Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm Gonna Add Some Bottom

I heard Foreigner's "Feels Like the First Time" on the radio the other day, and for some reason I focused on the bassline. It just went bomp, bomp, bomp, stuck on the same note, banging out 4/4 time. It added nothing to the song, except for maybe a tonality to the bass drum. I guess there were a few points where the bassist - Ed Gagliardi was his name - played some different notes, but for the most part it was as monotonous as it could be.

(The song was followed on the oldies station I was listening to by the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper, with a bassline that gave the song a lot of energy and texture. All it took was a little bit of melody and a willingness to vary the rhythm. It's unfair to compare any other band to the Stones, but hey, maybe those guys in Foreigner should have been listening to them a little more carefully.)

My music library is seriously short on late-1970s arena rock, by design I might add, but as I recall that style of bass playing was very popular back then. Maybe it made sense in a stadium full of kids bobbing their heads to it as they held up their lighters. One other song I noticed the same bassline on was "Eye of the Tiger," which came out in 1982, five years after "Feels Like the First Time," so the basses were stagnant for at least half a decade.

As for Foreigner, Gagliardi was replaced by Rick Wills before Head Games in 1979, so at least they tried to do something about the problem.


Kinky Paprika said...

It was in approximately 1982 that Derek Smalls, Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins brought rock bass playing out of its low-end rut with the truly titanic "Big Bottom."

T. Nawrocki said...

I think "Big Bottom" was on Smell the Glove, which came out in 1982, but it didn't really become popular until This Is Spinal Tap came out in 1984.

But yeah, three basses will really put the hurting on conventional bomp-bomp-bomp bass playing.

Denver Doug said...

I just remembered this post when I heard Autograph's "Turn Up The Radio" yesterday. Must be maybe two notes played on the bass for 99% of that song.