Bass is a mindset.
My buddy and fellow bassist Stoney nominated me to post my top ten bassists.
I love the idea of celebrating bassists. Bassists are the Little Red Hens of music, willing to do the unglamourous but essential work.
I don’t love the top ten format. I don’t believe you can rank artists. If you love two things, you can’t compare them. Choosing one first means you don’t _really_ love the other.
Instead, I’m going to use bassists to talk about what music means to me. Bassists are defined by doing what it takes to further the music, not by their instrument.
So the first bassists I want to celebrate happen to play regular 6-string guitars.
Brewer Philips and Hound Dog Taylor, along with Ted Harvey on drums, are Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. There’s never been a more accurately named band. The Houserockers sound like 100% pure party times.
Philips and Taylor trade off playing lead and bass. Not “rhythm guitar”, bass. Neither of them ever strum a chord. Their bass lines are “walking”, contrapuntal inversions, constantly moving. Supporting each other. What Keith Richards calls, “the ancient art of weaving.”Bass makes space.
This punk blues they play, it’s ancient and modern at the same time. Go listen to “Gimme Back My Wig”. Hound Dog’s just singing his truth. The African bards, griots, used to nail a tin can to the back of their instruments’ neck to get a buzzy fuzz. The Houserockers play the cheapest amps, but turned all the way up, they produce a fuzzy buzz.
Punk is about doing the best you can with what you have. Bass is essentially punk. Marshall McLuhan said, all technology is an extension of the human body. Jimmy Page’s Les Paul and Marshall can simulate the warble of a classically trained singer. Hound Dog’s Teisco guitar and Montgomery Ward amplifier simulate the booze-and-butts broken voice of a barfly.
But it’s what you do with it. Charles Bukowski wrote amazing poetry in the broken voice of a barfly.
Bass is a mindset. Help make something good happen.