Paul was one of the most innovative bass players ever.  And half
the stuff that is going on now is directly ripped off from his
Beatles period.
John Lennon, September 1980   1

I became very proud to be the bass player in the Beatles
Paul McCartney, August 1995  2


This article is written from the perspective of Paul McCartney's influence on
rock bass playing. It's written by a fan for fans, and is intended to be largelyuntechnical.  This happy fact is largely due to the fact that Paul claims to be untechnical himself.

Paul McCartney:  I'm one of the least technical people you're
likely to meet.  I went into a guitar shop in America a few years ago
and some guy said "What kind of bass strings do you use, Paul?"  I said,
"Long shiny ones".  I don't know about amps.  I don't know about
serial numbers." 2

Both Paul and his long time partner, John Lennon, did their best
to refrain from analyzing what they did and how they did it too deeply.
There was always that fear that they might lose the magic they had.

Before the Beatles, and particularly before Paul McCartney
helped to bring bass playing to the fore, the bass player in the
band was usually the guy who was least talented guitarist.

Afterward, it was suddenly cool to be the bass player.  This, in
itself, was an absolute  major change in the music scenes around
the world.  It is a change that is difficult to properly define
the weight of.   If you could, for example, walk into the
typical music store in 1963, you would find the guitar section populated
by about 98% guitars and perhaps a bass or two owards the back.  By 1968
when I went to buy my first bass, there were quite a few more
than I remember seeing before.   The reason, for the large part,
is due to the incredible influence Paul McCartney had on the budding
musicians of the day.

He certainly was the reason I took up the bass and
because of that I should point out that writing an article on his bass
playing offers two distinct difficulties:

1. to keep on track, and not discuss the Beatles as a whole.
While frequent discussion of the Beatles music (instead of
purely the bass playing) is necessary because each instrument is
so well integrated, discussion of the group or matters in their
history has been 'somewhat' avoided.

2. to remain objective. Those of us who grew up loving those
four guys as icons, big brothers or whatever, sometimes have a
hard time standing back and looking at things objectively. They
were - and remain - so magnetic.  The countless books that have
been written about the Beatles' music  by "competent reviewers"
(MacDonald's Revolution In The Head comes to mind immediately)
take the general approach that the author knows better,  that
the Beatles haven't fooled them, and that it is important to
pass along the idea that their incredible knowledge of music
gives them the opportunity to state as fact what they feel about
the music. But how objective can one remain about something so
entirely subjective as music?  It is stated, then, here and now
that all of the discussion on the music itself is the opinion of
this author.

Since McCartney's major influence as a bass player was provided
in the 1960s, the article is focused on his work with the

                *              *               *
Thanks section: Thanks to Don Monson for editing (!) and a host
of people for contributing thoughts and ideas: cousin Jerry
Dicey for years of discussion on rock bass playing; Brian
Smithey for setting me straight on James Jamerson; Scott
Jennings of Route 66 Guitars for much needed information on
Rickenbacker (if you got questions about that company's product,
find him), and others who offered excellent information in the newsgroup whose  names have unfortunately come
and gone.
                *              *               *


No article on influential bass playing of the 1960s would be
near complete without an admiring nod to some great players of the day.

James Jamerson (Motown's one and only). If one were to write an
article on the evolution of soul bass playing in the 1960s, the
article would be about one man: Jamerson. He influenced Paul
McCartney to a great degree. After switching from upright to
electric bass, he kept his action (the distance between the
string and the neck) very high. This makes the player work
harder to hit each note and therefore tends to keep the player
from being too "cute" or fancy. Although he apparantly was a
very strong fingered man and could play as fast  as he ever
needed, he was one of the best in the world at laying in the
pocket, or playing what was most needed to move a song.

John Entwhistle (the Who) would have to be mentioned as the
predecessor of the archtypical progressive rock bass player and
to this day is nothing short  of outstanding on the instrument.

Jack Bruce (Cream/much solo work) was and is a major influence
on rock bass playing. He was the first major bass player on the
scene whose instrumental work was taken as seriously as the lead
instruments in a band. During solos, Cream wouldn't feature just
guitarist Eric Clapton, but all three musicians interplaying
with one another.

Donald "Duck" Dunn (Booker T/M.G.s and almost all Memphis
records from Redding to Sam & Dave, etc) layed back behind the
beat just a little bit along with drummer Al Jackson Jr (a much
missed musician) and yet was/is so enthusiastic in his  playing.
This combination was in contrast to the Motown sound and always
seemed  perfect for such records as Soul Man, Midnight Hour,
Dock of the Bay, Time Is  Tight and other such great Memphis

Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Jimi Hendrix's Noel Redding, The
Animals' Bryan Jones 'Chas' Chandler, the Yardbirds' Paul
Samwell-Smith and Brian Wilson (one of Paul's influences  2) all
put their stamp, as well, on bass playing in  the 1960s.

But it is safe to say that even none of these players had the
effect and influence on  the musical world as one J. Paul McCartney.


In studying the emergence of McCartney's bass playing styles and
techniques, I first of all commend him for being such a solid
player on his Hofner bass (1963 Hofner 500/1 violin
bass), which was really an inexpensive bass with a small neck.
When you pick up a Hofner, you're first surprised at how light
it is. When you play it, you tend to want to play fast little
lines; nothing serious. And yet McCartney really brought 'rock'
bass playing four or five steps forward with that little Hofner
of his, something he didn't toss aside until 1966 (and has since
picked up again many a time).   The argument has been put
forward that the level of ability and creativity he brought to
the instrument beginning in 1965 during the Rubber Soul sessions
was due mostly to the expansiveness of the Beatles' music at the
time.  The opposing view, and one that should not be taken
lightly, is that it was due to his new instrument - a
Rickenbacker 4001S.

Paul McCartney:   Because the Hofner's so light you play it a
bit like a guitar - all that sort of high trilling stuff I used
to do, I think, was because of the Hofner.  When I play a
heavier bass like a Fender, it sits me down a bit and I play
just bass.   2

Interestingly enough, he was really only able to play up the
neck when he switched to the Rickenbacker.  The Hofner's neck
was not aligned until recently (by Mandolin Bros. in
New York).  Until then, it's intonation would fall off by the
third fret according to it's owner.  The switch to the Rickenbacker
"sat him down" but it also allowed him to move up the neck with a far
steadier and powerful style, as is witnessed as soon after the switch in
Rain, Paperback Writer and the Anthology 2 version of And Your
Bird Cand Sing.  He could not have obtained the same sound or
effect on his Hofner.

The interesting aspect of this whole subject is that Paul
McCartney is not merely a bass player.  It's quite obvious that
he hears and feels the entire range of the song as it's being
developed.  He has definite ideas on what the guitars should
sound like (frequently plays them), what  the keyboard should
sound like (frequently plays them) and what the drums should
sound like (and frequently plays those as well).  He is a well
rounded musician who has earned a high position of respect in
the rock field.

The following section is the author's view of Paul's own
evolution as a bass player and, hence, the evolution of rock
bass playing.  It also attempts to have some fun discussing what
was most likely behind the recording of the bass - and at times
the other instruments - on a selection of their songs.   It
should be noted in advance that the bass is, obviously,  just a
section in a band setting.  The best bass players seem to  know
instinctively what will best lift the song to new heights.
Frequently this can be some very simple and well placed notes
(the best example  of this may well be the very simplistic and
beautiful bass playing on Simon &  Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair)


To become the icon of bass players that Paul McCartney became,
it must be then that he was born a bass player - ready from the
beginning to go out and buy his first bass.  Of course this
wasn't the case.  The Beatles bass player, Stu Sutcliffe, stayed
on in Hamburg after one of their seasons there and they needed
someone to replace him.  By default, it became Paul.

George Harrison (speaking of Paul replacing Stu Sutcliffe as the
bass player of the Beatles): . . . he left when we finished the gig in
Hamburg, he decided to go back to art college.   At that point, Paul was
still playing the guitar and I remember us saying "Well, one of us has got to
be the bass player", and I remember saying "it's not me, I'm not
doing it" and John saying "I'm not doing it either".  He. .  .went for it and
he became the bass player from that point on.  So then we were a four piece
band"    3

Paul McCartney:  "Stu said he was going to stay in Hamburg.
He'd met a girl and was going to  stay there wtih her and paint.
So it was like, Uh-oh, we haven't got a  bass player.  And
everyone sort of turned 'round and looked at me.  I was a bit
lumbered with it, really-it was like, 'Well... it'd better be
you, then.'  I don't think you would have caught John doing it;
he would have said: 'No, you're kidding.  I've got a nice new
Rickenbacker!'  I was playing piano and didn't even have a
guitar at the time, so I couldn't really say that I wanted to be
a guitarist."  2

Thanks to this stubborness, the Beatles sound began at that time
to take the direction  that would bring them the fame that no
group of artists has before or since known.

In the very early days, Paul played with the style that most
guitar players-turned-bass players employ. It's a bouncy style
that is caused  generally by hammering the pick down to the
string on each note. The Rolling  Stones' Bill Wyman employed
this style for years.

Combining this style with a hollow body bass made, at times, for
a very 'round' and punchy sound, a sound easy to visualize. If,
for example, Disney were to animate Please Please Me (as in the
first part of Fantasia) the bass would probably be pictured in
round dark blotches that would quickly fade away - bop bop bop
bop bop bop, etc.  While it definitely works and the song put
them over the top world-wide, what would have the Beatles
sounded like in the '63-'65 days if Paul had gone with a solid
body bass?   Very different, indeed.


The tracks recorded with Tony Sheridan in Germany are the
earliest  I know of that feature Paul on bass guitar.  Pete Best
is on drums. Interestingly enough, the feel of the
McCartney/Best rhythm section contrasts sharply with the
McCartney/Starr section and hence the importance of this

Pete played with a much ligher sticked attack, using snare rolls
frequently.  Paul's bass playing is far heavier than Pete's and
so the rhythm section tends to feel out of balance.  For those
that still ask the eternal question "Why did they replace Pete
with Ringo", take a listen to these songs and - rhythm sectionally
speaking - it makes sense.  Don't take lightly the importance of the
ability of the bass player and drummer to lock together.  It is, in rock
music, crucial to the energy level coming from the sound of the songs.

Paul 'features' on Cry For A Shadow at the end of every chorus
with a slick little run up the neck.

The songs were recorded in a school setting, far from a
recording studio, and you're hearing the Beatles pretty much how
they sounded live in those days.  Paul's amp can barely handle
the pressure and that actually adds some charm to the sound of
the bass. During most of his Beatle years and then again on
Wings Over America, part of Paul's unique sound was driving his
amp   just to the edge of distortion.  What a difference this
makes with sound - adding an edgy touch to it - and Paul is
getting it on this recording.

George Martin and Geoff Emerick, in re-mastering the tracks for
the Beatles Anthology, were able to give the bass a rich deep
tone that hadn't been there before.  Since they used old style
recording equiptment, these recordings - if you like the sound
offer a testimonial to going back a few steps with some of our
technology.  Tube recording and performing equiptment (such as
used on these recordings) will usually sound "warmer" than the
more clean and slick digital recording.

Note on pushing the bass sound to the edge of distortion:  the
over distorted sound Jack Bruce once got with his Gibson basses
and Marshall amps is not what's being referred to here.  Moreso,
the reference is to the sound you get, generally by just
slightly overdriving your amplifier.  The sound tends to come
alive, take pulse, as if there is a bit of friction going on.
The over clean (in the author's opinion) sound that bass players
have sought out in the 80s and 90s loses a lot of this friction,
although there are a few notable exceptions to this rule.


The early version of One After 909 'showcases' Paul attempting
gamely to play a solid hammer rhythm without benefit of a pick.
Reviewers  of this track have translated his playing as an
attempt at being flashy but, reviewers, listen again.  Real bass
players out there will  recognize that Paul was trying too hard
to play, and his wrist has stiffened  up.  He is attempting to
keep the energy of his rhythm up, play with his fingers, and
harmonize with John at the same time.  Like with so many things,
if you attempt to push beyong your limit of energy, things begin
to get shaky and loose.

Paul, being no quitter, tries gamely to keep it going.  In this
case, John busts him with the very Liverpuddlian accent "What
are you DOING?"  3  Paul tries again and again.  There seems to
have been no possibility of having Neil go back out to the van
to get a pick from his case because the final recording played
on the Anthology sounds the same as the first attempt.

All that aside we can see where at this early stage, Paul is
already hammering his notes (solid eightnotes played on the
root), an effect that wasn't all that often until then; perhaps
Paul would have been the perfect bass player for Eddie Cochran
(re: Summertime Blues).

Pure excitement.   When you play Please Please Me, to this day
the excitement comes through.
The overall sound is like a big band even if the parts played
aren't done in that style.

As with so many of their songs, there wasn't one particular
Beatle responsible for the excitement.  A listen to what each of
the four did reveals an exciting well played part, and they all
come together to make a sound that you'll never forget. were
once again into having their recordings sound like cohesive
units. The bass playing on Please Please Me punches it's way
into the sound right away hammering away in eighth notes.  If
you were to listen to that song for the first time without the
bass part, it may not be likely that you'd come up with that
idea; but. . . it is perfect.




Up until the album With The Beatles (1963), most contemporary
bass playing was jazz (played on an upright bass) or rock and
roll (played either on an upright or Fender electric). But it
was a very primitive technique used by rock and roll bass
players that generally mimicked the style of horn lines.

With The Beatles was the first album where ROCK bass playing
first crawled  from the ocean and breathed air.

On most of the album, George Martin and engineer Norman Smith
decided to let  the bass come up front and for good reason.  The
playing is solid and wild, especially for the times.  Ringo and
Paul have developed, by this album, an awesome matching of power
that few other bands could boast. It must be claimed that they
both avoided showing off too much, but  more importantly they
sought and always seemed to find just the right way to present a
song.  Pressing along with John Lennon's guitar on Hold Me
Tight, the rhythm rolls like a Sherman Tank smashing it's way
through a forest.  Hanging back on All I've Got To Do (discussed
further), they "don't" play perfectly--meaning that it is just
important what they would leave out as what they would put in.

Every Beatles album had a particular flavor and it's easy to
contrast With The  Beatles with the white album on that regard.
Each instrument was well  defined both in sound and in style.

The Beatles, most will agree, we're TALENTED. John Lennon was
right when he said that they would have made it famous one way
or another, because they were  talented people. As a band, they
could play about any kind of style, and they  could do it both
ways. They could create a tight, cohesive sound that would
knock your doors off and draw you into their tremendous spirit
or they could  play as four musicians working expertly with each
other as on both the white  album and here on With The Beatles.

On the first three songs from the album:


It has that hook guitar line that can only be in E.  It is
always played twice  in succession and Paul always follows it
down the second time on bass, playing  it so hard that he's
overdriving his amplifier.  Martin/Smith are to be given a lot
of credit for not only leaving that in but bringing it to the
fore.   During the verses, Paul and Ringo enter into one of
their patented rhythm changes, bringing the tension down enough
to let the listener rest for a few moments.  It is dynamics that
make so many of the Beatles songs  what they were. They were,
even at this early stage of their career, masters of when to go
all out and when to lay back.  Because you've gone through a
mini roller coaster ride of dynamics when listening to much of
their music, you tend to reach each conclusion feeling some
exhilaration. It Won't Be Long is no exception to this rule.  It
might be that  the vocals and guitars provide the roller car
you're riding in, but that car's wheels are provided by Ringo
and Paul.

The album kicks off with this song and doesn't trail off there.


All I've Got To Do follows, and to the best of my knowledge it's
the first time in R&R or rock where the bass player plays chords
as a vital part of the song. Just as it happens when Paul starts
playing chords in I Want To Hold Your  Hand, the rest of the
band steps back and lets his sound come through.   Dyanamics to
the fore, the bass playing really works for this song. As
mentioned above, what Paul doesn't play on this song is as
important to what he does play.  Up and coming bass players,
please take heed. The minor tension he creates with his chords
is of major importance to this track, during the verses.  He is
riding the drum's synchopated rhythm in a herky-jerky way that
is meant for dance.

Again, dynamics are well to the fore.  The choruses ("and the
same goes for me. . ") raise the song up to new heights.  Just
as suddenly, the song drops back down, down, down, to the
verses.  The chorus ends, Ringo kicks a perfectly timed hi-hat
stroke, and we're back into another verse.  None of it, bass
chords aside, is new or extra-ordinary, just very  well done.


. . . .ahhhh . . . linear bass playing to the hilt. Underneath
John's awesome triplet mashing,

for the first half of each verse, Paul's bass walks from chord
to chord in good ol' jazz style. The typical R&R bass lines
would work with this song, especially considering what's
happening on rhythm guitar, but the walk works even better.

The typical bass player of the day would have settled for
playing a simple 1 & 5 on each chord and it would have worked,
but not nearly as well as this line does. The style is
ever-present and dynamic.

But then on the chorus, where you generally expect the band to
really pick it up, the Beatles fall WAY back. The triplet guitar
stops, the bass stops walking, and the background vocals are
used almost as an organ effect. The bass, here, stands to the
side as well. When you consider that they were somewhere in
their very early 20s when they recorded this, an age where one
mighn't expect a lot of dynamics, all of this becomes even more



In Britain, the single was released a week later; full of
dynamics, stumbles and hooks. One instrument after another takes
it's turn coming to the forefront.  At first it's the rhythm
guitar playing the famous opening chords,  staying somehow in
4/4 (though you wouldn't know it as it seems like it  takes one
beat too long for the vocals to come in).  Then, there's the
final  little crescendo before  the first vocals, anchored by
Paul's repeater bass line.

"Oh yeah I!" shout John and Paul in unision, "tell you
something!", now it's George's turn; he plays that little guitar
lick that takes the song expertly and perfectly from the V to
the VI chord (the song being in G, it now goes from D to Em).

On the bridge (and when I touch you I feel happy), just as in
All My Loving, the guitars and drums fall way back, and Paul's
bass leaps to the fore, playing chords. The whole song has
changed feel for a short time. But not for long. The dynamics
that result when the guitars re-enter at "I can't hide" are

How many guitar players can you think of that would stand by and
let the bass player come forth, even for a few moments?  Not
many.  Ask any bass player, he/she will attest to it.

Here, at a stage where the Beatles were conquering the world,
John and George both stood back and let the dynamics flow.  The
boys had learned, quite early in their professional recording
careers, to bring the hooks to the fore.  They'd also learned
not to let their musicianship get in the way of making good

'Adequate', John said about their musicianship. Adequate enough
to knock a  whole country of JFK mourning Americans out of their

I Want To Hold Your Hand is one of pop music's all time
masterpieces. Short and concise, it takes you through changes
both subtle and obvious. So much can be learned from this song
by aspiring songwriters/arrangers/producers.


1964/1965 are interesting years to evaluate when it comes to
evaluate McCartney's development as a bass player.   On the
records recorded in 1964, the bass is almost always exciting and
energetic, while in 1965 it was generally very tasteful, but
there were no real innovations to be found.

That isn't to say that his playing had dropped off from 1963.
In fact, by the recording of the album Rubber Soul, the level of
maturity in his development of bass parts to fit the song had
grown by leaps and bounds from the earlier years.  It's been
often said, rightly, that the Beatles developed by amazing
amounts from album to album.

But, the production level of the bass on Beatle albums seems to
have leveled off during the two years, especially when you
consider the manner in which it had been brought to the fore so
often in 1963  (see It Won't Be Long).

Perhaps this is because:

  1.  The Martin/Smith team were informed that too much bass on
a record was making the stylus' jump on the cheap little turntables that
Beatles' records were being played on around the world.

  2.  The Beatles were falling into the shell that was to
encapsulate them  until late 1966. Perhaps  Paul was thinking more about
the songs alone  than what to play on it, although that's pretty admirable
in and of  itself. They were involved in so much; touring, songwriting,
endless photo sessions  and Paul's expansion into instruments other than bass.  There was just too much to think of during this period for him to be
completely revolutionary with his bass playing.

  3.  By 1965, John had turned more and more to acoustic guitar
on Beatles' records and the style of the band was leaning
(in some ways) towards folk music which requires far less from
the bass than the rock they were playing in 1964.

A point to be made about 1964 is that Paul and The Beatles
allowed the bass to (with italics) actually be played when other
instruments were not playing.


When The Beatles played at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and
performed Long Tall Sally, Paul cut loose, playing lines along
with his vocals during the breaks.  It's difficult in this day
and age of bass playing hijinx to express the importance of this
band letting the bass cut loose.  It just was not done before in
the rock world.


Wow..  Two mini bass solos, played under "I'd have myself locked
up today". Again, today the idea may not seem wild but in 1964
it was close to heresy.


Ensemble playing (by all four) at it's finest.  Listen to Paul's
bass  contribution on the song.  Not outlandish, it's very
tasteful.  You might be surprised that it drives the song
perfectly.  Every instrument on this song is bent away from self
expression and directly toward  "song expression".  Little
things come and go that drive the song and it's mood along.

Note: In the sixties days of dance music, songs were either
"fast dance" songs or  "slow dance" songs and Things We Said
Today moves between both of those. Couples dancing to the song
would begin by slow dancing and then  (once they knew the song)
break apart and fast dance in the middle sections. The song is
really two seperate songs skillfully blended together by the

But, after all, what defines a slow song or fast song?  It isn't
the tempo, as Things We Said Today is not much slower - if at
all - than Boys. It's not necessarily the drum beat because
Ringo's eight-note hi-hat beat during the slow sections is
somewhat similar to a rock and roll beat. In the end, it must be
the energy of the performers.  In Things We Said Today, Paul
delivers both forms of energy to his vocal.  During the slow
part, his voice covers the sound almost like a blanket; it's
very soothing. During the rock part, his voice carries the
tension of a rocker.

This is one of the early examples, to be shown many times over
their career, of the Beatles expert ability to shift in and out
of tempos, time signatures, and moods with stealth and ease.
For another one of their all time best examples of this, refer
to the 4/4, 3/4 change in We Can Work It Out.


This is another song that tends to be written off as an
undesirable piece of work, mostly because it was never released.
Reviewers have mostly had trouble relating to it. Had it been
released instead of it's replacement, Act Naturally, a different
view of the song may well be held today.

It contains an excellent rock bass/guitar line, an early example
of what was to come to the rock world a few years later.  In
1965, the prevailing style in England was to come up with a
catchy guitar hook (i.e. Satisfaction).  While If You've Got
Troubles has that line, it still appears to be ahead of the
times, and the reason is that they are doubling the bass line
beneath it, sort of like Drive My Car; speaking of which:


When recorded where both instruments are clearly heard, the
sound of a good rock guitar line with the bass following it an
octave beneath it is pretty exciting. The guitar/bass parts in
Drive My Car are a perfect  example of this, and the lins are
thanks to George Harrison who  perservered against Paul's will
for once in playing it this way. Perhaps he might have
considered perservering more because it really works.

The question that intrigues bass players everywhere is whether
or not Paul switched to his new Rickenbacker for this song.
Listening closely to the bass part indicates that he most likely
did.  It is punchy and carries  that certain trebly edge that is
inherant in Rickenbacker basses.

Note from Scott Jennings, Rickenbacker historian, on this

The 1964 Rickenbacker model 4001S bass (the first lefty bass
they had built) was built specifically to be shown to Paul. Its
serial number and factory records indicate that it was completed
in January 1964. It was offered to him during the week of their
first Sullivan show appearance by F.C. Hall, then the owner of
Rickenbacker, but he declined to buy it at the time (this was
the same day that George got his '63 360/12, and John his '63
325).  According to F.C. Hall, and his son John Hall, the
current CEO of Rickenbacker International, Paul was given the
bass during a visit to their factory the week of the Beatles
August 29, 1965 appearance at the Hollywood Bowl. There are
photos of Paul using this bass during the Rubber Soul sessions
in October in spite of all historical claims that it wasn't used
until the Paperback Writer session the following April.

The historical claims that the bass was not used until Paperback
Writer were made by Geoff Emerick.  But while Emerick was
employed at EMI during the Rubber Soul sessions, he was not
their engineer until 1966.


Nowhere Man is another candidate for having been recorded on the
Rickenbacker.  The bass line is bouncy and fun to listen to and,
as always, is the perfect counterpoint to the guitars.


1964/65 can not be dismissed without a mention of the lovely
bass work  done on Michelle.  Smooth, flowing, legatto.
Discussing the bass (or any parts) on Michelle is like
discussing a fine wine.  Listening to it causes one to raise one
eyebrow, ala Spock, and say "Ahhhhh, yes. Observe the way the
bass counters the guitar parts, subtly keeping the music
interesting and yet remaining tastefully in the background so as
not to disturb the superb vocalization.  Ahhhh, priceless."

McCartney: "I never would have played 'Michelle' on bass until I
had to record the bass line.  Bass isn't an instrument you sit
around and sing to.  I don't anyway.  But I remember that
opening six-note phrase against the descending chords in
'Michelle'-that was like, oh, a great moment in my life.  I
think I had enough musical experience after years of playing, so
it was just in me.  I realized I could do that."   3


Beatles engineer Norman Smith:   "There is no doubt at all that
Paul was the main musical force.  He was also that in terms of
production as well.  A lot of the time George Martin didn't
really have to do the things he did because Paul McCartney was
around and could have done them equally well.  The only thing he
couldn't do was to put symbols to chords:  he couldn't write
music.  But he could most certainly tell an arranger how to do
it, just by singing a part--however, he didn't know, of course,
whether the strongs or brass could play what he wanted.  But
most of the ideas came from Paul."   4

In reviewing some of the favorites from the Beatles repertoire,
Smith's comments ring true.  A perfect union seems to have been
a John Lennon song given the Paul McCartney touch.  Songs such
as Strawberry Fields, A Day in the Life and Lucy In The Sky With
Diamonds are apparantly examples of this.


By this time, Paul had mastered two techniques. With his left
(pick) hand, he had learned that he could get much more control
and attack by beginning a note with the pick right on the
string. As mentioned above, many guitar-players picking up a
bass tend to bounce the notes. This technique allows far more
control over the sound.  With his right (non pick) hand, he had
mastered sliding up to a note.  For example, to play an E using
this technique, you start on the D just below it with your index
finger and hammer down your ring finger on the E immediately
without picking again.  He was to use the technique more
frequently from Revolver on.


It's not known how much the Rickenbacker was used on the Rubber
Soul sessions, but by 1966, it's pretty clear he had switched to
the Rickenbacker exclusively in the studio even if he still
played the Hofner on his tours.  He's related his Hofner bass to
Charlie Chaplin's walking cane and mustache - you just grew to
expect to see it.

The recording of Revolver began in early April, 1966. Paperback
Writer was recorded on April 14th.

If those people that were digging up the Paul Is Dead clues had
placed his  death between November 11th 1965 (the final Rubber
Soul session) and April 6th,  1966 - I'd probably have trouble
disbelieving them.


And why?  Because it's a whole new bass player who emerged on
June 10th, the  day Paperback Writer and Rain was released as a

Reviews of Paperback Writer, over the years, have tended to cast
it off as being a fairly weak song.  Better lyrics are demanded.
But the reviewers miss the point entirely, as usual.  It is not
the lyrics that drive this song; it's soung, the vibrating feel
of it.  It's George's lead guitar  riff, John's tremolo rhythm,
Ringo's driving beat and Paul's soaring bass playing.  The sound
of the song was completely different than anything else out in
it's day.  The four musicians clicked together as a unit, each
one completely holding his own and feeding into the wild sound.

You just about have to go back in time and listen to what else
was on the charts and playing on the radio in 1966 and 1967 to
really grasp how powerful these songs were when they were
released.  It has been said many times, but it's true.  There
was nothing like it around.

George played the heavy hook line on his 1962 Gibson Les Paul
(SG) Standard to John's heavily tremoloed Gretsch Nashville.
The two guitarists  always managed to sound great together and
Paperback Writer is one of the prime examples of that blend.
The mix of the two really moves the song.  The vocals are
extra-ordinary.  Ingeniously arranged and recorded with flash
and style. But, in the eyes of history, it's the bass that
really cuts this  song.  Paul's bass fills leading into the
verses are by now legendary.  It was one of the first major
hits- along with it's flip side - that really featured bass
(bass guitar--Johnny Cymbol fans, hold those letters).


 In it's finished form, Rain was slowed down from the tempo it
was  originally recorded at.  This change was engineered to give
the sound a warmer, almost dripping feel.  But when you consider
the fact that it is slower, think about how fast it must have
been recorded.    Take heed, Ringo bashers, he did this drumming
at a FASTER speed than the  record).   Those who wish to hear
"monster" bass playing, 1966 style, sit back and enjoy the show.
 Like so many facets of the Beatles' legacy,  it's as alive
today as it was then.

 A lot of the song is played up the neck, but there are a number
of lines where  he gets from down the bottom end to up high
quickly. Since the song comes out  in G, it's my guess that they
originally played it in A allowing Paul to play  the low open A
and get up above the high G on the first string with relative
ease.  Listen to the bass line just after "Can you hear me?  Can
you hear me?  He gets from the low G to the high G just a little
too quickly for it to be otherwise.  If the song was not
recorded, originally, in A, then the other possibility is that a
capo was used.

Still, the bass work is at the same time heavy and flowery. An
iron butterfly,  if you will.  It wasn't long after this that
bass players in recording  sessions and bands around the world
found themselves facing the dilemna of having to "play like
McCartney, man".

The Beatles, and McCartney had turned overnight from the fab mop
tops into  serious psycha-rockers.

Ringo Starr:  "My favorite piece of me is what I did on 'Rain.'
I think I just played amazing. I was into the snare and hi-hat.
I think it was the first time I used this trick of starting a
break by hitting the hi-hat first instead of going directly to a
drum off the hi-hat. . . I think it's the best out of all the
records I've ever made. 'Rain' blows me away. It's out of left
field. I know me and I know my playing, and then there's
'Rain'."  5

Side notes of 1966:

It was a whole new era in recording, and bass playing. That same
year, Cream formed and Jack Bruce with his six string bass
started dazzling the masses in  England. Entwhistle and the Who
started taking off that year as well. One thing  you can say
about Paul McCartney; he's up to a challenge. It would have been
easy to just take a back seat to the virtuosos, but not so Paul
because it  was now that he started really making his mark. Not
bad for a mop top, eh?


Geoff Emerick became the Beatles engineer after Rubber Soul.
What would Revolver have sounded like with the outgoing EMI
sound engineer Norman Smith? Perhaps a lot drier. More like
Rubber Soul, maybe, but one thing's for sure; it would have
sounded nowhere near like it did.  Smith left either to pursue
his own producing career (as per George Martin) or because he
knew it was time to hop off the Beatles' train (as per Norman

Smith:  "Rubber Soul wasn';t really my bag at all so I decided
that I'd better get off the Beatles train."  6

This move, for whatever reason, is all important in any
consideration of the next Beatles records. To emphasize this
major point,  put Rubber Soul and Revolver into your cd (or
whatever) player and just skip around between albums for a
while. You'll see it wasn't just, as so often has been reported,
that the Beatles had gotten better, it was also that the
recording techniques went out of the universe in 1966, using
compression techniques that are so evident on Revolver, Sgt.
Pepper and Abbey Road. When one considers the far reaching
impact of the next two albums on the entire recording industry,
you might say that putting Emerick into the EMI booth was to
music what going to the moon was to space travel.  A giant step.

For example, from Mark Lewisohn's The Beatles Recording
Sessions: EMERICK: "'Paperback Writer' was the first time the
bass sound had been heard in all it's  excitement. For a start,
Paul played a different bass, a Rickenbacker. Then  we boosted
it further by using a loudspeaker as a microphone. We positioned
it directly in front of the bass speaker and the moving
diaphragm of the  second speaker made the electric current."

What a wild process, one that is used in some stereo systems
today; created at Abbey Road for that song.  Note that here
Emerick doesn't claim specifically that it was the first time he
used the Rickenbacker, which would have been - most probably -
an incorrect statement.  Instead he refers to it as a
"different" bass.  It might do well to keep in mind that
Emerick's involvement on Rubber Soul (when Paul was first seen
to have it in use) may have been minimal.   It wasn't until the
Revolver sessions that Emerick became the main engineer.

Tape operator Jerry Boys:  Geoff walked-in green but because he
knew no rules he tried different techniques, and because the
Beatles were very creative and adventurous, the would say yes to
everything.  The chimistry of George and Geoff was perfect and
they made a formidable team.  With another producer and another
engineer things would have turned out quite differently.

Ron Pender:  Geoff started off by following Norman Smith's
approach because he'd been Norman's assistant for a while.  But
he rapidly started to change things around, the way to mike
drums or bass, for example.  He was always experimenting.


The sound of this entire album is completely unique.  I know of
no other album that sounds close to it.  Many fans and reveiwers
(and even George Martin) have referred to it as their favorite
Beatles album. For this album, it was the sounds that the
Beatles sought to bring to the fore.  Tracks were slowed down
and sped up to acheive sounds.

Note:  Much has been made of the Beatles increasing
disatisfaction with their ability to perform to any standard in
concert.  It is quite possible that this fact, while a
frustration for them at that point, was a significant factor in
the incredible leaps and bounds they were making in the studio
during these years.  In other words, the worse they felt about
their live work, the more attention was given to their studio
work.  It is possible that had their concerts given them more
satisfaction, their studio work might not have been given the
incredible energy and attention it was.  If so, then let us give
thanks to the screaming fans.  Without them, perhaps Revolver
wouldn't have happened.


McCartney really began to take his instrument seriously in 1966.
His playing throughout the album, throughout 1966, was at a
peak.  At times bold, at times tender.  Sometimes quiet,
sometimes loud; whatever the song called for.

Would he agree, however, that something more might have been
done on Got To Get You Into My Life.  If, as books indicate he
was looking for a Motown sound, he might have beefed his line up
just a bit; played a line that moved the song a little more.
This is not an assault on simple playing but McCartney's attack
(the dynamic of how he puts pick to string) sounds as if it's
back to the old style of hammer picking.  Without much backing
instrumentation (aside from horns), it leaves things a bit empty


On Taxman, the bass playing sounds like the bass is going
through a Marshall stack, giving it a power rock sound.
Excellent all the way around, especially when you consider that
Paul was also busy recording that incredible guitar solo. With
Lennon adding his now familiar sledgehammer rhythm and Ringo
doing his usual excellent backbeat job, one wonders what the
Beatles might have been like had George taken up the bass and
Paul stayed on guitar. Hmmm. For one thing, this article would
be a heck of a lot different.

AND YOUR BIRD CAN SING (Anthology version)

Take 2 of this song seems, in retrospect, as solid and
interesting as the excellent released version.  The bass playing
on  this earlier version is certainly more prevelant.  If only
we could hear this without the giggling Beatles, we might have a
new classic Beatles song on our hands.  The bass line that
brings the vocals into the song is precise and heavy.  Good work.


I'm Only Sleeping, obviously slowed WAAAYYY down, had a nifty
treat for us - an actual solo bass line and some good crash
style drumming. And Your Bird Can Sing, Dr. Robert, I Want To
Tell You nd the amazing Tomorrow Never Knows all feature great,
solid bass playing. Yeah, it was 1966, and bass playing was
starting to flourish. Rarely again would the words "bass should
be felt and not heard" pass out of tired lips. The revolution
that had begun over 20 years earlier with Woody Herman's amazing
bass player, squelched and then revitalized for a while with
Chuck Berry's bass player, and then squelched again, was back on
- never to be squelched again.

(Note: I'm not positive Tomorrow Never Knows was recorded with
the Rickenbacker. Emerick says that Paperback Writer was the
first song to use the new bass and that was recorded AFTER TNK.
It may be, though, that Emerick was referring to the fact that
PBW was RELEASED first. McCartney's recent comments that the
Rickenbacker was used on Rubber Soul really make this something
worth researching.)


Most people who work with a tool of any kind know that when you
get something that completely outshines what you had before, you
can get more creative. People who buy new bench saws suddenly
start creating all kinds of things. People who get new
caligraphy pens litter the house with their writings. People who
get new musical instruments that sound better than before
suddenly become many times better in their musicianship.
Combining the bass that Paul began using in 1965 with the studio
techniques and sounds available to them during these years, '66
and '67 were banner years for Paul's bass playing.


Some personal musing and meandering:  After I discovered that
Penny Lane was done on a Rickenbacker, I thought about it and
felt that that bass line could not be successfully played on a
Hofner. I probably sound as if I'm constantly on the attack of
the bass that contributed to The Sound Of The Beatles, but I
really felt this theory to be true. Then, on the McCartney Up
Close special from a few years back he sure proved me wrong.
He's got his old Hofner bass up there and plays it (while
singing) to a 't'. I've heard Penny Lane tossed aside by many
critics and it again just leads one to believe that most critics
don't know what they're talking about. It was a song of
incredible consequence. As I recall, Strawberry Fields seemed to
get more airplay but I have to think that Penny Lane affected
more hopeful hitmakers at the time. That piano line was worked
to perfection, and the bass line is constructed to move that
song in and out of moods.

During the opening lines to the verses such as "In Penny Lane
the barber shaves another customer" the bass is walking jauntily
and with great restraint, not pushing the beat at all. The mood
is light. But when we see the banker sitting "waiting for a
TRIM", the song takes a sudden left turn into Strangeville. The
smiling masks come off and when you hear the following line

". . the fireman rushes in from the pouring rain", we realize
we're heading right down Main St.

The effect is driven by two things. The piano, dubbed many times
over, goes to a minor chord and the bass Stops Walking. It's as
if you're walking down a street and suddenly everything stops.
Like good acting, or sometimes good living, it's amazing the
effect you can have when you suddenly stop something that's been
going on. People look around, hardly having noticed that the
original sound was even there until it stopped. Similarly, you
might be sitting in your living room watching tv while one of
those crazed and brain damaged mocking birds is chirping away
outside. Then, he flies away (or is shot at) and you look around
suddenly. You hadn't really acknowledged the sound until it was

Talk about lessons. The Beatles were learning them and using
them to excellent advantage



George Martin:  "It's been 25 years now since it's been issued,
and there aren't many records  which really last in the memory
for a quarter of a century.  It evoked the spirit of the age."  8

George Harrison:  "I remember track by track it was very
exciting at that time.  Nothing like that had ever been."  8

Paul McCartney:  "That's probably the big difference is that
people played it a bit safe in popular music.  But I think
that's when we suddenly realized that you didn't have to."  8

Ringo Starr:  "It was colorful and it was peace and it was love
and it was music"  8

John Lennon:  "Sgt. Pepper is called the first concept album,
but it doesn't go anywhere.  All of my contributions to the
album have absolutely nothing to do with this idea of Sgt.
Pepper and his band; but it works 'cause we said it worked."  1

Not only has so much been written about this amazing album, but
the words "so much has been written. . " have been written
hundreds of times. Where do you start?

Most of his bass playing on this album was not ensemble playing
but him sitting in the studio on a stool, his left handed
Rickenbacker across his lap his mustache curled around his lip.
When you see pictures of Paul in the Sgt. Pepper days, you see a
man looking for something new and far away.

He found it, again, on this album. When you listen to what he
plays, you can generally picture how he positions himself when
he plays it. It's fairly expressive; well very expressive. While
Revolver/Paperback Writer's style was straight ahead and very
much rock, Sgt. Peppers was different. The expression is cool,
laid back a bit, but creative and completely different - again -
than anything yet done. Once again, the cry in bands was "play
like McCartney plays". This time it could not be done because of
the simple fact that on most tracks he was given his own track
and his own time to record it. Since he lived nearby, he was
usually first and generally last at the studio and had time to
play with his bass parts. Perhaps never before had a bass player
been given such leverage and time to come up with exactly the
right thing to play on each song.

Geoff Emerick:  On  Pepper we were using the luxury of utilizing
one track for bass overdub on some of the things...We used to
stay behind after the sessions, and Paul would dub all the bass
on.  I used to use a valve C12 microphone on  Paul's amp,
sometimes on figure-eight, and sometimes positioned up to eight
feet away.  Direct injection wasn't used on the guitars until
Abbey Road.7

As the group dynamics allowed for more and more experimentation,
Paul's bass playing became more innovative.  "As time went on, I
began to realize you didn't have to just play the root notes.
If it was C,F,G, then it was normally C,F,G that  I played.  But
I started to realize you could be pulling on the G, or just stay
on the C when it went into F.  And then I took it beyond that.
I thought, Well, if you can do that, what else could you do, how
much further could you take it?  You might even be able to polay
notes that aren't in the chord.  I just started to experiment."

Paul McCartney and George Martin discussing the bass playing on
Sgt. Pepper, listening to Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds:

McCartney:  It was much better for me to work out the bass
later, you know.

Martin:  I think it made it better.

McCartney: Yeah, I think it was . . .but the good thing about
doing it later is it allowed me to
(hums the bass line to the chorus as it comes up) get melodic
bass lines (hums and air guitars the bass at the end of the

Martin:  ...all the bass lines were always very interesting

McCartney:  On this album I think that was one of the reasons


The sound of the instruments on this song all have a floating
feel to them and the bass is no exception.  This is another
example of a Beatles song that has a bass line completely
different than one might expect, and yet fits perfectly.  It
doesn't anchor the song to the ground; that is  a role that the
bass seldom plays on this album.   But somehow it does hold it
to some floating anchor and is probably THE representation of
Sgt. Pepper style bass playing.  If the song comes from a
different place, as Lucy does, then why not anchor it in that
place in a tricky, bizarre and

different way.   "On Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds for example",
McCartney says, "you could easily have had root notes, whereas I
was running an independent melody through it, and that became my
thing.  It's rally only a way of getting from C to F or
whatever, but you get there in an interesting way.  So once I
got over the fact that I was lumbered with bass, I did get quite
proud to be a bass player.  It was all very exciting."  2


More inspired bass playing here.   On the verses, the bass
starts out as an almost typical

one/five bass line, but by the end of the verse has transformed
into a melody that counters Lennon's lead line.  The bass, in
fact, seems to counter the rest of the recording.  The keyboards
and drums stand on one side, plodding along beneath the vocals,
with the bass on the other.


On this song, Paul and Ringo began using a one beat technique
that they kept in their repertoire through Abbey Road.  At the
end of the verses, they add an exclamation point by slamming the
beat home together, the bass starting at one note and sliding
downward.  In fact, the whole song showcases the rhythm section
to great effect.  The song opens with a galloping rhythm and
there are sections in the song where Ringo's bass drumming rolls
at a super-fast rate.


Another perfect example of "not" playing to perfection.  The
bass line continues to seem to go somewhere and then suddenly
stops.   Very untypical of a bass line, and very reflective of
the mood of the song.


Put that reprise on with the bass turned up all the way.

There's Paul counting off. . .there's the four bars of drumming,
and then on the final eigth note of the fourth measure, Paul
gives the intro note and slams it into gear. From there, it's
full speed ahead and rock solid, and John must have been proud.
His playing on this song is actually a portent of styles to
come. When the beat needed to be laid down, he did it.
Unfortunately, the song comes and goes so fast. Thanks to the
advent of the cd, however, it's very easy to start the song over
right up to the point where the instruments come in, time after
time until the police are summoneed. According to George Martin
in his book 'With A Little Help From My Friends', the idea for a
reprise was Neil Aspinal's idea. They worked hard on making it
sound live and it is incredibly live sounding, and very

McCartney:  "Once you realized the control you had over the
band, you were in control.  They can't go anywhere, man.  Ha!
Power!  I started to identify with other bass players and talk
bass with the guys in the bands. . . So I was very proud of
being the bass player.  As it went on and got into the melodic
thing, that was probably the peak of my interest." 2

Yes, the bass style on the album is a very cool Paul McCartney,
poised and  confident. The judgement on whether it was his top
stuff is completely up to the listener. It certainly was
revoluationary. It certainly fit the music and  that's really
the main thing.   In the author's opinion, it's his most
creative and melodic, but not his best.  That was yet to come.


On May 11, '67, The Beatles started recording the song that
brought the sonic boom to bass playing Baby You're A Rich Man.
This was recorded at Olympic Sound Studios and engineered by
Keith Grant. It's may be one of the many that qualify for "the
most unique Beatles' record".

It's sound is almost communal, not so much a rock song but a
rock congregation.

To hear the bass on this song in it's full glory requires a
fairly good speaker system, one that can handle extreme low end.
   Of all the Beatles' records, Grant got the deepest bass end.
Pure sound, pure low end feel. It was as if he were weilding a
powerful weapon, and weilding it pretty nicely, too.

George Martin:  "Paul says his dad liked to play boogie-woogie
on the piano, which is interesting when you look at Paul's own
development into one of the world's great bass guitarists.  In a
boogie-woogie piano tune, the bass line, played by the left
hand, produces a strong contrapuntal melody, rather than just a
rhythmic thud.  Paul's own bass guitar playing is of course the
most melodic ever.  He set a standard no one has ever reached.
Sometimes he even composed songs around a bass line melody.
Paul's bass line on Baby You're A Rich Man is a good example of
what he can do.  9

Like the '64/'65 period, Paul remained fairly constant
throughout the remainder of 1967. Nothing bad, nothing
earthshaking or historic. You almost got to expect something
incredibly new with every record put out, a stigma that Paul
lives with to this day. It wasn't until Hey Bulldog and then the
incredible white album that new innovations were to come.

While 1967 may be recalled as the year of psychadelia, it was
really 1968 that it took hold in the heartland. By '68, you
couldn't sell an album unless the cover had some cheap looking
psychadelic mixture of drawings and photography.

Many wondered just what the Beatles would do in 1968 to surpass
1967. Not many expected what they got.


On March 15th, the Lady Madonna/The Inner Light single was
released.  On Lady Madonna, McCartney had done it again. Listen
to that bass line;.  it's a good bass line. Close inspection to
it reveals some choppiness in the playing and he tends to miss
slightly on some notes but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
It follows the piano bass well, and it had to because he would
have clashed with the left hand on the piano otherwise and this
would be devastating to this record. The piano part, while
simple to play, is so well constructed that you know upon
hearing the first note what song it is, and it's hard not to
like. If the bass part were to run over it too much, the song
would be frustrating to listen to. Instead, it follows the piano
bass from A to C to D and then, while the piano bass continues
to ride on the D, it completes the typical rock and roll bass
line, riding up to the F# and A. It works.


On February 11th, Yoko visited the Beatles' in the recording
studio. This was the first time any of them had allowed one of
the wives into this magical inner circle. It apparantly was just
done, no questions asked. On that day, they were to make a
promotional film for Lady Madonna and instead John pulled a song
out of the hat and they finished writing it in the studio. Hey
Bulldog is just a great record all around. The piano moves the
song, the lead solo is inspiring and beneath it all is that old
one/two tandem of Paul and Ringo laying down the beat.

I believe that both John and Paul were trying to make an
impression upon Yoko. They slammed together a solid tune very
quickly and obviously had a lot of fun doing it. Underneath the
excellent solo (played, I think, by John), you can hear John and
Paul whooping it up. Then, at the end, Paul starts barking
(reportedly just to make John laugh) and the following takes


PAUL: Hey man

JOHN: What?


JOHN: What's that you say?

PAUL: I said. . .RUFF!

JOHN: You know any mo'?



J&P: (general insanity rivaled possibly only by the end of
Everybody's Got...




Also, like the bass players for the Gin Blossoms and Led
Zeppelin (to name but a few) Paul played RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of
the drum beat. The piano line starts the song. The second time
through, Ringo is laying down the beat. The third time, Paul's
bass comes in an octave higher than you might expect. Frequently
when bass players play up high, a lot of the solid rhythm is
loss. Not so here, folks. One can almost picture a boxer jabbing
out the notes when all three are playing together. Hey Bulldog
is a top notch Beatles' record, but don't ask John Lennon. While
he obviously had fun making it, he sure didn't think much about
it later. He was embarassed, he says, that they would do
something so simple and mundane for Yoko's first visit to the
studio. This was an unfortunate turn of events because the
Beatles seemingly rarely had as much fun in the studio again.


And now, the key to 1960's rock bass playing:

THE BEATLES (the white album)

This article is about bass playing. It's my sincere hope that
bass discussion hasn't become tiring for you yet, because we've
now reached the zenith of 1960's bass playing -- if not all time
bass playing.

Yes, James Jamerson was great. Tim Bogart of Vanilla Fudge was
revoluationary. There were a lot of rock bass players on the
scene and it had finally become fashionable to pick up the
instrument. No longer was it the instrument handed to the least
talented guitar player.

Listening to the white album now, it's difficult to grasp the
full nature of it's impact because so much time has come and gone
since it was released.  Just as the Beatles had wowed an expecting
public with Sgt. Pepper, they knocked 'em out again with the white
album.  Through '67 and '68, it had become the notion of the record
industry that an album would not sell unless it had a psychadelic
cover, even if it were to be cheaply drawn (i.e. Cream's Wheels of
Fire).  As the Beatles worked on the white album, there were rumors
floating around that they were busy working on the killer god
psychadelic albums. What would the cover be like this time?
Would they record the bible? The Lord of the Rings? The only
thing for sure was that it would be the most stupendous,
incredible flash of psychedelia ever produced yet.  It's a
relatively safe statement to make that few people expected an all
white album cover and some of the most blatant rock music they had
ever done.

Hard rock was a new commodity in 1968 and the Beatles,
especially John Lennon, approached it with an unadulterated
vengence. Of course, that's not all it contained, but it was
down to basics. Basics, yes, and they had once again defined
what the basics were.

There was a lot of inner discontent in the studio while making
this album; Ringo even quit for a short time. But,  this sort of
thing is comparable to the 1972 Oakland A's baseball team who
fought amongst themselves all the way to a world's championship.
The Beatles lived through an incredible tenseness and pulling of
power make an incredible album for us.


It happened on July 16th, 1988, history fans. Geoff had had
enough of the bickering and decided to leave then and there on
that day. Ken Scott took over the engineering reigns for the
rest of the way.

Emerick:  "I lost interest in the 'White Album' because they wer
really arguing amongst themselves and swearing at each other.
The expletives were really flying. . . I said to George (Martin)
'Look, I've had enough.  I want to leave.  I don't want to know
any more.' "  6

In researching this article, I found an interesting sidelight to
this fact. Following is a listing of the songs engineered by
Emerick and Scott. I've put them in order by the beginning of
the recording of each song. Look it over and consider the styles
of the songs.

Songs engineered by Emerick










Songs engineered by Scott.



(DON'T PASS ME BY completed)












(At this point, Chris Thomas produces the final touches to
Helter Skelter )











The breaking point between the two is interesting isn't it?
Their music afterwards was more raw and rockish than before.
Whether this was due to the change in engineers or because they
were heading in a new direction anyway, or whether it's because
Helter Skelter happened to be the next song they were going to
record is impossible to say. But a definite change took place.

As with the change of engineers when the Revolver sessions
began, there was again a new direction in sight for Paul's bass


(NOTE: This article takes the position that Paul played bass on
Helter Skelter. When this article was originally issued, heated
debate broke out that it was actually - as Mark Lewisohn claims
- John Lennon who played bass on the song.   It has also been
suggested that the bass part was doubled to achieve the higher
trebly bass effect, but you can be fairly certain  that this is
not the case - the entire part is far too erratic for someone to
spend the hours and hours to perfect the doubled sound.)

Ken Scott's first session was Helter Skelter. What an
introduction for Ken, but what a job he did on this song,  . As
you listen to the bass, you can hear a high very trebly sound
going along with it.  Most likely this was achieved by putting
the bass into two seperate channels and mixing one with treble.
However it was done, it creates a wild effect, adding to the
mayhem. I believe the reason for this effect is to allow the
bass to stand out from the droning guitars. One of the more
difficult things to do is to get bass to cut through guitars -
especially more than one that are playing low bar chords.

By using this effect on the bass, Scott was able to achieve this
and more. The bass actually stands out in the forefront of that
song once it gets rolling. The guitars were recorded quite well,
made to drone and create more of a 'noise' than a clearcut
guitar chord, yet done in a clean enough way to where you can
hear the chords. The way the drums are played and recorded are
designed to do the same thing. I think Ringo is basically riding
on his crash cymbol and tossing in the snare/tom fills at will.
The effect is that of an army of Panzer tanks crashing through
underbrush and tree making ready to annihilate the unfortunate
Polish calvary who await them on the other side of the forest
with the bass guitar tank leading the way. The voice? It's the
fuehrer screaming and shouting near gibberish in such a way that
your brain is turned to mush.

The guitar droning effect is something that later day heavy
metal engineers should listen to. Too often, these engineers
will go for the same effect with the rhythm guitars and take the
easy way out by having them sound purely and simply like white
noise.  If they want to create mayhem, they should sit down with
this record, play this song and find out what George Martin and
Ken Scott did to get those sounds. On the second thought, maybe
they should leave it well enough alone. We don't need any more
Charley Mansons.

There's so much happening on this album that it's almost
difficult to keep the discussion purely to the bass playing on
it, and this is mainly due to the fact that McCartney had very
nicely answered John Lennon's challenge. Lennon wanted to be a
hard rocker now, and credit goes to all the band members for
making the change to this new hard rock music. The only piece of
the puzzle that I think falls a bit short is the sound of the
drums on the white album and Helter Skelter is a prime example.
Had a fuller sound been used on the drums, this song would have
been the most devastating rock song - of ALL time. It may be

Brian Gibson, technical engineer:  "The version on the album was
out of control.  They were completely out of their heads that
night.  But, as usual, a blind eye was turned to what the
Beatles did in the studio.  Everyone knew what substances they
were taking, but they were really a law unto themselves in the
studio."  6


Bow low, bass players. . . . . What is difficult to determine,
and it's really unfortunate, is when the bass part to
Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey
was recorded. Was it before or after Geoff Emerick was replaced
by Ken Scott in the booth?

The Beatles Recording Sessions by Lewisohn indicates that only
drums, two different lead guitars, a vigorously shaken hand-bell
and a chocalho were recorded during the session that Emerick
worked and that a new lead vocal, backup vocals and handclaps
were added on July 23rd A.E. (after Emerick). There is no
listing of when the bass was recorded.

In any discussion of the evolution of rock bass playing, this
song is all important. It is nothing short of superb both in
it's execution and recording. As you play the song, the initial
probe of the bass line played under the verses shows what at
first seems to be a rather simple blues type line. Further
listening shows something else completely. It's an eight note
line and a good one that starts at the first beat of the measure
on the root note. It then drops down an octave and walks it's
way back up time and time again to that root note. There's so
much involved in making this line work.

  1.  The final four notes of each run of the line are the most
noticable Once the second note is played, the line drops just
slightly in it's presence but by the time the fifth note is hit
(partly because the notes are getting higher and partly because
he's switched to another string) it's right back in your
consciousness again. It crescendos up to the root note and drops

2.  The line is played again and again and again, and many times
is played slightly off meter. This is probably the most
important aspect of the line. The best way I could describe it,
visually, would be to illustrate a child on a rocking horse
swinging back and forth with total abandon Not     always right
on a meter, but the same thing happens over and over again,
close to meter.  The closer you listen the crazier it sounds.
Finally, you stroll over and gently remove the child, saying
"that enough , now. But inside, you're screaming "GET OFF THE

3.  The bass is a perfect (!) counterpoint to John Lennon's
strange and insane rhythm line, a guitar part that commands an
article all to itself.    (While one kid is rocking back and
forth on the horse, another is banging  their head against two
walls, back and forth three times, pausing for a     moment and
then starting again.) Meanwhile those hand-bells could be the
alarm the kids have set off in the local firehouse. The bass
counters all this.

Then - just when you're ready to shoot the house up, it all
locks into place. "Take it easy!" shouts Lennon.  Now, the
Beatles are locked in like they've never been before on the
chorus. "Take it easy!", he shouts again. Then after the
orgasmic "Everybody's got something to hide 'cept for me and my
monkey" comes those strange chord changes, lead lines, and drum
breaks. The bells have left us for a moment. But then, they're
right back again for the next verse.

This is pure Beatles' genius, and a method they weren't using
for the first time. As far back as their second single they
employed it, when on Please Please Me, John would shout "Come
on", building up to the "Please Please Me" explosion of vocals.
At that point in PPM, the bass line comes back with it's
rhythmic pounding. Here, they've done it again. Pounding the
bells/bass/guitar, etc down your throat, they take it away for
the big buildup. Just when you realize it's gone, here it comes
again - with a vengence.

Of course. Let us not forget  to make note of The Great Bass
Part, ocurring towards the end of the song. The guitars all stop
and John and Paul start doing their crazy "C'mon c'mon c'mon
c'mon. . ." and then one of the most well timed bass lines in
the history of rock comes forth. You can sing it - it's even
double tracked to add emphasis- ba pa bubububoom ba bump pa.

What I wouldn't give to have been there when they put this song
together, taking it from John's original accoustic guitar/vocal
demo  to the powerhouse it became.


For a change of pace, let's play a little game here. You're at
EMI (Abbey Road) studios and are standing across from John
Lennon and Yoko Ono. John is sitting, looking downward, finger
picking (VERY excellently by the way) a song you haven't heard
before but think is really nice. You recognize, immediately that
the song is about Mia Farrow's sister Prudence.  It's your task
to think of what bass part you'll play to this song, realizing
the strong influence Yoko Ono now has over what John would like
to see The Beatles do to his songs. What do you do?

Intimidated a good bit, perhaps you say, "That's a really lovely
song. I think I should just stay in the background on this one.
Anything more could overrun that great melody."

All this, of course, unless you're Paul McCartney in which case
you construct a bass line that really moves that song without
getting in it's way at all. During the verses leading up to the
middle eight, he plays what you might have played, but in a very
forthright manner. Then for the middle eight (The sun is up), in
from left field come Paul and Ringo and from there on through
the end they're there when they need to be and they're not there
when they're not needed.

Dear Prudence is, as a matter of opinion, one of the better
Beatle recordings, from Lennon's excellent guitar and vocals to the rhythm
and tasteful background vocals.  It moves from mood to mood and by the end,
if you're listening closely enough, you're breathless.

Bring the king down from his throne?


Easy enough. Let's turn to Glass Onion. After years of
listening, wondering, trying to calculate,  the question
remains: why that bass tone? It sounds  like his strings have
been dead for weeks. There's absolutely no life in them at all.
The playing is good enough, the interplay with the snare at the
beginning of each verse works well.   But the tone?


Strike two.  To put it bluntly, this is a wild swing and miss.
The piano, drums, guitar and vocal are perfect for a blues song
like this.  Why, then, would he fall back on such a bouncy
little line?

It is a line that would befit something like All Together Now.


As if there had not been enough inovation already on this album,
a new idea was put into place.  Paul doubles the bass with a
vocal part.  The effect is nice.

Just a brief mention of the accoustic guitar on this song. It's
a style that Paul developed and dropped all too soon. He used it
at the end of Mother Nature's Son and a for a good bit on the
McCartney album but rarely afterward. It's done mostly by
powering the non picking fingers, or the 'playing fingers' (in
Paul's case, his right hand). With each note, his right hand
fingers react strongly and with a quick shake vibrato.

'I Will' could have been recorded in 1964. It's one of the few
post moptop songs that could have fit in any of their eras.


Mother Nature's Son is one of the most beautiful songs Paul ever
did and yet mention of it is almost never see mention made. John
had written a song with similar intent, called, I believe, "One
of Nature's Children". It's melody was later employed as
"Jealous Guy" on the Imagine album. The only explanation of why
they never even recorded it is that he held off on recording it
due to Paul's song. Things ended up all the better because both
Mother Nature's Son and Jealous Guy turned out so nicely.


Lennon's version of the blues. These are some hard blues, and
Paul responded with hard, heavy and necessary simplistic bass
playing. When the word 'starkness' was invented, it was with
this song in mind. It's about as stark as you can get and that's
interesting because it's far from the typical blues bass line of
the day (1-3-5-6-7-6-5-3).


Yet another song interesting in it's recording. Turn your stereo
to one side, the one with the guitars, and you'll find yourself
wondering if John and George were drunk when they recorded it.
It's very sloppy. The rhythm section (bass and drums) takes care
of this problem by standing right out front, duking it out with
the saxiphones.   This driving style was used again in a later
Harrison classic,  Here Comes The Sun.  It's bouncy and lively
and moves the song  along, all in all a very well structured
bass line. No better line might  have been played.


How is it humanly possible that one could get one's bass guitar
to sound like a pig?   If you ever get a chance to talk to Paul,
ask him. His bass sound almost rivals the pig voices.


The main point that stands out regarding I'm So Tired is the
excellent dynamic flow of the musicians and vocalist. There are
some points that seem to show that the Beatles had progressed
far as a recording unit that they seemed to come natural. Before
the second and final chorus is probably the best example. Just
after John agonizes ". . .and curse Sir Walter Raliegh, he was
such a stupid git!", they let you know something's coming. The
music had been building up to this line, driven by all the
instrumentation. The bass is walking up through the chords.
Lennon's rhythm is slapping chords on the three count and when
the word "git" is sung, one of the guitarists starts playing
little falling notes while the bass steps back a bit to let it
all happen. Then, out of the blue, they're singing "You'd say it
wouldn't be wrong. . ". The Beatles are back in gear here, but
restrained. The bass and drums are fluid, and a buildup is
starting all over again, punctuated by the great line "I'd give
you everything I've got for a little peace of mind!". It's hard
to do, almost impossible because John and Paul are singing at
their most searching and powerful, but listen to the band behind
these lines as they're sung. Then there is the sudden stop, a
drum fill, and the line again. The sudden stop again, a drum and
organ fill and the line one final time. This is ensemble playing
by all the Beatles, and Paul had long ago learned lesson of
laying back when most effective is put into play.


It's unfortunate that the Beatles' version did not get  on to
this album. Very dynamic and well played. With their apparantly
new style of beginning a song right in the studio and calling
each rehearsal of it a take, this song went over 100 takes which
has to be some sort of record for the time. Perhaps they tried
too hard and too long to perfect it and got tired of it. It has
an excellent hook, the six beats played just before the "I'm
really sorry for your. . .". That little break is like a car
screeching to a stop, and is played to perfection by Paul and
Ringo. Through most of the rest of the song, the bass is played
in excellent British New Orleans rock style.


Possibly the most dynamic, heavy bass playing on the album.  At
various times during the song, the bass part is doubled.  This
song, saved for last in this discussion on this amazing album,
may contain the heaviest of all the bass playing to be found
throughout it.

George Harrison:  When we laid that track down, I sang it with
accoustic guitar with Paul on piano, and Eric and Ringo-that's
how we laid the track down.  Later, Paul overdubbed bass on it.

To recap, the white album really finally defined rock bass
playing.  To this day  many bass players' styles don't sound all
that different than the style Paul McCartney created on the
white album. It went from no holds barred madness (Everybody's
Got Something to Hide. . .) to excellent ensemble sound and
style (Honey Pie) to very pretty (I Will). With the possible
exception of Led Zeppelin II, there may have never been an album
that had more of a long lasting effect on rock bass playing than
this one. Can that be enough said about the bass playing on the
album? Hardly. And yet, it's time to carry on.


The version on the single is a good example of a bass player and
drummer locked tight together. It's really just rock and roll,
but played by one of the best rock and roll bands.


One could write this album off as the collection of Sgt. Peppers
cast offs and rerun old Beatles' songs that it really was. But,
seriously, how many bands could claim such a selection of cast
offs? Hey Bulldog, having already been discussed, easily stands
out as containing the best bass playing on the album. The
playing on the other songs, having in most cases been recorded a
year earlier, is placed much more in the background.



Paul switched back to his Hofner for the movie, a habit he would
entertain most times he's been filmed playing in his career.
Obviously, this is because it is the Beatle bass that he's known
for.  But knowing that makes the fact no less dismaying.  The
movie deserves more credit than it deserves, though, and much of
the playing on the roof is great - and great fun.  Get Back with
it's solid drone A bass playing stands out.  Don't Let Me Down
would stand out as an excellent bass song had the recording of
it been cleaner. It does sound muddy and a bit echo-ey (for
bass), but it's really good. Ah, enough of Let It Be.


Don't they call these 'dusty diamond specials'?  An excellent
song that never received much notice.  The fact that George put
it on his live (in Japan) album was gratifying. There's some
superfast bass and guitar playing on this song, and the chorus
contains some of the harder bass playing Paul's done. The whole
song is superfast and if it wasn't recorded and sped up, then
let's give three cheers to the lads.

This is one song where it would have been easier for Paul to
pull out his old Hofner and play it, because it requires such
speed, but he did nothing of the sort. Maybe he felt it was time
to show the world that not only could he play with the group,
but incredibly quickly too.  Those

choruses. . .Paul and George doubling each other.  It is amongst
the most incredible bass playing Paul's done to date.


The 'starkness' so evident on the white album was now replaced
by lushness. It's difficult to find a classier album. The
Beatles, produced again by George Martin, were once again into
having their recordings sound like cohesive units.  There is
some great playing on Abbey Road but it doesn't stand out as
boldly as the  white album.


A personal note:  every once in a while, I wake up in a cold
sweat, having just dreamed that John didn't record Come Together
with The Beatles, instead introducing it with The Plastic Ono
Band where he had Klaus Voorman's bass under tight reign. Then I
breath a sigh of relief. No, this didn't happen. He recorded it
with the Beatles, thankfully, especially Paul and Ringo.

But how did the ol' trusty rhythm section come up with the
bass/drum lines that open up Come Together (and the Abbey Road
LP)? It is impossible to guess because they have nothing
whatsoever to do with each other (let alone the  song), and yet
it all works.

How did they come up with it?  To hypothesize, it's possible
that Paul and Ringo were jamming together (or playing nonsense
stuff) and while Paul crammed his fingers up the neck and played
that bass line, Ringo - not really listening to Paulwas casually
doing little cymbal and tom fills. John, inspired, picked up his
guitar and started singing Come Together over it. I don't think
it could be many other ways, but if you're warped enough to
believe it, there is one other possibility.

There was another change of sound engineers.

Yes, an old hand at Beatles recordings was back again - Geoff
Emerick. He had been coaxed by Paul McCartney to run Apple
Studios. This was the first song he engineered for the Beatles
since Cry Baby Cry. The old team of Martin/Emerick was back. Is
it possible that McCartney (who, along with the other Beatles
had taken a major interest in what exactly they were doing up in
that booth) was inspired by the re-entry of Emerick? So much so
that he came up with one of the best known rock bass lines ever?
 Or was it just that good old Beatles know-how when it came to
putting a part down for a song?

If you were to listen solely to the bass parts to many Beatles
songs, it might take the average listener a while to guess which
song was being played. Exceptions to this would be lines that
mirrored the guitar, such as Day Tripper, I Feel Fine or Ticket
To Ride. But if you were to hear just the bass to Come Together,
you'd know what song it was right away without doubt.

The rest of the Beatles were pretty smart to stand of the way of
that one. There's not much to the other instruments throughout
the song but perfect little lines and fill chords. Once again,
you really have to hand it to them for knowing what NOT to play.
 The electric piano on the song, played almost out of a qualude
type fog set a nice tone for the record.

Paul McCartney:  Whenever he (John) did praise any of us, it was
great praise, indeed, because he didn't dish it out much.  If
ever you got a speck or crumb of it, you were grateful.  With
'Come Together', for instance, he wanted a piano lick to be very
swampy and smoky, and I played it that way and he liked it a
lot.  I was quite pleased with that."  11


Ahhhhh, 'Something'. Known for one of the sweetest guitar solos
George had played to date, but should also be known for Paul's
ability to play adventurous bass runs and still keep out of the
way of the melody. Or, perhaps, to enhance it. The line he does
that leads to the final chords of the song seem like he barely
makes it, but does! A great song, and  the second most recorded
song of all time; second only of course to Yesterday.


John wanted that old white album starkness again, but what about
the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride bass playing he got from Paul? Aside
from the mini bass solo lines  (kind of reminiscent of I'm Only
Sleeping), during the choruses, he goes completely haywire as
the ending moves along like giant alien robots tramping across
the earth and bringing on the judgement day. Fifteen times does
that section play and fifteen times does the bass part
completely lose all sight of reality. They must have been some
sessions, those that produced this song.


I Want You (She's So Heavy) ends with that sudden break and, if
you have the cd, the beautiful sounding guitar intro to Here
Comes The Sun starts right in. It's so completely opposite of
what came before, but so good and warm feeling that you jump
right into the new mood.

They had long ago perfected the art of waving their pocket watch
in front of their fans' eyes and causing them to feel whatever
they wanted and this was no exception. From the grim reaper to a
sunny morning, you will follow.

In the case of the lp it was difficult, if not impossible, to
NOT get up at the end of I Want You and turn that album over.
You HAD to hear that accoustic guitar intro to Here Comes The

Note: Around 1975 or so, George Harrison and Paul Simon were on
Saturday Night Live and they did the song. Fans of the song
might have found themselves yearning for Paul and Ringo to come
bashing their way in with that dynamic and moving rhythm section
stuff they did on the album?   It should be a beautiful song by
itself. but Ringo and Paul had to go and ruin it by playing so
well on it.


Bass, by itself, is rarely interesting. But bass, playing in the
background and just filling in at perfect parts, is invigorating
to me.  Examples of excellent bass mood setting are Woody
Herman's Bijou, Percy Faith's Theme For A Summer Place, Henry
Mancini's Moon River, and the Beatles' Because. It fills up some
of the vocal lines and walks down with little three run lines
that don't just fill in gaps, but keep the song set in the right
direction. Without the music, the song is beautiful. With it, we
get a lesson in tasteful playing.


John Lennon:  You hear lots of McCartney-influenced songs on the
radio now.  These stories about boring people doing boring
things:  being postmen and secretaries and writing home.  I'm
not interested in writing third party songs.  I like to write
about me; 'cause I know me.  1

Apparantly Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam were exceptions to
this rule.

Fuzz bass was employed on Mr. Mustard, employed over the
standard bass sound.  The rhythm moves in and out of 3/4 time.
Then it's onward and upward to some more classic rock sounds.


Ringo, engineered again by Emerick, never sounded better in his
Beatles' days than he did on this album and this song is
evidence for that. Where the drumming sounded a bit thin at
times on the white album, it was round and full on Abbey Road.
There's some aggressive playing by both Ringo and Paul on this
song, especially when they bring each verse line back home with
that eighth note slam.

The intro line, repeated throughout the song, has an excellent
stumble in it that was well contrived by Paul and Ringo. There's
the three guitar chords (D A E) and then the four beats on bass
and drums. Then Paul sounds as if he's trying to find his way
back up to E, stops for a moment at D and finally gets up top.
He may have added this  little bit on accident and decided to
leave it in.

Whatever, it works.


If there's one thing that made The Beatles likable, it was their
unbridled enthusiasm. Even when they apparantly weren't getting
along, they always sounded like they loved what they were doing.
He'd probably have denied it, but it really does sound like John
had fun recording the accoustic guitar track on this song.
Once again, Ringo and Paul work like. . . like they'd been
playing together for years.   As they had.


The bass playing is deep, rich, extremely tasteful, and
beautiful.  With a sound system that can really carry bottom
end, Golden Slumbers comes across like a symphony.


Toss taste aside and play some rock solid bottom end. Really set
up a foundation that the guitar players can trade solos atop.
That's what Paul and Ringo did for this song. The sound of the
drums is good, especially the toms as Geoff Emerick had really
mastered the fine art of drum recording. He'd mastered bass
recording some years back and took care to make sure it was done
right for The End. They lay the rhythm down like there's no
tomorrow, and in their case, it was just about true.

It should have been their last album and The End would have been
an excellent way to say adios to their listening and buying
public. Everyone gets their shot at stardom in it. Ringo gets a
drum solo, and along with Paul's bass, lays down a killer groove
for George, Paul and John to play lead guitar over.

The rock symphony is over, as are the Beatles.



When the Beatles broke up, all four of them jumped into musical
activities. The merit of the musical paths taken by Paul are up
to subjective opinion. What isn't so subjective, however, is the
quality of his bass playing. It has never waned. Even on Red
Rose Speedway, an album where he concentrated more on his
keyboards, the playing is still superb.

However, to cover all his albums and hi-lites would be
incredibly boring so let's look at just one.


Paul, working with a sound company from Texas, obviously spent a
lot of time and money getting a good sound for his tour of the
states.  Many that saw the show, such as the concert given at
San Francisco's Cow Palace seen by the author, were amazed at
the ability of the bass to cut through the sound.  This sound
comes through well on the record, put well to the fore in the
mix.   One aspect of McCartney's bass playing that impresses a
lot of musicians is his ability to play difficult lines and sing
at the same time.   There is no doubt that he puts major effort
into preparing for his performances.

The final effect of the playing and mix on the record makes the
first focal point the bass and drums, with the extraneous
instruments and voice almost secondary - even if this is in your
subconcious. The rhythm section constantly pulls you in and then
when you do break away and listen to the vocals it's an added
treat.  This is the Paul McCartney people had been waiting for,
hard driving and rocking.

ROCK SHOW- ahhh the live version of Rock Show. Since Wings Over
America came out, I have listened to the studio version of that
song just once and that experience was almost like trying a
cigarette after not smoking for five years: enough of that. I
had to put the live version right back on. His playing, live,
was with a plodding decimating style that required him to remain
rooted within himself.

Jet is no different, and the seque from Rock Show into it is a
throw back to his Beatles days. Rock Show is plodding along at a
high rate of speed, the bass and drums pumping that rhythm. Then
suddenly it ends and there's a moment of almost nonchalance. The
beat is taken away, and then slammed home again with the opening
to Jet.

Paul had by now developed a new style of bass playing. This
style had showed some evidence of itself on Band On The Run, and
furthered itself on Venus and Mars and Speed of Sound. The style
is completely evident throughout the Wings Over America album
and stands up to anything he's done ever - including the white

The best way to define it is that he'd really solidified -
obviously through countless hours of practice - his left wrist.
If you watch the video you can see a very stiff left picking
hand. In those days, he held his pick directly underneath his

Also, for the purpose of adding to the show, he pulled off some
pretty darn flashy bass runs. Time To Hide had Paul playing as
if he were sitting on a burning kettle. He'd lock in with
drummer Joe English and then, every so often, stick his
Rickenbacker out and leap way up the neck and FLASH for a
moment. But, and fledgling bass players take heart, his high
bass runs are done with solid rhythm. There was no need
whatsoever for speed just for the sake of speed, with one awe
inspiring exception.


This song is mentioned specifically for the  silencing any of
the nay-sayers who might question his status as one of the top
notch bass players In The World, technique-wise.   To achieve a
tommy gun effect, he builds to that vocal line and then sprays -
right in the middle of the drums - a chromatic run that very few
could duplicate. Many may play a chromatic run of that many
notes, and many may do it with speed, but not many will do it at
that speed and with perfect tempo.

Time Magazine had him on the front cover of one of there '76
magazines. "Paul Comes Back" said the caption. They were right,
he was back. It's really an amazing album, in spite of the fact
that much of the harmony vocals were reproduced in the studio.
Paul was back, if he'd ever really left.



Paul now uses a Wal 5 string bass in the studio and for part of
his live shows. I think it's important to take yet another page
from the McCartney bass book when it comes to 5 string bass
playing. There are (at least) two ways to approach the switch
from 4 to 5 string bass (where the 5th string is a low B).

One way would be to take a step back and re-approach the bass
with all five strings in mind, to seek it out as a whole new
instrument because in effect that's what it becomes with that
approach. You've no doubt heard a number of bass players who
have taken this approach, and they lean quite heavily on the low
B. This can be troublesome: while we bass players tend to love
low rumbling sounds, there are not many others like us out there
in the world. One gets the feeling that these bass players are
using their newfound low B string as a weapon to grab new power
in the band sound. Interestingly enough, you 'generally' find
these sorts of bass players in the club scenes and maybe it
makes sense there.

The second way is to think about your bass as the old 4 string
instrument -with a fifth string available on top for effect. For
one thing it makes it much easier to play without thinking so
much. It's so easy, while playing, to forget that the string at
the top of your neck is now a B instead of an E that it's almost
survival to adopt this method both live and in the studio.
Approaching 5 string bass playing in this way also causes the
bass player to use the B string a bit more sparingly, and hence
to much better effect.

Paul McCartney on recording "Free As A Bird": I played the Wal,
and what I liked was I played very, very normal bass, really out
of the way, because I didn't want to 'feature'. There are one or
two moments where I break a little bit loose, but mostly I try
to anchor the track. There's one lovely moment when it modulates
to C, so I was able to use the low C of the 5 string and that's
it, the only time I use the low one, which I like, rather than
just bassing outand being low, low, low. I play normal bass, and
then there's this low C and the song takes off. It actually
takes off anyway because a lot of harmonies come in and stuff,
but it's a real cool moment that I'm proud of. That's my Wal
moment." 2

He hits that cool low C three times actually, the first time
during the first note of George's solo.

Today, every time Paul comes out with a new album, people tend
to be disappointed.   As with all music, opinion is completely
subjective (as is much of this article).

 But the one thing that's not so open to subjectivity is his
bass playing. Whether on his Rickenbacker, his Wal 5 string or
whatever, he remains one of the top bass players in the world.
For a guy who could rest on his laurels as one of the prime
innovators of rock bass playing, that is a solid testament to
him as a musician.



GEORGE MARTIN: There's no doubt that Lennon and McCartney were
good musicians.  They had good musical brains, and the brain is
where music originates - it has nothing to do with your fingers.
As it happened, they could also play their own instruments very
well.  And since those early days they've all improved,
especially Paul.  He's an excellent musical all-rounder,
probably the best bass-guitarist there is, a first-class
drummer, brilliant guitarist and competent piano player.  8

STING: It's hard to seperate McCartney's influence on my bass
playing from his influence on everything else-singing,
songwriting, even becoming a musician in the first place. As a
child, I would play my Beatles albums at 45 RPM so I could hear
the bass better. he's the Guvnor.   2

WILL LEE: Growing up in Texas in the early '60s I was so
obsessed with the Beatles' music that I didn't feel like a fan,
I felt like I was in the Beatles. About the same time I switched
from drums to bass I became aware of who gave the band its charm
and personality, from visual tunes like "Penny Lane" to the
group's repartee wtih the press. It was the same fellow who was
able to take a poor-quality instrument like the Hofner bass and
create magic on it. I especially dug Paul's funky,
Motown-influenced side, evident in the bass line from
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey," or
even in the syncopated part from "A Day In The Life."

Paul's influence on bassists has been so wide-spread over
numerous generations that ther's no denying he's in everybody's
playing at this point. We're all descendants. He played simple
and solid when it was called for. But because he had so many
different flavors to add to a song, he was able to take the
instrument far beyond a supportive role. Paul taught the bass
how to sing.   2

STANLEY CLARKE: Paul definitely had an influence on my bass
playing, not so much technically, but more with his philosophy
of melodic bass liens-especially as I hit my teens and the
Beatles' records became more adventurous. On tracks like "Come
Together," the bass line WAS the song. I've always liked that.
The only other person I knew of who was doing that was James
Jamerson. That was one of the reasons I was inspired to write
"School Days": so I could just play the bass lines and people
would hear a whole song.

I had the honor of being contacted by Paul through George Martin
to play on Tug of War, and I also appeared on Pipes of Peace
[both on Capitol]. Paul was very nice. He asked me to show him
how to slap. During Pipes we got a groove going in a studio jam,
and it ended up making on the album as "Hey Hey." He graciously
gave me a co-writing credit, and it's still a thrill to see my
name next to his above the music in the song book.    2

BILLY SHEEHAN: The reason I got involved with music in the first
place was because I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I
watched all the girls going crazy, and I figured this was
thebest business in the world to be in. Later on, when I got
more deeply into music, Sgt. Pepper was a break-through record
for me. I must have listened to it several hundred times. What
intrigued me was how totally musical every aspect of it
wasespecially Paul's melodic, fluid bass lines. When my band
Talas was starting in the mid '70s [the Beatles' tribute show]
Beatlemania was big, and we used to play entire gigs of just
Beatles tunes. I've learned so much from Paul about playing,
writing, and playing and singing at the same time that I should
probably start sending him checks.

Most bassists get into the flashy players, but I think the
reason Paul is often overlooked is that what he was doing wasn't
really obvious. It was so brilliantly woven into the context of
the songs. One of my favorites is the bass line from "Rain." I
still use it to test the low end of an amp. That Paul happens to
play bass is a great boon to all of us, because he made us
realize that there are no limitations to being a bass player.   2

Bibliography and quotes

1)  The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono.  1981,
Interviews by David Scheff.        Edited by Barry Golson.
Playboy Press

2)  Bass Player magazine:    July/August 1995

3) The Beatles Anthology video.  Apple, Capitol video

4) McCartney.  1986,  Chris Salewics.  St. Martin's Press

5) The Big Beat: Conversations with Rock's Great Drummers.
1984.  Max Weinberg with Robert Santelli.  Contemporary Books
(quote lifted from Beatlesongs-Dowdling)

6) The Beatles Recording Sessions.  1988, Mark Lewisohn.
Harmony Books.

7) Musician magazine:  July 1987

8) The Making of Sgt. Pepper  television show

9) With A Little Help From My Friends/The Making of Sgt. Pepper.
 1994, George Martin with William Pearson.  Little, Brown and

10) Guitar Magazine: November 1987

11) Playboy Magazine: December 1984