Paul McCartney once said, “None of us wanted to be the bass player. In our minds he was the fat guy who always played at the back”. This reminded me of being a kid in the playground and how everyone wants to be Ally McCoist or Henrik Larsson and nobody wants to play in goal.
We’ve all been present at those demeaning moments when the cool athletic kids were picking sides for football, where the fat, skinny, specky, geeky or foreign kids are left to the end, and more often than not, they usually end up in goals.
But putting Karma and my mental scars aside, the good news for all of us is that every once in a while, there is a fat kid who actually revels in the muck, who loves diving around to parry shots from all angles and who might just go on to become an Andy Goram.
Suzi Quatro, a lady who knows a thing or two about the bass and its effect on the crotch said, “The bass player’s function, along with the drums, is the engine that drives the car… everything else is merely colours”. She also said, “Guitar is for the head, drums are for the chest, but bass gets you in the groin”.
The bass gives music its sex and Steve Swallow reinforces this when he admits, “Occasionally, when I run into a great bass backstage at a festival, I’ll play a few notes on the low E string, just to feel the instrument vibrate against my belly”.
My own recollection of this effect was watching Massive Attack at T in the Park a few years ago with Rico, and just as the sonic waves coming from the stage vibrated through the grass, up through my legs and deep in to my groin, Rico turned to me and said, “Fecking feel that man, that is what a bass should feel like!”
Remembering that these “who is the greatest” articles are all a bit of fun and that I am using personal reflections to stimulate the debate rather than influence, here are some Scottish bass players who can make my bits tingle:
1. John Symon Asher “Jack” Bruce
Born 14 May 1943 in Bishopbriggs, Jack Bruce (pictured above) is perhaps most famous as the vocalist and bass guitarist for the 1960s rock band Cream. Geezer Butler alleged, “Jack Bruce, as soon as I saw him, it changed me. I didn’t even know what bass players did until I saw Cream”. Bruce was an inspiration to generations of bass players including Sting and Mark King.
Recommended hippy slapping “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream
Sunshine of Your Love
2. James Dewar
Glaswegian Dewar (12 October 1942 – 16 May 2002) was the bassist and vocalist for Robin Trower and Stone The Crows (STC) and also the bass player for Lulu and the Lurvers. Dewar and STC were resident at the legendary Burns Howff in Glasgow http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burns_Howff before Jimmy departed STC and moved to London to form the short lived Jude with Frankie Miller and then latterly fill US stadiums with Robin Trower.
Dewar was not only an innovative and imaginative bass player but a top vocalist. Sadly it seems that, unlike Americans, Scots will sometimes forget about their founding musicians and Jimmy’s death in a Paisley hospital in May of 2002 went largely unnoticed to the shame of our nation.
Recommended 17 minutes and 18 seconds of mega jam, “I Saw America” by Stone the Crows.
Stone the Crows – Danger Zone
3. Derek Forbes
Born 22 June 1956, in Glasgow, Forbes was the bassist for Simple Minds from the album, ‘Life in a Day’, through to their hit, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. I mind lying in bed late at night as a kid with one of those moulded white ear pieces and a wee tranny (no jokes needed), listening to John Peel when he played this new Scottish band called Simple Minds. The bass lines on those first Minds records were transcendent and I was shaken out of my 70s glam and into the world of Human League, Cocteau Twins and Magazine.
Hopefully there will be a point where Simple Minds will be remembered not only for “Don’t You Forget about Me”, Jim Kerr’s wives, or for failing to be Scotland’s U2, but instead for producing some of the most original electro-dance tunes ever put on a record.
Recommended track to Mind the bass on, “Sweat in Bullet” by Simple Minds”
Sweat in Bullet
4. Frankie Poullain
Francis Gilles Poullain-Patterson born in Milnathort 15 April 1967, was the bass player for rock band The Darkness. The Darkness made two mistakes in life – one: not dropping the joke and making their second album a great straight rock record; and two: getting rid of Frankie Poullain i.e. the coolest member of the band.
Love them or loath them here was a band who could play the sequinned white leather chaps off any other cock-rock band, and at the heart of it was Frankie looking cooler than a Burnt Island ice-cream.
Recommended what ever happened to The Darkness track: “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” by The Darkness
Get Your Hands Off My Woman
5. Chris Glen
Born 6 November 1950 in Paisley, Chris is a bassist who has played in The Jade, Tear Gas, The Party Boys, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Michael Schenker Group. He also toured with Ian Gillan for a short period alongside fellow SAHB drummer, Ted McKenna.
Through these “greatest” XYZ thingies, I realise that I am starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to SAHB but the reason is all in the name, Alex called them “The Sensational Alex Harvey Band”. They were Alex’s band and to be Alex’s band nothing less than Sensational was expected.
While a few of Derek Forbes attempts come close, I defy anyone to let me hear a better bass line on a Scottish record than on ‘Faith Healer’.
Recommended Glen groove, Faith Healer by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
A few other Scottish bass players
To my shame I have never known Gal’s real name and their website is even less informative so I will have to stick to the fact that Galchen are one of the best young bands in Scotland, based out of the secret world of 4th Street Studios, where to make an uncool record is not an option. Galchen produces music that is Scottish to the roots and in a manner which I can only described as euphoric Mogwai.
Recommended: The band don’t give the tracks any names so anything from www.myspace.com/galchen
Born 1958 in Glasgow, Webb is a New Wave bass guitarist who was member of bands like Slik, PVC2 (both with Midge Ure), The Zones, The Skids, The Armoury Show and Public Image Ltd. What a CV!
Recommended Scottish punk “The Saints are Coming” by The Skids (or Circus Games – Ed.)
Tomaso Capuano Rico
The first time I saw Rico was on MTV2 Brand New and I had no idea he was from Scotland, let alone Paisley, so when he played King Tuts I was front row. On bass was his brother Tomaso (one of the most sensitive gentlemen I have ever had the privilege of sharing a beer with) who bashed at the bass until his fist bled. Total commitment to sending in some noise.
Recommended industrial warfare: “Attack Me” by Rico
Guy Rupert Berryman
Born 12 April 1978, in Kirkcaldy, Berryman is the bassist with Coldplay. A nuts Raith Rovers supporter, a fine bass player and living proof that there is at least one Scotsman called “Rupert”.
Recommended MOR or less “Yellow” by Coldplay
Philip Neil Murray
Born 27 August 1950 in Edinburgh, Murray is best known for his work in Whitesnake and Black Sabbath. If you are looking for a Scottish bass player with a pedigree longer than Sarah Palin’s nose, look no further.
Recommended cock rock tune: “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake
Douglas Payne, born 14 November 1972 in Glasgow is the bassist and backing vocalist for Travis. Playing pop well is an art and this Art School grad is one of the best.
Recommended knowing where less is more on a bass-line, “Paperclips” by Travis
Born May 3rd, 1960, in Glasgow, Thomson has been the bass player and vocalist with many acts including the late John Martyn.
Recommended fireside playing “Baby Come Home” by John Martyn
Born on 25 April 1980 in Kilmarnock, James is the bassist, vocalist, and songwriter with Biffy Clyro.
Recommended song to shout “C’mon the Biffy” to after a fine piece of bass playing “Just Boy” by Biffy Clyro
Born 14 September 1946 in Dunfermline, Agnew is the bassist for the legendary rock band Nazareth and when he plays his smile is as big as the Forth Road Bridge.
Recommended bass salvation, “Shanghaied ‘n’ Shanghai” by Nazareth
Born 19 July 1946, in Perth, Gorrie is the bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, singer and founding member of the Average White Band.
Recommended: Randy Jackson said; “Ha! Slapping, the ketchup of the bass world!”, so put some salt and brown sauce with that and you have “Pick Up the Pieces” by The Average White Band
A couple more bass quotes:
“A chord is not a chord until the bass player decides which note to play”- Sting
“I decided to make a profession out of what i do best but i could make much money from masturbation so i decided to fall back on my skills as a bass player” – Les Claypool
“Women and rhythm section first” – – Jaco Pastorius
Mince Bass Joke:
A couple was having difficulties so the marriage counsellor told them that their problems could all be traced to a lack of communication. “You two need to talk so I recommend that you go to a gig then wait until it’s time for the bass player to solo, then you’ll be talking just like everyone else.”
Who should be in the final 5? Voting starts next Wednesday.