DISCLAIMER: I had some trepidation about posting this. It will surely come as a blow to the bass playing community. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t censor myself and avoid controversy. Then the terrorists have won.
Iron Maiden was formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris. This is where the facts end and the opinions begin: This guy’s bass playing is just WAY too busy for my taste. Metal bass players are like trophy wives: better seen and not heard. Steve Harris just shows utter contempt for my sensibility. To give credit where it’s due, I do enjoy some of Iron Maiden’s stuff. Growing up I became very familiar with their album and poster art adorning my brother’s walls. But this Steve Harris really chafes my caboose. What’s the deal, man? You might as well play a baritone guitar. Too many notes! Too much melody! Leave that to the other TWO-TO-THREE GUITARISTS that are on stage. That’s just ridiculous. You might wonder who I consider to be a good heavy metal/hard rock bass player. Here’s some people you could learn from, Steve:
Rex – Pantera
Cliff Williams/Mark Evans – AC/DC
Cliff Burton/Jason Newsted – Metallica
Michael Anthony – Van Halen
I appreciate the “less is more” approach. A lot of people shit on Michael Anthony – Van Halen included. They are wrong. Besides his bass playing, the guy just sings the shit out of those backing vocals. Furthermore, how many can drink Jack Daniel’s out of their own bass? I bet that doesn’t jive well with the current 12-step regime in the Van Halen camp. You can kick him out and replace him with a teenager, you can take his name and pictures off the records, but you can’t fill the place in my heart reserved for one Michael Anthony Sobolewski: bass-playing mastodon and hot sauce mogul. I left out practitioner of the Polack arts. I guess it’s similar to Lars Ulrich’s reputation as a drummer. Say what you want about his skill, I believe that what he played on those albums is perfect for those songs. For christ’s sake, don’t even get me started on Billy Sheehan.
Not that I despise virtuosity in bass players. Here’s a few who have tremendous ability AND exercise taste:
John Entwistle R.I.P. (this is actually quite contentious)
I don’t mean to be a picky, I just really take exception to his bass playing. It’s entirely possible that in time my annoyance could turn into adulation. The same thing happened with my perception of Michael McDonald. His voice is simply amazing. What can I say, weird things happen to you as you get older.
Steve Harris will surely refuse to confront me on this subject. So I’ve taken some liberties and formed a rebuttal for him. I give you Steve’s rebuttal.
Steve Harris: I see you’ve taken me to task for my bass riffs. You’re the one with issues, mate, sod off! I’ll play whatever I bloody want! My millions of fans don’t seem to mind.
Mike Jada: Sure Steve, just keep consoling yourself. I AM one of your fans, and I’ve got a legitimate bone to pick here. You fail to adhere to the traditional role of heavy metal bass player. This act is unconscionable.
Steve Harris: Eh, mate, Maiden IS MY BAND. I write the songs. I tear those basslines apart. No one wants it any other way.
Mike Jada: Touche, Steve. Even still, just exercise a little taste. That’s all I’m asking for. The end of “Can I Play With Madness” sounds almost like Billy Sheehan, for Christ’s sake. Otherwise it’s perfect pop metal. Could you not have exercised just a little restraint? Just once?
Steve Harris: Oh, c’mon! That’s ludicrous! Don’t lump me in with Sheehan!
Mike Jada; No, Steve. No. You asked for it. Your bass runs are just pure virtuosity, but there’s no place for it!
Steve Harris: I thought the fans were into virtuosity. Who am I to let’em down? I’m not on the dole, I’m no slacker!
Mike Jada: Steve, Steve, Steve… of course we love virtuosity! But it’s like you’re killing us with kindness. Look at Yngwie Malmsteen. Nobody cares about him anymore, he has faded from relevance.
Steve Harris: I love Yngwie.
Mike Jada: Yeah, but he’s a fossil, Steve. A fossil And so are you if you don’t smell the changes coming. You gotta have taste!
Steve Harris: Well what about Eddie?
Mike Jada: Van Halen gets a pass from me. You know why? No matter how many notes he plays, he does it with flair and taste. And he always sounds like he’s having FUN. Do you even remember what that’s like, Steve? Stop working so hard, and start working smart. Besides, Eddie plays GUITAR, not bass. That’s a difference you’ve lost sight of. But it’s not too late to repent.
Steve Harris: Huh. You’ve really opened my eyes.
Mike Jada: Thanks, Steve. I knew you’d see the light. I’m going to be the bigger man and call this a truce. Just remember: I love what you do rhythmically, just quit bungling it up so much with all those notes. And work on your tone. If I see any KORG rack effects next to your Trace Elliot’s, I’ll blow my fucking stack!
Steve Harris: Fuck you, mate. RUN TO THE HILLS!!! (mid-range bass fumbling heard in the background…)