A HERO FOR ALL BASS PLAYERS
Not one bass player out there -- be it Bootsy, Flea or Geddy -- doesn't envy the Clash's Paul Simonon for immortalizing the oft-forgotten role of the four-string plucker on the cover of one of the rock world's greatest albums London Calling. That the shot immortalizes the last seconds of a bass player's best bass (Simonon would regret not using the back-up) can be forgiven -- that a bass, and a bass player (even a faceless one) gets such focus is something the FBO heartedly backs.
Akin to an often bass tradition, Simonon was taught bass by a guitarist (Mick Jones of the Clash), but obviously went way beyond the 'put your finger there' type bass playing, as he put the reggae backbone to many Clash songs. He grew up as a football hooligan in Brixton, London (he'd later write and sing 'Guns of Brixton' on London Calling). That brash background, not to mention his looks (apparently Playgirl magazine once called him the 'hunkiest man'), certainly went a long way to help the Clash cause.
The cover shot -- photographed by Pennie Smith at a 1979 show in New York -- actually features Joe Strummer faintly in the back ground, but the focus is purely on the soon-to-die bass. Simonon later explained,"The show had gone quite well,but for me inside, it just wasn't working well, so I suppose I took it out on the bass." Simonon still has the pieces.
The only other album that FBO HQ can think of that so prominently features a lone member on a cover that's not a 'front man' or principal songwriter is the Rolling Stones' Get Your Ya-Ya's Out, with drummer Charlie Watts jumping with guitars in hand and a drum-toting mule behind him. Both album covers in question easily rank in the Top 20 best covers of all time.
--> Paul Simonon, we just want to thank you.
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY
**From March 22 to April 5, FBO is celebrating the forgotten, overlooked, abused or under-utilized bass by noting a handful of bass players you should know about.**