Jump to content

Bass players in famous bands who've had to play below their own levels of ability


Recommended Posts

When I was in my 20s I played in several bands where the main songwriter usually just wanted me to keep it simple, sometimes just 8ths and 16ths on the root. It was pretty frustrating as in my head I'd come up with more inventive lines that would have done the job just fine.  So I'm wondering whether the bassists in bands like Quo, AC/DC, The Cult, Judas Priest, U2 etc are capable of much more but have been held back by others in the band. I've heard it said Eddie van Halen was a bit of a tyrant and dictated how Michael Anthony played the lines. Maybe some of you guys know the players in those bands mentioned and have inside knowledge?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of those bassists may have been capable of more but chose not to add more and to instead serve the song in the way they thought best, I.e. by keeping it more simple. It’s not just about being held back by someone else, although I’m sure that does happen. 

Edited by 4000
  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agree, in my current band we have a song where the verses are in E and I play a bit of a walking type line but for the guitar solo I drop to a solid E so that the solo stands out more. We tried it at rehearsal last week and all agreed that it worked better, so maybe the players who seemed to be held back were, or maybe they were promoting the other strengths within the band by keeping it simple & steady.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know. Does Daryl Jones playing with the Stones count?

 

IMO playing simple lines or 16ths on the root isn't playing beneath your ability as long as you are playing to the song.


You can be the best player ever but if you're not playing to the song you're doing it wrong. Checkout James Jamerson playing Dancing In The Street and Larry Graham playing Everyday People.

 

I see young bassists playing the pubs and clubs. They've just come out of Uni, with a music degree, and they can play stuff old guys like me couldn't even dream of, but put them in a band and they usually overplay. They can play that sh!t and nothing is going to stop them throwing in every last note they learned.

Edited by chris_b
  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's playing 16th notes..... and then there's playing them with groove and finesse. The difference is audible....

 

That's the reason why the likes of Billy Sheehan sing the praises of Michael Anthony, Cliff Williams etc...

  • Like 12
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Check out this video about Sade's Sweetest Taboo bassline. Only two notes in the whole song, but played with such style and groove. Reeling back round to the original point, I doubt Paul Denman was held back by the rest of the band on this one. But if the guitarist had insisted on a follow-my-lead-and-KISS approach it would've ruined the song. So it goes both ways.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many moons ago when I lived in London I had some bass lessons from a guy that could play up a storm on the most complex jazzy fusion stuff. He was light years ahead of me in every respect.
 

He invited me along to see a band he was playing with (at Ronnie Scott’s I think) and I was very surprised by how simple and elegant his playing was in that context. I was expecting a chops-fest, but he didn’t play anything that would have even stretched my ability. 

It was quite heartening really.

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

27 minutes ago, cetera said:

There's playing 16th notes..... and then there's playing them with groove and finesse. The difference is audible....

 

That's the reason why the likes of Billy Sheehan sing the praises of Michael Anthony, Cliff Williams etc...

My immediate thought went to Mike Anthony during his VH days. Listen to Chickenfoot and you realise how much more he has to offer. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recall hearing on a podcast a while back that a player like Marcus Miller doesn’t get the majority of his work because of his brilliant chops but because he turns up on time, is nice to people and plays only the notes the song demands. 

  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember seeing an interview with members of Manfred Mann talking about when Jack Bruce joined them and they showed him their magnum opus Pretty Flamingo. They said they would talk him through the changes but he said "don't worry, I've got it" after one run through. 
 

It think it was Tom McGuinness who said it used to break his heart watching Jack playing it on stage as it was so far below what he was capable of. Still, a gig is a gig I guess...

Edited by Old Horse Murphy
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think a lot of bassists COULD play more complex lines but is it a case of being held back or them choosing to play what the songs needs rather than play for their ego. In fact I think overplaying says a lot more about a player than playing something understated that fit the song. Advanced technical ability and good taste often don’t coexist IMHO. I’m usually not the bassist in my bands so as a singer, I’d much rather work with a bassist with less technical prowess and more restraint and musicality. 🙂

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Old Horse Murphy said:

I remember seeing an interview with members of Manfred Mann talking about when Jack Bruce joined them and they showed him their magnum opus Pretty Flamingo. They said they would talk him through the changes but he said "don't worry, I've got it" after one run through. 
 

It think it was Tom McGuinness who said it used to break his heart watching Jack playing it on stage as it was so far below what he was capable of. Still, a gig is a gig I guess...

It's well known in the industry that Manfred Mann has exceptional taste when it comes to bass players he chooses to work with :)

  • Like 3
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hear what you're saying but I'm interested to know if the guys in AC/DC, Quo etc could really let rip with some complex jazzy stuff if so demanded. One of my fave players is Derek Forbes who is a class case of someone who knew how to keep it dead simple if needed. I mean, the one note line in Waterfront is so effective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To play for the song shows true ability. Overplaying is easy. Not that I do it well, but I sure can overplay. Less is ALWAYS more.

 

My favourite ever soundcheck line came from one of my students soundchecking another. Player student went up and gave it the max Flea. Sound engineer student laconically reached over to the talk back mike and said "Stop it, play me something I can hear".

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Too many to mention. Many, many pro players are far more able than you would realise from listening to what they do with the bands they make their names with. A few are mentioned above. There are countless others. A question. You are offered the bass chair in a successful outfit, playing relatively simple music that is massively popular. You can pretty well play the stuff in your sleep. Do you:

 

1. Say "Yes, please" and play the music to the best of your ability, enjoy the experience, fame and travel, etc, live in a nice house, drive a nice car (or cars), use the freedom from having to work 24/7 just to survive to play the music that really floats your boat in your spare time (not needing to worry whether anyone likes it or if it will sell), spend plenty of time with your family and give them the life you want them to have and retire to live in comfort after a relatively short working life?

 

2. Say "No thanks. It's not enough of a challenge" and continue to plug away for 50+ hours a week at the day job (which you can't stand, but, hey, we've all got to survive) whilst juggling your time to fit your musical endeavours around it, turn up at work feeling like [email protected] because you got home at 4 am from last night's gig, squeeze practice and rehearsal into what little spare time you have, use up all your annual leave to do the odd bit of "touring" where you play to small numbers of people who think it's a shame you aren't better known and appreciated, worry about the bills and argue with your partner because the kids (who you don't see nearly as much as you should or would like to) need stuff you can't afford because you've just bought that expensive gear you have to have and work until you drop?

 

I know which option I'd have gone for had I been offered the choice. 

Edited by Dan Dare
  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...