There are not many instruments that the incredibly talented Sir Paul McCartney can’t play and, in truth, there aren’t many he didn’t play on The Beatles records. From lead guitar to the drums and back to the piano, Macca is across the entire catalogue of the Liverpudlian legends. That said, one instrument will always be attached to the iconography of Paul McCartney, his bass guitar.
The singer-songwriter has been famed for his voice, for his exceptional ear for music and his uncanny pop sensibilities. But atop of all that he is a fantastic bass player too. The isolated bass track on ‘Come Together’ is a shining example of how the musician developed a unique melodic rhythm that would permeate the band’s biggest hits.
Despite The Beatles not touring for a large part of their career, the group’s image as a live unit is still imprinted on the collective consciousness of music lovers everywhere. One such engrained tableaux is that of McCartney and his bass. McCartney’s landmark guitar, bought when Paul was only 18, had humble origins: “Eventually, I found a little shop in the centre of town, and I saw this violin-shaped bass guitar in the window,” he told Tony Bacon for a Bass Player cover story back in the summer of 1995.
The original guitar McCartney bought was a Höfner 500/1 violin bass, a right-handed model that he turned upside down for the equivalent of around £40. While the guitar was stolen during the late sixties, he did have a spare which was given to him by Höfner in 1963. The instrument was seen and heard starting as early as ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ which was released that very same year. Macca played the guitar from then all the way until the final ‘Let It Be’ rooftop concert in 1969. Some say Paul still has the setlist from the last Beatles, from 1966, taped to its side.
While we can’t be sure about that fact, we can be sure that what he did with that guitar, and any other guitar the musician has picked up, created moments of pure, blissful pop perfection. None more so, than on one of the most iconic basslines of all time, Abbey Road‘s ‘Come Together’.
The Höfner may have a woody tone that feels entirely unique to Macca. The truth is, however, while McCartney played a few different bass guitars across The Beatles records, it wasn’t the guitar but the person playing it that brought that typical Beatles rhythm.
‘Come Together’ was written primarily by John Lennon but credited to Lennon–McCartney. It acts as the opening track on their 1969 album and was also released as a single coupled with ‘Something’, it remains one of the Beatles’ fans favourite ever songs from the Fab Four.
Lennon originally wrote the song as part of a campaign for Timothy Leary, before the singer recognised the potential of the Chuck Berry inspired rocker. Lennon told Sheff of the track: “I came up with this, ‘Come Together,’ which would’ve been no good to him — you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right? Leary attacked me years later, saying I ripped him off. I didn’t rip him off. It’s just that it turned into ‘Come Together.’ What am I going to do, give it to him?”
When speaking in 1969, McCartney shared his appreciation for the song saying, “I like ‘Come Together,’ which is a great one of John’s,” during the promotion of the album. The record and the song would go on to be a lasting impression of the Fab Four. Something that would not have happened without the song’s legendary bass line.
Listen below to Paul McCartney’s isolated bass track from ‘Come Together’.