Johnny speaks out.

May 15th 2017

I have been playing lefy bass since September 2015 and this is what I have found.

Bloody Paul McCartney. Nobody ever needs to play lefty guitar or bass!

It is strange that lefty guitars and basses are offered where no other instruments are made for left handed players. Don't say drums - that's just the way you position them! There are no lefty pianos, trumpets, violins, saxes, etc.

Initially, I thought the right hand on the fretboard would be stronger so switching over might not be so hard! Wingsbanned guitarist Gareth said that it's the picking hand that will cause problems and he was absolutely right. The left hand needs constant training and when playing, it's that hand I have to concentrate on. Also, I wondered if this meant I was now using the right hand side of my brain to control this new playing style. Then I realised that was just plain stupid!

To begin learning lefty bass I changed the strings over on a righty Hofner bass to get a feel for how easy or hard it would be. This is not ideal as the strings don't sit correctly in the bridge or the neck nut but it was a start and I didn't want to commit to spending a lot of money on a lefty bass if I didn't like it. Well, that's not the right attitude! You need to decide to just do it. Initially sitting down to a lefty bass after playing righty you quickly realise there is no connection between the two. I didn't even see which way was "up the scale". I had no point of reference and my right hand would not get anywhere near the position it would have be in to play consecutive notes up or down. My left picking hand had no ability to pick up or down and string crossing was totally impossible. If you're thinking of trying it out to see if you like it then let me save you the hassle. It's impossible!

The trouble is I had over 40 years of playing experience and this was like starting again almost from scratch. However, I knew how to train my hands as I had taken lessons from a fab bass player called Joe Hubbard about 25 years ago and I still use the exercises he gave me to work on for dexterity. I started these and for 10 days made very little progress but I knew that it was just a matter of putting in the hours.

The righty had to go and I bought a cheap lefty Hofner which was immediately better. I told no-one about this project for the first few weeks and fortunately, I found myself working from home and not all that hard either, so I devoted long hours of every day to just playing lefty bass. I almost gave myself problems by overdoing it and ended up with very sore fingers from repetitive stress strain. I ran over Wingsbanned sets playing along to recordings of our concerts until it began to come together (no pun intended). Initially, I had estimated it would take 6 months to get to gig standard and so, my aim was AROTR in May 2016, some 8 months away. By December I revealed to the band what I was doing and they were incredibly supportive. I started bringing it to rehearsals for the Diamond club gig at the end of the month. It was ropey! I lacked the accuracy and strength to drive the band along and there is only one way to get that. Gigging!

So, I started the new year playing lefty in Large Portion, my rock band. At first, just 3 songs or so and then switching back to righty but increasing the length of time until I was doing the whole first half on lefty. The Diamond gig was the first Wingsbanned gig on lefty and that's how it has been ever since. Still putting in the hours every day, I worked on learning the Abbey Road album and mastered all but one song of the Wingsbanned repertoire. Day Tripper was the one which got shelved! That one I always found hard playing righty! AROTR was completed though there were a few dodgy moments unsurprisingly and by August I was using a proper German made Hofner and did 8 gigs at the Liverpool Beatles week where ace bassist Joe Kane welcomed me to the fraternity of righty players who had shifted over. He admitted he still found it hard though you'd never know it to hear him play. In America, Al Francis of the fabulous band, Studio Two said similar things and he IS left handed!

So, nobody needs to play left handed! Starting from scratch is the same left handed or right. Your dominant hand may have a little more flexibility but regardless, you need 'em both and putting in the hours is the only way to learning anything.

Bloody Paul McCartney.

February 24th 2017
If you want to be a McCartney in a tribute band then there are two notes you must be able to hit. Without these notes you will be a fake Macca or worse, a Ringo.
The first is A5. The natural tenor high note most chaps can get is G4. Well, this is one more! One tone more. Not much, I know but this one note is singly responsible for bands tuning down. It's the opening note of Hold Me Tight. It's the high note in My Love, Thank You Girl, A Hard Day's Night and many more. It's throughout Jet, Band On The Run, Rockshow, Helen Wheels and more. When Lennon sings this note, it is the top of his register.
Macca can scream this note and he can also caress it effortlessly. To be an authentic Macca you must learn this note. Make it your friend. It will help you and it will impress others.
The second note is C5. Now, this is a very different beast. Most men cannot hit this note. It separates the men from the boys. It is the highest recognized note in the tenor range that opera singers hit. This fellow turns up as the high note in Live And Let Die but it is also there in Band On The Run repeatedly, Monkberry Moon Delight, Admiral Halsey, Hello Goodbye, and Macca regularly hit it in Long Tall Sally, I'm Down or She's A Woman and others. Do not falsetto this note! This is a note that needs to met full on like a manly man or a gladiator squaring up to lion in a Roman Coliseum. This note is not your friend. Treat him with respect. If he was a movie he would be the Cruel C. Listen to Macca wrestle with him on So Glad To See You from Back To The Egg. Wonderful. This is why he sounds like he does.
Although Paul doesn't sing as well as he did these days he still hits those two notes at every concert. Try that yourself at 75.

February 10th 2015

Right now there are more Beatles Tribute Bands around than ever before. When we started Wingsbanned around 10 years ago there were quite a few but it has become a much more accepted and lucrative business in recent years.
Some Paul's actually learn to play bass left handed in order to be more visually realistic and wigs are almost essential to cover all the different era's from Beatle mania to the Apple rooftop gig. Very few also learn to play guitar left handed as that's a far harder job.
However (gripe coming), several band's do not play in the original keys. Many of them tune down a semi tone and this is for one reason only. Few can hit the notes McCartney still does night after night.
I had an argument with someone that playing left handed doesn't sound any different - no-one can actually hear any difference but if you don't play Beatles songs in the Beatles keys then you will hear it... or you bloody well should! There's a reason Macca sounds the way he did or does so I say do your vocal exercises or become a George.

 

 

April 8th 2013

 

The weather has been better recently and don't we all welcome it? Heat is good. Heat is lovely. It's good for the voice, it's good for the soul and helps everything. Except hair. It's bad for that. However, in Wingsbanned, we have more than half the band who are not bothered by that.

 

Shane Gould probably has hair but it's hidden so far inside his scalp thanks to overuse of the razor that the band is actually unaware of what colour it is. He could be a ginger and we wouldn't know it!! No trace of stubble exists on his marble head and this is clearly down to an intense fervent fear of follicles.

 

Lee Herbert has no hair that anyone has seen since his early twenties so being a "brother of the razor" is as much a part of him as his bottom. Yes, some might say it's a large part of him but I wouldn't as I'm not like that. Lee needs no hair to be the total professional he is today. Just volume.

 

Martin Fleming (23), fiery player from the "North", is not without hair but it's a losing battle. Marty still is a rocker at heart and therefore, a certain amount of hair is deemed desirable. A hair piece is not the way to go for this master of the strings and voice, especially if he can get away with a comb over.

 

Then there is laughing Ian Herbert - a guitarist and bassist who sings too! Ian has hair but seldom bothers with anything hat resembles a style so I am not sure that counts. No worrying for him over little matters of whether the damp heat flattens one's back-combing. Claiming the colour to be 100% natural and grey free despite marriage and kids, he never explains the shift from rustic brown to 'mousey' and why should he? He paid for it.

 

Talking of fat boys, Johnny Heywood has hair. Not as much as he once had and it doesn't seem to do what it once did but it's still there, varying in quantity and colour which he claims to be Tittian. This would account for the colour changes which he maintains is due to the weather but seems to coincide more with a trip to Boots The Chemist. Rumoured to have been a ginger once, no-one, not even Johnny himself can be sure what it is now.

 

Similarly, guitarist Gareth Davies still has a full head of hair but he often covers it up with a variety a hats depending on his mood. Long or short, it's a constant worry to him that the heat will cause it to lose it's natural bounce and it's only right that a man his age should not have to worry about anything more serious. This is overcompensated by buying a death-metal black gothic guitar known as 'Norman' and playing rock solo's in inappropriate moments.

May 2nd 2013

 

I was reading a great article on the Rolling Stones recently and Keith Richards was waxing lyrically about song writing. He described it as just “plucking the songs out of the ether”. The songs were already written, he was merely a conduit through which they passed, to become part of the real world.

 

I’ve read this type of thing before and I have to tell you, it’s complete shite! If it were true, why do all the songs Keith chooses to pluck, all sound like a Keith song? Why doesn’t he pluck a few more of the caliber of Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar & other classic songs and less of the album filler tracks? Why doesn’t he take a few songs that don’t sound like Stones’ songs and offer them to other artists and make a killing there as a writer? If he is merely acting as an aerial, then I think he should tune it better.

 

People write what they know, for gawd's sake. Richards writes the songs he does (& he’s pretty bloody good at it) because he is using his knowledge and talent that he has acquired over the last 50 years. He won’t write a symphony because he doesn’t listen nor study orchestral music nor chamber nor jazz music.

 

I haven’t just got it in for The Stones. I merely use them as an example of people’s misguided ideas of creativity. I read that Guiggsy, the old Oasis bass player, wrote his bass lines to suit the songs that Noel G. wrote, if Noel hadn’t already told him what to play. The trouble with that is that Guiggsy doesn’t have the talent of a top session player like Nathan East who can call on a wide variety of different styles and techniques to cover a huge variety of material and can literally write a bass line to suit any song. Therefore, Guiggsy, and us other lesser morals, merely write what we know and Oasis songs ended up with a Guiggsy style bass line no matter what the song was! If Miles Davis had hired Guiggsy to play jazz improvisation with his seminal 70’s fusion bands, then the bass lines would have been Oasis bass lines cos that’s all he knows!

 

Well, none of us are perfect, eh? I like Oasis and The Stones but let’s not kid ourselves there is a higher power going on in writing pop music. Not at least till you’ve heard my Ode To The Gods of Rock which I downloaded direct from Heaven, although I’m still taking all the royalties.

April 29th 2013

 

Further to the last posting regarding clichés in rock & roll I would also like to ask "where and when did it become necessary to prefix MR. to a musicians name when introducing them to an audience. On lead guitar, MR. Billy Weasleknob! Does anyone introduce their mates that way? How is putting MR. in front of his name a mark of importance? Why not say, on vocals - Colin Clitoris, Esquire? What if the musician also holds a doctorate or has a BA Hons? That would be insulting and not a little demeaning.

 

Clichés, pah! I'm fed up to the back teeth with them.

April 10th 2013

 

I have decided that the whole art of going to a rock concert has become so predictable and clichéd that I am going to suggest a radical change to our whole set. How many times does the singer in a band shout, "it's your turn to sing", before turning the mike on the crowd, as if it's actually going to pick up the individual voices in the audience? Why is it our turn to sing? If I have paid good money to see and hear a band then I expect them to bloody sing, not me. When I do feel like singing along with them, I'll bloody do it anyway, without the permission of the lead vocalist.

 

What about, "if you know the words then sing along." If I ever find myself saying that, I'll add, "...and if you don't know them - then shut-up because we have taken a long time to learn them properly and we don't want the song ruined by you amateurs."

 

Harsh words, maybe but it's time for a little mould breaking. I am going to suggest that when I start the predictable "are you feeling all right, tonight," nonsense, then everyone should respond, "no, sod off." I think that would hold a much higher mirth value and would probably be a more accurate gauge of the common man's true feelings. Also, what business is it of the lead singer, anyway? Are we being introduced to him/her individually? No, well then, mind your own business.

 

Right, must go cos my acoustic guitar needs new strings. Hope you're feeling alllll-righttttttttt!

 

 

March 28th 2013

 

Martin has started playing the piano in Silly Love Songs. He says it's because there is no need for a second guitar but I suspect it's really an attempt to steal the thunder from me. If he looks like getting too good then I may have to sabotage his performance by playing the bass a semi-tone out of tune. People seldom suspect the bass when something sounds a little flat so everyone will think it's just him being rubbish! Excellent plan.