Peter Hook once said, “I’ve never liked to be hidden, and I don’t like to be patronised. I don’t buy into the idea that the bass player is the quiet one.” That is an ethos that his work with both Joy Division and New Order has embodied in a great rollicking rhythmic flow.
After watching the famous Sex Pistols gig Hook begged £35 off his mother and made his way down to the guitar shop. “The guy in the shop asked which one I wanted and that stumped me, I just kept saying ‘bass’ guitar. He must have thought, ‘God, I’ve got a right one here, another idiot from that Sex Pistols gig!’” explaining that he didn’t know the function and purpose of a bass guitar. But he was so passionate about music that he not only learned but mastered the instrument in a blink of an eye.
There was one song on this journey into musicianship, however, that made him truly proud to be a bassist. Speaking to the Guardian, Hook eulogised the magical effect that ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ by The Temptations had on him.
“I’m not musical. I didn’t start thinking about being in a band until I saw the Sex Pistols, and only became a bass player by default, because Bernard [Sumner] had a guitar,” he said of his entry to music. Unlike his Sex Pistols contemporaries Hook actually aimed to master the bass once they had inspired him to pick one up.
“Then I developed an interest,” Hook continues. “There was this woman bassist in the Motown house band called Carol Kaye. In this song, you hear her over the beginning, fantastic, a very musical bassline. I spent years trying to emulate it, but I was never that good at it. I don’t find imitating other people’s music easy at all. I remember being fifth in line for a Rolling Stones tour, early ’90s, when Bill Wyman left, and I was hoping against hope that I wouldn’t get the call to audition. I wouldn’t be able to play a Stones song if you put a gun to my head.”
Despite this humble declaration that imitation is not in his wheelhouse, he has still managed to craft some of the most iconic and prominent basslines in indie history and much of that has to do with the high-end stylings of Carol Kaye, who is perhaps the most hear bass player in history. The 1971 single ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ saw her style in full force for the track which was thrust to the top of charts for a couple of weeks. The bouncing sound caught Hook’s attention and he’s been rolling it out forevermore.
“The fact that my style on the bass is influential, I can’t fathom it, really … it’s just something that was encouraged by Ian [Curtis]. My excuse for playing high was that I couldn’t hear the bass when I played low – our amps were that bad – but Ian liked it. Every time we practised, he’d go, do it again, Hooky, do it again. Whereas Bernard would go, can’t you just follow the guitar? [laughs] I can’t actually.”