the bass player: a walking perplex.

a work in progress, by sharyn november, ph.d.

Note, because clearly it's necessary based upon the email I've gotten: I am not serious about this; it's humor. And I am not a Ph.D.

The first guy I ever dated was a bass player. I have been involved or infatuated with more bass players over the years than is right or proper, considering.

Why bass players? I have no idea.

For one thing, they are passive-aggressive. Think about it. What kind of player likes to hang out in the back? Someone who doesn't want to deal with an audience. There aren't many bass-playing frontmen* (all I can think of right now are Paul McCartney, Mike Watt, Nick Lowe, Sting, Phil Lynott, and Chris Murphy from Sloan), and there's a reason why. They would rather let you make the decisions, and then they can work within the structure.

Maybe it has to do with that, or with the low frequencies, but bass players get depressed more easily than other people I know. They are like the Eeyores of any given band or project. The only cheerful bass player I know is Tony Shanahan. He must be an alien.

But he, too, is inscrutable -- another common bass player trait. You can never tell what's going on and they probably won't tell you directly if you ask them. (Thanks to Mark Lerner, who -- guess what? -- plays bass.)

They do have strong hands, which helps if your back is killing you.

I've really liked all of the bass players I've worked with, even if it did take me twenty hours to get a real answer out of them about anything. They never could tell me what they wanted, and they always wound up in these romantic relationships where the women did all of the heavy lifting. This is probably why none of my relationships with bass players ever succeeded: because I, too, am passive-aggressive.

* Reuben Radding, my avant bass-playing friend, reminds me of the following bandleaders:
In rock: John Wetton; Jack Bruce; Lemmy; Michael Gerald (Killdozer); Roger Waters. In jazz: Mingus; Charlie Haden; Milt Hinton. (Thank you, Reuben.) An anonymous bassplayer also adds Geddy Lee, Les Claypool, and Mark King. Others are Will Lee, Tina Weymouth and (duh) Brian Wilson.

Carol Kaye deserves a special mention. She and James Jamerson are my favorite bass players, with Duck Dunn the runner-up.

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