The 1960s. What a decade, musically and culturally. And what a decade for the Precision Bass, which graduated from the root-fifth thump of the 1950s to sheer musical artistry in the 1960s in the hands of greats such as James Jamerson, Brian Wilson, Carol Kaye, Duck Dunn, John Entwistle and many others.
One of the first significant Precision Bass developments of the decade seemed to be the very height of irony; a design feature that seemed to controvert the very name of the instrument at the ever-experimenting hands of Fender itself.
An enduringly endearing Precision Bass recorded moment hit the charts in 1973 with the release of Pink Floyd’s massively successful eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon. Its lead single, “Money” boasted an irresistibly infectious Precision Bass riff by the song’s author, Roger Waters, while simultaneously accomplishing the unusual feat of becoming an enormous international hit that happened to be in an oddball (for rock music, anyway) 7/4 time signature.
In New York in 1976, bassist Douglas Colvin set the tone for much punk bass playing with a visceral, no-frills machine-gun style driven home using an impossibly low-slung Precision Bass. That year, his iconoclastic band released its seminal eponymous debut album, which inspired legions of imitators. The album, Ramones, sent shock waves through the rock world and heralded the large-scale arrival of a reactionary new musical movement that had been brewing since rock was born two decades earlier. And Colvin, under the stage name Dee Dee Ramone, never missed a single pumping sixteenth note.
Take, for example, Elvis Costello. Literate, angular, angry and bespectacled, he appropriated a decidedly punk-ish image that belied the obvious fact that he was an able and important new singer-songwriter. Costello assembled a ferociously formidable backing band in late 1977, the Attractions, that featured the nimble and melodically adventurous Precision Bass work of Bruce Thomas. Irresistably energetic early singles such as 1978’s “Pump it Up,” “Radio Radio” and “(I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea” and 1979’s “Oliver’s Army” and “Accidents Will Happen,” are all great examples of Thomas’s propulsive Precision Bass mastery.