Believe it or not!

Believe it or not, this exquisitely crafted instrument (which I made myself!) is what I began learning to play bass on.  I found it in my Mum’s loft over Christmas — I thought it had disappeared years ago.

Note that it has an eleven-fret octave instead of twelve — which means that I was probably playing in some kind of Indian tuning — particularly as the frets were positioned more or less at random.  Even so, I learnt Green Onions and many other riffs on it.

The electrics are lost — the pick-ups were the voice coils from telephones and the fact that several phone kiosk handsets were vandalized in the streets near our house at the time the bass was made was pure coincidence.

 

Posted in Music | Tagged , | 124 Comments

124 Responses to Believe it or not!

  1. Brent48 says:

    Not the first One String Bass I’ve seen…!

  2. David Witherington says:

    Hi, Bruce. I’ll bet Macca would have flipped if you’d have shown him this bass when you met him! What was the first Beatles song you ever learned? Thanks as always. :)

    • Bruce says:

      The first Beatles-recorded song I ever learned was “Money” — because it was a riff. Beatles-written, would be “I Saw Her Standing There”.

      But talking about seeing a bass and flipping… Pete Thomas and I were once doing a session at Abbey Road when, for some unknown reason, Pete opened one of the janitor’s cupboards. There was a double sharp intake of breath when in amongst the brooms and mops we saw a Hofner violin bass, left-handed. The clincher was that it still had the set list from the Beatles’ last public performance at Candlestick Park taped to the side of it. Obviously we thought about running off with it — but in the end we got our mate Chalky Davis to take a picture of it. In retrospect, probably the right decision.

      • David Witherington says:

        Wow…what a great story! Yes, probably the right decision…hehe. It’s amazing that Paul would just leave it at the studio like that. I think he’s actually been playing it on his tours again for some years now, and still keeps that set list taped to it. Another anecdote for the memoirs! Oh, and those are great tunes you started with – “I Saw Her Standing There” is a smokin’ rocker, and I’m sure I heard the Beatles’ “Money” before I knew it was a Berry Gordy cover. Thanks for sharing, Bruce…take care.

      • Nick S. says:

        Do you have a favourite Beatles composition for its bass line? (I’d heard an old interview with Joe Walsh — who is now Ringo’s brother-in-law — where he said something like when he was learning guitar, he made it a point to learn EVERY Beatles tune.)

      • Bruce says:

        There’s so many of them for different reasons. “Rain” — best riff. “All My Loving” — great walking bass. “Something” — best ‘symphonic’ part. It would be easier to point out the not so favourite bass parts — except there aren’t any.

      • Nick S. says:

        Yeah, you’re right. For me, a couple other standouts that spring to mind are: “Paperback Writer” and Lennon’s “Come Together.” I think it was Lennon’s last interview where he gave props to McCartney as bassist. He said something like The Beatles weren’t really great musicians, but Paul was an exceptional bass player.

      • Bruce says:

        Funnily enough they were the other two I was going to cite — “Come Together” being the other great riff — and “Paperback Writer” for the sheer drive and the ad-libs. I was thinking about “Paperback Writer” when I did the bass part to “Beaten to the Punch” — I wanted the same attitude. I think you also have to give credit to Ringo for coming up with a totally unique style of pop drumming — you couldn’t imagine their later records without his contribution, either.

      • Nick S. says:

        They say great minds think alike. ;0)

        Great song, “Almost Beaten To The Punch.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShJUtkzMETg (I was looking for a live version of it, but couldn’t find. Is that one you guys did live?)

        As for Ringo as drummer, I love him. A big, early inspiration for my dabbling with drums. Even early Beatle live videos show that Ringo was a “busy” and creative drummer — not unlike Pete Thomas. Ringo kept things very interesting on a relatively small kit, while not going overkill. Mixed it up with cymbals and their bells. Deep-sounding toms. Tasteful playing. I always felt Ringo had a unique style unto himself that was very appealing and most appropriate for The Beatles. I could go on how he also seemed like the most likeable Beatle, too, but I’ll stop there.

      • Bruce says:

        I don’t think ABttP ever figured very strongly on live sets, if at all.

      • Nick S. says:

        How did EC & The Attractions go about devising set lists for concerts? Was it by “committee” at all? I’d always wondered if most artists/groups intended to play ALL of their studio recordings sooner or later. (I’d imagine most early stuff is played in order to fill a show. But as a career goes on, and material adds up, picking and choosing has to become more necessary.)

      • Bruce says:

        Once again, you’ve more or less answered your own question there. Our early sets were barely an hour long. As the material grows, you tend to promote the current album, keep the favourites and rotate a few to keep yourself interested. Obviously EC had final call, but we all threw into the hat. Of course, you could just get a big wheel :)

      • Nick S. says:

        Can you please name a few EC & Attractions favourites of yours that were always a pleasure to play live?

        The big wheel set list concept was pretty damn cool! Added spontaneity. Was it EC’s idea? (And “The Big Wheel” is another pretty damn cool thing!)

      • Bruce says:

        I always liked “Beyond Belief” and “Can’t Stand Up” live. The wheel set list on stage was actually an idea David Bowie mentioned in an interview I read, but he never did it, which I later told EC about.

  3. Mike Miller says:

    The man with the one-string bass…..

    Did you build that bass at home or have a workshop?

    Pretty nice work, I must say.

  4. Boris Brain says:

    Interesting proto-bass, Bruce. In the spirit of DIY, I thought I’d share this – a bass made from a Commodore 64 (!) Though not mine, you may be relieved to discover…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kDhpFaf4EY

    Regarding other posts, do you have anything to do with Steve or Pete these days? It would be great to hear a collaboration of some sort…

    • Bruce says:

      The woman’s a genius. Thanks for that Boris.
      I saw Pete in July walking along the hight street where I live — he’d just moved his mother-in-law into some retirement apartments here. I had a long chat with him — too long to post, too short for a book!

      Stay cool.

  5. Mike Miller says:

    Time for a bit of humor…

    I found this set list from 1980 for my band ‘The Extremes.’ Our gigs in Kansas were like the club scene in the Blues Brothers Movie, sans chicken wire. We were destined to fail and we did. We at least had good taste in music!

    http://westendstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Extremes-set-list-80-2-1.jpg

  6. Nick S. says:

    Is Liverpool a “dangerous” city? I met a Brit from Nottingham last night. He talked down Liverpool as “dangerous,” in terms of crime and such. I was surprised to hear that. (Black Sabbath often described growing up in Birmingham as rough.) But I’m sure those 2 cities got nothing on Chicago . . . known some years as murder capital of the nation.

    • Bruce says:

      Short illuminating anecdote: We checked in to the best hotel in Liverpool and went up to the desk to get our room keys. “Don’t put your bags down, luv, someone’ll nick them,’ advised the receptionist.

      Short illuminating joke: Q: What do you call a Scouser (Liverpudlian) in a suit? A: The defendant.

      Longer joke: Teacher asks little Johnny: ‘What football team do you support?’
      Little Johnny: ‘Manchester United, miss.’
      Teacher: ‘And why’s that?’
      Little Johnny: ‘Because my mother supports Manchester United and my father supports Manchester United.’
      Teacher: But you must learn to make up you’re own mind and not co-py your parents … I mean, what if your father was a thief and you mother was a hooker?’
      Little Johnny: ‘Ah, well then they’d be Liverpool supporters.’

      • Nick S. says:

        Ha! Wow. If Liverpool has always been pretty rough, I like The Beatles even more for emerging from there with such talent, charm, wit, and class.

      • Bruce says:

        When the Beatles were about it was more ‘rough and ready’ — it’s more recently that it got rough rough. It has its own charm — a lot of comedians hail from Liverpool,and as they would tell you themselves you need a snese of humour thre.

  7. Jerry Cohen says:

    Second question of the day: Were you ever tempted to use flat wound strings, say on “Get Happy!!” or the song “Almost Blue”? I am assuming you always used round wounds on Attractions records.

    • Bruce says:

      I could never use flatwounds because they just don’t hvae the same spring in them –it’s very difficult to bend a note using them.

      • Nick S. says:

        Can you usually identify what brand/model bass was used on recordings by other artists? (I’m never really too sure with bass . . . but with guitar, I can generally tell a Les Paul from a Strat from a Telecaster.)

      • Bruce says:

        Yes, you can tell those three guitars apart, quite easily, but a bass less so — probably because bass has more compression and the like added to it.

  8. Jerry Cohen says:

    As to an EC & Attractions documentary, I clearly recall something done on radio during the initial post-break-up years in which you and Pete Thomas were amply interviewed and (I believe) EC was as well. Steve Nieve did not take part, and I recall you saying something like you doubted Steve would agree to talk about EC. This was before the Brutal Youth era reunion.

    • Bruce says:

      The reason I fell out with EC was neither to do with my book, nor to do with any rowbetween us; it was to do with the way Elvis behaved toward Steve prior to the first disbandment — and that’s all I’m going to say about it. As it happened Steve forgave him long before I did.

      • Jerry Cohen says:

        Appreciate your candor, Bruce. In light of that, Steve and EC’s seeming closeness in the last several years is especially remarkable. Perhaps amends were made.

      • Bruce says:

        Or perhaps a piano player is more useful than a bass player in a two-piece :)

      • Nick S. says:

        Ha! And not just any piano player . . . but Steve Nieve! An Attraction. (I don’t really know how Costello thinks, but the cynic in me could guess that maybe he understands the value of The Attractions better than he’s let on.)

      • Bruce says:

        To be fair, in the recent BBC documentary I mentioned he did say that it was having the band the had that gave him the edge in the beginning.

      • Nick S. says:

        Must we be fair? ;0)

        Actually . . . my view is that EC & The Attractions was a band dynamic. A coalescing. EC’s best band.

      • Mike Miller says:

        As I said, he’s one of the best. But, when he started using other musicians on his records, it seemed too ‘straight’ and boring.

  9. Nick S. says:

    Why is there no BBC (or other) documentary on Elvis Costello & The Attractions?! (Unless I’m unaware of any.) The omission of such is glaring. Is that something you (and perhaps the others) would be interested in participating in? Fans (like me) always appreciate rockumentaries.

    • Bruce says:

      There was one on BBC 4 in November entitled ‘Mystery Dance’ — followed by an hour compilation of various live clips.

      • Nick S. says:

        Did you see it? Was it any good? Are you (and other Attractions) interviewed in it? Doesn’t appear to be viewable on Internet . . . yet.

      • Bruce says:

        I didn’t see it. Only EC was interviewed as it was done primarily to promote him — which slightly backfired as reviews said that the earlier stuff was the most interesting.

      • Nick S. says:

        I’d like to see an Elvis Costello AND THE ATTRACTIONS rockumentary — WITH Attractions interviewed as well. That would be good, interesting viewing. An EC documentary that doesn’t include interviews with The Attractions doesn’t really interest me. That period of his career (with A’s) is critical and deserves a good chunk of attention. Glossing over it seems to deny pertinent history.

      • Bruce says:

        Yep — I believe there was a quote where he called his time as a ‘pop star’ a five-minute blip. It was at least a ten-minute blip.

      • Mike Miller says:

        He apparently wants to be a man of many hats. Guess the ole dome’s getting a little thin.

        Actually, I don’t want to hammer on him too much. In my opinion, he’s in the top tier of songwriter/singers of my generation.

      • Nick S. says:

        Hopefully, some day, a more comprehensive EC documentary will surface. It should have suitable focus on EC & Attractions, including interviews with ALL 4 of you. Sure seems long overdue.

      • Bruce says:

        Tomorrow, tommorow … you’re only a day away :)

      • Nick S. says:

        Ha! Good attitude, Bruce.

      • Mike Miller says:

        Unless there is a product to sell, A new massive, remixed, special vinyl, collectors edition CD box set, a new record, tour, or the bank account starts running low, I wouldn’t expect a documentary real soon.

      • Bruce says:

        No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

      • Nick S. says:

        I forgot about the Almost Blue documentary. In it, I seem to recall EC having what I consider the right perspective . . . he gave props to The Attractions, and saw himself as part of band. I’ll try to dig that clip up sometime and post here.(Recall feeling not enough Attractions in that film, too.)

      • Bruce says:

        That film had a good director, Peter Carr, who also did a doc about the Scottish cyclist Robert Miller winner of a King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour de France in the late 1980s — a good film.

      • Mike Miller says:

        Or, the Spanish Rice indigestion.

  10. Martin Lower says:

    It’s a thing of beauty Bruce, much more impressive than my quality street tin incorporating elastic bands effort

  11. Mike Miller says:

    Is that an incandescent bulb in the background? The Green Police will be stopping by.

  12. Nick S. says:

    I like all of them, too. Need to get more familiar with Peter Green. And Richard Thompson is pretty amazing — as a guitarist, singer and songwriter.

  13. Mike Miller says:

    Perhaps ’14 is the year to make an effort to find your Fender.

  14. Robert Kidd says:

    Was this back in Stockton?

    • Bruce says:

      Not far from there.

      Further to your other question which I accidentally deleted — no, I never had tution from Harry Horseman — I never had tuiton from anyone.

  15. Nick S. says:

    Pure coincidence, huh? HA! How old were you when you built it and began playing? Very cool that you were motivated to do such a thing. What/who inspired you? (Reminds me of Macca’s Hofner.)

  16. David Witherington says:

    Wow, Bruce! What an amazing find! Such beautiful craftsmanship (how old were you?), and now historically significant in the beginning of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bassist. I know you were elated to rediscover it! Thanks so much for sharing this history…for us EC & A diehards, it’s very interesting news. Love the story of rediscovering it too…a Christmas to remember for you. :)

  17. Mike Miller says:

    Let’s see….who else in those days played a bass shaped like that?

      • Mike Miller says:

        I was the last horse through the gate on that one.

      • Bruce says:

        As long as you’re a dark horse.

      • Nick S. says:

        Speaking of a Dark Horse . . . I’m sure you heard recent news of how George Harrison refused OBE before his death. Good move, I felt.

      • Bruce says:

        There’s a new biog of George, written by Graeme Thomson just out, with quite a few tales in it.

      • Nick S. says:

        Cool! I’ll have to check that book out.

        As far as ex-Beatles solo records go/went, I probably liked GH’s (70s) records better than the others. His best efforts (as Beatle and after) were at least as good as Lennon’s or McCartney’s best. Harrison’s solo records, to me, were somehow more mature, refined, elegant and sophisticated than the rest. All 4 have made GREAT post-Beatles music. I know you have a special place for Macca, but do you perhaps have a 2nd favorite ex-Beatle in terms of solo music?

      • Bruce says:

        Actually, as time goes by I warm to George Harrison more and more.

      • Nick S. says:

        Well put about GH.

        On a different note . . . do/did you like Robin Trower?

      • Bruce says:

        I wouldn’t put him in my pantheon of greats but I liked the work he did with Procol Harum — but for that style of playing Randy California of Spirit was my guy.

      • Nick S. says:

        God knows why, but Trower’s ’74 song, “Lady Love,” has been on rotation over the PA system at a nearby Walgreens. (Must be satellite radio or something?) I’d never heard that song before, but it sounded too good and different to be contemporary. Stopped me in my tracks. After hearing it there on a couple occasions, I realized it was RT, and hunted down this most excellent song.

        I never thought of connecting Trower with Randy California before, but you’re right . . . both styles are soulful and about tone. The Hendrix influence is obvious, but seems like RT built upon that. It’s always good to get excited about a “new” song . . . even if it’s “old.”

        Happy New Year to y’all!

      • Nick S. says:

        Who would you put in your pantheon of guitar greats? (I’m assuming Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Peter Green, Tim Renwick and Randy California. Any others?)

      • Bruce says:

        Well, that’s what I’d call a royal flush — a pretty unbeatable five-card hand you’ve come up with there. Though Richard Thomson should get a mention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>