagonising him.

And just to antagonise him some more, I kept Macca out of the top spot here. What do we have instead?

1)  The Mayor of Simpleton
I've never been a particular fan of XTC, but they did produce some undeniably hooky tunes, and Colin Moulding's bass playing always commanded attention. A friend reintroduced me to this number a couple of years ago, and it has become a favourite.


Mike said...

Fantastic selection! Really, I love them all, not just saying that. I'm not sure that "This Is Not A Love Song" was by Wobble though, wasn't he kicked out of PIL by then? You could have said Death Disco or Poptunes or Albatross for quality Wobble hoopers. XTC are a bit hit and miss, but when they get it right, ooooh boy!!

Froog said...

Yeah, I had my doubts about whether it was JW - but it sounds like him. And I found an online forum for bass players discussing their fave songs, and one of the contributors there ascribed it to him - not that that's authoritative. Who played bass for them after he left? (Runs back to Wikipedia...)

Froog said...

Good catch, Mike. This is probably Louis Bernardi on bass with PIL. I shall amend accordingly.

Jörg (Kuhmühlen) said...

Großartige Auswahl. Great selection, esp. PIL fits to my Kuhmühlen Playlist.