The History of Cool Bass Playing
When I was growing up, one of my favorite bands was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
They were formed at a high school me and my friends used to hang out at when we were ditching classes in the Valley.
We would ditch classes and catch a bus that would go from Victory Boulevard all the way to Hollywood. And at the end of that line is Wilshire. And around that Wilshire-Fairfax area is Fairfax High School, where the Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed.
They were high school students there. And one of the guys has always stood out from the rest of the band. And it’s almost mind blowing why he stood out because he played the bass. And if you follow rock music, it’s usually the bass player who is the most demure.
If you don’t believe me, think Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. Not exactly the guy who hogs the center stage. That would be Robert Plant or Jimmy Page. He just leans back, plays the bass, chills out, and cranks out one amazing song after another.
The same applies with the guy who plays bass for The Who. I even forgot his name, but he’s there. And The Who, of course, produced good music.
My point here is that bass players normally do not stand out in front of the band. They don’t grab the spotlight. They don’t get a lot of eyeballs. But what really made the Red Hot Chili Peppers stand out, at least as far as I was concerned, was Flea, their bass player. Because if you’ve ever watched Flea play the bass, it really is a true performance art.
I’m going to give you a few minutes right now to load up YouTube and type in “red hot chili peppers flea bass.” You’d be blown away. I mean, Flea is just a one-man band, in and of himself. Really. I mean, there’s really no other way to describe it.
He takes frenetic bass playing to a much higher level. And he does it with a lot of soul and creative energy. It’s like an explosion. He moves his head and his body, and it’s like he’s going through some sort epileptic fit. You don’t know if this guy’s having a seizure or is possessed by some sort of unclean spirit or is doing some sort of ritual aboriginal dance. But it really is quite catchy because when you zero in on the bass notes and his frenetic dancing, it really is just nothing short of amazing.
So that, to me, highlights the history of cool bass playing. Because for the most part, bass was cool in the sense that it’s in the background. It’s nondescript. It didn’t really have much action. It’s cool in that respect. Almost close to being cold.
But Flea, with all his frenetic action and larger than life persona, really redefined cool bass playing that you can be active. You can put yourself front and center and still crank out amazing bass music.
Do yourself a big favor. If you’re a big fan of bass playing, look up Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on YouTube right now. You would be blown away.
My favorite song that really highlighted his really weird and beautifully amazing bass playing style is their live performance of Sexy Mexican Maid on The Friday Show. I believe that’s the title of the YouTube video. Check it out and be prepared to be blown away because there’s a nice little surprise at the end of the clip. I’m not going to blow the surprise, but if you love rock music, it would put a smile on your face, guaranteed.