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Paul Simonon's sound help

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by lawndart, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. lawndart


    Oct 4, 2003
    Northern NJ
    Thought this would be the more logical place to post this.
    Ive been listening to Black Market Clash. Great cd/album if you dont have it already. Anyhow......Can anyone direct me to how Paul got that sound? Did he use his Ric or Pbass. Im pretty sure Back Market was later on in their career so i guess it was the Pbass.
    Ive tried to recreate the sound on my rig (Mesa Walkabout and 2 Aguilar Gs112s) and I have a Pbass with flats. But no mater what I do I cant get even close. Its either too boomy or to too midrangey.
  2. TyKao


    Jun 29, 2003
    It sounds like you definitely want to keep using the PBass. Are you playing with a pick? According to his interview with Bass Player magazine, he played with a pick on most of the songs. Also, from what I've been able to tell, it doesn't sound like he made any noncosmetic changes to his basses. So, I would think you want roundwounds, but I'm not sure. He has more attack in his sound than I associate with flatwound strings. Does anyone familiar with 70s Fenders know if Precisions were sold with roundwounds in the late 70s?

    Here's a link to the interview:
    murphy likes this.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    P-bass with Rotosounds plus Ampeg SVT...that's it.
    rodl2005, descendent22, MCF and 4 others like this.
  4. lawndart


    Oct 4, 2003
    Northern NJ
    which rotosounds. could swear his bass sounds very muffled and pillowy, therefor I was thinking flats. but im open for string suggestions. I just got my Pbass back with Fralin pups put in it.....now I have a new love for it again.

    would you think 2x15 cab would work?
  5. I'd guess they were played-in roundwounds.

    he tended to pick over the pickup or between the pickup and the neck.
  6. kearney


    Jul 5, 2004
    keep in mind mick played most of his recorded basslines from The Clash up to and including many singles of the era of Give em enough Rope....

    yes, his basslines do have a very pillowy sound, keep in mind he did own a rick and an EB-2 (as seen in the call up music video)

    i am a HUGE fan of the clash, but have not taken much time and speculation into how he made his bass sound, but id take tips from the others here

    he did add a part about the bass he smashed at the palladium...

    "We used to get cheap Fender®s from CBS; they were newer models, quite light and insubstantial. But the one I smashed that night was a great bass, a Fender® Precision®, (it cost about) about £160 (272 Euros), one of the older heavy, solid models, so I did regret breaking it."


    id watch "The Last Testament" dvd if i were you...
  7. audiotom


    May 31, 2005
    new orleans
    I'll second The Last Testament

    Mick Jones played Paul's bass lines on the first two?
    never heard that one before

    although I recall his old bass with the notes written out every two frets or so (right side up so he must have read upside down) he was hired for his cool look and rough edge
    and developed quickly into some great bass lines

    on another note the London Calling 25th addition Deluke set
    features the Vanilla tapes (lost rehearsals pre recording studio - sounds like it's recorded underwater but a great glimpse of the creative process) and a dvd making of London Calling with rare footage that recently was uncovered

    these guys ruled the early 80's

    rodl2005 and GregC like this.
  8. His sound is accually a lot like that of other players of that era. Awhile ago I was really into his playing and sound, and here's how to get it:

    For most of the time(or atleast for the sound you're going for)he played a cream colored fender p-bass with a black pickguard with a pick.The strings to get are Rotosound Flats, which are extremly bright flatwound strings that were used exclusively in the 60's and 70's. Use all downstrokes unless you really can't.Pluck the strings HARD somewhere between the neck and the pickup. You should get really close to his sound, but it wont be exact, because old p-basses sound different.

    Good Luck! :cool: :bassist:
  9. KoalaBass


    Aug 12, 2011

    Attached Files:

    design likes this.
  10. bendy


    Sep 21, 2011
    I don't know about the recording of "Guns of Brixton," but in all of the clips of live performances of the song I have seen, Simonon traded his Precision for Strummer's guitar.

    Here's a couple of examples:

    The Clash- US Festival 1983- Guns Of Brixton - YouTube

    The Clash - Guns of Brixton - YouTube

    Speaking of "Black Market Clash," in a sense, it is difficult to date because it was released in the U.S. between "London Calling" and "Sandanista," but it was a collection of recordings from 1977 to 1980.

    I've long been curious as to how Simonon got the sound he got for "Bankrobber." To my ear it sounds like more than just P-bass to SVT.

    I've also long admired how he used a little quick work with the pick to add syncopation to the "Armagideon Time" bass line. He managed to stay true to the simple, but militant bass line from the original Willi Williams/Jackie Mittoo version (built on Sound Demension/Coxsone Dodd’s “Real Rock” riddim), while still creating a bass line that was his own and which added some necessary urgency to support Strummer's vocals.

    MOTORHEADBANGER Spud-boy looking for a real tomato

    Dec 23, 2008
    Sidney, Indiana
    He just has his tone knob down, and I believe he used his fingers on that track. Paul preferred a pick, but used his fingers on a few tracks when appropriate. I've gotten the "Bankrobber" tone with a p with worn out Roto's, with a Fender Bassman.

    As a long time Clash fanatic, I have tried to get Simonon's tone many times. The two basses that came closest to the tone were my '97 MIM P (faded white with black pickguard of course) and an '83 Aria SB-R60 (in single coil mode). From all the interviews I have seen, I am quite sure that Paul used Rotosound 77 flats. They are much brighter than usual flats and have that thump with a pick that Paul is known for (keep in mind Steve Harris also uses these strings). I've gotten their with some Roto 66's that were very dead.

    As far as amplification goes, I used a VT Bass to get his sound. Character between 9 and 11'o'clock (SVT mode) and gain under 11'o'clock.

    If you have rounds and are using a pick, you may want to turn down the tone knob on certain songs to get a slightly rounder tone.
  12. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    Yeah, everything I have heard has always held that Paul was the studio bass player too.

    Though there were a couple changeups-- Norman Watt-Roy from the Blockheads played on The Magnificent Seven (because he came up with the rhythm) and on most of Cut the Crap when the band had pretty much come apart. Joe and Paul switched guitar for bass on Guns of Brixton because Paul wrote the song, so the other guys wanted him to sing it, but he couldn't sing and play bass, though he could sing and play guitar.
  13. Try a slightly overdriven sound
  14. Dodge B

    Dodge B

    Jul 10, 2016
    I known this is a zombie thread, but if there are other people like me, many people will view it.

    He used rotosounds. I believe that on one of his P Basses, he had Dimarzio Model P' s, which generally accent the bass and mids more than the treble.
    He used a pick almost all of the time, which can be heard on most of the records. Bank Robber is a weird one, since I never really thought it sounded like him.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
  15. Axstar


    Jul 8, 2016
    East of Eden.
    Bankrobber has quite a thick, dubby tone. The isolated bass track for Guns of Brixton is up on Youtube, and has a similar tone. It could be that he was using his EB-2 with flats for these tracks, or even a borrowed bass of some sort. The isolated bass track to London's Calling is also up on Youtube, and does sound markedly different. That could well be a Precision bass with rotosounds, but again I would make assumptions about the amps. There is some fairly aggressive limiting/compression on the track, as well as Paul's slightly undisciplined and choppy pick technique.
  16. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    My first good bass was a '72-'73 ish Precision- heavy ash body with a big chunk of maple for the neck. It had that attack and clang in it acoustically no matter what strings, bridge, or pickups were on it. I hated it because it wasn't what I wanted a Precision to sound like, but it's exactly what I hear every time I hear The Clash. Not to say you NEED an early '70s P, but that combination of ash and the way those bodies interact with the strings will impact what the PUP produces.

    Axstar likes this.
  17. GK Growl

    GK Growl Banned

    Dec 31, 2011
    Granted I'm not versed in all Clash music but attack and clang is the opposite of what I hear on most of their tracks. Although I do recall hearing an isolated bass track for London Calling that was surprising bright isolated but not so much in the mix.
  18. Dodge B

    Dodge B

    Jul 10, 2016
    Ok, I have looked at some pictures and it doesn't look like Rotos, because they have red sold at the end. I'm not sure what strings they are, but I think the ball ends are colored. Definitely rounds. Could be nickel, as it is not a very clingy sound, but it is quite aggresive.

    Edit: Sorry, was Rotosound. Pictures I was looking at were newer. Not the same strings.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
  19. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    When I listen to "London Calling" the sound I hear from the bass is very much what I did NOT like about that '73 Precison- It's a great sound for those tracks and for the drums and guitar sounds from the Clash. But I was very much after a much different sound- Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Emroy Gordy Jr., etc. And the characteristics of that sound were a lot of attack, a good bit of clanging (not like a treble boosted Ric, but a certain metallic clank), and no blossom to the note (although most notes were pretty staccato so there wasn't really time for them to bloom).

    It's one of those sounds that I really like when other people get that sound, but I don't like when I get it :)
  20. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    Weren't only the basses with natural finishes made of Ash? I thought the other finishes were made with Alder.

    So wouldn't his basses have been Alder since they were Olympic White?

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