Of James Paul McCartney’s many marvelous feats as a bassist, the two which never fail to take my breath away are his lines on “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” and “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” – especially in the chorus of the latter. The parts are technically simple – I could teach them to an able beginner in a few lessons. However Paul’s bass playing on those songs characterize this extraordinary man and his music. In every phase of his storied career, Macca’s bass magic springs from his exquisite voice leading.
His note choices joyfully defy custom and thus weave conventional chord changes together into a grand, multi-colored musical tapestry. And Paul renders it all by way of his utterly splendid rhythmic intuition – played purely from the heart. I don’t know dance nor ballet from bullocks, but to my ears, the totality of Sir Paul’s bass artistry moves akin to Nureyev, Alvin Ailey, Fred & Ginger, and Gene Kelly!
And even more intriguing is the mystifying way in which Paul’s bass lines continually reveal a story within the story of a song. Whenever a musical colleague asks me to contribute bass to a new composition, the first question I ask myself is “what would Paul McCartney do here?”