Category Archives: Bass Line of the Week

Bass Line #7: Duran Duran – New Moon on Monday

We don’t get too many of these a year, so indulge me, will you?  Today is New Moon on Monday, and one that happens to be in the zodiac sign we’re in now, Cancer, an additional bonus.

One of the fun things that has happened during the coronavirus pandemic is Duran Duran bassist John Taylor taking to Instagram to record a series of bass-playing tutorials called “John Taylor’s Stone Love Bass Odyssey” on Wednesdays.  They took place in conjunction with conversations of some of his famous friends, including bandmate and drummer Roger Taylor and past Duran album producers Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson.  You can check out the whole series of tutorials on Duran Duran’s YouTube channel through here.

As big of a Duranie that I am, you will not find me trying to play what has become John’s bass-playing opus, ‘Rio’.  I think it’s safe to say that among Duranies and the whole bass-playing community, it’s known as the most difficult bass line of the Duran Duran back catalogue.  If you’re skeptical, watch him playing it starting here.  I haven’t bothered to try and learn it.  I’m decent on bass, and I’m not that good.  My hands are too small, and they don’t move very fast (ha). 

No, today I want to focus on the song that was simply meant for today, ‘New Moon on Monday’.  Part of the sheer 1984-era excess that was ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’, it’s hands-down my favorite track of this album.  In its 5-minute music video form, it’s perfect.  Simon Le Bon is deep in his usual esoteric lyrics – “shake up the picture, the lizard mixture”, anyone? – and delivers a grand chorus for all of us to sing along to: “I light my torch and wave it for the / New Moon on Monday”.  He gets to use his acting chops here as well.

Confusing promo video storyline aside, John’s bass line is great because of its understated elegance.  It’s funky, yet doesn’t take over the song.  We should have guessed that something even funkier, ‘Notorious’ (bass cover here), was coming down the pike.  Watch below as Dave of zumazmusic moves down the fretboard effortlessly in the chorus (and on a genuine Aria, no less!) in the cover demonstration video.  C’est magnifique.

Bass Line #6: Led Zeppelin – What Is and What Should Never Be

A note: I’ve been neglecting this category as of late, but I’m going to try and post more here, as I don’t want any of you thinking I’ve somehow lost my love for the bass. Hardly. I’ve just run out of free time to write, but I hope to rectify this going forward into 2014.

A lot of my friends including John, my right-hand man at TGTF, were surprised to learn I am a diehard Led Zeppelin fan. I think it comes with the territory of growing up with an older brother: if you’re a music fan when you’re little and your older sibling(s) are listening to good music, there is no question, you will pick this music up through osmosis.

I had to be about the strangest 8-year girl in my class: when asked who was my favourite band, I would say Led Zeppelin, which would bring horror to the teachers and a look of confusion to the other students. Looking back at it now, I have to laugh: at the time, I didn’t understand the sexual innuendo splayed all over my still favourite album ‘Physical Graffiti’ (and most of their music, eh?), so I had no idea why I was getting funny looks from the adults!

What’s odd is that years later, my brother doesn’t even listen to them anymore – I’m the owner of a bunch of his Led Zep CDs that he no longer wanted when he moved out – but I’ve stayed true. My collection of miscellaneous Led Zeppelin paraphernalia – CDs, books, magazines, backpack patches – is only rivalled by my Beatles collection.

As a bass player, I’m very impressed with what John Paul Jones’ musicianship while he was in Led Zeppelin. Naturally, it was the charisma of singer Robert Plant and the showmanship (and to some extent, his just plain weirdness in his interest in the occult) of Jimmy Page that made the two of them the stars of the band. While the band still existed, even John Bonham had a higher profile than Jones, simply because of his drunken antics. But at the same time, I think it speaks to Jones’ own security in his talent he never felt he needed to step out and be the star or a star of Led Zeppelin. He did so much in the band, being probably the best multi-instrumentalist of the last 50 years, as well as being an amazing composer. Some people seem to forget this in light of the legendary onstage pomp of Page and Plant. So in my own little way, this is my homage to the great unsung hero of Led Zeppelin.

There are tons of examples of great bass lines from their back catalogue. The obvious one would be ‘Whole Lotta Love’; it came as a great shock to me when I began playing bass that, whoa, wait a minute, THAT line is the bass? It’s not Jimmy Page? Seriously? But I don’t want to be obvious today. No, I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘Led Zeppelin II’ lately, owing to my need to get out some, er, stress in my working life and ‘II’ is brilliant for this purpose. ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ is the chillest of the chill, until you get to the chorus, and it’s what Jones does before that point as the perfect foil to Plant’s wandering voice that I love. I’ve never even attempted to learn this song, because, well, you’ll see below watching the cover in the embed below, it’s so fast. For those people who say bass isn’t hard, think again.

Below I’ve got for you an extremely good, near perfect bass cover I found, along with the band’s performance of the song at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. Oh, if I was only alive back then to see them live!

Bass Line #5: Muse – Supermassive Black Hole

These days, Muse appear to have lost the plot: incorporating dubstep into their latest album ‘The 2nd Law’, they’ve become less the power house they once were. There is also the matter of Matt Bellamy, who I have accepted is a songwriting genius, but he comes across as an altogether too proud peacock (even for a male rock star) and it’s when I think about how larger than life his stage persona is, I feel bad for drummer Dom Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenholme, who have to be “okay” with their leader’s various machinations.

Playing ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ reminds us that there was a time before the 2012 London Olympics when Muse were the best in their genre. It’s taken so long for America to get on board the Muse bandwagon and the timing of their success here is quite funny, given that they’re now trying a different direction. With less prominent bass. Groan. I wonder what Wolstenholme thinks of the band now, after doing this great interview with Bass Player magazine in 2009.

It drives me insane when I talk to a casual music fan and they’re saying how great a guitar solo is in a song or how great Guitarist X in a band is. I’m not dissing guitarists and their expertise, but bass players don’t get a lot of credit because people can’t seem to hear or appreciate what they’re playing, unless you’re 1) a bass player yourself or 2) looking specifically for the bass line. One time when I was small, I asked my dad how come the parts for the guitar in a song didn’t match the melody that was sung by the singer, the part I sung along to. He explained that all the parts in a band were supportive to the overall playing of a song and that’s why when you took one part out by itself and played that section, it sounded nothing like what it would sound like if all the parts were playing together at the same time. His was a perfect answer to a child’s question and gave me a measure of awe that all these parts put together make a song? Wow! I sometimes wonder what he thinks about me playing bass instead of piano now. He is probably chuckling.

Below I’ve embedded a very nice bass cover I’ve found (played on a really, really gorgeous axe to boot!), along with the band’s performance of the song at the War Child benefit at Shepherds Bush in February 2013. As is typical with most of these filmed performances of bands, much of the attention is given to Bellamy, but it’s good that they’re still willing to play the “classics” (god, I feel old) and Wolstenholme gets some screen time.