In 1985 Louis Johnson recorded an instructional video for Starlicks Productions. It was part of the Master series which featured many big name players of the time, Tony Iommi, Steve Lukather, Al McKay and Brian May just to name a few, were all part of this educational series. If you grew up in the late 80s/early 90s and remember the VHS section in your local music store, it was literally walls of these VHS tapes.
The summer of 1991 for me was 4 weeks of continually watching and playing along with this video with a badly tuned bottom of the range P bass copy in hand, sweating through Australian summer, thumb bleeding, fingers shredded and forearms feeling as though they were permanently cramped. My bass teacher, Phil, lent me his copy of the tape. I had no idea who Louis Johnson was, what Slap bass was or how much this would eventually change my life. My parents also realised at the time that bass strings singles were expensive (around $12 a pop in 1991) and I was going through D and G strings like no tomorrow. Up until this stage of my early bass playing years I was still just happy to chug along, bass at my knees and smash out a handful of Ramones and Sex Pistols tunes with a plectrum and have all knobs on my little Jade 10watt practice amp turned to 10.
By the end of the holidays I could play the entire video very well and very fast and knew Louis’s between licks banter word for word. It was the moment where I started taking my bass playing seriously and was also the time where I decided this was going to be what I did with my life from now on. On returning the tape to my teacher, he was very impressed with my progress, actually probably a little shocked, I had gone from being a kid with no idea into a 16 year old Thunder Thumbs clone in the course of a few weeks. At the end of the lesson he said I was ready to start checking out some jazz players and he wrote down on a piece of paper a few names of players I should try and check out. Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius and Marcus Miller. I had never heard of any of these guys.
And so it began my obsession with bass culture . . . . . . .
I highly recommend this video for new players and If you haven’t gone through it before I would say to anyone who is an experienced bassist it is fantastic workout. Old school power thumpin’, a great gym session for your forearms and fingers. The whole video is on YouTube but if you are looking for a high quality DVD version Hal Leonard have re-released it. It will come with a small booklet, with music and tabs of all the exercises.