Tag Archives: rock

Trevor Bolder – A Great British Bass Player

It was a tragic loss to rock music when Uriah Heep’s bass player Trevor Bolder passed away in May 2013 after a brave battle against pancreatic cancer. For me Trevor was one of the greatest players of our generation, but at the same time he was almost criminally underrated outside of the rock fraternity.

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If you are not familiar with Trevor’s bass playing then I suggest that you stop reading now and go and listen to the driving ‘Watch That Man’ (Aladdin Sane – David Bowie), the fast rock’n’roll of ‘Hang On to Yourself’ (Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie) or the sublime, flowing lines in ‘Drive-In Saturday’ (also Aladdin Sane – David Bowie).

Tracks to listen to from his long career with Uriah Heep are really too numerous to list; but at least check these out –

‘The Wizard’ (the new version from Celebration)

‘Love In Silence’ (Sea of Light)

‘Shelter From The Rain’ (Sonic Origami)

‘Wise Man’ (Firefly)

‘Shadow’ (Wake The Sleeper)

A true Bass Great.

Early Years

Trevor Bolder was born on 9th June 1950 into a musical family. His father was a trumpet player, his brother was a guitarist and he was the nephew of an opera singer. Bolder said during an interview in 2003 that in his family “if you weren’t a musician, then you were a failure!” Bolder took up the cornet at the age of seven, and performed with local brass bands during his adolescence.

During his early teens Bolder saw the Beatles shoot to stardom so he and his brother bought two guitars. He later said “We needed a bass player, but he didn’t want to play bass, so it was down to me to learn and play it, and I bought me a bass”.

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Bolder began his professional musical career with the Rats along with Mick Ronson on lead guitar. He once bragged that he never played in a pop band, preferring the blues and rock instead. Bolder idolized the early blues players of the 1930s and 1940s such as Sonny Boy Williamson. Another influence on him was Jack Bruce who he had seen performing in Hull prior to the formation of Cream.

Trevor Bolder’s own musical style combined hard rock with harmony and melody. He played a heavier-style of bass, moving faster and harder than others of his era. Other critics described Bolder’s bass as unique, musical and showing shades of punk rock. The musical nature of his bass playing drove the great songs of Uriah Heep and the other bands he joined. Interestingly, Bolder could also play any brass instrument thanks to his early training on the trumpet and cornet. Bolder’s bass playing was marked by runs and flourishes, root notes and a lyrical yet driving thrust. He enjoyed making his bass playing have an edge with a melodic feel.

Guitar slinging also became a trademark of the Bolder style of bass playing. He claimed he did it all the time, and that it was not a planned event. Bolder said of the antics, “It’s just aggression, it’s just feel, it comes with the playing. It’s just part of it, part of the way I play.”

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Bolder joined the backup band for David Bowie in 1971, playing on four studio albums and appearing in the 1973 film and concert movie Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Multiple observers noted that Bolder never appeared comfortable in the latex and glitter rainbow-colored outfits and platform boots that were the standards for the Bowie “Ziggy Stardust” era. Bolder and the other Spiders were dismissed on stage by Bowie in 1973.

Uriah Heep claimed Bolder in 1976 when he replaced John Wetton. His first album was Firefly and he stayed with them for over three decades, apart from a brief interlude as bassist for the hard rock band Wishbone Ash. While with Heep, Bolder played bass and sang backup vocals along with songwriting and producing their 1991 album Different World.

When the Uriah Heep line up disbanded after the Conquest album, Bolder and Mick Box (the founder and guitarist) were all that remained. Attempts to form a new Heep line up were held up and Bolder decided to join Wishbone Ash in 1981 as their bass player. Coincidentally he replaced John Wetton once again. He stayed with them for two years before returning to a reconstituted Heep.

Bolder said in an interview in 2012 about his time in Uriah Heep “I have been friends with Mick Box for many years and we are just like brothers. We were born on the same day and seem to have a bond where we have the same thoughts. Uriah Heep is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. We have toured the world, playing at many different venues and achieved accolades that many big bands never achieve.”

Later, in addition to playing with Heep until shortly before his death, Bolder teamed up with Billy Rankin, Phil Lanzon, and Joe Elliott from Def Leppard as The Cybernauts. They performed as a tribute to Mick Ronson. The group staged five concerts in addition to the Ronson tribute shows while Heep was on hiatus.

Bolder always enjoyed writing rock songs as well as ballads. He stated, “I just sit down and plonk away on a guitar and see what comes out.” It was clear that ballads brought out the more romantic and lyrical person within Bolder.

After his death, tributes rolled in from Bowie, Heep and legions of fans and fellow musicians. Praise included a statement from David Bowie that Bolder was a “wonderful musician and a major inspiration for whatever band he was working with. But he was foremostly a tremendous guy, a great man.” Others noted that Bolder was “an all time great” and “one of the outstanding musicians of his generation.” One world-renowned producer raved that Bolder was “one of the finest and most influential bass players that Britain ever produced. His virtuosity and enthusiasm for the music made him a world-class bass player, singer and songwriter.”

Charles Shaar Murray, the renowned music journalist, said “Like all great musicians, he took the playing seriously and himself considerably less so”.

Mick Box said “Trevor was a ‘World Class’ bass player, singer & songwriter, and more importantly a World Class friend. He will be sadly missed by family, friends and rock fans all over the world” and Midge Ure stated that “Trevor was not only an incredibly tasteful and melodic bass player, as demonstrated on the Ziggy Stardust album but more importantly he was a great, down to earth man. He was ‘one of the good guys’ and that is an accolade only people who knew him could bestow”.

Fitting tributes indeed.

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John Entwistle – The Ox

Born on the 9th October 1944, John Entwistle lit up stages across the globe until the 27th June 2002.

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Entwistle was best known for his bass playing in British megaband The Who. In fact, he was the only member of The Who had had any kind of professional musical training prior to getting started. Over his years of success Entwistle has been the influence of hundreds of young aspiring bass players across the globe.

Growing up as an only child in London, his parents were both musical people and this evidentially was passed on to John. His parents went through a divorce, extremely rare at the time, and this led to Entwistle becoming a young recluse.

Having tried the piano, trumpet and French horn without any great or long-term success, his musical nomad years lasted until age 11. He met Pete Townshend and they formed a trad jazz genre band. His large fingers meant that he struggled to play the trumpet, and was recommended to try the guitar instead. Inspired by the tunes of Duane Eddy, he took up the bass and a legend was born.

He joined Roger Daltrey, a year older in Acton County School, in his band The Detours. john entwistle 2Both Daltrey and Entwistle encouraged Townshend to pick up the guitar and soon enough Townshend had joined them both in the band.

After your traditional young band changing names several times, they eventually settled on The Who. It was at this time that Entwistle dyed his hair black so that Daltrey would stand out from the others more.

In 1967, Entwistle married Alison Wise and they moved into a home in Acton, London. It was here that his taste for strange objects first materialised – from tarantula spiders to suits of armour adorning the walls and rooms of his home. By the time he moved to the Stow-on-the-World, away from the big city in the late 1970s, his Quarwood mansion resembled more of a museum than a home.

Known as “The Ox” because of his natural power or “Thunderfingers” because of his quiet persona off-stage but loud equivalent when he played, he was also one of the first to use Marshall Stacks to make himself be heard over the other band members. He even helped come up with new ways of playing the instrument with the likes of bi-amping, which makes use of both high and low bass sounds sent through separate signal paths, proving to be extremely powerful for the future.je1

He was part of The Who until 1971, when he released his own solo album alongside. He released seven solo albums in total, one of which was a collection of unreleased The Who music. As well as being a quality bass player, he was a fantastic artist and painter too.

He toured with groups like The Best and members of the Rat Race Choir throughout his later years. He also toured with The Who in the 90s, and he regularly played with various other bands and gigs across the globe until his untimely death.

He died in room 658 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas on the 27th June 2002. This was the day before The Who were to take on a US tour. It was determined that his death was brought on by a heart attack.

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John Taylor – Duran Duran groove master

john_taylor_duran_duran_91Born Nigel John Taylor, British bassist John Taylor is primarily known as the co-founder of MTV-era band Duran Duran. John Taylor claimed Roxy Music were his favourite band in his early teens. Other early musical influences included Paul McCartney, James Jamerson and the Chic bass player Bernard Edwards. He was born in Solihull, Birmingham in June 1960.

Taylor and art college friend Nick Rhodes created Duran Duran in 1978 along with Stephen Duffy. Drummer Roger Taylor was added later, and the Duran Duran sound was born. Taylor originally played guitar in the band, but switched to bass once Roger Taylor joined the group. The band name Duran Duran references “Dr. Durand Durand,” a character in the 1968 science fiction film Barbarella. Taylor’s philosophy to his instrument was summed up when he said “I don’t like the bass as a lead instrument. It’s OK to feature occasionally, but I’ve always thought that the best bass players you shouldn’t hear – you should feel.”

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During the early 1980s, Duran Duran was one of the most popular groups playing on newborn MTV. They had their first hit single in 1981 and they continue recording and performing today. The band’s early music featured melodic funk and disco bass lines from Taylor. Taylor described the music as “night music.” It was intended to be interesting, edgy and strong enough to get party-goers dancing.

As the early Duran Duran group began to split, John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor joined with singer Robert Palmer and drummer Tony Thompson of Chic fame to form the group The Power Station. They released one self-titled album containing the hit singles “Some Like it Hot” and “Bang a Gong (Get it On).”

John Taylor began his solo recording career at around the same time, recording a single for the 9 1/2 Weeks soundtrack. He spent time recording and touring with a side group, the Neurotic Outsiders, during 1995 and 1996. Taylor created his own company, “Trust the Process,” and recorded several more solo releases. He starred in the movie Sugar Town, along with appearing in several smaller TV and film roles over the next few years.

john-taylor-duran-duran-perform-live-at_3794167In 1996, John Taylor and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols created the independent record label B5 Records. Taylor sang, played bass and guitar on his solo album Feelings are Good (And Other Lies). These tracks featured vocals and instrumentals with a rougher, rawer quality reminiscent of punk and grunge music, unlike the pop/new wave style of Duran Duran. Taylor created and toured with a band called “John Taylor Terroristen” in 1997 and 1998, releasing a live album before signing with a Japanese record label. After the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Taylor vowed never to use the “Terroristen” name again.

John Taylor and the other original members of Duran Duran reunited in 2001. Taylor released one final solo collection titled MetaFour in 2002. Since their reunion, Taylor and Duran Duran have signed with Epic Records and released several albums. They performed their 2007 album Red Carpet Massacre in its entirety live on Broadway for 10 shows in 2008. Duran Duran released their 13th studio album in December 2010. They toured from 2011 to 2013 in support of their album All You Need is Now, stopping for performances at Coachella and SXSW.

Throughout the years, Taylor has favoured using his Japanese Aria Pro II SB1000 bass guitar, settling later on his Phillip Kubicki Factor bass featuring a drop-D latch on the head. He inherited the Music Man StingRay that belonged to his musical idol Bernard Edwards. In 2006, Peavey Guitars partnered with Taylor to create the 4-string limited edition “Peavey Liberator JT-84” bass guitar. A six-string “Peavey Liberator A435” guitar followed. Taylor and Peavey released only 100 each of the individually numbered and signed instruments.

Taylor released his autobiography, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran, in 2012. He recounts his turbulent early years, the Duran Duran superstardom and his own struggles with addiction and recovery. John Taylor has been in recovery since 1994. He was named Patron of Mount Carmel in February 2014 in celebration of his 19 years free from alcohol and drug addiction. The South London treatment center featured prominently in Taylor’s own recovery process.

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He received the Writers in Treatment “Experience, Strength and Hope” award in 2013, and also was voted the “Greatest Bassist” by Music Radar in 2013. These honours join the six Lifetime Achievement awards garnered by Duran Duran over the years, including one from the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards and another from the BRIT awards.

The BRIT Awards also presented Duran Duran with the “Outstanding Contribution to British Music” award after the band played live on the show in 2004. This was Duran Duran’s first life performance with the original five members in nearly two decades. So far, Duran Duran has sold over eighty million records around the world, and their latest album All You Need is Now debuted in the Number One spot in 15 countries.

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John Paul Jones – a Biography

jpj6John Paul Jones was born on January 3rd, 1946 and is best known as the bass and keyboard player and songwriter for Led Zeppelin. He is also a composer, arranger, record producer, and master of many instruments. His playlist includes bass guitar, six string guitar, keyboards, koto, steel guitar, mandolin, autoharp, violin, sitar, cello, ukulele and more. It was Jones who played the three over-dubbed recorder tracks on Led Zeppelin’s keynote song, “Stairway to Heaven.”

Jones began playing music as a member of his father’s dance band in 1960. The next year he formed his own band and then began to travel and perform professionally in 1962. He has left an indelible mark on rock and roll history since then. By the mid-1960s, Jones was working as director and arranger for several other groups, in addition to using his talents as a session keyboard player and bassist. In the 60s, he worked with the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds, the Everly Brothers, the Supremes, and many more.

The iconic Jimmy Page handpicked Jones to form Led Zeppelin in 1968 with Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham. The keyboard-based compositions of Jones’ were a central focus of their music. From 1968 to 1980, John Paul Jones and Led Zeppelin created 9 albums, one movie, and went out on nearly 30 tours.

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Jones is considered a highly influential musician, not just for bass and keyboards, but also his musical arrangements. Other bassists influenced by Jones include John Deacon (Queen), Geddy Lee (Rush), Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Gene Simmons (Kiss), and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana).

Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 after the untimely death of drummer John Bonham. Jones continued his musical career producing and arranging albums for other artists. He wrote songs and film scores, and built his own studio. In 1998, he recorded a solo album, Zooma.

jpj5Since going solo, John Paul Jones has collaborated with many artists such as Sir Paul McCartney and Brian Eno. He released Zooma in 1999, and his second album, The Thunderthief, in 2001. He has produced many artists and has recorded tracks with the Foo Fighters. Jones has also been known to jam at Bonnaroo, and he has participated in the Led Zeppelin reunion shows.

In 2009, Jones, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) joined forces as the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. They released a debut album that same year. They have toured and continued to produce albums since that time.

The list of Jones’ accolades is long. Chris Dreja, rhythm guitarist and bassist for The Yardbirds, called Jones, “The best bass player in Europe.” Jones consistently ranks among the best rock bassists in music magazines and other publications. He was named Best Bassist in Creem Magazine’s 1977 readers’ poll. Guitar Magazine ranked him third in the 2000 Bassist of the Millennium reader poll.

jpj3In 2010, Jones received the “Gold Badge Award” from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, a nod to his outstanding contributions to British music and entertainment. Later that year, the Marshall Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards gave Jones the “Outstanding Contribution Award.” In the US, President Obama honored the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.

Jones continues to tour, perform, compose and produce music to this day.

From a personal point of view John Paul Jones is the reason I got enthusiastic about the bass guitar in the first place. I heard ‘Led Zeppelin II‘ when I was (much) younger and the bass playing really got my attention – I hadn’t heard anything like it before. To this day I believe that the bass solo on ‘The Lemon Song‘ is one of the greatest performances committed to record, ever. That album inspired me to take up the bass, and Jones’ playing has been a constant source of inspiration and education since then.