Bruce Thomas is a great bass player – still hugely underrated IMO. During his ten years or so with Elvis Costello he recorded a wealth of inventive, melodic and unusual bass lines. If you want to spice up your rock playing you could do far worse than use Bruce Thomas as a model.
5 Essential Bruce Thomas tracks
1) Everyday I Write The Book
This was Bruce’s finest hour! A good song is elevated by a superb bass performance. Like a lot of great artistic performances what Bruce is actually doing seems fairly simple when analysed, but it just flat out sounds great.
2) Radio radio
A great song with a great 8th note bass line. This is great fun to play – there’s also some interesting parts to learn (the melodic hook that opens the tune, the descending 4ths in the chorus, and a great fill in the bridge!).
3) Pump It Up
Another great song with a great bass line. I really like the way Bruce will freshen up a tune with an 8th note bass line by throwing in melodic fills, octaves etc etc. A careful study of Radio (above), Pump It Up and Oliver’s Army (below) will all provide a ton of ideas for you to incorporate into your bass lines.
4) I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea
Sting and The Police are often cited when the joining of reggae and rock are talked about – but Sting never played any lines as compelling (or as energetic) as Chelsea (Check out Watching The Detectives as well.)
5) Oliver’s Army
Another driving 8th note rocker with some unexpected melodic twists and turns. This is another vintage Bruce Thomas bass line.
Essential CDs featuring Bruce Thomas
1) This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello. Get the deluxe edition if you can, it’s got a bonus CD with a live recording on it. This is -IMO_ – Elvis’s finest work. There’s plenty of great songs, and plenty of great bass work – Radio Radio, Pump It Up and Chelsea are the highlights but Bruce Thomas is consistantly good throughout the album. A must for Bruce fans.
2) Armed Forces – This was the follow up to This Year’s Model and is nearly as good. More great bass work – Oliver’s Army, Peace Love and Understanding and Accidents Will Happen – are my faves but as with THis Year’s Model Bruce is worth listening to throughout the album.
3) Punch The Clock. The two albums above date from 1978, Punch The Clock is from 5 years later and adds horns and backing vocals into the mix. More great songs – Everyday I Write the Book, Let them Talk, TKO and Shipbuilding are my faves – and more great bass lines. Seriously, you gotta check this guy out!
Transcriptions of Bruce Thomas’ basslines
There are almost no commercially available transcriptions of Bruce Thomas’ bass playing – which I think is remarkable when you have a listen to some of his work with Elvis Costello.
Bass Player Magazine published a transcription of Every Day I Write The Book.
And that’s it.