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December/January 2021

by Rob Burns

Deep Thinking: Black And White Boy… On Bass

by Rob Burns

Deep Thinking: Black And White Boy… On Bass

As we’ve spent the last few issues doing some tricky stuff more suited to solo bass performances, I thought that this issue’s tune should feature some straight–ahead rock. I’ve chosen one of my favourite Crowded House tunes, one of several I listened to while driving to and from gigs and sessions in the UK in the 1990s, and thinking how I would like to bring my family to NZ. (I nearly wore out my Mutton Birds’ CDs as well!)

deep thinking black and white boy

The tune is Black And White Boy, from the 1993 Crowded House album ‘Together Alone’. The lyrics are very deep and I’m not going to attempt to analyse them here save to say that, like most of Neil Finn’s songs, there are a lot of meanings that are worth pondering over.

I have seen many transcriptions of Finn’s songs, not all of them correct – including the one I first found for this particular song. I listened to Black And White Boy several times recently and found that bassist Nick Seymour really rocks out on the track and adds some interesting notes that provide a lot of harmonic colour. He usually does, but this one is one of the rockiest I have heard him do.

Rhythmically, he is playing quavers (eighth notes) most of the way through, so you shouldn’t have any problems reading my transcription. I only have room for the first verse and that is all quavers. Being a vinyl fan, I don’t think my CD copy does his sound justice and would think a live performance would certainly have him really kicking the line along with a really gritty and heavier sound.

I haven’t seen him play the song live, but my TAB has the little finger on the fretting hand playing the first Bb on string 4 fret 6 with fingers one and three playing the following Cs and Ds on string 3.

Later on, the line moves down to a low G going up to Bb, both of which can be played between frets one and three on strings 4 and 3. There are more chord changes later in the song that are easily worked out but I don’t have the space to include them all.

Crowded House are making a long-awaited tour early in the new year so you might get to see Nick Seymour do it for real! Happy Christmas and let’s have a better year health-wise than 2020!

Dr. Rob Burns is a newly(!) retired Associate Professor in Music at the University of Otago in Dunedin. As a professional studio bassist in the UK, he performed and recorded with David Gilmour, Pete Townsend, Jerry Donahue, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, James Burton, Ian Paice and Jon Lord, Eric Burdon and members of Abba. He played on the soundtracks on many UK television shows, such as Red Dwarf, Mr. Bean, Blackadder, Not the Nine O’Clock News, and Alas Smith and Jones. Rob is a member of Dunedin band, The Verlaines.