Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty-Six -- Bassline Analysis

No politics today - back to music. Anyone who has spent much time in corporate America ends up at one point or another having a conversation about baselines. Enough of that. Let's talk bass lines.

In most bands the bassist doesn't get a lot of love. The rest of the Rolling Stones thought nothing of jettisoning Bill Wyman after 30 years of dedicated service. The Doors never even had a permanent bassist, bringing in different session musicians for their albums. That's always bugged me because a good bassist is crucial. But there haven't been too many bassists who fronted a band. The three that immediately spring to mind are Sting, Rush's Geddy Lee and that fellow from Liverpool with a lot of money. So for today I thought I'd give the bassists some love. In particular, I'm talking funk bassists.

There are two guys who came up around the same time who were really the pioneers of the style. The first was probably Larry Graham, who played a crucial role in the traveling circus of dysfunction that was Sly and the Family Stone. Eventually Graham got tired of dealing with Sly and started his own outfit called Graham Central Station, where he got to show off a little. Here is in a 1978 performance that is almost encyclopedic in its scope. And it's a funny song, too. Barney and his clubhouse notwithstanding, here's

The other godfather of the funk bassline is Bootsy Collins, who cut his teeth with James Brown and eventually went on to be a focal point in George Clinton's Parliafunkadelicment Thang. Bootsy had some odd moments, like this strange jazz fusion performance in Stuttgart, but when he and his brother Catfish were working with Brown, he has stellar. Here he is with Brown and Fred Wesley in one of Brown's best bands in an appearance on Italian television in 1971

To my mind, the year of the bass line was 1979, though. By then the dominant player was Bernard Edwards, who was the mighty engine behind what I believ was the best band of the disco era, Chic. Early that year Edwards uncorked perhaps the most influential bass line in rock history - you've heard versions of this bass line ever since. But the original was here:

That wasn't the only killer bass line that Edwards uncorked that year, though - he and his buddy Nile Rodgers also backed Sister Sledge in the song that battled My Sharona for the title of Song of the Summer that year and supposedly inspired Willie Stargell and his Pittsburgh Pirates pals to win the World Series that fall.

Something was in the air that year, I think, because even a wealthy Liverpudlian decided to get into the game, breaking out his old bass and giving it a thoroughgoing southpaw workout. This wasn't one of Sir Paul's better efforts, but there's some pretty darned good playing here. From the now largely (and justifiably) forgotten album Back to the Egg, it's Paul, Linda and the rest of their pals in Wings playing

Finally as 1979 faded into the shadows, Freddie Mercury and crew had to get in the act. This is about as clear a tribunte to/ripoff of Bernard Edwards as you'll ever hear, but give Queen credit, it is bassist John Deacon's finest hour. Out of the doorway, the bullets rip

Cast your votes!


Maria said...

My vote will be -- well, it was a tie between We are Family and Another One Bites the Dust. I have to choose one, so the rest of the songs are going to have to BITE THE DUST! Thank you for seeing history in the making and thank you for noticing that I'm alive out here! Visit my blogs too!


Mike said...

Good Times...although I also like the bassline from Le Freak.