|"In the Beginning"|
by Tony Levin
In the beginning there was a bass. It was a fender,
probably a precision, but it could have been a
jazz – nobody knows. Anyway it was very old… definitely
pre-CBS. And God looked down upon it and saw that
it was good. He saw that it was very good, in fact,
and couldn’t be improved on at all (though
men would later try) And so he let it be and he
created man to play the bass.
And lo, the man looked upon the bass, which was
beautiful sunburst red, and he loved it. He played
upon the open E string and the note rang through
the earth and reverberated throughout the firmaments.
Thus reverb came to be. And it was good. And God
heard that it was good and he smiled at his handiwork.
In the course of time, the man came to slap upon
the bass. And lo, it was funky.
And God heard his funkiness and He said, “go
man, go” and it was good. And more time passed,
and, having little else to do, the man came to
practice upon the bass. And lo, the man came to
have upon him a great set of chops. And he did
play faster and faster until the notes rippled
like a breeze through the heavens.
And god heard this sound that sounded something
like wind, which he had created earlier. It also
sounded something like the movement of furniture,
which he hadn’t even created yet. And he
was not so pleased. And he spoke to the man, saying “Don’t
Now the man heard the voice of God, but he was
so excited about his new ability the he slapped
upon the bass a blizzard of funky notes. And the
heavens shook with the sound, and the angels ran
about in confusion. (some of the angels started
to dance, but that is another story.) And God heard
this – how could he miss it – and lo,
he became bugged. And he spoke to the man, and
he said, “Listen man, if I wanted Jimi Hendrix
I would have created the guitar. Stick to the bass
parts.” And the man heard the voice of God,
and he knew not to mess with it. But now he had
upon him a passion for playing fast and high.
The man took the frets off of the bass that God
had created. And the man did slide his fingers
upon the fretless fingerboard and play melodies
high upon the neck. And in his excitement, the
man did forget the commandment of the lord, and
he played a frenzy of high melodies and blindingly
fast licks. And the heavens rocked with the assault
and the earth shook, rattled and rolled.
Now God’s wrath was great. And his voice
was thunder as he spoke to the man. And he said, “Ok
for you, pal. You have not heeded my word. Lo,
I shall create a soprano saxophone and it shall
play higher than you can even think of. “And
from out of the chaos I shall bring forth the drums.
And I shall make you to always stand next to the
drummer, and he shall play so many notes thine
head shall ache.” “You think you’re
loud? I shall create a stack of marshall guitar
amps to make thine ears bleed. And I shall send
down upon the earth other instruments, and lo,
they shall be able to play higher and faster than
the bass. “And for all the days of man, your
curse shall be this: that all the other musicians
shall look to you, the bass player, for the low
notes. And if you play too high or fast all the
other musicians shall say ‘Wow’, but
really they shall hate it. And they shall tell
you you’re ready for your solo career, and
they shall find other bass players for their bands.
And for all your days if you want to play your
fancy licks you shall have to sneak them in like
a thief in the night. “And if you finally
do get to play a solo, everyone shall leave the
bandstand and go to the bar for a drink.”
And it was so.
Tony Levin is a monster bass player who has played
on literally hundreds of records including King
Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Cher, John Lennon, etc.
He also tours and records with his own band, writes
books, and has a very interactive website... go
tell him I said howdy. www.tonylevin.com.