Bass Transcription – Silly Love Songs from Wings Over America By Rob Collier… Click to dowload the bass transcription for Silly Love Songs
This summer Paul McCartney released a remastered edition of Wings’ classic live triple album, Wings Over America, which documents the American leg of the band’s monumental world tour of 1975-76. The album is available in various packages, including vinyl and an elaborate four-disc deluxe edition. Accompanying the album release is a DVD/Blu-ray release of Rock Show, the concert film from the same tour. This is Wings at the height of their popularity, and arguably their tightest, most impressive lineup on stage.
Much has been written about McCartney’s bass lines with the Beatles. His playing with Wings, however, is often overlooked. Wings tended to be a more straight-ahead, pop/rock band, far less experimental than the Beatles. By comparison, McCartney’s bass lines on Wings records are perhaps less innovative, but every album in their catalog has at least a couple of bass gems. (Check out “No Words,” “Mrs. Vandebilt,” “Big Barn Bed,” “Getting Closer,” “Rock Show,” and “Love is Strange” for starters.)
The Wings’ song most often singled out for its classic bass line is “Silly Love Songs,” from Wings at the Speed of Sound. This song was a hit single at the time of the 1976 world tour and was a crowd favorite night after night. Written in response to critics’ complaints of McCartney’s tendency towards sappy pop ditties, “Silly Love Songs” actually exhibits a fairly sophisticated formal structure. Though the song is roughly six minutes long, there are only two verses, which leaves approximately five minutes for horn breaks, a bridge, and multiple vocal melodies layered in various configurations.
Because there are so many sections, applying traditional labels like “chorus” and “bridge” becomes problematic. Thus, in the table below, I’ve labeled each section according to the lyrics of the particular section, with a couple of exceptions. The verse (“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs…”) is easy to identify—it begins and ends the song, but occurs nowhere else. The horn riff happens three times with no vocals present. What could be considered the bridge (“Love doesn’t come in a minute…”) occurs only once, midway through the song.
“Silly Love Songs” Form
Meas. 1-5 Percussion intro
Meas. 6-9 Band intro
Meas. 10-21 Verse
Meas. 22-29 “What’s wrong with that?”
Meas. 30-33 “I love you”
Meas. 34-38 “I can’t explain”
Meas. 39-46 “What’s wrong with that?”
Meas. 47-54 “I love you”
Meas. 55-65 Bridge (“Love doesn’t come in a minute”)
Meas. 66-81 Horn riff
Meas. 82-89 “How can I tell”
Meas. 90-97 “How can I tell/I love you”
Meas. 98-113 Horn riff
Meas. 114-121 “I love you”
Meas. 122-129 “I love you/I can’t explain”
Meas. 130-145 “I love you/I can’t explain/How can I tell”
Meas. 146-149 Horn riff
Meas. 150-162 Verse
Notice that, though there is much repetition of material, the order of the sections is anything but regular. For instance, each time the horn riff occurs, it is preceded and succeeded by a different section.
Additionally, though there are so many melodic components, the band has only a few different “rhythmic accompaniments” that it plays throughout the song. Because of their similar chord progressions, the “I love you,” “I can’t explain,” and “How can I tell” sections may occur in various combinations over either the verse groove (mm. 30-38), or one of the more sparse accompaniments (mm. 113-145).
For much of the song, McCartney plays a very bouncy, energetic bass line. The verse groove, the most interesting part, consists largely of short, punchy notes, but with subtle and well-placed accents and occasional ghost notes. Getting the feel of the groove right is much more important than the actual notes. If you play through the line without any accents or staccatos, the straight eighth notes will sound lifeless and boring. Though McCartney varies the phrasing of the line throughout the song, thinking of the eighth notes as “bum-pah, bum-pah” (rather than “da-da-da-da” or “bum-bum-bum-bum”) will go a long way toward achieving the right feel.
This lively groove appears during multiple sections of the song: the verse, “I love you,” “I can’t explain,” as well as underneath the horn riff. During the more sparse sections, McCartney achieves great sustain and superb tone, particularly on notes in the upper register, which are given a subtle, singing vibrato.
The bass line is impressive enough on its own, but is even more remarkable considering it was played live while McCartney was singing the lead vocal. It’s an active little groove, and it can be difficult to get the feel exactly right, but he nailed it while also delivering a stellar vocal performance.
Though McCartney will forever be associated with the violin shaped Hofner 500/1, his primary studio instrument from late ’65 through the end of the Beatles recording career was a 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S. This bass became his studio and stage instrument throughout his tenure with Wings, being used on every album and every tour. It was to Wings what the Hofner was to the Beatles.
McCartney’s Rickenbacker always had a great tone, but on “Silly Love Songs” from the newly remastered Wings Over America, it has seldom sounded better.