It’s always such a treat to get to hear isolated tracks from big hits no matter how far back they go. We can always learn something from them, and often there are surprises that are covered up by the entire mix. That’s the case here as we can listen to the Paul McCartney’s isolated bass parts from the entire Abbey Road album.
Yes, it takes a commitment to listen to all 48 minutes of this legendary and influential album, but it’s well worth the time spent. Here are a few things to listen for:
- McCartney’s bass is definitely miked through a modestly distorted amp (a silver-face Fender Bassman).
- The bass sound changes with every song. Sometimes it’s very mellow sounding, and sometimes it’s pretty bright. Paul reportedly used two different basses – his 1963 Hofner and a Rickenbacker 4001S.
- You can hear those EMI-modified Altec compressors at work as the bass sits solidly at one level throughout every song.
- The playing isn’t as tight to the drums as we would do it today. Remember that this was recorded way back in 1969 so the standard for tightness was a lot looser. Today we’d call some of the phrasing “mistakes” that would deserve a fix. Then it was not only close enough, it was right on to the production ears of the day.
- The bass was overdubbed on every song accept the first one – “Come Together.” There we can hear leakage from Ringo’s drums and Lennon’s voice so the entire band played together.
- By this time Paul had developed a workflow where he’d add the bass last after most of the other overdubs so he could more easily come up with bass lines that fit. You can still hear some leakage, but it’s the entire track leaking into the bass amp mic.
- The sound of the entire album was shaped by the installation of a new solid-state console – the EMI TG12345. This helped the bass sound greatly in that it was a bit deeper and more distinct from the band’s previous records.
Again, this is a whole lot of fun to listen to even if you only spot-check each song. Actually, going back to listen the Abbey Road album is great fun as well. I learned a lot and think you will too.