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What bass does Klaus Voorman play?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Skel, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    I saw a tribute to George Harrison a while back on DVD. Klaus Voorman, who I think was related to the Beatles in some way, played bass. I was impressed with his nice full tone and playing - it sounded great and I was pleased to see that a finger style player could fit into George Harrison/Beatles tunes so well. Anybody know what bass he plays?

    Thanks - Skel
  2. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Yay of all yays, a Klaus thread! What an underrated player- nobody even thinks of him as a bassist, just the Beatles' friend who designed the Revolver cover- even though he played on a few of the most influential albums of the early 70s. I even read somewhere that it's him playing the main guitar riff on "Wah Wah" and not Clapton. I figure he's got to be a big influence of mine just by the sheer number of times I've listened to Plastic Ono Band and The Bangladesh album. He was also in an extrenely silly late 60's abnd called "Paddy, Klaus & Gibson" that had a great single called "Quick Before They Catch Us".

    Klaus , I believe, mostly used a P Bass. It was one that had been painted some psychedelic design and then shaved down.

    Nice thread, Skel. It will sink hopelessly to the bottom, but I appreciate it.
    Son of Wobble likes this.
  3. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003
    Klaus used a P-bass.
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Also the Anthology covers.
    Klaus is cool.
  5. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
  6. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    For some reason, it's reallyhard to find photos of Klausplaying bass, but here's one that shows his P Bass. It's from a photgraphers' site, so forgive the copywrite info across the front.

  7. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    oops, that didn't work, did it? Well, here's a small one that's on his website (which more about his work as a graphic artist)
    If you can access the larger photo in the link above it seems to be a late 50's or early 60's P Bass that has been painted in a most cosmic fashion- it has mutes on the bridge as far as I can tell.

    He played bass with

    Manfred Mann
    John Lennon (All his solo stuff through Mind Games)
    George Harrison
    randy newman
    Dr. John

    Concert for bangladesh where he played with Billy Preston, Clapton, Dylan, Leon Russell, Badfinger, etc.

    not a bad resume'.[​IMG][​IMG]
  8. new_west


    Dec 28, 2005
    San Diego
    Don't forget hey played bass on some of Harry Nilsson's album (one of the most underrated singer/songwriters ever, sadly only know for a few remakes and that coca cola song :meh: )

    I really like Klaus' work on Plastic Ono Band.. it matches the minimalistic yet emotional feel of the album..
  9. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    My info has it that Leon played bass for Dylan on Bangladesh.

    Voorman's someone the Bs met in Hamburg and was drafted into playing bass.

    Had a knack for making the right friends, and you're right, turned out to be a fine bassist.
  10. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Don't even get me started on how much I love Harry Nilsson or we'll never get out of here. I just did a Nilsson cover on ukelele for my upcoming album... as you do.
    cweath likes this.
  11. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    Well, anytime I hear a collection of musicians like on the George Harrison tribute DVD - first, I'm amazed at George Harrison's song writing ability (he had some pretty good teachers), the number of great songs he wrote, and to hear a strong Fender Precision played finger style on songs with a McCartney bass line. Usually you see somebody doing any kind of Beatle-ish tribute whip out a Hofner or something in that family. He may have gotten the gig because he was friends with the Beatles...I don't know, but he played very solid bass and helped to make the songs sound great. When I saw the DVD, I was thinking to myself "when did this guy actually get serious and really learn how to play bass" - I thought he was just the token Beatle's friend". Even the Beatle's friends were very good musicians!. Anyway, this is one of the reasons why I'm proud to own a Fender Precision bass - Klaus Voormen was inspiring to listen to / watch, and a class act.

    Ok - I don't know much - who's Harry Nilsson? I mean is he another friend of the Beatles?

    Thanks - Skel
    Oddly likes this.
  12. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Ahhh, now you've done it, Skel. it's Nilsson history time with your host, Corin.

    Nilsson was indeed one of the Beatles' friends , but he's an American artist whose roots go back to the heyday of the Brill Building scene in NYC. He moved to LA in time to work on some early Phil Spector sessions and wrote songs for the Monkees, The Turtles and the Yardbirds. He got his own deal and mafe two amazing albums with some serious West Coast musicians and arrangers that showcased his ability to multitrack elaborate vocal arrangemnets. Those two albums caught the ears of the Beatles through their ex- publicist, Derek Taylor. Nilsson's debut album was essentially doing nothing and he was still working his day job at a bank when the Beatles mentioned named him as their favorite new artist at a press conference.

    Not long after, he picked up an obscure Badfinger album track called "Without You" and re-arranged it in a more grandiose style:"I Can't liiiiiiive, if living is without you.." it ain't a Mariah carey song, kids. His version became a #1 hit worldwide, earning him a Grammy and providing a lifetime of royalties for the estates of the Badfinger guys (who both later hanged themselves because of finacial problems with their manager- one of the saddest stories in rock). He had a hugely popular album called "Nilsson Schmillson" which was required listening in the mid 70's.

    Nilsson also wrote the song "One" which was a huge hit for 3 Dog Night and he had a minor hit with "Coconut"- you put de lime in de coconut- that one. He also did an AMAZING album of all Randy Newman songs- a pretty generous thing for a succesful songwriter to do. One of the nicest things he did was write the children's story The Point as a musical, which later became an animated feature. The hit from that was "Me & My Arrow"

    Probably what he's best remembered for, unfortunatly, is being John Lennon's drinking buddy during Lennon's lost weekend period in LA. He was actually an amzing vocalist and a songwriter of some depth whose legacy has been somewhat forgotten since his death in 1994. However, there is an indie feature length film about him currently appearing at film festivals.

    I had the pleasure of becoming a bit of a phone buddy with Harry in the early 90s- nothing major, just 5 or 6 really long phone calls and some tapes exchanged. He had endless amazing rock and roll stories and was absolutely hysterical when he told them. I've often regretted not taking him up on his offer to come visit him in California to try some co- writing, it's oen of my biggest professional regrets (and believe me: regrets, I've had a few...), but have since met a number of people who worked with or knew him. Inevitably, the mention of his name brings a giant smile to their faces. He was just a beautiful guy and left behind some amazing albums (and a couple of duffers). I'd highly recommed a greatest hits, closely follwoed by his first two albums: pandemonium Shadow Show and Aerial Ballet.

    Well, you asked.
    digmeout, Leonerd and Oddly like this.
  13. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    Wow! This is way cool, Corin! He wrote "One"? What a great song. I'm really intrigued with song writing - but not enough to do something about it, I guess. I read a lot about song writers working together, and it seems like it's common for one person to write lyrics and the other to write music. For some reason, I really like the idea of being a skilled arranger. What would your role have been in working with him? And BTW, I take it *he* knew all these people - Klaus Voormen, Bill Preston, etc. And that is him singing the hit we all know "I can't live"? Did one of the Badfinger guys write that song? Last, is there a song we would know that he wrote for the Monkees, Turtles, etc? Did he play primarily piano, guitar? Why did you decide not to work with him?
    Family, job, etc?

    Thank you - Skel
  14. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    I definitely didn't decide not to work with him. It's just that I was 23 and had no money and was on the wrong side of the country. It was kind of a casual invitation. I sent him some tapes of my songs and he sent me his newest things and he said "you shoud come visit me in LA and we could try to write together". I just left it as "yeah, yeah, let's do that someday" and then he died a couple of years later. I have really regretted it.

    The main thing he wrote for the Monkees was "Cuddly Toy"- although I have a tpe of him singing 10 songs in a row for Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork and they are freaking out at how good the songs are. At one point, Mike Nesmith goes "Where the f*** did you come from, man?"

    That is him singing that incredible high note on "Without You". That's one of the things I find interesting about him as an artist. He was a skilled and succesful songwriter, but if he heard a song by someone else that he thought he could sing well, he put his ego aside and just did it. If you compare teh Badfinger version to Nilsson's version, it's incredible what he added to the song (and I love Badfinger, so that's not a diss on them). It's intriguing to me that at roughly the same time he had a huge hit with "Without You", 3 Dog Night were on the charts with a cover of one of his songs. By the way, the Nilsson version of "One" is not a shuffle or bluesy at all. It's very similar to the way Aimee Mann did it on the soundtrack to the movie "Magnolia"

    As far as I know, he wrote primarily on piano, though he did play guitar as well. The thing about Nilsson, too, is that the latter half of his career really had a negative effect on his legacy. He was like the golden boy of the early 70's, but his 18 months as John Lennon's drinking buddy wasn't good for either of them. He partied away part of his upper register and his voice took on a gruff quality that he never really lost after he straightened himself out. If you decide to check him out, make sure you go for early stuff or you'll think I'm out of my mind.
  15. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
  16. new_west


    Dec 28, 2005
    San Diego
    ahh. Harry Nilsson. What are your favorite albums of his?
  17. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    His first two, "Pandemomium Shadow Show" and "Aeriel Ballet" are very charming late 60s albums with all the production and arrangement tricks associated with that period of West Coast record making. Nilsson Sings Newman is amazing, too. I like Shmillson and I generally find something great on all of his albums, but those first two just kill me.
  18. Jeff K

    Jeff K Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    Ha ha! You turned out to be a prophet ("...It will sink hopelessly to the bottom..."), but I totally agree with you. Klaus was an influence of mine on bass. I still enjoy playing his rollicking bass line behind Billy Preston's "That's The Way God Planned It" on the Bangladesh album. (Stay with it, as they pick up speed later in the song...)

    Yes, Leon Russell played bass on Dylan's set at The Concert For Bangla Desh. (Dylan on acoustic, George on electric, Ringo on tambourine, and Leon on bass.) The rest of the concert, Leon was playing keyboards. But for most of the concert, it was Klaus on bass. During Leon Russell's songs, Carl Radle came out to play bass.

    Sorry to resurrect such an old thread. While looking for pics of Klaus's old P-Bass, I came across this thread. Here are two pics of his P-Bass, both with the visible paint job as well as after it was worn (or scraped??) off.
    download. download-1.
    Leonerd likes this.
  19. Klaus2.
  20. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    Belated thanks to @corinpills for his amazing writeup on why Harry Nilsson matters: I'll definitely check him out now that I know what I was missing. :thumbsup:

    As for Klaus, while the narrower scope question in the OP was answered 11-odd years ago, the more general one in the title calls for a few more tidbits:

    1) apparently, recently he's been known to play this thing,
    the Vootar!
    Name is straightforwardly from "Voormann guitar". 30" scale; 8-strings ("4 bass guitar-strings at the top plus 4 strings from a normal guitar", so E-standard bass and the top four of a Spanish-tuned six-stringer? E1-A1-D2-G2-d3-g3-b3-e4? The top three do look plain on not-so-hi-res pics); made by Cassandra Elk Design:
    Cassandra Elk design
    More pics:
    Cassandra Elk design
    A KV bio courtesy of the luthier:
    Cassandra Elk design

    2) early on, at one point he owned Stu Sutcliffe's Höfner President bass!
    Here with the original owner:
    Klaus Voormann
    About the instrument:
    Stuart Sutcliffe's Hofner President Bass Guitar
    Alt. link:
    Beatles Guitars: Stuart Sutcliffe's Hofner President Bass: Rockmine On-Line

    3) I guess everyone knows, but it can't hurt to repeat, it's him on bass at the intro of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain":
    Klaus Voormann - About

    EDIT - an older thread by corinpills:
    I met Klaus Voorman last night
    Apparently the C.E.D. Vootar is a recreation of an earlier concept Klaus had built in the 90's.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017

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