Paul Weller, sometime of the Jam and the Style Council, but for the last 30 years flying high as a solo artist, is a man who knows what he wants, in bass as in all other things. Having played bass guitar throughout his eponymous 1992 debut album, 1993’s Wild Wood and the chart-topping Stanley Road also featured some fine examples of his bass work. “I get a definite satisfaction from playing on my own tracks,” Weller once told Total Guitar. “I feel I’ve done some good bass parts too. People should check out the bass on that first solo album.”
As for influences, it will come as no surprise to hear that Paul McCartney was a big inspiration: “If listening to basslines had any sort of an impact on me as a guitarist, it was from the point of view of melody, because McCartney was so melodic,” said Weller. “There was that whole thing where his style sort of changed after he’d heard the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds album, and he started putting the final bass part down after the track was done. He’s brilliant on some of those basslines with the Beatles. I loved the sound he used to have.”
For his own album sessions Weller used a re-issued Hofner Violin bass. "The bass I played on that album and also on more recent stuff was my Hofner, which has such a fantastic sound. I just had to have one, you know."
Despite choosing to play his own bass parts on much of his solo material, Weller has also looked to the trustworthy hands of various session players during his career. “When I first joined Paul’s band it was a bit of a baptism of fire,” Andy Lewis told Bass Guitar magazine back in 2015. "As a bass player you really have to do your homework. You’ve got to know where all the little stops and starts are, and where all the changes will be. You know, like Ringo Starr not being the best drummer in the Beatles, I wasn't even the best bass player in the band! Paul’s a great bass player and he knows what he wants on a track, so if he’s laying down a line you have to play it. You can’t really go jazz.”
That said, there were improv-friendly moments throughout the Weller set, added Lewis. “There's always room for that: he still allowed you a lot of freedom to do stuff with his songs, unlike most bandleaders. That leads you to try things in a different way, and Paul's very good at drawing that out of you. It depends on the song, of course: obviously if it’s a song where the bass sound or feel is integral, you’ve got to have that before you can go anywhere else.”
“I remember when I played with Paul Weller,” said the ineffably funky Yolanda Charles in the February 2013 issue of Bass Guitar magazine. “He wanted me to play his music, but with my particular feel. It's all about finding the right balance. Occasionally I’d get my backside kicked for playing too much!"
Charles played bass on three songs on Stanley Road. ”My favorite is You Do Something To Me," she told BP. "I started off using my Blade Levinson bass, but Paul didn’t particularly like the sound of it because it was active, so I switched to a Fender Precision. I wanted something that sounded a bit more like the records that Paul liked, trying to channel that Andy Fraser headspace. I get a lot of pats on the back for playing bass on that song. So I have to thank Paul for that.”
Stanley Road is available to buy or stream.