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What makes a great McCartney bass line
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7 November 2011
1.42am
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Anderson
The Jacaranda
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5 November 2011
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In this thread, I will list what I feel to be Paul's best bass performances, along with some brief justification for these views.  This isn't a "top 10" or "top 5" list; I will only list those songs I feel to be in the "top-rank," with no particular care about how many that comes to. 

What makes for a "great" McCartney bass riff?  I think it has to come from Paul's distinctive and unique style, and not from instances where he is being derivative (copying the style of others).  Paul's distinctive style of bass playing could also serve as predicates for McCartney himself as a person; McCartney is at his best when his bass playing is moody, bi-polar, and restless.  In a sense, I think it can be argued that Paul really isn't fully himself as an artist outside of some of his most honest and fully realized bass lines.  With that said, here is my list of the finest Paul bass performances (with the Beatles):

  • Hey Bulldog - This is, in my opinion, his best.  Especially pay attention to his riffing starting at 2:12.  The whole song, however, is masterfully moody and expressive.
  • Sexy Sadie - Without Paul, this one would have been a real snoozer.  McCartney's bass is what makes this one truly fascinating. 
  • Being for the Benefit of Mr.Kite - Goes from brilliantly menacing to whimsical with plenty of other moods in between. The middle part of this song would be a complete disaster were it not for Paul's incredibly interesting bass line.  Again, this probably wouldn't even be a very good song without McCartney.  But with McCartney and Lennon together, it's an artistic triumph. 
  • I want you (She's so heavy) - McCartney's bass is the only reason to listen to this one, but that's a very good reason.  The guitar and vocal melodies in the "She's so heavy" part are good too, though.  
  • With A Little Help From My Friends - Lots of creative little diversions.  Gives the song its soul.  As usual, McCartney's bass is the melodic and emotional "center" of the Beatles.
  • Rain - This one is really interesting, I think, because it's right on the cusp of McCartney really coming into his own as an artist and as a bass player.  He's starting to find himself in this one, I think.  
  • You're Going to Lose that Girl - This one is sort of like Rain: interesting from the standpoint of McCartney's development as an artist.  This is one of the first songs where he really seems to start experimenting and being more adventurous and ambitious. 
  • Something - Whimsical and creative.  Steals the show.  Great one.
  • Dear Prudence - Paul takes awhile to warm up in this one, but when he does he delivers one of his classics.  I think a strong argument could be made that this is his best.  Very mature, unusual, and surprising.  Very experimental tonally, but in a pure and honest manner (i.e. without resorting to a lot of special effects).  Can't praise this one enough.  
  • Taxman - I put this one in with Rain.  I think this one is a sign of things to come.  Some see this as perhaps his best performance, and it's certainly a very impressive piece of playing both technically and creatively.  But I still see this as a great but transitional piece of playing.  It's still somewhat derivative: it's more like "McCartney playing Motown" than a truly pure Paul McCartney piece. 
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7 November 2011
2.59pm
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Joe
Pepperland
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Interesting list. Ian Macdonald (author of Revolution In The Head) thought the bass part on Something was misjudged and too busy, and I think I agree with him. I'd add Lucy In The Sky to the list too. Interesting that most of the songs are primarily Lennon's, none sung by McCartney.

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7 November 2011
3.13pm
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minime
Candlestick Park
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Joe said:

Interesting list. Ian Macdonald (author of Revolution In The Head) thought the bass part on Something was misjudged and too busy, and I think I agree with him. I'd add Lucy In The Sky to the list too. Interesting that most of the songs are primarily Lennon's, none sung by McCartney.

a-hard-days-night-ringo-14 If you would have read their other thread, you would wonder no more...

7 November 2011
3.59pm
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kedame
Miles above you
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Joe said:

Interesting list. Ian Macdonald (author of Revolution In The Head) thought the bass part on Something was misjudged and too busy, and I think I agree with him. I'd add Lucy In The Sky to the list too. Interesting that most of the songs are primarily Lennon's, none sung by McCartney.

I think it's true that the McCartney was able to focus more on innovative bass lines when he wasn't having to worry about the overall structure of the song. This point has been made before, by some critic...can't remember which.

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
11 November 2011
4.54am
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Into the Sky with Diamonds
New York
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I agree completely with "Hey Bulldog," "Something," "With a Little Help..."

(see http://www.intotheskywithdiamo.....NGS_2.html)

I would put "Nowhere Man" in the top 5.

Thanks, I'll check out the others. (Never noticed the bass on "Sexy Sadie" or "You're Gonna Lose ...!)

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11 November 2011
4.55pm
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Inner Light
Friar Park
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McCartney even in the early albums was doing great bass work. I recently listened to the 'Please Please Me' album and he played fantastic. I agree with everyone that once they stopped touring his bass lines got a lot more melodic.

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11 November 2011
10.48pm
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Inner Light
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mithveaen said:

a-hard-days-night-ringo-8 Umb.. really? Can you tell me a song where Paul's bass impressed you in that album? I hadn't paid attention to that..

I like 'I Saw Her Standing There' & 'Boys' the most. You can really hear his bass well if you have the remastered stereo versions. 

When he took over the bass when Stuart passed away, it was a perfect transition. After all, he is the bass player for the Beatles.

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12 November 2011
5.55am
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mithveaen
Sitarday's room
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a-hard-days-night-ringo-8

 

*Mith goes to youtube to search for a I Saw Her Standing There bass solo*

 

*listens*

 

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Holy Cow. You're so right. I never paid attention to Paul's bass in that album. Thanks!! apple01apple01a-hard-days-night-john-2a-hard-days-night-john-2

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
10 December 2011
3.04am
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Von Bontee
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OK, this is really distressing to me, this thread being revived now, because I just yesterday discovered (or maybe re-discovered after learning and suppressing) that GEORGE played bass on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"!  Such a whimsical bass part, that always helped me to justify & defend a song that so many others loathe, and now I discover in the 'Bible that Paul didn't even play it!  (Why would George put so much effort into contributing such a sublime performance on a song he despised so?)  First I learn about "Old Brown Shoe", now this...my god, maybe Mr. Big was right all along!

(OK, I won't go that far! But this is still pretty surprising to me. Why would Paul play rhythm guitar and leave the bass to George?  Maybe he was taking forever working out the Moog parts so George assumed full responsibility for the bass as some kinda proprietary retaliatory gesture, since it was George's synthesizer, after all.)

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
10 December 2011
5.23am
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Rat Salad
Washington DC USA
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22 November 2011
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I figured it out listening to "Another Girl." Ringo and John are lockstep for the rhythm. They create the rock. Paul's base adds the "roll" to the rock-'n'-roll.  Together, they make your toes tap.

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