The period roughly between 1978 and 1985 was a golden age if you were a British or American session musician.
The mission: to sprinkle your unique brand of fairy dust over a song or album. You lived on your wits and gambled on your talent but your employers were more often than not creative artists at the top of their game.
As far as UK bassists go, Glasgow-born John Giblin, who has died at the age of 72, was always near the top of the list. He was famed for his melodic fretless bass style (though later pretty much disowned it, moving to five-string fretted and stand-up acoustic basses), starting his career with ex-Yes guitarist Pete Banks. He then hooked up with Brand X and Phil Collins and the rest is history.
After prestigious work with Kate Bush, John Martyn and Peter Gabriel, Giblin joined Simple Minds as full-time member in summer 1985 but left three years later after a falling out with producer Trevor Horn during the recording of Street Fighting Years. He also ran a much-loved rehearsal studio called Barwell Court near Chessington, Surrey.
Of course he was influenced by Jaco Pastorius but didn’t really sound like him. (Anyway, he traced that particular line from Eberhard Weber, who apparently claims Jaco ripped HIM off!) Giblin played memorable bass on tens of key tracks but here are seven that particularly registered with your correspondent, in chronological order.
7. John Martyn: ‘Some People Are Crazy’
movingtheriver’s introduction to Giblin’s work, he delivers a brilliant fretless commentary here, though I’m not even sure I realised it was a ‘bass’ circa 1985 – just superb music. It’s funky, flowing and also features those famed sliding harmonics, nicked from Ron Carter and Percy Jones. Giblin is also a talking head in the great Martyn documentary ‘Johnny Too Bad’.
6. Peter Gabriel: ‘Family Snapshot’
The whole of Gabriel III is of course a bass masterclass but Giblin and Gabriel fill in the backstory of the troubled political assassin to great effect in the moving final minute of this.
5. Kate Bush: ‘Breathing’
Just business as usual for Giblin on this classic Bush anti-nuclear ballad, weaving arch, memorable lines around her vocals. Also listen out for his closing, sepulchral E-flat.
4. Phil Collins: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’
The much-ripped off (hello Pearl Jam) line that propelled one of the better Beatles cover versions.
3. Simple Minds: ‘Let It All Come Down’
Giblin didn’t get many composer credits but this co-write was always your correspondent’s favourite track on Street Fighting Years (Jim Kerr apparently wrote the words).
2. Kate Bush: ‘Love And Anger’
Kate again, and this time Giblin lets fly with some brilliant slap bass in the final few minutes alongside David Gilmour’s tasty guitar solo.
1. Scott Walker: ‘Tilt’
Demonstrating his post-’80s five-string style, Giblin enlivens Walker’s classic title track with some strikingly ‘out’ notes and a great sense of space.