by Pril Stevenson
Sometimes, I go a whole week and find nothing really to write about. This last one was one of those weeks. So I’m going to introduce you to The Men. These are guys who have been very important to me in terms of my growth, my style, and my attitude.
About playing bass.
John Taylor: One of the Taylors from Duran Duran. The Good Looking One. (If you have a different opinion, blast away in the comments). Yeah, I was a Duran Duran fan. Big Time. On further retrospection, though, I find I’m actually a John Taylor fan. He had a fantastically crisp tone without sounding overly treble-y. He cut a mean groove without being over-the-top. Just listen to “Planet Earth”. Tell me that song doesn’t make you want to shake your ass. I dare ya.
Jack Bruce: This is the guy playing the bass in that “Crossroads” song. You know, the one everyone says is a Clapton song. That was Cream. That was Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton. Eric Clapton’s first attempt at songwriting was with Cream. “Anyone For Tennis”. Hand me a barf bag please because it simply did not get any better than that. These guys were all ego, because they were the best there was at the time, so they had every right to call themselves “the Cream”. Of the crop.
Jack Bruce is one of those freaks called “multi-instrumentalists”. A classically trained cello player who seemed to be able to play anything you put in his hands. A clear, beautiful tenor. He played the thundering mite, a Gibson EB3, in most of the Cream songs. Jack isn’t much taller than five feet, if I remember right. I think his Warwicks are taller than him. But his bass playing was fifty fucking feet tall, loaded with unstable dynamite and someone was lighting a match nearby. Jack is still recording, still touring, and still writing incredible music.
Mike Watt: Well, I don’t know where to start with this guy. His bitchenness shines on the sea that surrounds San Pedro. His music plants itself in my head when I go home to visit. He’s been taking the weirdness of San Pedro out of the air there for over twenty years, close to thirty, and then spewing it back to the world as music. His playing is the supertankers docking at L.A. harbor, it’s the tunnels of a decommissioned military base. It’s Summerland Avenue, Averill Park, the Maritime Museum and Warehouse Number One. The gray of foggy skies and air carriers, dilapidated fishing boats and eastern orthodox cemeteries. Where everything comes in and everything leaves again.
John Doe: I didn’t really gain an appreciation for John until a couple of years ago. I’ve been an X fan since ’84 or so, but the music was a whole entity then and I didn’t spend much time listening to the parts very much. I was listening to “Hungry Wolf”, recently, and thinking, damn he was singing and playing that fuckin weird ass Bo-Diddly beat thing with the crash at the chorus. And I was duly impressed, because I can’t play and count to 4 at the same time. But I always liked his sort of dusty, lost and wandering persona, like he just got off his horse after walking the entire course of the Mississippi from Bemidji to New Orleans. Reading about X and John Doe when I was younger made me realize how important a wide and varied taste in music was.
The Guy From KC & The Sunshine Band: I don’t know this guy’s name. I’ve never looked it up. And this one is also a more recent “discovery”. Sure, I loved KC as a kid because it was fun, mindless stuff to bounce off the walls to. Who didn’t? Disco was king when I was 7, and regardless of what anyone says, disco is the perfect music for seven-year-olds. This is another “one day i was listening to the radio when...” kind of things. Yes, I was, and “Boogie Shoes” came on. I was struck by the sheer badassedness of the groove in this song and it’s absence of flash. This bass line says “Fool, you rock to this and it’s all you need”. The rest of the KC catalog is just as grabby (ok except for “Please Don’t Go”). It’s funk authority without an iota of the dreaded slap style. All you slappers out there, you WISH you could lay the shit down like this guy did.