Later this week, The Rolling Stones will release Hackney Diamonds – the band’s first album of new material since 2005's A Bigger Bang, for which the rock ‘n’ roll royals recruited a number of high-profile collaborators.
Super-producer and electric guitar ace Andrew Watt – who has become an evergreen presence in the guitar world thanks to his work with Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Vedder, and others – is one of them. Paul McCartney is another.
Macca’s involvement in the record was first teased last year, but now it’s been officially confirmed, with the The Beatles legend slated to play bass guitar on an upcoming track titled Bite My Head Off.
But, as Watt reveals in a new interview with Guitar Player, McCartney wasn’t playing just any bass. Instead, he was playing a “gnarly fuzz bass” that emanated from a custom Univox Super Fuzz-loaded 1964 Höfner. Moreover, it was gifted to Macca by Watt himself.
When asked about the origins behind Bite My Head Off’s low-end part, Watt recalled, “As Paul and I were becoming friends, I decided to get him a gift. I got him another lefty ’64 Höfner, similar to the one he played in the Beatles.
“However, I added a twist,” he went on. “My guitar tech installed a Univox Super Fuzz circuit on the Höfner that could be activated with a switch.”
Unaware of the internal mod that Watt had commissioned, McCartney (who was already a custodian of his iconic Beatles-era Höfner) was initially perplexed by the gift.
“‘This is an incredibly thoughtful gift, but why?’” Watt recalls McCartney asking. “‘I already have my Beatles Höfner – why another one?’”
All became clear once McCartney was told to “plug it in and give that extra switch a try,” and it wasn’t long before Macca did just that in the studio, alongside Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger.
“Suddenly his eyes widened, and he just started ripping on it,” says Watt. “I told him to bring it to the recording session, and he couldn’t stop laughing. I shared the song with Paul the day before, and when we entered the studio with the band, he brought out the bass.
“During the breakdown section of the song, he activated the Super Fuzz switch, and it was complete carnage! Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ It was hilarious and so cool.
“I think we recorded just three takes of that song, but almost immediately, Keith and Ronnie were on their feet, and Mick dragged the mic into the middle of the room and the roof left the building.”
According to Watt, it was his idea to pair McCartney with the Stones on Hackney Diamonds, and it turned out to be a fruitful experience for both parties.
“I think Paul really enjoyed that he was just a guy in a band again with friends that he’s known for 60 years,” Watt concluded. “It had been a long time since he was with equals, just plugging in his bass and doing a session. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for a very long time.”
To read the full interview with Andrew Watt – as well as an in-depth conversation with Keith Richards – head over to Magazines Direct to pick up issue 740 of Guitar Player.
In other news related to Rolling Stones' upcoming album, Richards recently spoke of how his struggle with arthritis has affected his approach to playing guitar.