Gibson Bass!

You may or may not know, but I play bass guitar. If you’ve been a fan of the comic, you know Bud is based on me and his bass, a Gibson bass knock-off, is actually the same as my original bass guitar.  I still have that bass sitting in my bedroom.  So I thought I’d chat about the rock bassists who influenced me to wanting to play bass as opposed to the popular guitar.

My influences were Paul McCartney, John Entwistle and John Paul Jones. The Paul-John-John-Paul of bass players.  Yeah, yeah, many guys out there can play these guys under the table (not many) but they weren’t around in 1971 when I was bitten by the bass guitar urge.  I had played clarinet since 4th grade and had progressed to bass clarinet by this time in my music training.  So, I was drawn naturally to the lower tones of the bass guitar.  I also noticed bass lines more than I did lead guitar stuff.

Where's the bass?

McCartney’s bass lines on “Hey Bulldog” are freakin’ cool and it was one of the first songs I can remember going “Hey, I’d like to play like that someday!”  Never did, but I digress… In my opinion, Paul was the embodiment of moving bass players from the single note, simple melodic thumping bass lines that simply followed along with the bass drum to down-your-throat riffs that could stand on their own.  Many a Beatle song was 100 times better thanks to Paul’s bass lines.  He’s even mentioned how he would record the bass separate so he come up with more intricate lines.  So, Paul is first on my list because he’s the first I can remember.

It’s easy to see how McCartney influenced a lot of kids from my generation (and earlier), but it was two bass players for two very different bands that really hooked me on playing bass.

Heavy Metal Thunder... wait...

Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones made my ears perk up from the moment I heard his incredible lines on “Dazed and Confused” but also because he played keyboards; my second love in playing in bands.  I took piano lessons and built my own synthesizers back in the day, so playing bass and tinkering on the pearly whites was very natural to me.  Plus, Jones seemed like a cool guy.  I am a fan of Zeppelin’s first four albums, after that I fell off the Led Zep bandwagon, so my references are only from those albums.  So as I moved from listening to the Archies in 1969 to Led Zeppelin’s first album (much to my parent’s chagrin) I got hooked on Zeppelin’s sound, which Jones, along with Bonham, were the foundation of all foundations in rock bands.  Hard to find a better duo in rock and roll.


"Yeah, I'm flippin' you off!"

You talk about the Who’s John Entwistle. I loved John’s playing early on.  How could you not notice that bass guitar solo in “My Generation”?  But when I picked up “Quadrophenia” in 1973 and heard John’s lines on “The Real Me” I was blown away and knew I had to play in a band someday.  Combine Entwistle’s flying bass lines and Keith Moon’s machine gun fire drumming and you were knocked on your ass.  “Quadrophenia” has some great examples of both of their playing styles.  John also played French Horn and it gave the marching band geek in me some  hope that my clarinet playing abilities would come in handy some day (they did not… not much call for heavy metal clarinet).   Entwistle was the quiet one in the band standing off to the side just flying up and down his guitar’s neck with ease.  Listening to him jam a solo on some concert footage is just amazing.

So, three very different bass players ended up rounding out my playing style. I never achieved the virtuoso playing these three had, but then I did not try very hard either.  Playing like them didn’t come from casual playing… it took hours, weeks, months and years of playing to achieve what they did.  So, I occasionally pick up my old original bass and plug it into a tiny practice amp and return to 1977 when I was gigging most weekends.  Many things have come and gone in my life, but this old bass is the one constant that I hang on to.