Paul McCartney’s favourite bass line for The Beatles

With such a glistening legacy of multi-instrumental command, songwriting prowess and vocal harmony with The Beatles, it can be easy to forget that, first and foremost, Paul McCartney is a bassist. When he first joined John Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen, McCartney was a guitarist but fell into the role of bassist by necessity.

“Nobody wants to play bass, or nobody did in those days,” McCartney said in Many Years From Now. “Bass was the thing that the fat boys got lumbered with and were asked to stand at the back and play… So I definitely didn’t want to do it, but Stuart [Sutcliffe] left, and I got lumbered with it. Later, I was quite happy”.

“When we were in Hamburg, Stuart fell in love with a local girl called Astrid and decided he was leaving the group,” McCartney reiterated in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. “So we were now without a bass player. We couldn’t have three guitars and no bass. Nobody wanted to be the bass player in those days because it was always the fat guy playing bass. There seemed to be some sort of stigma attached to it.”

Despite his reservations, McCartney became rather attached to his Hofner violin bass but always preferred to play the piano or guitar as his main songwriting conduit. “I’ve never composed on the bass. Never. Not to this day”. It was only when The Beatles recorded ‘She’s a Woman’ in 1964 that McCartney began to take the role of the bass guitar more seriously.

“I have to smile at the fact that I turned out to be a bass player because my dad always used to point out the bass in songs we heard,” McCartney reflected in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. “He was a musician with Jim Mac’s Jazz Band, playing piano and trumpet, and he educated me and my brother on music appreciation. We’d listen to something on the radio, and he’d say, ‘Hear that? That’s the bass!’”

When one sees McCartney, one might not immediately think “bass guitar”, but the instrument has become dear to him through the years, and he cherishes the material he’s composed using it.

As part of a fan-led Q&A session held in 2010, the musician was asked to pick out his favourite bassline from the Beatles catalogue. “I kind of like ‘Day Tripper’, and I like it because it is a bit of a challenge to sing the song over it…and it’s not a bad bass line either!”

Despite this fairly succinct answer, McCartney has also named the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cut ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ as his favourite on another occasion. The psychedelic circus song was primarily written and sung by Lennon, leaving McCartney to focus on a colourful and complex bassline.

In 2014, a fan took to Twitter during another Q&A session to ask McCartney: “What’s your favourite bassline to play? One you really enjoy!” The Beatle replied, “At the moment it’s ‘…For the Benefit of Mr. Kite’. It’s challenging!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *