MACCA'S POST BEATLES BASS PLAYING TRANSFORMATION
When the Beatles broke up, all four of them jumped into musical activities. The merit of the musical paths taken by Paul are up to subjective opinion. What isn't so subjective, however, is the quality of his bass playing. It has never waned. Even on "Red Rose Speedway," an album where he concentrated more on his keyboards, the playing is still superb.
To talk about all his albums and hi-lites would be incredibly boring so look at just one.
"WINGS OVER AMERICA"
Paul, working with a sound company from Texas, obviously spent a lot of time and money getting a good sound for his tour of the states. Many that saw the show, such as the concert given at San Francisco's Cow Palace were amazed at the ability of the bass to cut through the sound. This sound comes through well on the record, put well to the fore in the mix. One aspect of McCartney's bass playing that impresses a lot of musicians is his ability to play difficult lines and sing at the same time. There is no doubt that he puts major effort into preparing for his performances.
The final effect of the playing and mix on the record makes the first focal point the bass and drums, with the extraneous instruments and voice almost secondary - even if this is in your subconcious. The rhythm section constantly pulls you in and then when you do break away and listen to the vocals it's an added treat. This is the Paul McCartney people had been waiting for, hard driving and rocking.
"ROCK SHOW" (live version)
Since "Wings Over America" came out, I have listened to the studio version of that song just once and that experience was almost like trying a cigarette after not smoking for five years. Enough of that. I had to put the live version right back on. His playing, live, was with a plodding decimating style that required him to remain rooted within himself.
"Jet" is no different, and the seque from "Rock Show" into it is a throw back to his Beatles days. "Rock Show" is plodding along at a high rate of speed, the bass and drums pumping that rhythm. Then suddenly it ends and there's a moment of almost nonchalance. The beat is taken away, and then slammed home again with the opening to "Jet."
Paul had by now developed a new style of bass playing. This style had showed some evidence of itself on "Band On The Run," and furthered itself on "Venus and Mars" and "Wings At Speed of Sound." The style is completely evident throughout the "Wings Over America" album and stands up to anything he's done ever -- including the White Album.
The best way to define it is that he'd really solidified - obviously through countless hours of practice - his left wrist. If you watch the video you can see a very stiff left picking hand. In those days, he held his pick directly underneath his hand.
Also, for the purpose of adding to the show, he pulled off some pretty darn flashy bass runs. "Time To Hide" had Paul playing as if he were sitting on a burning kettle. He'd lock in with drummer Joe English and then, every so often, stick his Rickenbacker out and leap way up the neck and FLASH for a moment. But, and fledgling bass players take heart, his high bass runs are done with solid rhythm. There was no need whatsoever for speed just for the sake of speed, with one awe inspiring exception.
This song is mentioned specifically for the silencing any of the nay-sayers who might question his status as one of the top notch bass players In The World, technique-wise. To achieve a tommy gun effect, he builds to that vocal line and then sprays - right in the middle of the drums -- a chromatic run that very few could duplicate. Many may play a chromatic run of that many notes, and many may do it with speed, but not many will do it at that speed and with perfect tempo.
Time Magazine had him on the front cover of one of there '76 magazines. "Paul Comes Back" said the caption. They were right, he was back. It's really an amazing album, in spite of the fact that much of the harmony vocals were reproduced in the studio. Paul was back, if he'd ever really left.