Radio Reviews : 14 July

Ace of bass Bruce Thomas cracks Louis up
Bruce Thomas is one of the greatest bass players alive. That’s fact, not opinion. On the occasions when I was lucky enough to catch Elvis Costello Louis-Barfe-colour-176and the Attractions in concert, my attentions were divided between Bruce, drummer Pete Thomas (no relation) and the singer bloke in the glasses. Bruce Thomas is on Somerset community station Frome FM’s Different Sounds with Ian Leak tomorrow night (downloadable at, talking about his work before, with and after Costello. Listening to a preview, the two hours flew past. He is one of the funniest people in rock.

His books, including The Big Wheel and Rough Notes, are anecdote-fests and this interview is similar. Affecting to be unable to remember current Costello bassman Davey Faragher’s name and calling him Nigel Farage nearly made me burst something laughing, as did the story of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award going missing.

He talks about the difference between what producer Mitchell Froom called ‘functional’ and ‘creative’ bass playing, and knowing when to turn on the taps. He recalls a session with Chrissie Hynde where she told him not to go above the first dot on the neck of his bass.

Thomas is also an acclaimed biographer of Bruce Lee, and bitter experience led him to question the idea that a deceased celebrity’s family are best placed to be experts on the legacy. I nodded sagely in agreement.

In passing, I should mention that I’ve become obsessed with an ad I heard on LBC last week. It’s for a firm of gnasher-wranglers who say they are ‘obsessive about dental care’. The thing is that I’m not sure this is healthy. When I’m having my choppers looked at, I’ll settle for professionalism or even plain old competence, rather than risk having my teeth kidnapped.

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