BASS IN YOUR FACE: Isolated bass parts of Sonic Youth, Rolling Stones, The Police, Rick James & more

Poor bass players. In the hierarchy of rockbandland, even the mercenary backup singers get more love. Like a drummer, a crummy one can wreck your band, but unlike a drummer, even a superb bass player can fade into the background, seeming for all the world like a mere utility placeholder while the singer, guitarist and drummer all get laid. Before the ‘80s, the bass player was perceived as the would-be guitarist who couldn’t make the cut and got offered a reduction in strings as a consolation prize. Since the ‘80s, bass has been the “easy” instrument a singer hands off to his girlfriend to get her in the band.

It’s all a crock of utter shit. A good bass player is your band’s spine, and is a gift to be cherished.

An excellent online resource for bassists,, has links to an abundance of isolated bass tracks, from celebrated solos to deep cuts to which few casual fans give much thought. There are, of course, song-length showoffs like “YYZ” and “Roundabout,” but there are unassuming gems to be found too. Check out how awesome Tony Butler’s part is in Big Country’s kinda-eponymous debut single. It wanders off into admirable weirdness, but when the time comes to do the job of propelling the song forward, this shit is rocket fuel.


Though Sting has been engaged in a long-running battle with Bono to see who can be the most tedious ass to have released nothing of worth in over 25 years, listening to his playing in the Police serves as an instant reminder of why we even know who he is. The grooves in “Message In A Bottle” are famously inventive and satisfying, but even his work on more straightforward stuff like “Next To You” slays. You can practically hear the dirt on his strings in these.



Funny, as much of a trope as “chick bass player” has become, loads of time spent searching yielded almost no isolated tracks from female bassists. Which is ridiculous. The only one I found was Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, heard here on “Teenage Riot.” It takes a bit to work up to speed. Taken on its own, it’s a minimal, meditative, and quite lovely drone piece.


Here’s a gem—a live recording of Billy Cox, from Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, eating “All Along The Watchtower” for breakfast.


This one was a revelation—the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman on “Gimme Shelter.” I knew this was a great bass part, but there’s stuff in here I’ve never heard before, and it’s excellent. I should have been paying more attention.


But is there “Super Freak?” Oh yeah, there’s “Super Freak.”


I searched mightily to find isolated bass tracks from Spinal Tap’s gloriously excessive ode to both low-ends, “Big Bottom,” before I realized there would be absolutely no point in doing that. So I leave you with the unadulterated real thing.

Previously on DM: The incomparable James Jamerson: isolated

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Neil Young and Rick James’ garage band, The Mynah Birds, 1965

In 1965, a year before hooking up with the musicians who would form The Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young had a brief stint in a Canadian rock group called The Mynah Birds fronted by Rick James (yes, THAT Rick James). At this point in James’ career he was known as Ricky James Matthew and did a stellar imitation of Mick Jagger. The group had a raw exciting sound that hinted at The Stones, Them, and various American garage bands. The Mynah Birds nailed a deal with Motown Records (the first white band to do so) and recorded sixteen tracks in Detroit. But things turned bad.

In his authorized Neil Young biography, Shakey, Jimmy McDonough describes the scene:

The Mynah Birds—in black leather jackets, yellow turtlenecks and boots—had quite a surreal scene going. The band was financed by John Craig Eaton of the Eaton’s department-store dynasty. Legend has it he poured money into the band, establishing a bottomless account for the band’s equipment needs.

Those lucky enough to see any of the band’s few gigs say they were electrifying. ‘Neil would stop playing lead, do a harp solo, throw the harmonica way up in the air and Ricky would catch it and continue the solo.’

Unfortunately, everything screeched to a halt when James was busted in the studio for being AWOL from the navy. “We thought he was Canadian,” said Palmer. “Even though there are no Negroes in Canada.” A single, “It’s My Time,” was allegedly pulled the day of release, and the album recordings were shelved and remain unreleased to this day.”

Here’s a couple of hard-rocking tracks from the legendary Motown Mynah Birds’ sessions. The musicians are Young and future Buffalo Springfield member Bruce Palmer and Goldy McJohn and Nick St. Nicholas who would later establish Steppenwolf with John Kay.

“It’s My Time” was co-written by Young and James:

“I’ll Wait Forever”:

“I’ve Got You In My Soul “:

“Go On And Cry”:

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Funky Litigation: Rick James on ‘Judge Joe Brown’
05:33 am


Rick James
Judge Joe Brown

More daytime TV courtroom drama featuring rock stars!

The perfect follow up to the Judge Judy clip featuring John Lydon I posted earlier this week, this time it’s the turn of the super freak himself, Mr Rick James, to stand in the dock, on the show Judge Joe Brown.

James is there to sue the pants off guitarist Jeronne Turner, to whom he lent a guitar and amp which subsequently got stolen from Turner’s car. That’s some cold blooded shit right there, Rick!

(In case you’re not familiar with “Cold Blooded”, James’ excellent slice of minimal electrofunk from 1983, you can hear it here. Apparently the song was inspired by James’ relationship with Linda Blair.)

Perhaps not as cold blooded as James claiming that Turner, who apparently has “a little sugar in his tank” (though he has no problem with homosexuals he is at pains to stress) groped James’ butt for a period of 40 or so seconds when they were hanging out in Club Hollywood. James is still happy to let Turner call him “Rick” just as long as he pays him. He even admits at the end, in fact, that if he WAS gay, he’d marry Turner!

As ever, Rick James is highly entertaining. If you crave more courtroom action, there’s some more videos of rockers in the dock on this excellent post on the Yuppie Punk blog. It’s fairly old now, so some of the clips have been taken down, but I’m sure if you hunt around you can find them.

Thankfully, this one still exists in its entirety:

Note: I can’t find a date for this clip - anyone have any ideas? The show first aired in 1998 and James died in 2004, so there’s the ball park.


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Black Devil Doll: A cult movie without much of a cult
09:51 am


Rick James
Chester Novell Turner
Black Devil Doll

The truly perplexing, er,  “film” Black Devil Doll from Hell, would be on a lot more of those “100 Worst Movies of All Time” lists, if more trash cinema buffs were aware of its existence.

Made on a camcorder in 1984 for a buck or two by a character named Chester Novell Turner, Black Devil Doll from Hell is an obvious—and absurdly brain-damaged—rip-off of the cult classic TV movie, Trilogy of Terror, starring Karen Black. The plot, if there is one, revolves around a church-going woman who buys what appears to be a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy in blackface and dreadlocks. He is demonically possessed, comes alive and does bad things to her. Sexual tings! The crappy text only opening credits last nearly 8 minutes! And the music… don’t get me started on the music…

The so-bad-that-it’s-absurdly-bad, Black Devil Doll from Hell is something that came and went on the tape trading underground scene, but now it’s being released in December in a deluxe DVD with a limited edition 3-D lenticular cover for the first 1000 buyers.

A 2007 porno parody was even produced, which is odd because who saw the original to begin with?

The official Black Devil Doll from Hell website.

The BDDFH Facebook page

Here’s a clip of the opening scenes. I kept expecting him to yell “I’m Rick James, bitch!” but it never happened.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘U Can’t Kiss This’: Tom Jones, Prince, MC Hammer and Rick James
10:02 pm

Pop Culture

Tom Jones
Rick James
MC Hammer

Mashup of the week. U Can’t Kiss This.

Thanks, Al­pha1999.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment