The year is 2000, I’m fourteen years old and I’ve been playing the bass for roughly 3 months. I’m sitting on my 20 watt Peavey Microbass amp in my friend’s garage. My first (and, unsurprisingly, worst) band, Lost Property, are midway through the weekly ritual of trying to recreate the music of our current heroes: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine and, of course, Green Day.
The new song for that week is ‘Basket Case’ and, while the rest of the band are taking a break, I’m staring at the TAB that I’ve printed off the internet and trying desperately to nail Mike Dirnt’s iconic hammer-on/pull-off fill, which seemed like the most impossible feat of technical wizardry I’d ever encountered.
Then, out of nowhere, it happens. For the first time, I manage to get my fingers to cooperate and my Peavey Milestone IV bass (blue sparkle finish, for those who are curious) finally produces that sound. Lost Property still sounded terrible, but a) we didn’t know and b) even if I had known, I wouldn’t have cared because I was grinning from ear to ear due to my newfound mastery of the hammer-on.
‘Basket Case’ remains one of Green Day’s most enduring anthems, and is something of a rite of passage for any teenager learning guitar, bass or drums. Mike Dirnt shows remarkable restraint in waiting 26 bars before coming in, providing propulsive picked quavers for four bars before dropping out again to leave space for the new guitar hook.
After the aforementioned melodic fill, it’s back to business as usual; root note based lines that emphasise the anticipated chord changes during the verse (look at the chart to see how the band push into every other chord change on the ‘and’ of beat 4) with the occasional diatonic flourish at the end of phrase where the vocals leave space. I’ve neglected to transcribe the fills, but the material is predominantly based on major arpeggios and the Eb major pentatonic scale.