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Music For ChameleonsSay Eighties Music and people will immediately think of large synths, drum machines, big reverb and even bigger hair. Something that should be added to this list is fretless bass. As the name suggests fretless basses are made without frets, the raised metal bars on the guitar neck which divide the notes. Fretless guitars are without these so like violins and double basses the player must be very accurate when playing notes to not be out of tune as the finger placing on the guitar neck must be exact. Because the finger tip which acts as the end point of the string instead of the metal fret is soft the sound isĀ dampened, reducing the attack of the noteĀ giving a characteristic sound which can be heard in the accompanying song. One such champion of the fretless bass was Gary Numan who used Pino Palladino’s virtuoso skills on the instrument to great effect on his 1982 album I, Asassin.
Numan says of woking with Palladino “He was brilliant. I had never heard playing like it…He came up with stunning bass lines, song after song. I leaned on him heavily during the making of the album. I pushed his playing to the forefront of the tracks and, inadvertently, created a new style. It was one of the first times that the fretless bass had been used as the lead melody instrument, allowing the album to be atmospheric, dreamy and funky.”

Gary Numan – Music For Chameleons

On first listening this album really surprised me. Unlike anything else I had heard by Neil Young, Trans featured synthesizers, vocoder effects and drum machines. Released in 1982 it was a bitter pill to swallow for many fans who dismissed it, being a far cry from earlier rock based works. However, it contains some gems, most notably Sample And Hold where NY sings about ordering an android wife “I need a unit to sample and hold, but not the angry one, a new design”

Neil Young – Sample And Hold