As a bassist, Paul McCartney is somewhat unfairly disregarded, unlike when it comes to his magisterial command of songwriting. However, this isolated bass of the full Abbey Road album shows why he is underrated when it comes to the instrument.
Along with Ringo Starr, Macca formed a glorious rhythm section that played a crucial role in The Beatles sound and is part of why ‘The Fab Four’ managed to land a cultural dagger through the heart of society so forcefully. Interestingly, McCartney was never intended to be the bassist, but after the departure of Stuart Sutcliffe, it was left to Paul to fill in and be a team player.
McCartney was 18 when he bought his first trademark Höfner 500/1 violin bass, a right-handed model that he turned upside down, for the equivalent of around £40. He played variations of the guitar throughout his career with The Beatles right up until their famous rooftop concert.
When The Beatles made Abbey Road, it was clear that the end was nigh for the group, but they created a masterpiece amid the madness. Famously, the relationship between John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr became fractured, yet, with the assistance of their old trusted producer, George Martin, who worked his magic.
“Nobody knew for sure that it was going to be the last album – but everybody felt it was,” Martin later admitted in Anthology. “The Beatles had gone through so much and for such a long time.
“They’d been incarcerated with each other for nearly a decade, and I was surprised that they had lasted as long as they did. I wasn’t at all surprised that they’d split up because they all wanted to lead their own lives – and I did, too. It was a release for me as well.”
Even though, as individuals, they had grown sick of each other, divine alchemy took place when they put all that aside and entered the recording studio. Allen Klein’s arrival at Apple Records was a major reason for the turbulent feeling among the band members. ‘Carry That Weight’ was McCartney’s way of summing up his headspace during the album’s recording.
“It was ‘heavy’. ‘Heavy’ was a very operative word at that time – ‘Heavy, man’ – but now it actually felt heavy,” he said. “That’s what ‘Carry That Weight’ was about: not the light, rather easy-going heaviness, albeit witty and sometimes cruel, but with an edge you could exist within and which always had a place for you to be. In this heaviness there was no place to be. It was serious, paranoid heaviness and it was just very uncomfortable.”
Remarkably, that animosity didn’t poison the record, and The Beatles managed to hide the toxicity that was bubbling away under the surface on Abbey Road. It’s a permanent fixture in all-time favourite album lists, and that’s because each follicle of the record combine so heavenly, as McCartney’s isolated bass confirms.