One of the tunes I use when warming up prior to rehearsal or practice is this one. Only the intro, but it gets the fingers and hands moving well I think. The sound is unmistakably The Stranglers, and is a really dirty, grungy tone which I love. I’ve written before about how much I like JJ Burnel’s playing, and this is one of the classic examples that illustrate why. The first few notes are enough to give me goosebumps. I hope you enjoy it too!
Dee and I have been making lists of all sorts of things which we’d like to do as a 30 day challenge. (She’s just coming to the end of a month without refined sugar or sweeteners, and I’m about to embark on a month without coffee.)
Though not a challenge, I thought I’d list a number of bass players and a separate list of tracks with great bass lines. This is because, well, I’m a bass player and I like songs with kicking bass lines! These lists are in no particular order, just go and check them out: at least some will make your hair stand on end if you concentrate on the bass line. Note, most are best played very loud!
- Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
- John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
- John Enwistle (The Who)
- Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine)
- Geddy Lee (Rush)
- Donald “Duck” Dunn (Booker T and the MGs, Blues Brothers, Stax house band)
- James Jamerson (Motown house band)
- Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
- Jack Bruce (Cream)
- Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience)
- Ramble On (Led Zeppelin)
- Sweet Home Chicago (Blues Brothers)
- I Wish (Stevie Wonder)
- Crossroads (Cream)
- Hysteria (Muse)
- Money (Pink Floyd)
- Pride and Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble)
- Pump It Up (Elvis Costello and the Attractions)
- Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (Ian Dury and the Blockheads)
- Good Times (Chic)
There are so many to choose from, it’s really hard not to just keep adding players and songs!
Ever had an ear worm? Not the invertebrate kind, but the piece of music that just goes round in your head and you can’t get rid of it? I’ve had one for the past couple of days, or rather, I’ve had a selection, all from The Stranglers.
While listening to a couple of tracks with Dee the other day, I apparently became very animated and passionate about the music. Maybe it’s because I insisted on playing (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) pretty loud, or because I was singing along to it, but I think what clinched it was the fact that I really love the following lines:
Stranger from another planet, welcome to our hole
Just strap on your guitar, and we’ll play some rock and roll
It’s hard to believe that any beings would travel the vast distances across space and time to visit us (sorry, but my logical, rational mind takes over sometimes), and a) they would have a guitar where they were from and b) they’d know how to play it! But if you suspend that belief for a bit isn’t it a wonderful thought? Music makes the world go round, all cultures have it, so why not extra terrestrials too?
As well as the lyrics, I think The Stranglers have been as successful and are as good because their keyboard sound is so very distinctive and leading edge. I’d go as far as to say that Dave Greenfield (the keyboard player) was one of the first experimental synthesiser players, pushing the boundaries with weird sounds and effects (just listen to Waltzinblack for example).
In tandem with the revolutionary keyboard sound and riffs, JJ Burnel’s bass playing is majestic. He has a gritty, dirty, full sound that is just awesome, and on the likes of Walk on By and Mercury Rising it just sets my hairs on end. I’ve tried a number of times to recreate the sound, but without the same bass, valve amps etc it’s practically impossible. Here’s JJ in action, the image has been copied from shukerguitars.co.uk.
Anyhow, if you want to give yourself earworms that’ll stick for days, check out the tracks named above, rejoice in the lyrics, and figure out some suitable songs to play for when that guitar weilding alien arrives!
Have you ever been to a place which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and your skin crawl? Is it the history of the place that’s got to you? Did something horrible happen there? Or is the history / purpose of the place totally unknown to you?
In my life, the places which were used for good have been significantly outnumbered by those which weren’t. For example, the three spookiest places I can remember visiting are:
- Glencoe in Scotland, where in 1692 members of the MacDonald clan was massacred by members of Clan Campbell on behalf of the English government;
- Culloden in Scotland, where in 1746 the Jacobite rebellion was crushed and Scotland finally subjugated by the English; and
- James Island, which is in the middle of the Gambia river and was a staging post for slaves before they were shipped to the Americas.
At all three, there’s a palpable sense that something “bad” happened. I didnt know the full story when I visited the first two but I still “knew” something nasty happened in the past. As for James Island – it was really hard walking over the island, looking at the ruined fort and cells where so many unfortunates were held before being forced on board ships with no idea of where they were going, or what was going to happen to them. (The Gambia is where Kunta Kinte, the first of the characters in Alex Hailey’s Roots came from.) There were a lot of tourists there when I visited over 20 years ago, and I don’t think there was a single person on the island who was unaffected.
I find it odd that I didn’t get that same skin crawling feeling at Auschwitz, and the only thing I can attribute that to is that perhaps my senses were so totally overwhelmed at the horror and scale of the place, that they were totally overloaded and unable to take it all in.
If I contrast that “bad” feeling with one that was almost euphoric, the first place that springs to mind (not including gigs / listening to music) is the Sanctuary near Avebury in Wiltshire, England. It’s a neolithic site which once had circles of wooden posts and, later, stones. My partner Dee and I were visiting one day recently and walked into the circle. She’d walked straight into the middle, while I remained on the periphery reading some information about the circle. As I walked towards her I stopped dead in my tracks, and could feel the hairs on my back, neck and scalp tingling, in a very pleasant way. At the same time, Dee said her hands felt as though they were burning with positive energy. As we left the circles, the feeling subsided, only to return when we walked back into the centre. After we left the site, the feeling of “good” lasted for half an hour or so – it was really strange!
What is it about places that give them the ability to make you react in either a positive or negative way? Is there any place in particular that makes you feel really good, or really bad, possibly without any logical exmplanation? I guess it’s just another of life’s mysteries…
Don’t you just love it when you hear a piece of music and it makes the hairs on your arms, neck, back – whatever – stand on end? And isn’t it amazing that the same piece of music can do it over and over again? This morning, on a whim, I put on Babylon’s Burning by The Ruts. Bang! Instant thrill, which intensified as the main guitar riff kicked in. A forgotten gem, but it’s going on my regular playlist from now on.
It set me thinking about other tunes that do the same, and wondering if it’s the music itself, or whether it’s a memory associated with the music, that is the cause of the whole hair-standing-on-end thing. For example, if I hear Go For It by Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) or The Dambusters March, I’m immediately transported to the times I’ve been waiting for SLF to come on stage, and I get severe goosebumps. So that’s definitely the memory – though both pieces of music are thrilling in their own right.
But then, if I hear something like the bass solo in Blondie’s Atomic, or John Paul Jones’ burbling bass line in Ramble On, that’s definitely the music. Same when I hear Hendrix playing Hey Joe. Is the response to them because they’re all well known, classic pieces of music that are deeply embedded in a common consciousness?
I dare say I shouldn’t forget classical music, and the fact that it can have the same effect. 1812 Overture anyone? Or Grieg’s Morning, Holst’s Mars, Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake are all incredibly powerful pieces, in different ways.
And it’s not just the instruments that can have the effect. Cousin Jack by Show Of Hands, Dylan’s The Hurricane – even Flower of Scotland – not only give me goosebumps but can also move me to tears. Lyrics are so important, and I think that every human emotion has been captured by someone at some time – you just need to want to go and find the songs that “speak” to you.