Paul McCartney

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Sundogue, Dec 17, 2001.

  1. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    After the death of George Harrison, my cover band started playing a few tunes of his, from his days with the Beatles.

    I grew up listening to and playing along with the Beatles' music. I recall when I started out that I played an old guitar of my brother's that only had the EADG strings left on it...and I learned the bass part...not even knowing what the bass was, I just thought it was a guitar (this was circa I was around 8 or 9 years old).

    We are doing "Something" for a good slow dance tune and while learning it I realized (once again) what a tremendous influence Paul McCartney was on my playing bass (and alot of other's). It's gotten me to re-think my playing and how root-note oriented I've become.

    I hear from alot of people who think he is not much of a bass player or that he was overrated...but looking back on it (not listening to his playing now, but listening to his playing when it first came out) I realize that his bass playing was exceptional in it's own melodic, harmonious way. Paul was one of the first (popular) bass players to use bass lines as harmony to the arrangement instead of always riding the root note...or even just playing lines that start off the root note.

    (Re)learning some of these songs made me think how brilliant his playing was...not because he was fast, but because he played with great effectiveness for the song...something that is seriuosly lacking in most of today's music.

    Now before everyone goes off about how overrated he is (was)...I just thought I'd share some of these other comments from a few people within the music business...

    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."

    -George Martin, Beatles producer

    "It's hard to separate 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."

    - Sting

    "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 with 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 widespread over numerous generations that there'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."

    - Will Lee - Studio musician, Bass player for Late Night with David Letterman band

    "Paul definitely had an influence on my bass playing, not so much technically, but more with his philosophy of melodic bass lines - 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."

    - Stanley Clarke

    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."

    - Billy Sheehan
  2. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    No argument from me!
  3. Jimbo


    Dec 4, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA
    i love Paul McCartney's playing. i think he is brilliant when it comes to fitting into a song. his lines always seem to fit perfectly. everytime i listen to the beatles i learn somethig new from the bass line. i thank Paul McCartney deeply for teaching me how beautiful the bass really can be.

  4. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Yeah. I've always thought of his playing as being simple...but then when I try to learn a's not as easy as I first think. It's not that it is technically challenging, or physically hard to play...just a little hard to figure out the notes.

    Just when I think I've got it, I find he's playing harmony to the part I just "learned"...which in essence, is me playing a harmony to his part because I didn't realize he was playing the fifth or seventh off the guitar as his "root" note. :)

    It's not like I'm incapable of learning it quickly, I'm pretty good at picking up songs fast...but because I tend to get so "root note" oriented that his playing always throws me off a bit.

    I think any bass player would do themselves alot of good to go through Paul McCartney's discography and learn some if his tunes "note for note" is a real eye-opener and it makes you approach your own playing a little differently. As Paul himself has said..."any decent jazz musician already knows this stuff."
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    For a laugh, cue up "One After 909" from the FIRST's a false start, Paul is attempting to play the rather 'quick' tempo'd rocker without his "plectrum". Eventually, he gives up sayin'(something to the effect of), "I can't do it, it's maddening". :D

    FWIW, I agree with George Martin's comments 100%.

    ...I dug The Beatles(as much as a 7-year old can)back in the '60s. Then, I kinda lost interest, that is, until the cds were released back in the latter '80s.
    Man, still happenin' stuff; it don't get much better than Revolver! ;)
  6. Yeah McCartney isn't the best, but he does have some very good lines, and can play just about any insturment he wants to. I bought his new cd and "She's given up talking" has a very good bass line with McCartney doing all these different variations and stuff.
  7. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I agree completely. Start with "All My Lovin'", and make sure you can play and sing it at the same time. On to "Rain", then "Oh, Darling!", "Eight Days A Week", etc. etc. etc.

    Just amazing playing, Paul's influence on Bass playing can not be underestimated, he could be the single most influential and important electric bass player of all time IMO. Yes, more important that Jaco.
  8. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I couldn't agree more.

    People always bring up John Entwhistle (I am a huge fan of his also)...but until Paul McCartney came along, bass playing was very boring and root-note based.

    He really changed the way bass players approached it (even John E. himself as he had seen Paul play many times in person).
  9. Good thread,this!!

    Sir Paul has always been one of my idols.Since I started to learn the bass,I have found a whole new aspect of him to idolize.His basslines are sublte and keep the song going,all without being too "rootnotish" or boring.Long live Sir Paul!!:)

    Somewhere I heard that in a lot of his post wings/solo work he does`nt play the bass anymore,only does the vocals.:( Is this true??
  10. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    From what I've heard, Paul still plays bass, but he can play drums, guitar, piano, sing...which is why I think his bass playing is so different than most.

    He brings a greater sense of harmony and integrates the bass into the song rather than it being something "holding it down". It's more like from his philosophy, it's "lifting it up".
  11. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [I hear from alot of people who think he is not much of a bass player or that he was overrated...

    Paul was a huge influence on me. I think every bass player should study all of Paul's work starting with Rubber Soul and perhaps even before that.

    [I realize that his bass playing was exceptional in it's own melodic, harmonious way.

    He is a master at that. I think he was somewhat lazy in his post Beatle efforts but God the stuff he did on Sgt Peppers, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road, etc. was amazing.

    [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.

    Amen brother Lee.

    Stanley Clarke, Billy Sheenan and Jaco also listed McCartney as an influence. I think that says it pretty well.

    I'll tell ya it was frustrating as hell growing up during the 60's and every time there was an interview with Sir Paul, nobody ever seemed to ask him anything technical about his playing. Or how he composed his bass lines, etc.
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Not entirely true(though, maybe I get your gist. "Pop"/early Rock bass, perhaps?).
    Jazz bass playing was very experimental & happenin' during that time frame...too, Jamerson was doing his thing! ;)
  13. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [Jamerson was doing his thing!

    Of course no one knew who Jamerson was. In any event, seems to me that McCartney was heavily influenced by Jamerson.
  14. Yogi Bear

    Yogi Bear Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2000
    This may not be a very popular sentiment, but I think that Paul McCartneys real strength doesn't lie in his bass playing (although he is a fantastic bass player) as much as it's in his overall musical talent and unbeleivable songwriting ability. It would be amazing to just have just of a touch of his music sensibility.
  15. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I don't really agree with this. Some of the Wings songs are bass songs. What would "Goodnight Tonight" and "Sillly Love Songs" (one of my all time favorite McCaw bass lines) be without the bass?

    The biggest thing Paul brought to the instrument was a complete and total understanding of the role of the bass in every song. Something very few other bass players achieve to his level, as much as we try. (Sting comes to mind as another with this gift.) Paul could play something very intricate if the song demanded it (Rain, Paperback Writer, Something, Elvis Costello's "Veronica") or something very simple and root oriented if that was more appropriate in the song (Band On The Run, While My Guitar Gently Weeps). But everything he played, no matter whether complicated or simple, always is perfect for the song. This is what I most admire in his bass playing, and what I strive for also.

    His instictive and unqualified musical genius was translated more directly to the bass guitar specifically during his Beatle days because his primary role was as bassist in that band. In his post-Beatle other projects his bass playing was a part of the musical whole, as he spent as much time with guitars as with basses around his neck. One interesting thing to follow with Paul is that all through his career he has always surrounded himself with people wo also shared an appreciation for every intstrument in the musical whole. Obviously the Beatles qualify, but Denny Laine could play a mean bass himself, as well as guitar and vocals. The "Flowers in the Dirt" lineup was pretty awesome as all around musicians, as have been line-ups since.
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    And a little later, McCartney hired Hamish Stuart(of AWB...another guitarist/bassist type).
  17. Anyone who says that McCartney is overrated or not a great player needs to sit down and learn all of Abbey Road or Revolver. He has the ability to always put all the right notes in the right places. His playing was pretty revolutionary in rock music at the time and is still highly relevant today. A lot of guys (especially the music store slappers that play a million notes a second but wouldn't know a groove if they tripped up in it :D) could stand to learn a thing or two from McCartney.
  18. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    I spent the better part of yesterday hauling my son to hockey games in various parts of the state and we listened to Sgt Peppers and Abbey Road at lengths and once again were amazed at the beauty and complexity of the bass lines that Paul composed. These were hardly root oriented riffs but obviously the product of careful consideration and experimentation. I have read that Paul liked to record the bass last so that he could experiment with quoting the melody and complimenting the harmonies. It certainly shows.

    As for his earlier work, I would remind us all that McCartney basically converted to bass just before the Beatles made their big splash on Ed Sullivan. When the first few albums were recorded he'd been a bass player for a very short period of time. Even so, there was some excellent bass lines.
  19. According to my Anthology book Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bass player for The Beatles, died in April 1962. And he had already left the band the previous year when he met the German photographer, Astrid Kirchner(sp?) during the Hamburg Beatles days...

    Paul was playing bass as early as 1961. Don't forget, The Beatles were very popular in England and Europe long before they appeared on Ed Sullivan 38 years ago tonight on Feb 9th or was it the 8th?, 1964.
  20. I'm so impressed with McCartney that I went out and bought the complete score to all songs the Beatles ever recorded. One of the best $70 investments I have ever made IMHO.