Is Pino Palladino the most widely revered bass player of the moment? Quite possibly; in the last 20 years alone the Welsh bass wizard has managed to land sideman gigs with high-flying artists in almost every genre following his appearance on D’Angelo’s groundbreaking Voodoo (2000), which catapulted him from neo-soul bassist of choice to everyone’s bassist of choice, including (but by no means limited to) John Mayer, The Who, Erykah Badu, Paul Simon, Adele, Nine Inch Nails and Ed Sheeran.
But before there was the post-millenial, laid-back, Precision bass-toting Pino that we know today there was the 1980s, high-register, fretless Stingray-wielding Pino who also managed to record and tour with the biggest names of the time, including (but by no means limited to) Gary Numan, Paul Young, Don Henley, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins.
Some people have all the
luck talent, right?
Paul Young and Pino’s collaborative relationship spanned a decade and five albums, many of which feature glorious quantities of Pino’s fretless work pushed right to the front of the mix; Young’s second album, The Secret of Association (1985) is no exception. The album’s singles, ‘Everytime You Go Away’ and ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’ are both propelled by Pino’s melodic fretless work.
Pino’s standout bassline on ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’ doesn’t just support the song – it is the song. Take a look at the transcription to see how he takes a simple, two-chord framework and uses a balance of repetition and variation to craft a memorable line full of melodic hooks.
There are a few areas of the transcription that deserve explanation in order to aid your performance of ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’:
Octave Pedal Usage
Before we get into the notes themselves, let’s discuss the all-important sound of the bass on the recording. Pino was most likely using his fretless Musicman Stingray with an octave pedal (I’m guessing it was a Boss OC-2 given the era) set to roughly equal quantities of wet and dry signal; this setting gives the sound a synth-like sub octave whilst still retaining clarity.
The fretless bass allows for a much wider palette of fretting hand expression that its fretted equivalent – the lack of frets means that slides and vibrato can be achieved with less resistance, affording fretless players a more ‘nuanced’ approach to articulation. Almost every quarter note in the song is played with some sort of vibrato, so I opted not to notate most of it in order to prevent the transcription from being too crowded; study the recording and use your ears to get a feel for Pino’s vibrato.
Pino makes liberal use of slides and hammer-ons to add to the synth-like feel of the part. Most of his ideas are relatively straightforward, but fill at bar 29 might need some planning – I find it easiest to play the first four notes all on the D-string before descending.
Bar 99 features the ear-grabbing sound of a sliding harmonic – this is a popular technique on fretless, but also works on a fretted bass; you can push down on the note once you’ve plucked the harmonic and ‘push’ it up or down the fretboard. Hours of fun.
Finger Funk Fury
Given that most of the bass part to ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’ makes frequent use of space the avalanche of constant 16th-notes in the outro section comes as something of a shock to the system. Pino’s part here has a definite Jaco feel to it (think about ‘River People‘) and the patterns are a real test of right-hand technique – he’s outlining two arpeggios (Gm11 and Cm7), so experiment with as many fingering possibilities as you can think of until you find the best way to fit them on your bass.