He is, to state the obvious, a legend. The bass guitar player for no less than the most successful band of all time and writer of so many classic songs that he makes the output of of most modern day songwriters look meagre by comparison. This is a man who changed the course of popular music, and took bass guitar playing to a completely new level.
Although Paul McCartney is perhaps more widely adored for his songwriting skills, on this isolated bass track of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds you can really hear the greatness of his bass playing. He isn’t all in-your-face bass heroics – he’s a songwriter first and a bass player second, and that’s what we love about him. Bass playing that’s supportive and still central to the song. Speaking to MusicRadar, the bass-playing Beatle named the song as his greatest moment on bass.
And okay, you jazz purists, it may not be Donna Lee, but it’s another little hook in this man’s astonishing arsenal. You can revisit his isolated bassline on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds below.
“That was probably what ended up being my strongest thing on bass, the independent melodies,” said McCartney. “On Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, you could easily have had a root-note bass part through the first few chords. It would have been like Louie Louie or something.”
Instead, McCartney delivered a series of more complex bass parts. In the bridge he walks through the chords in sixth-beats like no other bass player would; in the chorus he runs up the scale, but deliberately arrives at the word ‘diamonds’ a beat before John sings it. “It’s really only a way of getting from C to F, or whatever, but you get there in a more interesting way. That became my thing.”
McCartney also opened up about how he learned to love his instrument. “From the word go, once I got over the fact that I was lumbered with the bass, I did get quite proud to be a bass player, quite proud of the idea. Once you realised the control you had over the band, you were in control. They can’t go anywhere, man. Ha! Power!”
Of course, the great bass parts didn’t stop with the end of The Beatles in 1970, but Paul McCartney's playing on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band pointed the way forward to a whole new generation of bass players.