Why was PJ config so popular in Hair Metal?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by ronlitz, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. ronlitz


    Apr 20, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    Was watching some kind of 80's Hair Metal special on VH1 the other day, and noticed that in so many videos the bass was a PJ pickup config. Any thoughts on why that particular configuration was the most common? Was there something about the PJ tone that fit the music best, or was it just that Jackson/Charvel/Kramer/B.C. Rich basses came that way, and the players of the day felt they had to have one?
  2. Daede


    Dec 27, 2010
    Columbus, Ohio
    Don't forget Ibanez... AFAIK, they were the first to start using the P+J config.. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am
  3. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I'm gonna guess the 2nd. Tone was really not much of a consideration for hair metal bands since the bass was buried in the mix most of the time anyway. And even more so live.
  4. ronlitz


    Apr 20, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    I was thinking the same thing - in many hair metal songs, you can only barely make out the bass - it's buried in HUGE drums and wall-of-guitars with lots of lows dialed in. If they were choosing the PJ configuration because it supposeldy worked well with that style of music - but you can't hear the bass - then maybe they were wrong.
  5. Lets not forget the NT White Spector's with the PJ config...oh boy

    Though there are some AMAZING bassists from that era, I think the 80's were full of many bass players that wanted to be guitar players but weren't talented/attractive enough to land the gig. In that position, they learned from other bass players in bands they played with, probably the guys who actually knew what they were doing.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    IIRC correctly, Nikki Sixx started out as a guitarist and so did Bobby Dahl (Poison).

    I'm sure the same was true of at least several others.

  7. That's all in the EQ and mix rather than pick-ups. IMO Bon Jovi got their bass-sound right in that era and genre. It's sits perfectly in the mix on their Slippery When Wet and New Jersey albums (and subsequent albums too). Not overpowering but you can hear the bass and Hugh McDonalds' great playing note for note.
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Yup. For all its hokeyness, "Livin on a Prayer" has a kick-ass bass line and is one of my favorites to play in cover bands even to this day. Still goes over huge with bar crowds, too.
  9. How many pointy Js did you see with pink leopard paint jobs? PJs came in the right shapes and colors.
  10. You're wrong ;) I'm sure Ibanez made some early P/J basses... on the Fender copies that were their 70s bread & butter

    Adding a J bridge pickup was a common mod to P-basses in the 70s, particularly with hotter pickups (like Dimarzios) in "heavy" rock groups (for added bite to the classic low end). At some point Fender responded to this with "deluxe" models combining the P and J. Japanese brands followed suit, as did stateside "superstrat" specialists like Charvel/Jackson (who were ahead of Fender in Guitar sales at a point in the 80s!!!)

    In any case, hair metal bass players used the P/J (sometimes active) for the same reason that the guys who inspired them in the 70s did - that familiar P-bass thump plus cut to get heard in a mix full of loud guitars.
  11. Daede


    Dec 27, 2010
    Columbus, Ohio
    Good answer :)
  12. testing1two

    testing1two Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    Let's not forget that hair metal was produced and engineered by the top names in the business during the height of analog recording excess. I don't think they took a haphazard approach to anything.

    It's really just a matter of changing trends in bass evolution. The PJ setup was a "secret weapon" of the 70's as players were routing out their P-basses to get a punchier sound without losing the meat & potatoes P-bass sound. Folks like Stuart Spector even reversed the P-pickup. It finally hit home with manufacturers in the 80's and market demand did the rest.

    And it was good...
  13. For apparently using it for that signature "thump", or "punch", most of the time I can't tell if the band even had a bassist, or was using a synth.
  14. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    As a guy who was in that world in the '80s, I think I can take a good guess: Many, MANY guys who played bass back then owned P-basses with J pickups installed after the fact; Now, Jackson's *whole thing* was looking at what was popular in So Cal and making products out of it (look at their old guitars!). Soon enough, that was all offshored (Charvel, Kramer, etc). Ibanez made PJ basses, but their P p'up was reversed - that was their "Signature", if you will.

    At that time, I had a very old P-bass set up for PJ, then I got a PJ charvel for cheap - then a PJ Fender P-bass plus. I haven't owned a PJ since, but the recordings I have of that P-plus sound really good...
  15. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    'cause it works?

    I think the reverse P was a simple enough concept that makes sense. Once you have the second pick up (the J) to cover the high end, the P pickup can be used to concentrate solely on the low end, so by reversing it the bottom half of the pick up is pushed closer to the neck for a warmer sound.

    The P-Bass "Special" is my favorite Fender build simply because it works and covers all of the bases (basses?). Think fast neck, thick bottom end, and enough high end articulation for definition.

    If memory serves correctly (questionable these days) BigOldHarry, didn't you have a blue burst, maple board, Fender with the fine tuners on the bridge and all that? That was a nice bass. I remember it having scary low action and a great sound. Of course that was *mumble mumble* years ago but hey!
  16. Tylerrr51


    Nov 28, 2009
    Milford, CT
    I'm with you on that one, they are to die for
  17. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Hey, I was right there with the pack back in the 80s... not only adding the J pickup to my 78 P-Bass but going EMG as well.

    They're still there, and I'm still playin it.
  18. hip63


    Sep 14, 2010
    P/J config is very versatile tone wise IMHO

    hip63 :p
  19. OnederTone

    OnederTone Aguilar Everywhere Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2002
    Thornton, CO
    We thought mullets were versatile in the 80's too.


    That's not me by the way. I was facing the other direction, gazing slightly upward with my chin on my slightly closed fist showing off my sweet class ring... And my mullet wasn't THAT epic.
  20. OnederTone

    OnederTone Aguilar Everywhere Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2002
    Thornton, CO
    ... I kid mostly... I think the PJ is fine when you're coming from the point of view of a Precision. It does add that something when you want it, and you've always got the classic P thump. But I think the PJ is the tone equivalent of a mullet when you're coming from the J-Bass camp (which I do). It never really satisfies when you need that all 3 knobs full on rocking Jazz bass tone.
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