Which bass guitar most defines the sound of the 60s?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassbourne, May 29, 2021.

  1. bassbourne


    Nov 20, 2019
    I am going through a bit of a 60s music phase (again) and I started wondering which bass guitar most defines that sound.

    I'm mostly interested in comparing the impact of the Precision vs Jazz on the decade seeing as they were still the most popular, however I am aware that there were plenty of other models being used at the time.

    On the Precision side you have James Jamerson, Carol Kaye, Brian Wilson, Duck Dunn etc etc and on the Jazz side you Joe Osborn, Jerry Jemmott, Jack Casady, John Paul Jones (towards the end of the decade) etc etc.

    The Jazz was born in the 60s, but perhaps it took until the 70s for the Jazz to really catch up with the Precision in terms of popularity. Although I don't know for sure.

    So again, which do you think most represents the sound of the 60s?
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  2. Fernando Costa

    Fernando Costa

    Aug 4, 2013
    I think that P bass, although the low quality of some recordings - and the placement of the bass by the technicians in the mixes - impairs our judgment a lot.
  3. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    When it comes to the '60s you need to distinguish between early and late, and take the "British Invasion" into account - Fenders were not yet widely available in the UK. English hitmakers played Höfner, Framus, Burns, Vox, Futurama (Hagström) or maybe Epiphone. But for the decade overall, including the hippie years, I'd say Fender Precision.
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  4. 2112

    2112 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2005
  5. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    The Burns Bison and Dano Longhorn also figured large at that time.
  6. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    For numbers of instruments in use, level of use in major bands, recordings and top 40 hits, it's got to be a Fender Precision. The sound of a Precision is the sound of bass for most of the record buying public and many musicians. No other bass comes close.
  7. Texaspandj


    Feb 13, 2021
    Heart Of Texas
    If you could go back to the 60s and grab one bass to bring back, which one would you grab? Yeah, that one.
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  8. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug

    *bongo-ing furiously*

    In a garden
    A Disciple asks
    Of his Master
    “Can a dog achieve Nirvana?”

    The Master looks askance
    With a disdainful glance
    “Arf arf” he says

    Dog backwards is god
    Wow upside down is mom
    Mom upside down is
    Dad’s favorite

    Now go fall in the forest
    See if anyone hears you

    *bongo flourish*
  9. PrairieThunder13


    Dec 21, 2015
    Lots of acts i can think of from the '60s had their bass players on epiphone rivolis and rickenbacker basses (4000, 4001, 4001s/rm1999, even 4005 basses). Lots of fenders in canada/us, and lots of hofners and other european oddballs, too. Japanese stuff with a lot of the garage bands.
  10. ad9000

    ad9000 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    Leucadia, CA
    This is a really interesting question. If you survey what basses were used on hit records throughout the 60's (let's say the top 20 Billboard charting singles in each year) I would throw out a guess that the Precision Bass was used on around 70% of them, even factoring in that in the early part of the decade upright bass was still used on a fair amount of pop recordings.

    McCartney alone tips the scales away from the P-bass with his Hofner and Rickenbacker usage, and Joe Osborne, with the amount of records he played on, pumps up the Jazz Bass quotient significantly.

    To be nitpicky, Jack Casady really only used a Jazz Bass in the early days of the Airplane, and after that it was a Guild Starfire (which after a while sported heavily modded electronics courtesy of Alembic). That said, Jack would sound amazing on pretty much any bass you put in his hands.

    I don't really think of the Jazz Bass becoming more fashionable than the P until the mid-70's, largely because of Jaco and Larry Graham, but even in that era I think the P was still more widely used.
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I'm guessing 3/4 of the rock recordings that used electric bass, at least, had a P bass in the 60s. Probably also the 70s, 80s, 90s...
  12. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Suspended Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
  13. Yango

    Yango Inactive

    Apr 14, 2008
    Undoubtedly the Fender Precision Bass.

    Followed pretty closely by the Fender Jazz Bass.
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  14. Bikeguy57

    Bikeguy57 Supporting Member

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  15. roycroft_88


    Dec 9, 2010
    Don't forget David Hood used a Jazz Bass on many recording as well.
  16. I gotta think the P Bass. It seems to me that the most enduring music of the 60's is Motown. You still hear those songs all the time. When you think about the popular bands of the time (excluding The Beatles), the Monkeys, Paul Revere et al, Dave Clark 5, Animals, Zombies, Byrds, you still hear those songs occasionally. And while songs like Born to be Wild are iconic, they don't define the sound of the era.

    However, unless you're a milennial listening to the 95% pure crap that gets recorded today, you can't escape hearing songs by The Temptations, Diana Ross, Aretha, James Brown, Commodors, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, etc. If you watch The Voice or American Idol or perhaps America's got talent, rest assured 60's Motown will show up at some point. James Jamerson and Carol Kaye are iconic players from the 60's and mainly recorded on the P bass.
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  17. Agreed. All those hits from a P bass.
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  18. kjp360


    Feb 11, 2014
    If you had nearly any hollow body, something with a P pup, and a Ric you could cover 95% of the decade. I don't really think any decade has "that one" tone, much less a decade so diverse.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    Semi hollow body short scales w/ flats until the P took over?
  20. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    Fender Precision on the American side, some Jazz, Either Epiphone Rivoli or Gibson EB-2 (pretty much the same bass) on the British side at least the first half.
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