Music for You: Where’d You Get Your Bass Lines?

Where'd You Get Your Bass Lines?

Several years ago, I was playing a small festival show in Pittsburgh, PA with Emily Rodgers Band. After the performance, Trevor and I walked around looking at the artisan booths. A man shyly approached us. He explained that he really liked the show and thought the music was beautiful. He was very nice. He reached out to shake my hand and said to me, “I really enjoyed your bass lines. Where did you get them? Your Dad?”

“WHERE DID YOU GET THEM? YOUR DAD?” – actual question about my bass lines

I couldn’t process the question. What does he mean?! I wondered. He was so serious and, after all, it was a compliment. I could think of no way to answer so I just smiled and thanked him. Little did he know the bass-related existential crisis that ensued. I mean, yeah, my dad plays a mean air bass (!) and appreciates the art of bass playing … but you know, he didn’t write my bass lines for me, and I didn’t actually inherit my bass lines from him. OR DID I??!

Years later, Trevor and I still have such fun with this! We replay the conversation and make up interesting replies. We have a whole fantastical mythos related to where, in fact, I got my bass lines. I don’t want to reveal too much, but there’s definitely a golden chest scene, not unlike the one from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

The Great Ak reveals his great ax!

So, where did I get my bass lines? Where did you get yours? Or your guitar licks, or your keyboard runs, or your vocal harmonies? Is it possible that biology can influence your musical tastes and abilities? Of course! What about culture and upbringing? No doubt! According to this 2016 study on where musical tastes come from, “nurture” probably plays a larger role than “nature” but the debate between the two is typically considered a fool’s errand as a combination of the two is much more likely. Well, what do you think? Where did you get your musical tastes and abilities?

I don’t know where our bass lines come from. Biology, personality, moods, company, context, and intention probably all play a role when writing. The music we heard as children, the music that was valued by our families, the music that we uncovered and adored in our coming-of-age years, the musicians we admire, the influential artists that we have the opportunity to play with and learn from (Trevor, here’s looking at you!) … and more must influence our writing. Maybe we’ll never know – exactly – where they come from, but it’s interesting to consider.

So let’s imagine that I did – in fact – get my bass lines from my dad. If this theory is true, then these songs have also shaped my bass playing.

My dad’s birthday was on Wednesday (Happy Birthday, Dad!) and I wanted to post this in thanks of his incredible and ongoing musical support! The first three songs have bass lines in them that my dad definitely loves. The rest are ones that I believe are on the top of his list and that I also heard a ton of growing up thanks to him! (I’m sure I missed a lot and maybe even have some on here that are “wrong.” Sorry, Dad!)

Music for You: Where’d you Get Your Bass Lines?

Roxy Music. “Beauty Queen” from For Your Pleasure (1973).

Foghat. “Slow Ride” from Fool for the City (1975).

Cake. “I Will Survive” from Fashion Nugget (1996)

Uriah Heep. “Traveller in Time” from Demons and Wizards (1972)

Deep Purple. “Highway Star” from Machine Head (1972)

Utopia. “Communion with the Sun” from Ra (1977)

Pat Benatar. “Hell is for Children” from Crimes of Passion (1980)

The Psychedelic Furs. “President Gas” from Forever Now (1982)

Big Head Todd and the Monsters. “Circle” from Sister Sweetly (1993)

Collective Soul. “Where the River Flows” from Collective Soul (1995)

Cake. “Never There” from Prolonging the Magic (1998)

Gogol Bordello. “Think Locally, Fuck Globally” from Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike (2005)

If you enjoyed this list of songs, check out more on our Music For You page.

Here’s your playlist.

What songs illustrate where you got your bass lines? What awesome bass songs did we miss that you like? Let us know! Be well!

Some notes: The “Where’d You Get Your Bass Lines” tale first appeared in my Punksburgh Inquisition. The cover photo for this post was taken by Trevor Richards and first appeared in The Long Hunt’s Wilderness Tales liner jacket. If you’re interested in actually hearing my bass lines, go to the links in the About section.