John Paul Jones: “What Is And What Should Never Be” Isolated Bass Track

If you’re looking for vintage tone and a melodic groove, look no further.

Zach McFatridge shared this clip of John Paul Jones’s isolated bass from the Led Zeppelin classic “What Is And What Should Never Be” from their second album.

With some bleed from the drums, it’s easy to hear Jones and drummer John Bonham locked in tight.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Great player with flats on a Jazz bass…………bliss! Thanks for this!

  2. John Paul Jamerson…

    • Raul

      I’ve always thought of him as that too. R & B bass licks & lines all over Zep’s catalog.

  3. Great bass line from a classic song. Is he playing a Fender Jazz bass on this?

  4. This was the tone and melodic playing that inspired me to become a bassist – this and James Jamerson.

  5. Hmmm I read that he used Rotosound Swing Bass Strings instead flats, but I don’t believe him! It’s flatwound for sure!

    • I agree with you on that one!

    • Zach McFatridge Did you isolate the bass track yourself? Great job if you did!
      Also–as to the strings– it is possible he used round wounds. Remember the old Fenders had a mute strip in the bridge cover. Most bass players either took the bridge covers off or tore the strips off and restored the covers. Sounds like flats to me too BTW….would explain it though. Love it! JPJ is the man!

      • John Naas

        JPJ used flats for at least the first two Zeppelin albums, I remember reading about it in a magazine a couple of years ago but I don’t recall if they mentioned exactly when he switched to roundwounds. This definitely sounds flats with the tone rolled off quite a bit. I don’t think he’s using mutes, the note decay seems more consistent with unmuted flats.

    • Sounds like flats. Can’t really tell if he’s in the groove because the kick is not audiblle. Finding that elusive groove is impossible for many bass players because we are so tempted to rush it and play on the kick.

    • i’m not tempted,i play behind,in fact on songs that are not i still do,can’t help it,JPJ caused this in me i think

    • Leonard W. Kasaba

      He used Flats until 1974 Live , in the Studio he started using rounds around 1971 on certain songs; by 1975 he was only using rounds.

  6. wow fender jazz /john paul jone.

  7. One request—Isolate the bass track to “The Lemon Song”!
    I started out on bass learning these lines, would love to hear them all out there by their lonesome…would be awesome.

  8. Roughly 30 years ago as a teenager, I started to play guitar. Shortly after upon hearing THIS song (check out the isolated bass track on the video) and “The Lemon Song” with John Paul Jones’ bass parts both from Led Zeppelin II combined with Paul McCartney’s basslines from Sgt. Pepper I quickly learned that bass was SO much cooler that guitar to me. Fast forward to college and full-time career launching in late 80’s I stopped playing bass. VERY happy that I started playing again 10 years ago in 2002. Hearing this isolated bass track reminds me why I love the bass guitar so much.

  9. John Paul Tones…

  10. This is what propels this song. One of my favorites from possibly their best LP.

  11. A classic, is a classic , is a classic. We love, Jamerson, we love Jones, Jones loves Jamerson. Full circle!

  12. The cool sound of FLATWOUNDS…you’ll never get that sound with a round wound… Solid fundamental-smooth percussive thump. The only strings I will use.

  13. What a beautiful, elegant structure this has. Great bands line. Another good argument for using flatwounds, too.

  14. *great bass line*

  15. full tone, melodic, groovy. shivering

  16. Must have been a mic on the speaker during the recording, and a small one at that. He overdrives it a few times.

  17. as far as I know he always used RS-66

  18. You just can’t get more classic than that!

  19. Bazz

    awesome, learnt this last night, beautiful smooth playing by the master, onto Ramble On next!

  20. Philip Buonpastore

    It’s a real pleasure, and certainly a lesson to listen to the isolated bass track of one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. The very interesting thing about listening to JPJ playing the bass in isolation is how the minor variations in every aspect of the track – in note timing and placement, how the line both repeats and varies in each verse and chorus, the bass slightly overdriving the mic, and even the technique of recording itself adds character to the track. I think this is the essence of what made classic rock so interesting to listen to, and why it stands the test of time even today. Production methods of the time allowed for the human quality of the players themselves to come through, and I think this is a main reason why there were so many great but entirely different sounding bands that populated the classic rock genre in the late 60s to mid-70s. It is something that is missed in recorded music in later eras – over production is antithetical to what makes music so interesting to listen to and so fundamental to the art form – the human element.

  21. Bill Stroum

    Spectacular bass playing from a master musician. Having recorded back then with my Fender P, I’d bet a vital organ that those were flats with a block of foam jammed under the strings just in front of the bridge as required by our producer. It was just the way bass was recorded back then. BTW – our producer was Chris Huston – who’d actually engineered a bunch of Zep recordings.