Bass Transcription: John Paul Jones’ Bass Line on Dusty Springfield’s “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone”

The classic soul song “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone” has been recorded by many great artists, including Gladys Knight and the Pips (who recorded it first), The Temptations (who released it first), The Dynamics, Chuck Jackson, and Diana Ross & The Supremes. In the sixties, it wasn’t common for musicians to be credited on recordings, but we can make some assumptions about who may have played on them; The Motown artists had the excellent backing of The Funk Brothers in the studio, and it’s likely that James Jamerson or Bob Babbit played on the sessions. The bassist on The Dynamics’ version was probably Mike Leech or Tommy Cogbill.

British vocalist Dusty Springfield was originally a folk and country singer but later had great success in the UK charts with both lightweight pop songs and dramatic ballads. By the mid-60s she began to cover songs from the Motown catalog. Although they had begun to dominate the American market, Motown artists had not achieved a widespread following outside the US, and Dusty’s versions of their songs helped to make them more well-known in the UK. Dusty also used her friendship with TV producer Vicki Whickham to create a one-off version of the “Ready, Steady, Go!” (broadcast in April 1965) that featured Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Temptations, and Stevie Wonder, as well as singing on the show herself.

The next few years saw Dusty successfully collaborate with mainstream songwriters such as Carole King and Burt Bacharach, but she yearned for a sound more steeped in contemporary soul music. By her 1968 Dusty… Definitely album, she was singing songs by Ashford & Simpson, covering Erma Franklin’s “Piece of my Heart”, and Moy, Whitfield and Grant’s “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone”. Without access to the great Motown or Stax session players, Dusty was obliged to use musicians from the London session scene. With a stroke of luck, bass player John Baldwin was hired for the album sessions, and he knew the style Dusty was after on the more soul-oriented tracks; A style influenced by the Motown and Stax session greats, with a syncopated and chromatic approach that gave the bass line more flow and movement.

Later in 1968, Dusty signed to Atlantic Records in the US, who encouraged her to record material at American Sound Studios in Memphis – co-incidentally where The Dynamics’ version of “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone” was recorded. The album that was produced at those sessions was titled Dusty in Memphis and contained the outstanding version of “Son of a Preacher Man” that featured Tommy Cogbill’s amazingly busy, but subtle bass line. The album was widely praised by critics, but astonishingly, it failed to chart in the UK, and only just entered the US top 100. In the years since it has been hailed as one of the best albums of the 1960s and was perhaps the crowning artistic achievement of Dusty Springfield’s career.

Another band’s career was influenced by the Dusty in Memphis sessions; Dusty spoke to Atlantic Records boss Jerry Wexler and suggested that he should sign the new British band Led Zeppelin, featuring her former session bassist John Baldwin. Amazingly, Wexler signed them without ever hearing them, and gave them an advance of $200,000.

Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone

John Baldwin’s (soon to be John Paul Jones) bass line bears some resemblance to the earlier versions, especially in the verses, but the intro, bridge, and outro contain some extended chromaticism that goes beyond what was recorded previously.

The three-bar intro gives way to a rapidly ascending quaver-based chromatic figure that stretches over most of bars four and five, and this is followed by more straightforward root notes in bar six. In bar seven, the bass line weaves around the E7 chord, but this includes a more bluesy minor third. Bars eight to ten follow a similar pattern, although the bassline in bars eight and nine has a more continuous upwards trajectory towards the A chord than the previous version. Bars eleven to fourteen weave around the E7 chord, again using the G natural rather than the G# that might be expected here. This riff continues into the first verse and is repeated until the chorus where Jones plays root notes with the chord changes. The end of this short chorus section emphasizes the minor seventh interval of the E7 chord to lead back into the next verse. The bass line for the next verse and chorus repeat the previous ones almost exactly.

In the bridge section (starting at bar 55), Jones returns to a more adventurous chromatic approach, stretching out over the E7 chord with some inventive ideas. Bars 59 and 60 include some interesting triplet phrasing, and bars 61 and 62 using a very syncopated (almost Jamerson-like) rhythmic pattern. Verse three (starting at bar 67) includes a little more chromaticism than in previous verses (bar 74), but the outro (87 onwards) returns to the lengthy runs of the intro, but with a few more twists (95-6) and more syncopation (98).

JPJ had clearly listened to the great bass players of the emerging soul and R & B scenes in the USA and was able to both replicate the feel of these musicians and add his own ideas to the mixture on this track. The extra chromatic runs add a lot of movement and excitement and drive the music forward.

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  1. Alfredo Torres Jr

    I wonder if John Paul Jones did Donovan on Ferris wheel has a good bass Riff on that song

    • Mark McKendrick

      Bass players on that album (Sunshine Superman) were Bobby Ray on the US recorded tracks and Spike Heatley on the UK recorded tracks. There is some disagreement as to whether Ferris Wheel was recorded in the US or the UK. The closest Zep connection is that Jimmy Page is one of the guitarists on the UK recordings from that album.

  2. Mark McKendrick

    Written by Silvia Moy – not Sylvia May (as it appears on this transcription). Just saying.