During the so-called apprenticeship years of The Beatles, Paul McCartney cut his teeth playing bass guitar. He reluctantly picked up the bass, when no one else in the group wanted it, after their original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe left The Beatles in 1961. Yet almost overnight McCartney would make this instrument truly his own.
Many critics would argue that John Entwistle was one of the first (if not the first) to truly popularize the bass guitar’s importance from simply just being a link between the drums and lead guitars. I would argue that honour should go to McCartney, who I believed changed popular music with the bass lines he wrote. His memorable bass guitar work is littered throughout many of The Beatles best songs. Choosing one over the other is difficult for a Beatles fan like myself. Nonetheless, the following below are five gems that I love and repeatedly play on my stereo.
To start with, lets start talk about the gorgeous ballad Michelle. In short, McCartney’s moody bass sets the whole tempo for the song. It fades in and out brilliantly, somewhere in the middle of John and George’s acoustic guitars and Ringo’s hi hat’s, and I can’t help but to wonder how he manages to get it to sound so good. Later, of course, I discovered that he achieved it by ‘finger picking’ at the strings.
What can I say about my next pick that hasn’t already been said about Day Tripper. At first, all we hear is George Harrison’s gutsy guitar hook, but when McCartney comes in, matching George’s playing, all hell breaks loose as the song builds and peaks. It’s a classic that you can never get tired of.
If you love Day Tripper, then you will love Paperback Writer, which could be said to be arguably The Beatles answer to The Who’s song My Generation, where McCartney’s bass guitar effectively becomes a lead guitar. It delivers arguably one of the best amplified bass riffs that I first heard that really knocked me over.
Most critics will pick Come Together as McCartney’s greatest moment as a bassist. I say that moment came with Dear Prudence. Both songs, of course, have exceptional bass riffs. McCartney’s sliding technique on Come Together is sublime, but for me, Paul’s pulsating almost hypnotic atmospheric bass in Dear Prudence steals the show!