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Thursday, April 17, 2008

GMVW # 15: "Bass Lines"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 15: Bass Lines
Song: I’m the Man by Joe Jackson
(Songwriter: Joe Jackson)
April 17, 2008

Occasionally, the greatness of a song can be attributed to a single musical instrument. Most often, it’s the lead guitar or the piano.  Rarely is it any other instrument.  This is especially true for the bass guitar, which is typically in the mix simply to keep the beat, along with the drums.

It takes an unusual style for a bass player to step to the forefront of a rock song.  One bass man who can do it is The Who’s John Entwistle.  His bass playing has often been described as a lead instrument in the Who’s mix.  The same case can be made for Joe Jackson’s bass player, Graham Maby, and it is Maby’s bass lines that make Joe Jackson’s ‘I’m the Man’ this week’s Gem Music Video. The pace of the song builds up to a mid-riff crescendo, and it is the bass guitar that leads the way.

Listening again to the lyrics to ‘I’m the Man’, I can’t help but think of the great movie ‘School of Rock’, where the lead character (played by Jack Black) rails against ‘The Man’.  ‘The Man’ in the Joe Jackson song claims to have sold the public many a theme (hoola hoops, yo yo’s, skateboards, hit movies, etc).  The video appears to have been hastily put together, showing Joe Jackson as ‘The Man’, bragging about his lifetime of accomplishments. The off-synch lip synching could be intentional (considering the con artist character that Jackson is portraying). 

Other song’s for which playing ‘air bass’ in your living room is not all that unusual:

> Bill Wyman’s bass playing during the horn refrains in ‘Rocks Off’ (off the Rolling Stones ‘Exile on Main Street') 
> Graham Maby’s bass lines in Joe Jackson’s ‘One More Time’
> The entire Quadrophenia album (also extraordinary for the drums, vocals, song writing, and guitar... did I miss anything?)
> Wyman’s ‘vrooming’ bass at the end of the Stones ‘Paint it Black’
> McCartney’s 11-note bass line near the end of the Beatles ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey’ (off the ‘White Album’)
> Phil Lesh’s 5-note outburst near the end of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Truckin’ 
"Get out of the door and light out and look all around.... **1,2,3,4,5** "  (it helps to hear this one live)
> Entwistle’s mid-riff in ‘Substitute’
> Entwistle’s bass lines in the refrains of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
> Entwistle’s bass lines in ‘Dreaming From the Waist’ (off ‘Who by Numbers’)
> Mike Mills bass lines in REM’s ‘What’s the Frequency Kenneth’
> The bass lines in Van Morrison’s ‘Into the Mystic’

'I'm the Man' reminds me of the one time I can ever remember the stage getting rushed (through security) at Great Woods. So, pull out that air bass guitar, dust it off, and play along….

“I had a giant rubber shark and it really made a mark
   Didja looka, looka lookit all that blood”

Gem Music Video: I’m The Man

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About the Video: Made for MTV type video (rare)

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