How Did He Become An Icon? 1966 Post Beatles
Thanks Pre-1963


Five String Taste
Influential Bass Players of the '60s 1963


Driving Rain
Large Scale vs. Small Scale Basses 1964/1965


What Do Others Say? contact the author
My thoughts on Paul's playing on John's songs



When the Beatles broke up, all four of them jumped into other musical activities. The merit of the musical paths taken by Paul are open to subjective opinion. What isn't so subjective, however, is the quality of his bass playing. It has never waned. Even on Red Rose Speedway, an album where he concentrated more on his keyboards, the playing is still superb.

However, there is one album remaining to discuss in Paul McCartney's career.


Notes on Wings Over America:
Paul McCartney, working with a sound company from Texas, obviously spent a lot of time and money getting a good sound for his tour of the states. Many that saw the show, such as the concert given at San Francisco's Cow Palace seen by the author, were amazed at the ability of the bass to cut through the sound. This sound comes through well on the record, put well to the fore in the mix. One aspect of McCartney's bass playing that impresses a lot of musicians is his ability to play difficult lines and sing at the same time. There is no doubt that he puts considerable effort into preparing for his performances.

The final effect of the playing and mix on the record makes the first focal point the bass and drums, with the extraneous instruments and voice almost secondary - even if this is in your subconscious. The rhythm section constantly pulls you in and then when you do break away and listen to the vocals, it's an added treat. It is safe to say that this is the Paul McCartney people had been waiting for, hard-driving and rocking.


Is it possible for two versions of the same song to be as completely different as the studio and live versions of Rock Show are?   His playing, live in a t-shirt and jeans, was with a plodding thunderous style that required him to remain rooted within himself.   Every note is played from the guts, where bass playing needs to come from.   

Jet is no different, and the segue from Rock Show into it is a throw back to his Beatles days. Rock Show is plodding along at a high rate of speed, the bass and drums pumping rhythm. Then, suddenly, it ends and there's a moment of almost nonchalance. The beat is taken away, and then brought back again as the first notes of Jet are played.  

Paul had by now developed a new style of bass playing. This style had showed some evidence of itself on Band On The Run, and furthered itself on Venus and Mars and Speed of Sound. The style is completely evident throughout the Wings Over America album and stands up to anything he's done ever - including the white album.

The best way to define it is that he'd really solidified - obviously through countless hours of practice - his left wrist. If you watch the video you can see a very stiff left picking hand. In those days, he held his pick directly underneath his hand.

Also, for the purpose of adding to the show, he pulled off some pretty flashy bass runs. Time To Hide had Paul playing as if he were sitting on a burning kettle. He'd lock in with drummer Joe English and then, every so often, stick his Rickenbacker out and leap way up the neck and FLASH for a moment. But, and fledgling bass players take heart, his high bass runs are done with solid rhythm. There was no need whatsoever for speed just for the sake of speed, with one awe-inspiring exception.


This song is mentioned specifically for the silencing any of the naysayers who might question his status as one of the top-notch bass players In The World, technique-wise. To achieve a Tommy gun effect, he builds to that vocal line and then sprays - right in the middle of the drums - a chromatic run that very few could duplicate. Many may play a chromatic run of that many notes, and many may do it with speed, but not many will do it at that speed and with perfect tempo.

Time Magazine had him on the front cover of one of their '76 magazines. "Paul Comes Back" said the caption. They were right, he was back. It's really an amazing album, in spite of the fact that much of the harmony vocals were reproduced in the studio. Paul was back, if he'd ever really left.


The following note from Christopher P. (Duffy) Hughes is regarding Silly Love Songs. Before I print it, I have to add that the bass line in that song is one of his all time best. Even those that despise the campiness of the song have to, I think, tip their hat to the bass line.

Silly Love Songs is not just a silly love song. Using the compartmental song writing he really developed during the Abbey Road period, the use of themes and variations that all meet up in the end are all driven by separate bass lines while singing lead, really makes this one of Paul's all around best songs he ever wrote.

Duffy, your point is a good one. I haven't read this entire site in a while, and I can just hope that I have discussed just how good Paul McCartney is at singing while playing bass. He has ALWAYS been very good at it, right from the first songs available to us. And, it is not easy to play a driving rhythmic instrument while singing melody, I can tell you. Paul McCartney was my inspiration when I first learned to sing and play bass at the same tmie. I knew how well he did it and it is the standard by which I graded myself. But then, who can sing as good as McCartney? Certainly not me! As Sting says, Paul McCartney is the guvnor.

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