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The Singing Bass Player (part 2): 5 more examples of this musical rarity.

Updated on April 2, 2014

Another singing bassist!

Lots of rock’n’rollers play the bass, but often only within the confines of their home, or in the studio. Artists like Lenny Kravitz and Matthew Sweet may play the bass on most of their records, but you’ll never see them play the bass live. And why? Undoubtedly, because their preferred role of guitarist allows them to lead their band with their singing without being encumbered with potentially mind-distracting bass lines at the same time. Yet there are those that handle both the bass and vocals proudly and with great distinction. Let’s look at five more musicians who do just that, once again with my added 5-star grading scale on their technical skill and bass loyalty (just for fun, folks!), starting with a certain Beatle:

6. Paul McCartnery

Technical skill: 4 stars

Bass loyalty: 4 ½ stars

What is left to say about Sir Paul that hasn’t been said elsewhere? Not much, but it’s important to note that he has never strayed far from the bass, ever since he took over the role in the very early Beatles days when original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe left the group. McCartney can also play guitar, piano and drums very well and often employed a one-man-band approach on certain solo albums. But even today he gravitates toward the bass during concerts, often performing with his signature Hofner bass, like he did a couple of years ago on Saturday Night Live when performing two Wings hits “Jet” and “Band on the Run.” But have a look at McCartney in 1979 playing the always cool “Coming Up.” Deceptively simple in its approach, take note of the ascending bass line in the chorus:

Paul McCartney "Coming Up"

7. Gene Simmons

Technical skill: 3 stars

Bass loyalty: 5 stars

Ever the practical musician, Gene Simmons of Kiss picked up the bass, according to his book “Sex, Money, Kiss” for the simple reason that he realized at a young age that less people played the bass rather than guitar, and therefore that made him more valuable and more likely to make money at it. And so it’s been that for four full decades Simmons has handled the bass duties for the band, and sings lead a fair amount of the time. Simmons is a flashy performer but not necessarily a flashy bassist; on his instrument, frequently showing off his patented ax-shaped design, he gives what the song requires, no more, no less. Here he is in his element back in the 70’s performing “Calling Dr. Love”:

Kiss "Calling Dr. Love"

8. Mark King

Technical skill: 5 stars plus!

Bass loyalty: 5 stars

For great funk playing, it’s hard to beat Level 42’s Mark King. Mastering a rapid fire technique of thumb tapping and string popping, watching King perform, and especially letting rip with a solo, is a dazzling display. His singing style isn’t nearly as flashy or diverse, but he sings with confidence, his deep voice frequently complimented by the tenor singing of keyboardist Mark Lineup. The band split in 1994 but fortunately reformed in the following decade, and still tours regularly. Have a look at King giving his funk best back in 1989 in this great song “Heaven In My Hands”:

Level 42 "Heaven In My Hands"

9. Kelly Groucutt

Technical skill: 3 1/2 stars

Bass loyalty: 5 stars

On classic British band Electric Light Orchestra’s albums, singer/songwriter/producer/guitarist and sometimes keyboardist and bassist Jeff Lynne was clearly the man in command. On stage though that wasn’t always the case, as Lynne wasn’t the most charismatic front-man in the world, and often leaned on bassist Kelly Groucutt, who joined the band after their 4th album “Eldorado” was released in 1974, to provide essential vocal harmonies and even take over the lead on several songs per night. Splitting from the band in 1983 and attempting a solo career, Groucutt joined up with the newly formed ELO Part II in 1991 and became one of the band’s front-men. A natural showman, he entertained audiences worldwide with ELO Part II with his charismatic style and pitch perfect singing, plus excellent bass work, up until his untimely death in 2009. Check out this video of him and ELO in their heyday performing the song “Nightrider”, where Groucutt takes over on the second verse and harmonizes nicely on the choruses:

ELO "Nightrider"

10. Colin Moulding

Technical skill: 3 1/2 stars

Bass loyalty: 5 stars

Iconic British band XTC was fortunate enough to have two great songwriters, guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding. Partridge was always the dominant personality and songwriting force in the group, typically writing around 8 or 9 songs on each album, verses Moulding’s 2 or 3. But when the band started scoring hit singles in the UK, the songs were usually Moulding’s: “Life Begins At The Hop”, “Making Plans For Nigel”, “Generals and Majors” and “Ball and Chain” all made the UK singles chart in the early 80s, while Partridge’s songs sometimes stiffed. Their popularity in the US was growing with the release of their classic albums “Black Sea” and “English Settlement”, but Partridge suffered a break-down during the tour for the latter album in 1982 and vowed never to tour again, a stance which he has never backed down on to this day. A nearly fatal blow for the band to be sure, which basically remained a cult group popularity-wise ever since, but the fact that Moulding never managed to lead a live version of the band by himself, or ever record and tour as a solo act, suggests a serious lack of initiative! XTC basically split for good after the “Wasp Star” album in 2001. Moulding recently broke over a decade of musical silence by appearing as a vocalist on former Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood’s albums “The Prog Collective” and “Songs of the Century: a Tribute to Supertramp.” But have a look a Moulding in his prime back on the English Settlement tour, right here:

XTC "Making Plans For Nigel"

And so, young musicians, when considering which instrument to play in your new rock & roll super-group, consider the bass! That's all for now. Keep the low end solid!


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