Bass line in "It's Gonna Get Better" from The Mama Tour video

  • 35 years ago or so, my friend Joe and I wore out his VHS copy of The Mama Tour video, we watched it so many times. At the time, I never really paid much attention to "It's Gonna Get Better", in large part because I knew what was coming next, and just wanted them to play "In the {bloody} Cage," which they did play in a minute. And the Genesis album was never one that I spent too much time listening to either. Aside from "Home by the Sea" (and I liked the live version of that, once The Longs was released, better anyway), there wasn't much on there that spoke to me. But in the last couple years, I've listened to that album more often, and really come to like it. There are definitely a couple cringe worthy tracks, but there's also some really great music on there. "Silver Rainbow" and "It's Gonna Get Better" in particular work much better for me now than they ever did when I was younger.


    Anyway, "The Mama Tour" on youtube has been in the background music rotation for me since starting to work from home more often last year. (As an aside, there's a version out there where someone spliced in audience video from other concerts for the tracks they played but that weren't part of the official video release. The quality is definitely reduced, but it's nice to have those tracks back in place.) With a new appreciation for "IGGB", I've been paying more attention to it in the video, and recently noticed that, even though it has a pretty noticeable bass line, neither Mike nor Darryl are playing a bass.


    Darryl is pretty clearly playing the rhythm guitar parts, that are kind of jingly strumming sound, and then the lead at the end. So Mike has to be playing the bass line on the guitar that he's holding. So my very long-winded question for the musicians out there is; why would he be using a guitar, that I would assume is going through some effects to bring the tone down, as opposed to playing a bass for that part? And do we think that was just for the live performances, or did he play a guitar trough effects for the studio version?

  • It sounds like a bass pedal a la Squonk to me.

    I can't picture the video in my head, but it also sounds like Banks is playing enough other parts for it to not be that.

  • Guitar fed thru a guitar synthesizer (Roland GR-500 or ARP Avatar)? Just a guess. Could very well be just Tony playing bass notes on pedals or keys.

    I think this is the answer. If you watch the video, what mike is doing on guitar correlates with the synth-sounding bassline. This is notable at the beginning when it is just Tony's ascending synth lines and then the bassline kicks in and the camera briefly shows Mike playing single notes. There is also a very brief moment when there are some accented E notes in the bass line followed by a pause and Mike seems to be doing the same accents. Meanwhile when the camera shows Tony's hands, he is clearly just playing the CP70 piano sound and his left hand is not following the bassline; there is another point where he is clearly holding chords and yet the bassline is still moving around separately.

  • I think this is the answer. If you watch the video, what mike is doing on guitar correlates with the synth-sounding bassline. This is notable at the beginning when it is just Tony's ascending synth lines and then the bassline kicks in and the camera briefly shows Mike playing single notes. There is also a very brief moment when there are some accented E notes in the bass line followed by a pause and Mike seems to be doing the same accents. Meanwhile when the camera shows Tony's hands, he is clearly just playing the CP70 piano sound and his left hand is not following the bassline; there is another point where he is clearly holding chords and yet the bassline is still moving around separately.

    Yes, I totally agree that it's Mike playing the bass line on the guitar. It's too intricate for it to be played on pedals. And they both move around too much (Mike spends some time late in the song back at Chester's drum riser) to be playing pedals. And as you point out, there are shots of Tony playing things that are very clearly the keyboards sounds, and clearly not the bass line. So I knew it was Mike playing it, and that it was going through some effects.


    I guess I was just wondering why. Is there a reason why he would choose to play it on a guitar, and then use effects to drop the tone, as opposed to just playing it on a bass? I'm neither a guitarist nor bassist, so while I'm sure there's a reason for it, I don't know what it is. It was just something that I was curious about when watching the video. And then while I don't know that there's a way to know for sure, but do we think he was just doing that for the live performance, but used a bass for the studio recording? Or do we think he did the same thing; played the bass line on a guitar, going through an effects setup?

  • I guess I was just wondering why. Is there a reason why he would choose to play it on a guitar, and then use effects to drop the tone, as opposed to just playing it on a bass? I'm neither a guitarist nor bassist, so while I'm sure there's a reason for it, I don't know what it is. It was just something that I was curious about when watching the video. And then while I don't know that there's a way to know for sure, but do we think he was just doing that for the live performance, but used a bass for the studio recording? Or do we think he did the same thing; played the bass line on a guitar, going through an effects setup?

    My guess is this is how the arrangement developed in jamming and developing the song. Mike then continued to play this line, perhaps because he enjoyed it more. He might have added the other guitar part later and then Daryl took that on live.