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Paul McCartney and the Walking, Talking Bass
14 April 2015
2.25am
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ewe2
Inside the beat
Rishikesh
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Like my previous exploration of Ringo's work with fills, this essay is a non-musicological look at Paul McCartney 's developing bass style. People make two common mistakes about his bassplaying:

1. It's simple. As we'll see, simple is misleading.
2. It's nothing special. Obviously I disagree, and so do many many bassplayers and not a few songwriters.

Let's recap a few things most people know: the bass wasn't Paul's first choice of instrument, he was a songwriter who could play piano and guitar (both electric and acoustic), and was gathering a smattering of other instruments (drums, wind instruments like recorder and even trumpet), but eventually someone had to replace Stu Sutcliffe on bass and it fell to Paul, who would much rather have been the lead guitarist. Complicating things, particularly at this stage of rock history, was Paul's left-handedness, but once he got his first Hofner, the benefit of the symmetric presentation was a big step in the band's image. Paul had a number of advantages over the average bassplayer for a start:

* Natural instrumentalist. This made it much, much easier for him to sing and play bass at the same time, which is just about the most difficult thing to physically/mentally do apart from drums. Most people can sing and play guitar, but playing bass is like playing a solo and singing something totally against its rhythm. It's something most of us have to learn the hard way. Paul seems to have had the natural ability (like Sting), and this made a huge difference to the kind of songs they could sing and play. Remember, up until probably Rubber Soul , most recorded Beatles songs involved group performances, singing and playing at the same time. Another major influence as an instrumentalist on Paul's bassplaying was his piano playing. As Paul began to compose more and more on piano, it tended to free up his thinking about the bass's role since the fundamental parts of the song were changed from this approach.

* Incredible vocalist. This feeds back to my previous point, that physically he had a natural facility that meant he could concentrate on the emotion of the song rather than the mechanics. If you have to strain for a note, you're not thinking too clearly about anything else.

* Great songwriter. The previous points back this up. As I believe the Beatles as songwriters were melody-driven first and foremost, this meant that Paul could do something few bassplayers even dreamt of, he could be melodic. He wasn't necessarily the first to think of it (Good Vibrations was released in 1964, which must have been quite an influence!), but he took it to new heights as we'll see. Being able to write a song to accentuate the bass is a decided advantage to a bassplayer!

I'm going to take much the same approach as I did with Ringo, but I'm going to use the stereo versions from Revolver onwards because it's easier to pick the bass out at least half the time. And speaking of Ringo, let's talk about rhythm for a moment. Rhythm is the dark, almost unconscious brother of melody. It is fundamental to all music, but in popular Western music, it started to become more important to songwriting in the early-20th century with the early forms of jazz and Tin Pan Alley song standards of the day and so on into Rock and Roll. There is an interesting tension between rhythm and melody as both cut your aural space into pleasing chunks. Because the Beatles tended to think in songwriting terms from the vocal melody first, the rhythmic backing tended to be a hodgepodge of influences from as far back as ragtime to Chuck Berry. There was nothing they would not use if it worked. It's important to remember the Beatles wanted to write commercially successful songs so those songs tended to push the catchy melodies and emotive guitar chords. Pay no attention to the amazing rhythm section in the background! People write off the McCartney-Starr partnership as some sort of afterthought, it was not. So keep in mind as I discuss Paul's bassplaying, that its a combination of songwriting and working with a great drummer that helped to mould Paul's direction.

Now I want to mention general bassplaying things that you may or may not have picked up on. Some of this is about equipment but don't be scared off, it just helps to round out the picture. The electric bass guitar was a totally new instrument in the 1950s-1960s. It was not simply a replacement for upright basses that were difficult to amplify. But poor British bassplayers in the 1960's could rarely afford a Fender, and virtually noone made bass guitars for lefty's yet. His basses have since become famous but Paul wasn't (and still isn't) a gear-head. At that stage, basses had a general fundamental round sound from the strings and the early pickup designs, and there wasn't a lot of tonal variation to be had (unless you could afford the Fenders et. al and even then there wasn't a great deal of experimentation), and it must be said that bassplayers were still thinking in terms of simplified jazz bass styles when rock'n'roll came along. Amplification was tiny compared to today, so no sub-woofers, no eq or compression in a bass amp. And recording wasn't much better, because vinyl couldn't take much bass frequency anyway, so bass tracks were very mid-rangey to compensate for losing their bottom end and to be heard distinctly at all. The Hofner bass had a couple of quirks that are important too: it gave Paul great surety of where he was on the fretboard, and a distinct advantage was a very slender fast neck to play on. Its major disadvantage was that it was reliably out of tune up at the 12th fret without careful setup which meant that Paul generally avoided playing up there in early Beatles songs.

Another factor in bass sound and style is whether you play it with a pick or your fingers. There can be religious arguments about this, but in general Paul preferred to use a pick for attack and accuracy, but was quite capable of playing with his fingers, as well as his thumb and even with his thumb and fingers together and using his nail. When he used either I think comes down to speed, it's very difficult to tell otherwise due to the strings and recording techniques. If it's faster like Good Morning Good Morning , you can be assured it's a pick, but I tend to think he used fingers for a song like Fixing A Hole . Your guess is as good as mine. The only other difference is in how you mute strings you don't want ringing and many bassplayers believe muting is part of Paul's technique but I've never noticed enough of a difference after 30 years of playing along to these songs myself.

One more bit about the way the bass interacts with other instruments in 1960's pop music: obviously this is going to run the gamut of styles, and approaches to songs, but there are some general things you can derive. We have to be careful not to read 40 odd years of subsequent bass development through other styles and the rise of bass virtuosos back into 1960's pop/rock, it's not going to work. Beatles music is listened to these days well out of its context, and the Top 40 of the 1960's was a very different beast. The other day I was treated to that context of the Pepper era and the nicest thing you can say about the British hit parade of that week is "quaint" :D It is amazingly regional by comparison to today.

* Bass generally takes three approaches, purely rhythmic/base notes, complete melodic phrases, or a mixture of the two, depending on the style of the song. Blues/country have obvious restrictions, pop less so. In doing this the bassplayer has to pay attention generally to what the drummer and the vocalist(s) are doing around the chord progression. The bass can interact with the guitars too, it's just generally a secondary consideration after the others, although again, that can differ in riff-based songs (see below).

* Bass is kind of a solo instrument but not really. One of the things McCartney did to "advance the art" is demonstrate how far it can go as a rhythm-based harmony instrument. In Beatles music, that tends to be a counterpoint to the vocal melody above all.

These are the kinds of environmental factors that influenced Paul's style of playing like everyone else's. This is the ground he started from.

So here's an overview of how I see Paul's playing progressing:

1. Initial rock'n'roll/surfer/walking phase: this is Paul as the basic rocker/crooner, using his bass to back the melody and rhythm to give the vocal melody clear space. It's not as simple as it appears, once you try to sing and play this style at the same time! The Hofner's advantages and disadvantages play heavily here.

1a. Country phase: This came after phase 1 (in which Doris gets her oats), but it was never very far away from the beginning. What's interesting is that it shares some of the walking phase but often follows guitar riffs too, which naturally led to phase 2.

2. Riff-based song phase: This phase starts almost exactly from the We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper single and Rubber Soul . It's like night and day. This is where the Rickenbacker first surfaces with its ability to play higher up the neck in tune and provide greater tonal variety.

3. Psychedelic phase: this begins on the Paperback Writer /Rain single and Revolver and continues the bass evolution from riffs to an instrument in its own right for the first time. Almost purely the Rickenbacker here.

4. Late melodic phase: where the bass is essentially a melodic instrument that plays a rhythmic role where required. Fenders finally start being used on Beatles records, initially by George but Paul used a Fender for a lot of the Abbey Road album too.

You'll notice that these stages generally match Ringo's drumming phases. That's not an accident. The songwriting development came first, then the song styles and the rhythm section was core to those developments. It's a blueprint that works in many ways! And remember that elements from the earlier phases are also present in later ones depending on the needs of the song. Let's also define some terms about Paul's style:

1. Walking/root notes. This is a fundamental style based on the chords and simple passing notes between them. Everyone was doing something similar in the early 1960's. Paul, like Ringo, was influenced by American records and followed the rhythmic fads of the day. Don't forget that the older roots of this style go back to ragtime/tin pan alley and that wasn't forgotten, as we'll see. Many examples, Eight Days A Week is incredibly walky and What Goes On is partly walky, partly root-note country. Paul has a habit in all phases of using every beat in the bar, but none more than in this phase. You can pretty much accept that unless I mention something, most basslines use every beat, even the ones you wouldn't expect!

2. Riffs. These are very recognisable melodic rhythmic phrases, and the Beatles started with guitar riffs and then got onto bass riffs in tandem and eventually the breakthrough, bass riffs in their own right. Generally they run the length of a structural unit, like a verse or a middle eight. Example: Taxman .

3. Drones. This is a very straightforward maintaining of the root note underneath other chords or just the one chord, and is generally only found in the 3rd phase, but then what is Get Back in a bass sense? Famous example: Tomorrow Never Knows .

4. Melodic phrases. These differ from riffs in the sense that they are a connected series of them to produce a unit. Think of the bassline to the verse of Something which connects a harmonic descent of about 5 chords in a series of recognisable phrases.

I'll also be using terms I used in the Ringo article, since the rhythms are vital to understanding why Paul chose the lines he did for particular songs, with a few tweaks:

1. Surfer/Mersey beat
2. RnB rhythms
3. Two-step Vamp
4. Hard Rock
5. Pop Rock

There are of course, a few songs where bass doesn't figure at all or isn't played by Paul! Like the Ringo article, I'll stick to those songs that I feel are good evidence of Paul's development on the bass, whether from an actual playing stance or the equally important songwriting stance which must be kept in mind at all times! If there's nothing different, we'll move onto a song that is.

I will use a few musical terms freely, but generally try to avoid the tougher ones that still confuse me anyway! So I'll stick to the scales from the bass point of view where it makes sense, I'm not qualified to make a high-level harmonic analysis (I might have to lean on Pollack and @PeterWeatherby for that). So I'll be using the intervals a lot (root, 2nd, 3rd etc up to octave) and mention things like triads which are 3-note combinations on a scale to make a chord, but are mostly played on bass as an arpeggio or riff. There are a LOT of triads used in early rock, most commonly the major triad of root, 3rd, 5th in a variety of riff variants. As we'll see, Paul got a little more adventurous than that, but hopefully a little musical jargon will cut down the explanations a bit. I hope by now you know what is meant by chromatic ie generally a progression in semitones, and the idea of modulation which is moving between keys in a song. I'll also be using passing notes as a shorthand for describing certain riffs that harmonise with something else in-between moving to and from particular scale intervals. If I refer to an actual note, I'll distinguish them by the use of numbers for octaves found on a standard 4-string bass, so the bottom E string is E1, the A string is A1 and so on.

Onto the albums then, from a bass perspective. Probably in parts because it's so stupidly big.

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14 April 2015
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Please Please Me

Most songs are simply recorded performances, so Paul is playing and singing at the same time. Already he is a versatile performer, as the covers are intended to demonstrate. Most songs are of established pop structures from the 1950s and early 1960s. There's quite a few influences on sleeves of course, often exposed by the choice of rhythm. The more I listen to this album the more the country influences jump out at me! In bass terms there are no musical surprises, those are all in the vocal melody/harmony and choice of chord progression, and in general that's where Beatles innovation lives. Paul is very orthodox rhythmically at most times, he takes some years to loosen up that way, but exploits melody earlier and more often.

I Saw Her Standing There

Paul admitted he wholesale lifted a Chuck Berry bass riff for this song which in structure is a simple bluesy rocker (bluesy in the structure sense). It's not a simple line, it's quite busy and physical in the verses and only simplifies in the choruses. Try singing this one and playing, it's a shockingly early demonstration of Paul's ability. He's playing a riff based on the good old major triad (root root 3rd root 5th root 4th 3rd) in the verses and a nice progression up to a 6th in the refrain (he outright plays a triad for variation later).

Misery

This song has a nice 50's ballad feel, but it's really a country song in disguise as Paul's 1 note on the first beat in the bar gives away.

Chains

Another country song (see, they pop up everywhere!), played very straight.

Boys

This is a straightforward surfer rocker, with a Mersey Beat feel (ie a little slowed down), Paul holding down the root in the verses and breaking out the rocker riffs in the choruses.

Ask Me Why

Nice little triads up high for the Hofner at the end of this one.

Please Please Me

The same surfer style we used in Boys but notice how we jump into a more pop-orientated rhythm for the middle-eight with a more walky feel to opposed the straight 16ths of the verses.

Love Me Do

Straight country pop, but it's got the Mersey beat to make it a bit different.

P.S I Love You

Paul has to riff quite concisely due to the restrictive rhythm but pay attention to how he's bouncing between the root and 5th to back the vocal. You could take everything else away and just have the bass and the vocal and that would be the recognisable song. This is something you'll be seeing a lot of.

Baby It's You

A conventional pop song, Paul again hitting the root and 5th to fill the space.

Do You Want To Know A Secret

Quick triads, the little chromatic run and that 6th popping up again suggest the kinship with I Saw Her Standing There . I do find it ironic that George sings it, given his love for chromatic progressions!

There's A Place

This is, from a chord progression point of view, an absolutely vital song for understanding the Beatles. Aside from the Dramatic Pause Fill and Title Lyric (which I neglected to mention in my Ringo piece)- a stalwart Beatles song structure component, there's their fondness for using the unexpected progression to get back to their main key (or at least appear to be modulating away). This song revolves around the root(E2)-4th, dropping down a 4th to C#m and a further 5th to B and a very ear-pleasing jump back to the 3rd (G#m) and back to the root-5th under the same melody before once again dropping down to that low 4th, a trick they would use in other songs, particularly I Should Have Known Better . The song starts like a surfer tune but quickly settles into a country rhythm, almost as if Paul and Ringo forgot to return to it. Just incredible harmonies here, btw, while Paul is playing pretty straight root notes, all the space is needed for those vocals.

Twist And Shout

This cover is deliberately put into a Beatles Mersey Beat framework, a straightforward I-IV-V progression, Paul using triads to add passing notes around it (root 3rd 5th 4th 6th 4th 5th / lower 5th lower 7th 2nd 5th lower 5th lower 7th 2nd, effectively a 2nd A major triad inverted), and if you compare that to the Isley Brothers original you can see how Paul is adding a melodic triad feel to what is essentially an RnB groove. This is a thing Paul tends to do on the bass at this stage (later less successfully on You Won't See Me in my opinion), and it's really helped by the swing in Ringo's beat. Played with the more straight feel of the original and it would be pushing against the beat, here it floats over the top of it and gives it a real drive. They take some clever ways to make it their own, listen to the way Paul uses octaves and repeated notes on the A in the instrumental just before the last Ahhh part to build up the tension.

With The Beatles

This album perfects the approach begun on the first album. I've called it the Mersey Beat album because it mines that particular rhythm often. Recording-wise, the guitars are heavier and often swamp the articulation of the bass. It's not really missed to the average listener, but you have to listen closely on some songs to figure out what Paul's up to.

It Won't Be Long

This is a joyful amalgam of the Please Please Me and Twist And Shout approach, Paul's bass is really buried within the guitars here.

All I've Got To Do

Paul opens with bass chords (!) on this one, just simple 5th-root inversions before breaking into the 2nd section, a real start-stop approach. Initially I thought he might have gone from the 6th fret to the somewhat safer 2nd/4th on the Hofner but the sheet music makes it plain he goes to a riskier 9th fret so this is well before the Hofner started losing its intonation up that way. Note how harmonically similar it is to the previous song, using a similar circle of fifths trick with the related minor chord. So you get that A root-3rd-4th triad smoothly locking in with the progression to C#m triad root flattened-3rd-5th. In those words it looks tricky but on a guitar it's immediately plain what the relationship is. Keep an eye on those shapes, McCartney makes good use of them.

Don't Bother Me

This is a very British form of RnB, early Yardbirds has a very similar pop/blues sensibility. The bass which is a bit overshadowed by the guitar does some syncopated skipping around that rather unforgiving straight beat that sounds like someone bashing the hell out of a woodblock.

Devil In Her Heart

Most covers on the album are unremarkable from a bass point of view, but this one is noteworthy because Latin rhythm (well the Mersey Beat equivalent here) is relatively rare in the Beatles canon and Paul demonstrates well how to meld an almost country root-5th with an almost Hamburg cabaret feel (like those runs up the major scale reminiscent of Twist And Shout ).

A Hard Day's Night

This is the final maturation of Paul's 1st phase, after this the songs begin to change and the old styles won't fit any more. There isn't a great deal of difference on this album, except that the songs are much better and it's all original.

I'm Happy Just To Dance With You

George was given this song to sing. and Paul takes the opportunity to get a little busier on the bass than you normally expect on this rhythm.

And I Love Her

Paul breaks out the bass chords again on the verses here for another rare Latin excursion, gently bringing in the triads towards their end and through the middle eight, opening up the space of the song really well.

You Can't Do That

What makes this interesting is how Paul sticks to the straight quarter notes with a little recapping-run where appropriate, which helps drive this RnB-based tune. Someone later in rock history, like Duck Dunn, might do the first note and hold the 2nd to syncopate a little bit, but Paul is still orthodox about rhythm at this stage, even as towards the end he starts breaking out the triads.

I'll Be Back

Just to point up the comments from the previous song, the very next one here, Paul does break out the syncopation but on the 1st beat in the bar, not the 2nd. It's even more pronounced in the B sections (oh - ho, oh - ho) with that little drop into 2/4 time. McCartney at this stage seems to equate that kind of rhythm with the more ballad-style of song and doesn't think to apply it to other styles...yet.

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Beatles For Sale

This album bewilders many Beatles fans. I've said before that it's a sea change in song style, where country rhythms and structures start getting used and in fact continue that way throughout the rest of their career. They fall back on covers, true, and they're feeling their way through the originals. It's also the last gasp of the old recording style, the production does sound terrible. They would continue to do as much group recording as possible on the next album but the writing was on the wall. And so, Paul's phase 1a begins. There's not a lot to say about most songs technically but I'll make some remarks on Paul's country style which we'll get more of next album anyway.

No Reply

This one sounds like it should be a Latin feel but in fact Paul sticks to a very straight double-note plod, and lets the guitars and drums do all the swinging. It's a hint that despite the trappings, we're headed to country AND western!

I'm A Loser

You can't ask for a more straight country song than this, Paul uses root-5ths to get around in the verses but breaks out the walking bass in the choruses. When he's not doing straight root-5ths, he prefers two variant patterns of a root-root-whatever in country songs: (root root 5th(inverted) root ) is one and (root root 5th(inverted) flattened-3rd) is the other, and then tends to break out into walking triads where appropriate. Once you hear that, you'll hear it many times!

Baby's In Black

Ditto. It's a little unusual to hear country in 6/8 time, and Paul sticks to simple root notes, with the required major runs at the end of the sections.

I Don't Want To Spoil The Party

Paul just sticks to root-5ths. It's so samey the sheet music is full of repeat marks except for the odd variant bar.

What You're Doing

Paul runs 16th notes on the root chords most of the way through this tune which I think would have sounded rather good with better production but the bass is so muddy you hardly notice how busy it is.

Help!

Another movie, and the songwriting gets another boost. The production is much, much better, and the bass is much clearer. There is a heavy dose of country throughout albeit with cheeky 7ths. Paul is now solidly in 1a phase territory, and even the title song isn't immune. Isn't it interesting that most people don't even suspect a country Revolution here? Nevertheless, Paul springs few surprises here so we're going to skip most of it and get onto phase 2 proper.

Ticket To Ride

The bass in the verses is halfway between a drone and that syncopated RnB 2nd note Paul was avoiding two albums ago. What a difference! He plunks back to standard Motown mode in the middle eights, however. This was released as a single way before the movie in April '65 so it's a telling change nonetheless. It's a riff-based song but Paul isn't riffing quite yet.

SINGLE: We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper

At last, a single that does something different! The A-side is nothing special bass-wise but Day Tripper is proper riff-based phase 2 and it's a corker. Doubling with the guitar for the main riff, Paul jumps up really high for those glorious major 7th triads in the chorus, and pounds on the octaves in the middle eight under the Ahhs. He even has the cheek to change the rhythm of the triads (or got it wrong, it hardly matters), and the space of the song allows us to hear all of it.

Rubber Soul

Phase 2 riff-based songs vie with folk and country on this album, and Paul begins to branch out rhythmically and melodically on many of them. There's quite a bit of RnB-based rhythm on this album with Paul finally beginning to loosen up those notes, but usually needing a riff to do so.

Drive My Car

Yes, that annoying beginning, for which I totally blame the bass! Similar use of the straight Motown in the choruses like Ticket To Ride and riffing in unison again like Day Tripper .

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

The country rhythms are paying off here, for Paul floats along on root-5ths with the variant 5th-flattened 3rd-root, lending a familiar structure to an anything-but familiar song, both structurally and sonically.

You Won't See Me

Now this is a good song, but I've said elsewhere and I'll repeat again here what I think the issue is with it. This is another RnB Motown rhythm, but Paul decided to play complicated triad-based riffs all the way through (except for once again, the straight quarter-note refrains), and the problem is that there are too many eighth notes for the beat. They fit but they're played too straight against the drum rhythm and it drags. Perhaps Paul felt he wasn't singing that many notes and it sounded empty, or maybe he just loved those triads so much, but compare with the next song to see what I mean. At least it's a prominent bassline, which is a good thing, and you can hear how he's starting to think of it as another voice to harmonise with his vocal.

Nowhere Man

Now here Paul takes a similar walky and wordy approach, but it's saved by holding on to notes for a second beat to give a syncopated effect. If he had played as straight as he does on You Won't See Me , it would have exactly the same problem. It also helps that the bass is a little less prominent on this track as the previous one because the vocals predominate.

Think For Yourself

Another experiment: Paul playing a second bass, with a startling fuzz effect that really perks this George composition up. His normal bass track plays the RnB straight on the first note and doing something interesting with the 2nd and 3rd at last, and doubles-up during the title lyric. It's nicely done, mixed back to be felt more than heard while the fuzz bass takes the more melodic line

The Word

Very much in the same mould as Drive My Car et. al., nice triads in the refrain, and unusually frisky in the later verses for variation! It has such a great feel, light-years away from his 1/1a phases.

Michelle

Criminally underrated by everyone but bassplayers. This is the first shuffle/vamp that sneaks into Beatles originals, but what's also important is how the bass nimbly leaps about. For the most part it's simple root notes, two to the bar but then a nice walking run in the 2nd parts over 4 chords demonstrates that Paul can more than match melody and rhythm together. It sounds easy but it isn't until you try to figure out those notes you realise how subtle those runs are, which is why bassplayers love it. He's actually harmonising with the backing vocals if you listen carefully. Walking basslines are a bit of an art-form, and this sounded a wee bit too jazzy for Lennon's taste.

What Goes On

I'll come clean, I love this song. Not least because it's one of the few in my range which I can sing and play bass to. It's that classic Paul country pattern we should all know by now with a nice little breakout in the instrumental. Paul and Ringo are really firing as a rhythm section on this one, that's as tight as one could ask for.

Girl

Shut that bloody bouszouki off! Adhering strictly to the beat and root notes for this one.

In My Life

This is a very simple rhythm, and Paul chooses to centre his root notes around the 7th fret A2 on the bass to make the lower B1 on the 2nd fret have more weight, the other thing of note being the nice backing riff to the main guitar motif, again centred around that A2.

If I Needed Someone

The second George song is vocally similar to the first, being another Byrds tribute, and Paul takes an even more open approach to it with a simple drone and riff in the first parts and reverting to root notes in the second parts. Those first part riffs must have suggested something to Paul later on, as we'll see!

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I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

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SINGLE: Paperback Writer /Rain

As a way of introducing the start of the psychedelic phase, this is a remarkable single. The Beatles went to the limits to cut a bass-heavy master for the single, which was helped by the relatively-high register Paul was playing with his shiny new Rickenbacker. I doubt they would have been able to do it with different songs.

Both songs demonstrate some new patterns for Paul. Both are in G which enables him to noodle fluently around the octave and drop in major triads. The pattern in Paperback Writer gets employed in modified form on future songs, the idea is to play an octave and then play an chromatic run from the 3rd to the 5th (eg G1 G2 G2 B C C# D1). Rain has some ideas that also get reused, particularly pull-ons (fretting a 2nd note further up on the same string quickly after a 1st) in inverted 5th-root form. These are strongly riff-based forms but the octaves hint at a drone.

Revolver

The riff-based phase and the psychedelic phase merge on this album, extending the ideas from the Rubber Soul album, and the bass is clearly now a separate instrument with its own melody and not just a root-note rhythm vehicle. The use of drones begin to feature on this album, and while drones are a limiting factor to a song structure, those structures themselves are opening up too.

Taxman

Paul rejigs the riff from If I Needed Someone to fit a tighter rhythm here and goes for a pull-on+7th right at the 12th D2 octave which allows him to pull off (pun intended!) a very nice double pull-on pull-off in the middle eights. Notice we're back on octaves so even here there's a hint of drone.

I'm Only Sleeping

A two-step vamp here, Paul generally sticking to the first two beats in the bar and then mixing it up after that, a much more relaxed rhythm than he would have played as 1st phase Paul. He sticks to simple minor triads and root notes in the A parts and in the B parts (please don't wake me, no don't shake me), he jumps up an octave to continue the progression. The really interesting part is an actual bass solo in what would be Ringo's normal air-fill gap later! It's a pair of minor triads up the Eb scale with little root-5th bass chords, the 2nd one inverted. Notice too, Paul's style of syncopated fourths, giving a bouncy feel throughout particularly in the C part (keeping an eye on the world going by...). Once again, Paul would reuse this kind of rhythm later, although sadly we don't get more bass solos.

And Your Bird Can Sing

This song reuses the Paperback Writer idea in a 3-chord progression, so it's a feast of major triad chiming. The chromatic run down with fourths in the B part starts on the beat and then syncopates a beat later on subsequent bars, it's as if Paul decided never to play a straight 4 beats in the bar if he could help it! It's a busy line but heaps of fun and surprisingly easy to play. And the bass gets the last word at the end!

Doctor Robert

This is a country song in RnB disguise, given away by Paul's return to a dogged 1a phase style, even though the vocals veer off in the RnB/Byrds direction, and then we have the octave-y melisma (finally I can use that word!) as a contrast. It's an odd rhythm and might have done better with more experimentation.

I Want To Tell You

Now this is also RnB disguise, this time for a two-step vamp, also given away by Paul's RnB shuffle in fourths. It's rather interesting how close this is to RnB, compare with the next song!

Got To Get You Into My Life

Finally some proper RnB, Paul going back to straight quarter notes with a little eighth on the last beat and throwing in thrilling little chromatic 3rd-5th runs in between, and then the big chromatic progression using a straighter rhythm and no fourths. It all works, but even at this late stage, when Paul thinks he's using a style, he plays it straight and it's only the chromatic runs that make it interesting from a bass point of view.

Tomorrow Never Knows

The big one. This is an octave drone in C, and even played on the 8th fret, the pull-ons get punishing as the song continues! Clearly Paul had come up with the bass riff and told Ringo to mimic it on the drums. It is just an amazing piece of rhythm section work.

SINGLE: Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane

The bass in the section of SF with the band is extremely restrained, using as few notes as possible and following the root progression. There's a beautiful moment where Paul lets the E2 just ring on the 7th fret, completely unhurried.

By comparison, Penny Lane is Paul playing the two-step vamp like a complete showoff :D He starts with a tricky 5th-root inversion, like a trill to start way up on the 16th fret (you can bet it was the Rickenbacker!) and descends through the repeated progression all the way to B1 on the 2nd fret! He uses triad inversions a lot on the song and this is one of the distinguishing marks of the psychedelic phase, particularly the form of dropping from the root to a lower 3rd and then playing a triad from the 4th back up to the root and we saw the seeds of this way back in I'm Only Sleeping . He also uses octave unison (listen to the section "four of fish and finger pie") on the root of the next key as well as the same 3rd inversion. This is actually melodic phrasing but the song is so psychedelically-based you aren't really aware he's doing it unless you listen hard to the bass. A cute little moment is where Paul, on the penultimate verse, actually vibratos B2 on the G string, possibly a mistake, but it adds to the song so well!

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The full flower of the psychedelic phase. Paul reaches what many consider his peak of bass performance, playing with such expressiveness that the bass almost seems to speak with its own voice. And why shouldn't it? Later on, other talented bassplayers would let their instruments talk too, but it was an unheard-of idea at this stage. It's possible Paul was not the first or the best, but he was certainly the most influential and what he did here changed people's ideas about bass forever.

What did he do differently? We've seen a number of ideas, melodic and rhythmic come together in the last couple of albums, and while it can certainly be said that Paul was not adventurous on the rhythm side, his new idea of putting the bass in a different space to the other instruments melodically is very powerful, and his songwriting began to reflect that. So now you have songs deliberately written to give the bass a space to harmonise with the vocals, or guitars, and this only intensifies the effect. It works best in song structures where the drums are doing something regular and simple with simple chord progressions and a focus on vocal melody, and this was the perfect storm that produced this melodic style of bassplaying.

Unfortunately the over-use of the two-step vamp, so useful a structure for melodic bass, dates the album and the entire Beatles psychedelic period considerably, since any similarity to it would be an immediate call-back to the period. It's a golden goose that had to die, like 80s synth and those ridiculous gated snares.

Sgt. Pepper 's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The first bombastic rock number, and it's pretty standard stuff up to the middle eight, where Paul's bass takes the stage beneath the vocals with the horns playing long harmony notes.

With A Little Help From My Friends

The quintessential two-step vamp with the quintessential bassline. A note on the sound: Paul gets a very rounded tone with little attack from the Rickenbacker, probably played very close to the neck as this is a good way to get it, and photos of Paul playing the Rickenbacker at this period do show him playing closer to the neck than the pickup. This makes high notes very sweet and pure and it's much the same further down the neck.

Paul chooses to start high with a descending run and a beautiful melodic phrase before getting down with the root notes, but he integrates the phrasing in between them. It must have been a shock to first hear this going on beneath the vocals without overshadowing them, indeed you usually have to choose which to listen to. He's playing his phrases around the octave of the root and 2nd as well as covering the progression AND harmonising with the vocal. Yet it's a very simple bassline. Leading into Ringo's air-fill after the chorus he plays the first 3 notes from the descending run from the beginning at double-speed to reach the 5th. And then after, he lifts the bar even higher with an even more beautiful melodic phrase under the verse and then back to the chorus. During those choruses, he plays the octave on the root note in the progression, allowing the passing notes of the other instruments and vocals to harmonise over it. Again, beautiful and simple.

And then the middle eight! I've listened to it hundreds of times, I swear there is nothing different between both phrases of it, and yet the 2nd one sounds different. The phrase is over just two chords, and would be enough with the first 5 notes but the last 3 notes are the ones that tug at your heart. This is a bass speaking, there's no other way to describe it.

The end of the song is also noteworthy in that instead of descending down to the open E, Paul chooses to harmonise with the piano and ascend up to the 5th! It works so well, I never knew that until I heard the isolated bass recently. There are a few masterpieces in Paul's bass repertoire, if I could have only one, it would be this song!

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

An incredible song, and Paul doesn't get in the way of it. In the mono version particularly, everything, even the bass, is ADT'd and that very round sound I mentioned before sounds almost like an upright as a result. Astonishingly, the bass is still talking, stepping carefully through the verse's dreamscapes until the tom's call gets everyone dancing along to that grindy Peppers rock rhythm, and it takes the bass a moment to slow down for the next verse. That's the mental picture I more or less have had of this song since I heard it as a child. That bass just wants to dance and mean old Mr Lennon makes it wait to cross a bridge and wait for a train! You can hear it straining a bit on the last verse, excited to finally plunk out those triads with Lucy, and hit those high 7ths for the sheer joy of it.

Getting Better

By now if you don't think of the bass as a living breathing voice, this song removes all doubt. I didn't hear this album as an album until I was 18 and so missed these next few songs. The experience was shattering. Once again the bass is ADT'd and quite widely (the delay is what we'd now call a double chorus effect), and Paul dispenses with a more normal vamp bassline from the start. Hitting octaves and sliding down, this is a bass and its owner having FUN (the one thing that money can't buy), but does tone it down just for the first chorus. On the second chorus, the bass is singing it's own tune independently, and it has no partner other than the vocals, the guitars and drums keeping on the beat and out of the way. After a very effective pause at the last verse, Paul restarts, and all too soon it's over. To someone not a bassplayer, this song does sound a bit formulaic, and it's true there's little variation in it. But I couldn't not want to play the bass after this song, and I had one within the year.

Fixing A Hole

This is a companion to Getting Better , another vamp but a bit less frenetic and with more space to it. It's also a simple AB pattern, and Paul does something rather daring for a bass, he harmonises with a 7th, in fact for much of the song he doesn't move from 3 notes B-E-G (5th-root-flattened 3rd), having stuck to the same B-E for half the A part. In the B part we settle on a plunky triad around the B and F# and walk back to the A part. The whole part is there for the vocals, listen how he uses the simplest of octaves to heighten the vocal in the last verse. The sheer economy of it is so far away from the Paul of phase 1, it's like two different people. I can't emphasise enough how influential these "minor" songs on the album were on bassplayers including myself. This is pure melodic bassplaying, paying the barest of lip-service to the instruments around it.

Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!

The vamps just don't stop, but this little speech from the bass is quite a bit more wordy than the previous efforts. Instead of the simpler two-note backing of Fixing A Hole , Paul introduces it and then the bass simply talks its way around the verses, in melodic phrases which alternate between major and minor triads and virtual scales. The bassline makes this complicated song sound much simpler by virtue of being able to be sung along to in great part. The verses are two different melodic phrases (with variation), the first tripping around the lower frets and the second flying up on a little tune of its own. I'm often reminded of a tuba style of bass, common in dixie jazz, particularly in the instrumental where Paul keeps out of the flying organs way and then creeps up like a DUN DUN DUNNN riff (seriously, I laughed the first time I heard it). I don't think it's an accident. After that everyone just hangs on through the storm of flying calliopes to the end. With this song, Paul not only managed to preserve the bass's voice, but bring in walking elements and intervals from previous phases.

When I'm Sixty-Four

Ok, I like most people have a love-hate relationship with this song. It's yet another vamp but instead of talking the bass reverts to two-note bars and keeps out of the way. There's a little bit of melodramatic plunking in the middle-eights but that's all. The sheer presence of the bass cannot be ignored however, mixed loudly as it is and every note has huge weight to it.

Lovely Rita

Back to talky and rather walky bass! Easily ignored on many levels, on this song, Paul decided the bass should just drive itself with variation being the key to keeping it fresh. The variations make it a hell of a song to learn, actually, and even the official sheet music doesn't pick up on everything! The most recognisable part is the high triads that start the song, and after that the bass simply walks down the progression, inverting the triads for variation here and there. I could play it 3 or 4 different ways each time to you and you probably wouldn't notice, it's rather subtle. The other highlight is the riff that suddenly drops you into the abyss at the end of the song. Me and the sheet music disagree on it, I think there's 3 notes (and I'm backed up by the isolated bass) and the sheet music thinks 2, but it gathers itself up and the song finishes more or less coherently. Fun test: listen to the song and pick where you think the low notes and high notes are then compare it to the isolated bass track . How many notes did you get wrong? You will, somewhere. Paul is using his trick of alternating between the high note of an octave and a low one to alternate, and his phrasing is sneaky and suggests the wrong one often. I can't say I've gotten this song down perfect myself, but I don't think it matters too much, it's whatever feels good to play, and Paul probably did 40 takes of this all differently anyway.

Good Morning, Good Morning

This song is altogether too tricky for the bass to talk in and Paul opts for a very rhythmic style with the occasional melody thrown in where he can. He uses a lot of fourth intervals to suggest that bustle we're all supposed to want to have in the morning and alternates with that little run down the scale. There are takes of this song where he actually plays along with Ringo's fills but on the master he leaves Ringo to it (I like to play along to the fills for practice)!

Sgt. Pepper 's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)

This reprise is even more raunchy than the first, and Paul simply holds down the bottom root notes with a driving rhythm to match those massive drums.

A Day In The Life

And finally the greatest song they ever wrote, according to most authorities. Paul takes his cue from the accoustic guitar's strumming and plays the progression generally in that rhythm to start with, and then changes it to syncopate in the 2nd half of the first two verses, to underscore the setup/result pattern of the lyrics. On John's high notes, Paul just keeps to the root and every beat of the bar, so by the first crescendo it peters out into that tsunami of sound, and then repeats the rhythm for Paul's middle eight, following the piano and boogying a little. Then the beautiful break with the Ahhs (It's all John I tell you!), and Paul simply plays major triads up and down the scale on each chord to land on the root note of the next chord. The bass is playing against a whole orchestra and harmonising with the vocals. That's a long way from I Saw Her Standing There . In the last verse, as if in a hurry to get to the next crescendo, the bass sticks to quarter notes pretty much the way through and that's it for the album.

One of the great breakthroughs in Rock bass.

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SINGLE: All You Need Is Love /Baby You're A Rich Man

So this A-side is a vamp yet again, but in a typically different mixed time signature (really its 7/4 but split by phrases) by John so Paul's two-step lines have to do a little skip before the missing beat. The choruses are where the bass gets to talk again to mimic the orchestral riff, and hangs for just the right length to start again within the beat, just wonderful.

The B-side is a much rawer bass sound, Paul actually playing a muted note to just give the string sound before bursting out with an octave drop and doing a chromatic boogy down there. He breaks out the walking major triads for the first part of the choruses and then tightens it back to muted rhythm for the 2nd and back to the open triads again so he can again mute for the verses. The sheet music dispenses with the detail, but the bass goes back to the riff from the start of the song underneath the chorus fade-out.

SINGLE: Hello Goodbye /I Am The Walrus

Yet another single to promote Magical Mystery Tour with the title song of..oh. Um, guys. The poor Brits didn't even get an album either.

Hello Goodbye is a pop song I don't particularly like. The rhythm is ploddy and the bass triads reminds me a little too much of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da . People liked it, I've no idea why.

I Am The Walrus is not a pop song. I'm not sure what it is, but I do like it, even though the bass is indeed ploddy and doesn't do much in the way of triads. It is rather meant to be felt not heard, so there's lots of little detailed riffing going on under your nose way down on the fretboard where it's even harder to hear the notes clearly, and drives the song along without drawing attention to itself.

Magical Mystery Tour

This is a troubled album, cobbled together in the US to add the singles (for which we should all be grateful), representing the end of the road for the psychedelic era.

Magical Mystery Tour

As the opening song it's got all the razzmatazz of Sgt. Peppers, but the bass is rather restrained during the most bombastic parts. It only fires up in the middle eight with a startling flurry of triads played way up on the fretboard over fourths and basically carries the whole thing to get to the next chorus. Like the song itself, its a bit clunky and the joins show.

Flying

The rare instrumental, and the bass does little more than keep the beat and the root notes but does some lovely plunking high up on the octave under the la-la-la's (so almost instrumental :P)

Blue Jay Way

I would classify the bass here as a pure drone, that's the intention of the song anyway. It's hard to like drones sometimes.

Your Mother Should Know

Paul unwisely brings out the vamp again and he's got no new ideas for it except the quickfire octaves at the start. It's all tuneful and fits, but there's nothing new in it. At least its not as completely twee as All Together Now but not by much.

Yellow Submarine

Hey Bulldog

It's a shame to see a fine song like this relegated to a soundtrack album, with one of Paul's best bass performances. It sounds like a song dating from the Rubber Soul /Revolver period, a riff-based rocker. Paul matches the opening riff, a minor triad-chromatic mixture, and then settles into a long rhythmic phrase in the verses. In the you can talk to me parts, Paul does some nice slides instead of merely syncopating and then repeats the main riff lower down and would continue to do it on that lower octave from then on. The rest of the song is Paul just playing how he feels with the rhythm, doing some octaves during the barking and generally having fun with it. The song has a lot more swing that you would expect from something that sounds like it could have been from 1966 but that's because we're in 1968!

Only A Northern Song

This song could have been on Peppers but didn't make the cut, a shame because it's a great bass track, and as a whole quite daring. It's almost a vamp but is a bit far out for that, but Paul and Ringo keep the rhythm steady, with Paul preferring to do his walky thing, keeping the song together in the parts between vocals, particularly in the cacophony instrumental sections. It's suspected that he used the Hofner on this because the intonation right at the end of the song is a bit painful on the high octave notes!

It's All Too Much

Paul hangs on to a high drone mostly here with a few high octaves (so it's the Rickenbacker), as well he might for the song is is in serious danger of floating away altogether :P

SINGLE: Hey Jude /Revolution

Paul plays a fun little riff at the end of Hey Jude but it's relatively straightforward otherwise. Paul mixes it up a little in Revolution but also plays it straight. What's going on? The first is piano-based (like Lady Madonna ), so there's nothing much for the bass to do and John's song is a rocker so there isn't much for the bass to do. This becomes the pattern for the next year, unless Paul felt particularly interested. He seems to have become enamoured of the piano instead and by this stage isn't writing the kind of song that lets the bass loose, and neither is John or George.

The Beatles

Finally a proper album and its full of the problem I alluded to above, that the bass is just a conventional instrument unless it's particularly called-for. Not to say that the bass isn't great, although George is playing it a lot more these days instead of Paul, or it's missing altogether on some songs. By now the Beatles had no shared vision of the songs, and they were just tired of the psychedelic period (and each other), so it's a mixed bag even before you take into account that the album is largely a parody of popular music itself, a different meta-level than a pretend band, and no less a dead-end. Good thing the songs are bloody fantastic eh?

Dear Prudence

Paul plays probably one of the more copied riffs heard in music stores on this track. It's an all-on-one-string riff that requires attention and accuracy or sounds really bad and/or silly otherwise. Lots of space on the song, so much space, and Paul wisely lets it be until the build-up at the end requires it.

Glass Onion

The bass sounds quite odd on here, it's believed to be either the Fender VI or a standard Fender, and opinion tends towards the the VI because John plays one on Helter Skelter with a very similar sound. For that reason, its debatable whether Paul actually plays on this or not (he did get a standard Fender but its only known that he used it on Abbey Road ), so all I'll say about it is that the style certainly seems Paul's but the guttural nature of the tone rather ruins the effect of the notes he's playing.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

It has a very strong bassline, very physical to play, very unyielding. Like Paul. I'm a nice person so I won't go any further.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

By all accounts everyone behaved themselves for Eric, and Paul does a great, emotive job of the song. He riffs in the B sections and otherwise plays it very very straight in the main verses (literally semibreves) Paul apparently doubled-up some parts with the return of Fuzz Bass, but it's restrained and only to point up those B part riffs and provide bass chords on the return to the A-part verse. At a certain point he stops the fuzz bass and plays some lovely octave slides under Eric's solo, and it ends up very tasty indeed.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Paul plays unison riffs a lot on this one, it's a bit of a hallmark of the album's songs.

Martha My Dear

The bass doesn't even come in until Take a good look around you... and even then he mainly plunks around the progression, the piano's doing the heavy lifting of harmony. This demonstrates how Paul's thinking had shifted again from being a bassplayer who writes songs to a songwriter who plays bass, or perhaps composing on the piano for long enough had finally made him realise, since he'd been composing on guitar for a lot longer. The problem is that that then refocuses your thinking around different structures, and Paul rarely found a structure that allowed him to hit the heights of melodic phrasing on the bass like the two-step vamp did, and that was a dead dead dead idea.

I'm So Tired

A straight rock/blues song.

Piggies

This has the VI or Jazz or Precision on it also, the thunk is unmistakeable. Nothing special otherwise.

Rocky Raccoon

This is a country song but veers close to the vamp in the breaks, more of a ragtime really. It's got that sense of tuba bass again.

I Will

Paul sings the bass here, it's very simple with some nice octaves in the repeated section near the end.

Birthday

Rumoured to be George on bass, possibly because it sounds like Paul on guitar, but I doubt it. It's our friend the mysterious Fender again, and a very standard blues structure, all the old triads. Nice unison riffing in the middle.

Yer Blues

Very standard blues bass along to this one as well.

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

Paul brings out those inverted 3rd-5th chromatic runs again and a few slides in the chorus, the gravelly Fender suits the song, which is sped up a bit. I love the end with chromatic wobbling like some cartoon music backing!

Sexy Sadie

I've always liked the riff Paul came up with here to fill in the relative pause in the song and then the wobbly chromatic and run up the scale to the next chord in the progression, it keeps the continuity going and makes the progression seem cyclical as well as harmonise with the guitar riff and vocal. Then he piles on the fourths as he goes up and comes down chromatically for the middle-eights, very nice indeed. It's a little bit of independent bass peeping through the forest of conventionality.

Long, Long, Long

Country song in disguise. There's no avoiding that comforting root-5th plonk.

Revolution 1

Conventional triad riffs with that nice high descending line, played at a very cabaret speed. It's almost like a strip-tease tune, which is an interesting idea against the lyrics!

Honey Pie

Most people hate this, its back to ragtime two-step vamp plunky-plunk and noone wants to remember that old stuff. Phooey.

Savoy Truffle

Thumping RnB tune, Paul playing his familiar major inversions with a descending run down through the progression, as it modulates he shifts the pattern higher until we reach the chorus, with one of my favourite-ever follow-up riffs along with the horns. Also notice how this time, he uses a triplet of three notes and then syncopates instead of the 1 or 2 notes he used to go with. His RnB has come a long way, baby. Pretty much the grooviest RnB Paul gets.

Cry Baby Cry

A surprisingly complex bass part for this song, Paul starts on the verse, syncopating the first chromatic progression and playing a very scalar way back to the top of the octave. But on the second verse he does something unexpectedly different: a series of triplets starting with a minor triad off the top note, then a diminished triad (think of the root as descending), then an inverted 7th triad and finally a 6th triad that you pretty much have to play with all three fingers at the same time to pull off, and then back to scales for the chorus. On the third verse, he decides to go with sliding octaves (and why not, its certainly easier!) and he simply shortens the scale runs to deal with the repeated chorus and fairly pounds those upper notes as he comes down for the last chords. Almost immediately the Can you take me back fragment starts and it's too quick for me to get up that far on the fretboard, but I'm practising that :D

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I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

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SINGLE: Get Back /Don't Let Me Down

One of the many Get Back versions, but this is a good enough demonstration of the song. Essentially a rocker but Paul employs an octave drone fairly unusually, but it works. Don't Let Me Down brings the return of actual melodic phrasing with much noodling around the octaves and that nice unison riff for the middle-eights.

Let It Be

I'm putting this album in its rightful chronological place just to make a point about Paul's progression. It wasn't so much of an issue with Ringo because his style had largely solidified by this stage, but Paul is still in a somewhat retrograde position. There are stirrings of melodic phrasing though, where he seems to finally be getting back to looking at the bass as an instrument again, but the songs are often too restrictive.

Dig A Pony

A rather laid-back 3/4 rhythm means lots of long notes and some unison riffing, but its nice stuff for a bass to do, not all that common in the Beatles canon.

I Me Mine

A rather more waltz-like 6/8 blues, there's no surprises here. It's hard not to like those choruses!

I've Got A Feeling

It's not a bad song but the bass is just a passenger here, often just droning in the verses and only coming somewhat alive during the middle eight, Paul is too busy singing to do much more.

One After 909

There are a few versions of it, but I don't mind the workman-like plod of the bass in this one, it suits the song, but again, it's Paul in holding mode, no flash at all.

SINGLE: The Ballad Of John And Yoko /Old Brown Shoe

Nothing much to say about the A-side, but what a B-side! Whether it was George or Paul on the bass is a matter of opinion, Paul could claim it now and George can't dispute it. It might well be Paul on the guitar! Who cares, it's a hell of a riff. It took me years to play it and only then on a good fast neck, anything else with my smallish hands is suicidal. When you play that riff on the middle eight, you're flying baby! It's why I get such a charge out of Ringo's drumming on it, you feel you could do anything with that kind of backup. I don't begrudge George the credit, but I can't pass up the opportunity even in an article about Paul's bassplaying!

Abbey Road

Here we are at the last album. True to their word, the Beatles went back to the 'old days' and Paul returned to paying attention to his bass again. Soft rock AND hard rock was the rage of the turn of the '60s and as usual you get a bit of everything in a Beatles album of the time. In production terms it's much improved because of the intelligent use of stereo, giving a lot more space to the rhythm section, and consequently the space gets filled in a better way I feel.

Come Together

A great riff to complement the rhythm (later ripped off by Flea), and simple octaves, almost a drone, throughout.

Something

Paul really shines on this track, as I mentioned before, it's proper melodic phrasing where he's complementing the vocal and the progression harmonically all the way through. It's difficult to better those soaring high notes before the signature guitar riff, and he simplifies during the middle-eight, repeating the verse pattern under the guitar solo and varying it where it helps the guitar. On the last verse he's freely playing a melody, finally finding a structure where he can repeat some of the bass magic of the psychedelic phase.

Oh! Darling

Deliberately conventional with a few noodles here and there.

Octopus's Garden

This is a sneaky up-tempo vamp masquerading as a country song (Paul gives it away AGAIN), and it plunks along quite nicely, no surprises.

I Want You (She's So Heavy)

This song gets a lot of stick for some weird reason. Paul matches the main riff with a triad here and there to loosen it up a bit, and in the verses plays massive fourths and octaves with huge space between them. When we get to the dramatic pause Paul springs the 2nd bass solo(!!) (remember I'm Only Sleeping ? This is the other one!), a fast chromatic run down and a octave riff throwing in a 7th. Other than that, he throws in nice touches with really fast (16th triplets!) slurs down the fret board even during the last verse and repeats this up and down the fretboard during the massive coda, where he also pounds on octaves and plays the riff way up at the top frets. A for effort, some of it is almost unplayable, I certainly haven't been able to repeat those slurs.

Here Comes The Sun

Paul puts on another huge effort for George's other masterpiece on the album, nice little runs in between keeping the chord progression going, doing the unison riff in the middle, and generally providing a warm bouncy backing for the main star. It's the little touches that do matter, like the guitar-like runs up to the verse-splitting riffs, or the little descending run near the end of the song, hinting that we're about to finish.

Because

Strictly following the keyboard here, but oh those octaves. Ahhh indeed.

You Never Give Me Your Money

The huge medley begins, most of which is overdubs over a basic piano and drums track for the most part. This is a collage song to start a chain of songs much like a...collage. Paul keeps the bass simple throughout, really not doing anything unexpected and backing the boogy-woogy piano with walking lines or playing the roots of the guitar riffs with a little major triad and a flourish on the octaves.

Sun King

Yet another song strongly featuring octaves and noodling around the 2nd and 6th. Paul has got the Fender to sound a lot more like the more rounded tones he's used to with just a touch of gravel where it's wanted and that contrast is heard here quite clearly.

Mean Mr. Mustard

Paul goes Fuzz Bass for this, I really love the effect on it. It's a deeper fuzz, not simply a distortion, and it helps you forget that they've snuck yet another two-step vamp in even at this late stage!

Polythene Pam

A more conventional rocker, Paul hitting the octaves a lot once more, even leaving in an apparent mistake.

She Came In Through The Bathroom Window

This is it, the final melodic bass of the Beatles career. It's the pace of the song that allows Paul to mix it up with the triads along the progression a bit loosely during the verses, but during the chorus that is all deliberate measured harmony, a third voice along with the two vocals. It's so simple and beautiful because it's matching a fantastic melody.

The End

This is a pure rocker, the thing to enjoy is just how big the bass sounds in it, those notes on the 7ths just blow you through the wall with the right rig. It's an edit piece to give space for the solos, which is a bit sad because it's such a great rhythm section and it's the last we really get to hear of it.

SINGLE: Let It Be /You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

Well we all know why we're here: for the B-side. The final joke and the final collage, Paul literally using his favourite inversion as the core progression on the piano as well as the bass, the ska section that was cut out for this single, the cabaret section which has a nice Latin feel and the bass follows the piano again, cutting out for the completely Goon section again shortened for the single, and then the sublime YEAH and a final two-step vamp just to have the last word, Paul completely jazzing up his walking bassline, sounding quite like an upright. And that really is The End .

Conclusion

Here we are, where are we, as the old McCartney family saying goes. By now Paul is a fully-formed songwriter, able to write whatever he wants in pretty much any style he chooses on most instruments, but the bass keeps getting a look-in now and then. Every few years in his solo career it would get a highlight on this album track or that single, but that's too far ahead. Paul started out as a rocking bassplayer able to do well in rock/blues/surfer and the occasional countryish ballad and along the way learnt to play RnB and got much better at country and blues, and accidentally invented melodic bass style on drugs.

He was a much better instrumentalist than he appeared, especially when he really concentrated, which wasn't always. I find the earliest Beatles songs among the hardest to play because they're always fourth intervals horizontally as much as vertically on a fretboard (the length of a major 3rd to a 5th), and Paul got away with it on a skinny little Hofner neck; it would be interesting to see him play them on a standard Fender precision (he'd probably do it, who am I kidding)! As we've seen over the entire catalogue, he didn't move that much rhythmically or tonally, straight 4/4's on flatwound strings with no attack is the standard Beatles sound, something people seem to forget when compared to the massive difference in his solo work.

But his rhythmic and melodic development must always be seen in light of the songs he was writing and also I believe Ringo's development as a drummer. I've neglected the numerous instances of Paul giving Ringo the rhythms to play, but if Ringo hadn't been able to innovate himself, there would have been a great deal more trouble. Ringo was the perfect drummer for a melodic bass style, not flashy, able to provide interesting variation when called for, and generally keeping out of the way. Paul in turn, is a fantastic player if you've got a good melody to throw at him. He can probably find 3 better harmonies for it than you thought of and one of them will be on bass. Just keep away from the two-step vamps or weird things might happen!

Thanks for reading this ridiculously long post of 12k words! I was considering doing one for George or John but after over a week of on-again off-again writing I might take a break. I hope it entertains and informs and maybe sparks some discussion.

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@ewe2, man, you're really fab. Thank you. apple01apple02heartapple01apple02heartapple01apple02heart

(Having an Ahhh Paul moment... please wait...) 

These articles you've been churning out are amazing: informative, entertaining, and full of love. I enjoyed this dissertation even more than your Ringo one, partly because I can relate to Paul and bass a lot better, but also partly because you can relate to bass a lot better. I can feel your bass love shining through. heart 

I need to go get a bass RIGHT NOW. beatlemaniacs_02_gif

Sorry, PWT... 

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It verges from the sublime to the ridiculote

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14 April 2015
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Wow!

Glad to see one other person on this Forum appreciate "Michelle ." It got slaughtered in the song rankings.

Also glad to see another "Hey Bulldog " aficionado.

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"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)

14 April 2015
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Fantastic. Credit to you.

Stuff iike this sends me back to listen anew. 

 

Thank you.

 

PS. Must end up as post of the year.

PPS…….Hope Paul reads it.

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15 April 2015
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Brother, that is some good stuff.  Kudos to you for a highly enlightening and thorough exploration of Paul's growth and maturity as a musician, explained in a way that musical dullards (me) can understand. apple01apple01

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15 April 2015
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Some further thoughts:

I think there was always going to be a musical tension between Lennon and McCartney just in the way that McCartney would not stick to rock/surfer rhythms, although both were very free about structure. McCartney always had an eye to more standard pop structures because his melodic ideas drew him in that direction, and I don't think John saw pop as anything but a rung to climb on the fame ladder, once he was at the top, he didn't exactly know where to go; by contrast Paul was discovering a whole world of music he wanted to try out and eventually John did follow him in composing on piano. But I reiterate: it was the songwriting first, and the melody first with some words with that, everything else was up for grabs, and we can only guess at the variants we've never heard still in the vaults. They were only limited by what they felt would sound right coming from white Northern guys: John was embarrassed to play straight blues for instance, it had to be rocked up or at least rockabillied (it's a word! you can rockabilly something!). So that's something I got from listening from the bass side, that there is a strong conventionality in Paul's playing , but because he's such a great writer, the melodies actually pushed him into innovation he might not otherwise have stretched to. It's the songwriter pushing the instrumentalist into something new, in other words.

By contrast, if I were to write about George or John, I'd had to admit from the start that John barely changed as an instrumentalist (not as a songwriter), and George developed very slowly. It's a bit humbling to realize that as songwriters they did amazing things with a limited palette, but perhaps that's a secret of using limitations as a creative tool.

Into the Sky with Diamonds said
Glad to see one other person on this Forum appreciate "Michelle ." It got slaughtered in the song rankings.

Also glad to see another "Hey Bulldog " aficionado.

Even at the Rubber Soul stage, Michelle is still a shock, because it takes the same melodic sensibility of Yesterday and applies it to a full song. It's Paul doubling-down on that promise. Another point I should have articulated: Paul led the charge into the two-step vamp rhythm, most of them are his except for John's I'm Only Sleeping , Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite , All You Need Is Love , and Mean Mr Mustard . George's songs are more RnB that Paul plays a two-step vamp rhythm around (I Want To Tell You is a good example) because he's a slow learner with RnB. Hey Bulldog is just a good song that they underrated themselves.

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16 April 2015
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Once again, thanks for an amazing and thought-provoking analysis.

As with the Ringo topic you posted I find this very interesting.

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@ewe2, did you just add that opening paragraph (x5)? I don't remember it being there when I first clicked on the thread. Or am I just soft? 

Course, I did have dinner over at Dr Robert's that day... a-hard-days-night-george-10

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Silly Girl said

@ewe2, did you just add that opening paragraph (x5)? I don't remember it being there when I first clicked on the thread. Or am I just soft? 

Course, I did have dinner over at Dr Robert's that day... a-hard-days-night-george-10

Soft you are then, the opening paragraphs are the first things I wrote and pasted in! Now let me get back to the opening paras of John, this could be a while...

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ewe2 said
Some further thoughts:

I think there was always going to be a musical tension between Lennon and McCartney just in the way that McCartney would not stick to rock/surfer rhythms, although both were very free about structure. McCartney always had an eye to more standard pop structures because his melodic ideas drew him in that direction, and I don't think John saw pop as anything but a rung to climb on the fame ladder, once he was at the top, he didn't exactly know where to go; by contrast Paul was discovering a whole world of music he wanted to try out and eventually John did follow him in composing on piano. But I reiterate: it was the songwriting first, and the melody first with some words with that, everything else was up for grabs, and we can only guess at the variants we've never heard still in the vaults. They were only limited by what they felt would sound right coming from white Northern guys: John was embarrassed to play straight blues for instance, it had to be rocked up or at least rockabillied (it's a word! you can rockabilly something!). So that's something I got from listening from the bass side, that there is a strong conventionality in Paul's playing , but because he's such a great writer, the melodies actually pushed him into innovation he might not otherwise have stretched to. It's the songwriter pushing the instrumentalist into something new, in other words.

By contrast, if I were to write about George or John, I'd had to admit from the start that John barely changed as an instrumentalist (not as a songwriter), and George developed very slowly. It's a bit humbling to realize that as songwriters they did amazing things with a limited palette, but perhaps that's a secret of using limitations as a creative tool.

I found this 'post' post particularly insightful.

 

I'm forever a John man……..But I've always instinctively known that Paul and George Martin and George gave John more help than he ever gave them.

 

The conundrum is that though John couldn't ever quite match his Beatle past after going solo…….Neither did the others..(even Paul) without him. 

 

Magic happened………. I suppose.

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Its the way I've begun to think about them as songwriters as a whole, and I hope to develop this a bit more in the John that I've just started because @meanmistermustard made me think about it.

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Atlas sighed wonderingly  

<BIG TRIM> 

The conundrum is that though John couldn't ever quite match his Beatle past after going solo…….Neither did the others..(even Paul) without him. 

 Magic happened………. I suppose.

It did. John, Paul, George, and Ringo are living (at least 50% living) proof that magic exists and is real. 

But we digress.... 

ewe2 larfed 

Silly Girl moaned in confusion  

ewe2, did you just add that opening paragraph (x5)? I don't remember it being there when I first clicked on the thread. Or am I just soft? 

Course, I did have dinner over at Dr Robert's that day... a-hard-days-night-george-10

Soft you are then, the opening paragraphs are the first things I wrote and pasted in! 

Figures. I've been suspecting it for a Long, Long, Long time. Now I know what I feel must be right. 

Now let me get back to the opening paras of John, this could be a while...

I'll wait! *bounces up and down like a kid* 

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ewe2 said
It's important to remember the Beatles wanted to write commercially successful songs so those songs tended to push the catchy melodies and emotive guitar chords. Pay no attention to the amazing rhythm section in the background! People write off the McCartney-Starr partnership as some sort of afterthought, it was not. So keep in mind as I discuss Paul's bassplaying, that its a combination of songwriting and working with a great drummer that helped to mould Paul's direction.

Amplification was tiny compared to today, so no sub-woofers, no eq or compression in a bass amp. And recording wasn't much better, because vinyl couldn't take much bass frequency anyway, so bass tracks were very mid-rangey to compensate for losing their bottom end and to be heard distinctly at all. The Hofner bass had a couple of quirks that are important too: it gave Paul great surety of where he was on the fretboard, and a distinct advantage was a very slender fast neck to play on. Its major disadvantage was that it was reliably out of tune up at the 12th fret without careful setup which meant that Paul generally avoided playing up there in early Beatles songs.

First... I enjoyed the hell out of this.  Just wanted to get that out up front.  Exceptional work, well done.  And thank you.

Next, I quoted the two paragraphs but only because I have a couple of minor things to post.

In regards to the partnership between a bassist and the drummer, quoting Ringo:

"When Stu Sutcliffe left the band, we needed a bass player," Ringo says. "And John certainly wasn't going to play bass, and neither was George. So Paul did it. And he played incredible bass. People think, 'Oh, that's easy,' but the bass player and the drummer have to be friends, you know?" ~ Ringo Starr

So we'll obviously overlook Ringo's first-person perspective here, because he wasn't actually a Beatle when this happened and he was talking about his relationship with McCartney, but the point is there has to be a degree of synchronicity between the two, regardless of how or why it's achieved.  I've always felt this was present in many of what we consider the most successful bands.

About McCartney's Hofner and it's advantages; I've ready many, many times that, although the instrument is knocked for it's build quality and it's lack of projection in a performance, Martin is said to have found it perfect for what they were doing in the early years and it's performance in the studio provided their music an advantageous distinction.

Wondering how you feel about that?  For me, a lot of music produced around 'Please Please Me ' seems to either have the bass lost in the mix or ... not at all.  It's always seemed peculiar that the bass in their songs was always present, if not up front and flat out driving the song.

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C.R.A. said
So we'll obviously overlook Ringo's first-person perspective here, because he wasn't actually a Beatle when this happened and he was talking about his relationship with McCartney, but the point is there has to be a degree of synchronicity between the two, regardless of how or why it's achieved.  I've always felt this was present in many of what we consider the most successful bands.

Thanks for enjoying the piece! I've tried to suggest the synchronous relationship by pairing Paul's development with Ringo's and saying as much. You won't get far if those two guys don't get along. Having said that, it's also true that a lot of guitarists claim that relationship with drummers, Keith Richards for example, and that comes back to rhythm chiefly. The way the bass and the drums can work together is their attention to the structure of the song, while both can in their own way augment what the guitars and vocals are doing, they have that job as well. It suited their style. Ringo was never going to play like a Mitchell or a Moon, Paul was never going to play like an Entwistle or a Bruce. The way they kept out of each other's way is as important to the songs working as their contributions to it, if that makes sense.

About McCartney's Hofner and it's advantages; I've ready many, many times that, although the instrument is knocked for it's build quality and it's lack of projection in a performance, Martin is said to have found it perfect for what they were doing in the early years and it's performance in the studio provided their music an advantageous distinction.

Wondering how you feel about that?  For me, a lot of music produced around 'Please Please Me ' seems to either have the bass lost in the mix or ... not at all.  It's always seemed peculiar that the bass in their songs was always present, if not up front and flat out driving the song.

There were technological limitations but just as much a production philosophy limitation in the way people thought about mixing in those days. The Beatles wanted a more bass-heavy sound because they were hearing that on American records, don't forget. The British side of the time was very, very midrangey. By comparison, yes the bass was in there and driving, it just depends what you're comparing it to. I think it was improved by much less echo/reverb than everyone else was doing, that's usually a bass killer (as anyone who's played in a big hall with an under-strength or badly-placed PA will tell you). I think George Martin got away with a bit but "eased into" more bass. The second album sounds much better than the first, which was done in a day anyway. After all that, the bass tone, while good for driving a surfer song, was apt to be muddy unless carefully mixed. An interesting exercise is to compare Beatles production to The Rolling Stones or even the Yardbirds and see just how conventional those rhythm sections are mixed, as well as the bass sound they chose; those guys were still sounding the same in 1965! The Beatles were doing Day Tripper .

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Absolutely amazing @ewe2. Thank you.

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