I got a call from Jan Skubiszewski in late 2016. He had been asked to record the music for a TV movie about Olivia Newton John, who would be played by Delta Goodrem, and he wanted me to come in and play bass. It involved re-recording quite a lot of Olivia’s back catalogue for use in the series, and there were hints that Delta would probably release it as an album too. It was a big job. I was stoked. The first half of 2017 was looking pretty quiet for me, so it was fortuitous to get the call (I continue to disprove the myth that you can’t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring), and I was looking forward to having a crack at re-playing some great session bass work by some of my session heroes of the ’70s and ’80s.
At first I went completely method-actor and learned all the parts note-for-note and researched who played them and what gear they would have used, and not surprisingly the answer was generally a Fender Precision Bass. I took a few options in: “Daphne” (the bass I’ve done most of my playing on, which has really old roundwounds) and my ‘64 with Thomastik flatwounds. That covered it. You can sound like anything from 1964 to about 1980 with those. I let Jan do the rest. He did a great job of pretty much photocopying a few decades of hits in a very short period of time. The process involved having the original track right there in Pro Tools, so it was easy to check up on whether we were getting it right. Some highlights:
Xanadu. This was played by the bloke from ELO, and it’s not easy. There’s zero room to do your own thing: the line that’s on the record is pretty much the one you have to play. There’s one note I’m still not sure about, over the diminished chord in the verse…is it an A or a Bb? In the end I decided his bass was a bit out of tune and it’s somewhere between those two notes.
You’re The One That I Want. Everybody recognises this bass line. But don’t judge it until you’ve tried to play it, and tried to sound as good as David Hungate did on the original.
I finished my parts in January 2017. I don’t think it aired until May 2018. TV is a slow-moving machine. I appeared as an extra (a bass player) in one scene too, and that experience was a fascinating view into what it’s like being an extra. And as I said before, I didn’t have much going on in the first half of 2017, so it was fun to be a tourist on set for a few hours.