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Rocco Bongoletti and the Humperdincks

Just kidding. That’s the Spiral Starecase. Hey, don’t blame me. I can spell, they can’t.

It’s finally warm and sunny here, first time all year. I was just about to give up and put out the markers for the snowplow driver to navigate the driveway, but maybe we’ll have at least a three day summer this year. Just not three days in a row.

Summer always calls for listening to guys in tuxedos declaiming their love for girls in hot pants, while driving Chevies with the top down, filtered through the ether and transmogrified by the AM radio in the dash with the tiny speaker. But on the internet, you can watch the bass player do his steps while he plays. Not steps, exactly; more like a handicapped ramp shimmy. Sublime!

Happy Summer!, for tomorrow it’s probably Merry Christmas! again.

Bass Lessons

[Editor’s Note: Written in December of 2008 and never used. Not sure why]

Author’s Note: Don’t ask me; I just write the stuff. There is no editor]

I (used to) play the electric bass. It’s not a bass guitar, although everyone calls it that. There actually is an instrument called a “bass guitar.” It has six strings and is tuned lower than a regular guitar, but it’s not a bass. A bass is that doghouse with the four strings. The electric kind hangs on your neck and gives you a bad back (left side), deafness, and a couple hundred bucks a night for as many nights as you’ll show up, because every other person in the world is an unemployed guitar player. Own a bass and you’ll always work.

That’s what my brother told me all those years ago. He actually knows how to play the thing properly. Everything I learned about it he taught me in one afternoon in his freezing cold, decidedly downscale apartment in Providence RI. I never had to learn anything other than what he taught me that day, and I’ve forgot half of that, and I could still work every night if I wanted to. I don’t. No one owns one, shows up, and plays bass — instead of monkeying around like the guitar player they wish they were on the wrong part of the neck.

But you need bass lessons, and I’m busy and don’t know how to play, and my brother’s busy and in lives in LA, so we’re stuck with YouTube. I’ll teach you everything you need to know right now.

You have to play the blues first. It’s easy. Just shut the hell up and never venture past the fifth fret. There are only three chords, and if you play with John Lee Hooker he’s not even interested in all three of those. Muddy Waters will show you how:

That’s the first song I played for money three days after my lesson. I stunk, but everybody else did too, and they practiced so they had no excuse. The audience was drunk, what difference would it make?

You can actually practice, and you can hang all sorts of musical drapes on that framework. Like Miles Davis’ friend Paul Chambers:

But you’re a hack whitebread dude. You gotta eat too. Duck Dunn will show you the way to play in barbands where the all the fights are merry and the dancing is violent:

Nuffin’ to it. But what if you want to play pop music? Well, it’s really just tuba parts from the music hall. Macca gets it.

He sings OK, too. Remember, no matter how bad you sing, make sure there’s a microphone in front of you or you’ll make less money than the other guys. Even Ringo figured that out eventually.

But you need rock music, too. The thudding kind, not the Beatles kind. You only need to learn one song –any song– by any one of a dozen bands with guys that go to Chest Hair Club for Men. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd; makes no nevermind. This is as good as any:


If you want to play like a real bass player, you’ll have to devote your life to figuring out what the hell got into James Jamerson to make him play like that on all those Motown records. Good luck. How Einstein came up with the special theory of relativity is an easier poser.

Got all that? Me neither. I used to try to play like 10 percent of that and had to sing over it, too. The seizures are getting better, now.

Reggae bass playing is easy. Just play like James Jamerson, only backwards.


But you’ve got to learn one lesson, and learn it fast: Girls don’t want any of that. They want to dance, and they don’t want it too sophisticated. This was the National Anthem of girls in a tube top right up to the present day: Easy, too. The song, I mean:


See, even Helen Reddy will have an extra sloe gin fizz and get jiggy when that’s going on.

There you have it. You’re qualified to make a crummy living from 8 PM to 3 AM three nights a week and two weddings a month. Hope your girlfriend has a comfortable couch.

What’s that? Country music? Which country? Our country? Don’t bother. There’s only two notes, and neither is all that compelling.

Day: July 17, 2009

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