This is my long-time foe…. A song!
I’ve been wanting to perform this song for the longest time, but had a very hard time learning it. Sting, the bassist, vocalist, and main songwriter for The Police, gets great respect within the bass playing community. He is deceptively good. Yes, his bass lines are often pretty repetitive…But that is not the whole of it. Try playing this line and singing the lyrics at the same time… Nightmarish!!!!! It is DAMNED Hard not to trip up on the bass line while sing these disjointed lyrics. So many of his songs are like that!
Well, last night, I went out to the open mic at the Revue here in Fresno, and armed with my black 5 string Peavey DynaBass bass guitar as my lance, I slayed this beast! Considering it was just me up there on stage, without a drummer to lock in with and help me keep time, I did really well!
The song didn’t go down without a fight! When I got to the middle of the song, at the part when Stings sings the “Oh, oh, oh’s”, I kind of screwed up a bit there because, in my determination to get the harder parts of the song right, I kind of forgot to practice that bit. So as I got to that part in the song, I opened my mouth to try and sing the “oh’s”, but since I hadn’t practiced it, I started concentrating too much, which made my timing on the bass start to go wobbly. And, because I was so determined not to lose the bass pulse, I didn’t even get out a single one of those “oh’s”. So, in the back of my mind, the little voice of my inner-self was going “Crap Crap Crap” as I struggled to maintain my composure. Recognizing the folly of trying to bring any vocals in at that spot, I instantly gave up on the “oh’s” and kept myself on track.
Now, about the hardest part of the song. The part that is the most vexing to play and sing in this song, the one that gave me nightmares, comes in the second verse. It’s this lyric:
“Hide my face in my hand, shame wells in my throat,
My comfortable existence is reduced to some shallow meaningless party,
Seems that when some innocent die,
All we can offer them is a page in some magazine,
Too many cameras, not enough food,
This is what we’ve seen…”
“My comfortable existence is reduced to some shallow meaningless party” was the part in the song that I most dread, most feared screwing up. I got through that with no problem. It was a struggle not to just stop right there and yell out “Booyah!!!!”. I might have mangle the words in the last verse a bit, but the worst was over. I had, for the first time, played this song live!
Now I have to learn the companion song for the Zenyatta Mondatta album, “When The World Is Running Down…” as the two songs should be played back to back. The challenge to that song is more in learning and remembering all the lyrics rather than getting the bass line and lyrics in sync. This one just flows better. It’s not easy, but it’s not as difficult as “Driven”.
PS. Note to bass players: if you struggle to play and sing this song, or others like it, I found a trick to help master it. Find the root of the pulse, and learn to sing to that first. In this case, it’s the low “A” on the down beat. The first vocal line of the song comes in on that first up-beat. If I put the “A” root in bold and underneath, it would look something like this:
….”How can you say that you’re not responsible?”
A A A A
…..”What does it have to do with me?”
A A A A
Note that the first words in the lyrics are sung on the up beat, just after you play the defining “A” that establishes the tempo. Separately, practice the bass line until you get it down. After you think the line is pretty automatic, then start trying to put the two together. Take it slow. It won’t come easy at first. But it will come.