Sunday, October 10, 2010

"World's greatest bass line"

I put a link to my post about The Smiths on my Facebook profile, with this comment:

The Smiths as "the commodification of the critique of commodities." Oh shut up and dance! :-)

That led a friend to say, "What difference does it make?" And that reminded me of this story: It was sometime in the mid-eighties. I was at a party at Synergy, a co-op at Stanford, and the band was playing "Mystery Achievement," by The Pretenders. Jack Sayers was on bass, but I don't remember which of the specific bands he was in that was playing that night (Missy and the Boogiemen; The Heptiles?). And while that killer bass line was throbbing along, I found myself next to my friend Paul G., and I said to him, "World's greatest bass line!" And he agreed. A few moments later, I asked Paul, "Do you think the bassist knew it was the world's greatest bass line when he came up with it?" And Paul stopped dancing for a moment and said something like, "That's the question, isn't it? Did Rilke know how good 'The Duino Elegies' were while he was writing them? Or was he just writing them, so caught up in the act of creation that he did not think about how good they were? Does the genius know when he has produced a masterpiece?"

And then we went back to dancing!


rhabyt said...

We seem to be thinking in the same lines, or of the same lines.
The other question is did Pete Farndon come up with it, or did Chrissie Hynde (she is credited with the song)? What is it like being eternally associated with genius you did not author (for Farndon) or, alternately, forever singing a song whose best part is associated with someone else?

Then there is the crucial question (on which documentation on the internet disagrees):is it C#C#C#BABAAABC#E or is it C#C#C#BG#BAAAC#E ?

Andrew Shields said...

Rhabyt, I'm checking with the above-mentioned Jack to see what he played!

Andrew Shields said...

Here's what Jack says about "Mystery Achievement" (quoted with his permission); I had asked him if he played both figures or just one of the two, and said that I bet he played both:

"Ah, the nuance! Yes, the answer is both. I heard that crucial low G# sometimes in the line and would play it sometimes, especially in the intro to the tune. However, the raw power and edginess of the open A string often outweighed the subtle melodic interest of that half step, and I'd often go with the whole line just on the A string, especially as things got loud. It's unbelievable to me that anybody but a bass player would catch something like that. Amazing how easy it is to remember music we played and listened to from more than 25 years ago."