Rather than the usual tradition of watching other people exerting themselves at Wimbledon while sipping a glass of something cool, the summer in Britain has kicked off unusually energetically with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations marking 60 years on the throne.
Among the key events of a recent 4 day weekend of celebration was a concert right in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace, headlined by no less than Sir Paul McCartney, probably the closest we have to rock monarchy in this country.
And of course he was wielding his trademark Höfner 500/1 violin bass. Despite a brief flirtation with Rickenbacker basses during the Wings period and occasional dabblings with Fenders, it’s been this German made instrument that’s defined his sound and style since 1961, when he reluctantly picked up the bass after Stu Sutcliffe left the Beatles.
And he’s become one of the defining players of the instrument since. As both one of the greatest songwriters of all time and a member of the greatest rock and pop band of all time, his playing is often overlooked but he’s a nimble and imaginative player. Just check out his walking dynamic bass line in All My Loving, the second tune from his Jubilee set – and all while singing lead and without looking at the fretboard.
One of Macca’s characteristics is that he likes to carry his bass by the neck and wave it above his head like an axe, something that would cause many guitarists to shudder, and many lesser instruments to snap like twigs. So it’s testament to Höfner’s German build quality that the neck and trussrod have stood up all these years.
We have a beautiful ‘60s Höfner 500/1 just like Macca’s available. The hollow body is lovely and resonant, the neck fast. They may seem esoteric with the bass market dominance of Fender and Rickenbacker, but these are great agile instruments, and it’s no accident that Paul chose to play one.