Tag Archives: I Want You She’s So Heavy

Songs With Memorable Bass Lines


Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Joy Division’s most well known song is icy and oddly enough, the closest the band ever came to being accessible. Ian Curtis’ singing is distant and sparse and the synthesizers in the background (which replicate Curtis’ harmony) only add to the eeriness of the song. The rhythm section however, takes no prisoners. Stephen Morris pounds his way through the song with an urgency in direct opposition to Curtis’ monotone vocals. Bass players usually tend to anchor the song, but on “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Peter Hook steers the song. The opening swirl of Hook’s bass pulls the listener in and prepares them for Curtis’ tale of desperation. As the bass bounces in and of the speaker, it becomes the only inviting sound in an otherwise chilling song.

Kings of Leon – “McFearless”

On the first few Kings of Leon albums Jared Followill proved himself to be the unsung hero of the band playing his bass like it was a lead instrument. Never one to be content in the background, Followill turns it up ever further on “McFearless” with a loud and fuzzy bass-line. Playing it more like a guitar riff, the bass propels the song into a distorted groove allowing Matthew Followill to try his best at sounding like The Edge, and Nathan Followill to give an unorthodox and frantic beat.

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thank You (Fahletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

This absurdly titled song has one of the greatest bass riffs ever, and is sometimes considered to be one of the first funk songs. Larry Graham’s slap bass here is instantly recognizable, blasting in and out of the speakers in a hummable melody. What’s really amazing about Graham’s playing here is the space between the notes. While his playing is certainly the star of the show here, it never overshadows the rest of the song.

The Beatles – “I Want (She’s So Heavy)”

Paul McCartney is such a brilliant songwriter, it’s sometimes easy to forget how great of a bass player he really is. While the song is probably most famous for its ending, McCartney’s breaks in the middle of the verses are the stuff of legend. While the chorus and the ending are among the loudest stuff the Beatles recorded, the verses find them at their jazziest and loosest with McCartney taking the reins. Check out the lengthy instrumental section mid-way through the song for proof.

Modest Mouse – “Fire It Up”

“Fire It Up” is one of the standout tracks from Modest Mouse’s massively under-rated We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Eric Judy’s bass takes center stage here providing a slick groove that Modest Mouse is not usually known for.  Whether or not the song is about weed or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in Issac Brock’s chants. The closest the band gets to be catchy since “Float On”.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Funky Monks”

Flea has written so many classic bass lines that it’s hard to pick one as his best. For me, this one has always stood out. It’s the perfect balance between his slap-happy bass of the early days, and melodic. It’s also one of the funkiest songs ever recorded by a rock group. Flea’s playing is so goo that John Frusiciante is forced to mimic it throughout most of the song. As the song draws to its conclusion, Flea’s takes over the song, forcing Frusciante and Chad Smith to the backseat.

The Who – “The Real Me”

This might be the finest bass performance in the history of rock. As Pete Townshend and Keith Moon thrash away with all of their might, Entwistle’s fluid and commanding playing destroys everything in its path no matter how hard Moon and Townshend try. What makes his playing so unique here, is its existence inside the rhythm while simultaneously acting as the lead instrument. Impressive stuff.

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Repetition in Music

Repetition in modern is one of the most under-rated yet effective songwriting devices.  I’m referring to a chord progression or a chorus that repeats constantly for a bigger emotional pull than a song would have otherwise.  Early R.E.M. songs would often repeat the final chorus twice (sometimes three) for added special effect.

So here are so my favorite of said repetition, in no particular order.

The Beatles – I Want You (She’s So Heavy)  – This song is full of repetition.  It contains only 14 words, six of which are in the title.  What makes it interesting is the way on which Lennon sings the lyrics.  He croons, he yells, he moans all to represent the way that he feels towards Yoko.  Rarely has so much been said with so much.  As if that wasn’t enough, the famous arpeggiated guitar chord continues constantly with synthesizers and white noise for about 3 minutes leaving the listener hypnotized, and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable.  It doesn’t end until it suddenly stops, due to Lennon’s insistence they cut the tape for added effect.

The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show. The song starts out as a ballad, but exploded into a chant of “hey la hey la hey hey la” for about two minutes over which Neko Case gives perhaps her best vocal performance singing, “We have arrived – too late for the bleeding heart show.”  Personally, as great as this song is live, they should have kept the momentum going for another few minutes.

The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket. Although it sounds like a Mick Jones song with its heartfelt lyrics and mellon-collie feel, Joe Strummer actually wrote the song with Jones in mind.  “I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily.  I can in here for the special offer, a guaranteed personality,” Jones sings sweetly in the chorus.  After the short guitar solo, the music softens with Jones repeating the chorus several times before Topper Headon kicks the beat back up as Strummer sings the chorus gruffly in the background as Jones admits, “I’m all lost.”  One of the best tracks from one of the best albums ever.

Van Morrison – Madame George. The music doesn’t really repeat, but this contains song of Morrison’s most famous lyrical and vocal repetitions.  And this is saying something for a man who is already known for emphasizing lyrical phrases.  If you were ever to put an Impressionist painting to music, it would be something like Madame George. It’s slow jazzy feel pulls you in and takes you along.  The last 4 minutes of the song contain Morrison repeating “the loves  to love, the loves to love, the loves to love,” several times.  After that, he sings “say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to Madame George” like only Morrison can.  Whether or not Madame George is a drag queen or not, by the end of the song you feel like you’ve known him/her your whole life and you’re saying goodbye with Van Morrison.

Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer. Possibly Paul Simon’s greatest composition and an enduring favorite.  The verses contain some of Simon’s best lyrics about the narrator’s struggle to overcome poverty and his loneliness to make it in New York City.  This alone would make it a great song, but the repeated chorus of “lie la lie” makes it memorable and powerful.  Simon has stated about the song: “It’s not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it’s all right. But for me, every time I sing that part… [softly], I’m a little embarrassed.”  Don’t be embarrassed, Paul for writing one of the best songs ever.

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