Nobody would doubt Paul McCartney’s contribution to music with his unstoppable songwriting talent within The Beatles. But what is often forgotten about the singer is that he was also an incredible bass player. Arguably one of the most influential bassists of all time, below we look at his talent more closely.
On The Beatles song ‘Hey Bulldog’ we’re given an up-close and personal look at McCartney’s bass playing. When you isolate that bass track then you get smacked right in the face with Macca’s rhythmic genius. You can find it below.
McCartney actually began his career with The Beatles, who were then known as the Quarrymen, as the band’s principal piano man. Joining in 1961, McCartney would only take over bass guitar duties when Stuart Sutcliffe left the band. Of course, Macca is well-versed with most musical instruments, something he has proved time and time again, but it’s on the bass that he rightfully made his name.
The landmark guitar he made that name on was bought when Paul was only 18. It 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 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, was seen and heard starting as early as that year’s ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. 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.
McCartney would use that bass to write some of the most influential music of all time. His inspirational basslines have reached far and wide with Rush’s Geddy Lee citing him as a direct influence: “Paul McCartney, I was a huge fan of his bassline. Some of The Beatles basslines are really inventive, really unusual. And quite, in their own way, considering it’s pop, quite busy.”
“They really change the song with what they’re doing. So I was always drawn to the bass players that had a sound that was different from your typical vroomy bass sound and I was always drawn to guys that wrote interesting melodies. What makes Paul McCartney and Squire such great bass player sis that they write melodies.”
One such track is ‘Hey Bulldog’ where Paul McCartney’s fingers are a match for any high order bass guitarist. McCartney has always been good at keeping it simple but the singer-songwriter also likes to mix it up every so often and the track, written for the band’s 1969 soundtrack album Yellow Submarine by Lennon, it’s fondly thought of by the Fab Four’s fans.
McCartney himself spoke fondly of ‘Hey Bulldog’ in 1994: “I remember (it) as being one of John’s songs and I helped him finish it off in the studio, but it’s mainly his vibe. There’s a little rap at the end between John and I, we went into a crazy little thing at the end.”
“We always tried to make every song different because we figured, ‘Why write something like the last one? We’ve done that.’ We were on a ladder so there was never any sense of stepping down a rung, or even staying on the same rung, it was better to move one rung ahead.”
Listen to Paul McCartney staying “one rung ahead” on the isolated bass for The Beatles’ ‘Hey Bulldog’ below: