"Bass, that's easier than normal guitar isn't it? It only has four strings...." is the first thing that some people say when they learn that I'm a bass player.
Bass, like guitar, can be as simple or as complicated as the player wants. The difference is, that a bass player has to hold down a rhythm for an entire song without missing a beat. Guitarists can, and do, get away with all kinds of mistakes, but if a bass player loses the groove, the girls can't dance.
A bassline can be the same three notes all the way through two minutes of a Ramones song, or something as complex as an Iron Maiden, Yes or Colin Hodgkinson track. Find a band where the bass player is the lead singer too, like Rush, The Police or Thin Lizzy, and the ante is well and truly upped.
Try listening to a song where the bass has been removed, or listen to a band where there's no bassist. You'll soon see what a difference the low end makes.
How it all started
After buying “Outlandos d’Amour” by The Police in September 1979 on vinyl and wearing the grooves down to almost nothing over the next year, I realised that I needed to play Bass.
A few years later when I was 15, I got my first bass – a Fender Mustang – along with a Roland 15W amp. Mine was similar to the one on the left, but the previous owner had fitted some serious DiMarzio pickups which were really too much for my poor little amp. It took me about half an hour to work out how to play Message In A Bottle and then I was away.
I'd never been happy playing guitar with a pick, and trying one on my new bass wasn't a success either. I decided to play with my thumb for some reason. This led to a massive blister and problems later in my playing life with not being able to play fast enough, so I had to re-learn playing with my fingers. Had I known that Sting would dump his pick and play with his thumb (ok, and his fingers as well), things may have been different.
Whilst the Mustang was a great bass to learn on, it is a short scale bass so playing anything with any degree of fiddly widdly diddly in it, was difficult. I really wanted to upgrade to a Precision bass.
On to Bigger Things
The Mustang served me for a couple of years before a return trip to Monkey Business in Romford to look for a Precision resulted in me returning home with a black ’77 Jazz Bass. With hindsight, it would have been great to keep the Mustang, as there are examples of them on e-Bay at the moment for around £1,000.
My next big purchase was a Carlsbro Cobra 90W amp. I'd finally worn the Roland out and Monkey Business did tell me that the speaker was just about to go, but they still took it as a part-ex.
Now I'd got a bigger amp, I could gig and I was asked to join a local band called Eklipse, formed by my great friend Danny Frost. We played covers mostly (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, The Cult, AC/DC, Anthrax, Bon Jovi etc, etc), plus a few self compositions which were mostly about death and demons. We were, frankly quite good once we'd got our first performance at The Crown in Peterborough out of the way. By now, I'd got my first Hohner B2A. Sting had one - well he had a Steinberger, but they were over a grand at the time and I could just about afford £250 for the very similar looking wooden substitute.
Having a job meant that more money could be thrown at this hobby of mine. A chance visit to Music Village in New England, Peterborough relieved me of some savings when I came away with a used Marshall JCM 800 100W head. Of course, this was pretty useless without a cab, so a 1984A sloping front cab was ordered. A fretless Hohner B2A was added to my bass arsenal. I never got the hang of playing it though because nobody told me that the fret markers showed where the fret would have been, unlike on a conventional bass. There was no Google to help out, as there was no Internet....
After rocking The Crown, we did two gigs at The Peacock in Peterborough and then played The Scotgate at Stamford with a 1,200W PA system. I couldn't hear for days afterwards but this was a great finale with the band as the time had come to concentrate on studying for my Engineering degree.
After graduating and buying a house, a lack of transport meant that any bass playing activities were limited to playing in my front room. The two Hohners were stolen in a burglary. The felons from the local Young Offenders Institute in Glinton luckily didn't know the value of bass guitars and left my Fender behind. I then met my future wife and playing took a back seat. That was until Rocksmith came along.
I'm now playing in a local band. We gig very occasionally and it's great to feel the buzz of performing again. Playing in front of pub audiences is ok, but I really wish I'd been able to play The Willow Festival in Peterborough or have the chance to play the Beer Festival there. One day, who knows!