I’ve always wanted to play upright bass, and in several weeks this desire will become a reality when the bass I ordered from the Upton workshop in Mystic, CT arrives. (I will have the honor of taking lessons with one of the best bassists in town.) One of the main reasons I want to play upright is so that I can learn some classical technique and utilize arco (bowed) playing in the music that I create. I think the sound of a bowed bass blends very well with folky/acoustic or psychedelic rock.
There are several rock songs I know of that feature bowed bass:
Bukowski by Modest Mouse
Star Witness by Neko Case
California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade by The Decemberists
Several songs on Yellow House by Grizzly Bear
Do you know of any others?
Aside: Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” does not feature any bowed bass, but it references it in a puzzling lyric: “Ten silver saxes, a bass with a bow/the drummer relaxes and waits between shows/for his Cinnamon Girl”
Primus has at least three: Pork Soda and Mr. Krinkle from the album Pork Soda, and Glass Sandwich from Tales From the Punchbowl. I think it was an electric upright bass though, so I don’t know if you’re looking for that. I wouldn’t be suprised if Les Claypool also bowed occasionally in his other projects.
Barenaked Ladies and Soul Coughing are two bands that have/had bassists who always played upright, but I don’t know if they did any bow work.
Smashing Pumpkins used strings in some songs, so I wouldn’t be suprised if there was a bass in there somewhere.
I think it features quite prominently in some songs by The Beatles (not sure if that fits within your genre criteria though).
Claypool is insane at the bass guitar but I’ve heard that he downright sucks at double bass, from those who’ve seen him play it.
Beatles definitely counts.
Didn’t Buddy Holly and the Crickets feature upright bass?
Pretty much. He just does does for novelty on a few songs. He also plucks on it sometimes.
Also he bows it on Coddingtown from the Brown Album.
Also their “Mariner’s Revenge Song,” towards the end
The jazz bassist Richard Davis is all over Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks; he pulls out the bow for the last note of “Madame George,” he might play more elsewhere on the record.
I assume you just want solo bass and not as part of a string section. Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” seems to have a few spots where the bass plays the orchestral part solo. I don’t think I could tell a bass bowing high and a cello bowing low reliably enough to tell them apart, though.
It’s not rock music, but Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenberg & Edgar Meyer’s Skip, Hop & Wobble has a lot of great bass bowing.
Ben Folds Five’s big hit, “Brick,” features Robert Sledge eschewing his usual fuzz-laden style of electric bass in favor of a bowed upright bass. It’s a big part of why that song has such an atypically emo feel for a band normally known for raucous, piano-driven pop punk.
Check out The Living End, an Australian rockabilly/punk band featuring a great guitarist and a bassist playing a cool upright (with checkerboard sides).
Speaking of rockabilly, if you want to be awed and humbled, get the Brian Setzer Orchestra Live in Japan DVD. It features his bassist - I think his name is Mark Winchester - who is a flat-out monster.
I recognize that this does NOTHING for you in terms of using a bow - but I couldn’t resist mentioning both of these because they are so damn cool.
I don’t know if you would consider it a rock song or not, but you should check out The Romantic Warrior by Return To Forever. Any serious study of the bass should include Stanley Clarke.
Yeah, Jim Creeggan w/ BNL plays upright on a lot of songs and does a lot of bow work here and there. I’m not sure which songs feature it for sure, but when you see them live he’ll bust out the bow quite often.
Many of the songs by Crooked Fingers feature a bowed upright.