The Beatles’ iconic track ‘Something’ is an undisputed masterpiece, one that George Harrison usually takes the plaudits for with Paul McCartney’s bass on the track being criminally underrated — until now, when you can hear it isolated in all of its glory.
McCartney’s talent on the bass is often overlooked, the musician never quite finding himself in the conversation for the greatest to ever pick up a four-string but what he did with the instrument was revolutionary. He, along with Ringo Starr, formed a world-beating rhythm section that was up there with the best of them and, although Macca is more adored for his songwriting skills, on ‘Something’ you can hear the greatness of Paul’s bass.
Originally, Macca didn’t actually join The Beatles as a bass player and only started on the instrument after Stuart Sutcliffe left the band. 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 and was seen and heard starting as early as ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ that 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.
Possibly one of the best performances by McCartney comes on ‘Something’, a number which Frank Sinatra once called “the greatest love song in the last 50 years”. The song is steeped in Harrison’s love for both Pattie Boyd and for his newfound spirituality, and while the song is beautifully hung on the lyrics but the bass line is just as gorgeous.
Check out McCartney’s isolated bass on the Abbey Road classic, below.