As you grow old and weary of this world, you begin to realize certain people in your life, like your father or Vanilla Ice, were right about everything. In this classic ’90s clip, five-time platinum rapper Robert Van Winkle explains to you about the birds and the bass lines.
Mr. Van Winkle has a valid point here although it gets taken largely out of context. He never plagiarized Queen or claimed he didn’t sample their song; he was merely showing off the superiority of the Vanilla version. Compare the two bass lines below by clicking the scores on and off.
That’s the familiar Queen line. Nothing all that special. But listen for the little bitty change that makes everything not the same.
The Vanilla version features the extra pickup beat at the end of the first bar. How a quaver can make all the difference! Not only that, it contains the Queen bass line in the second bar. But now the small variation provides some much needed emphasis.
Now I’ve never been a fan of “Under Pressure”, so I’m not going to link it here, but you know the tune: It’s the one with Bowie and Mercury having a fuck-about in the studio. There’s some scatting and shit. It sounds like it belongs in a John Hughes movie.
However, “Ice Ice Baby” is one of the greatest songs ever written. It’s hip; it’s real; and the rhymes sound as fresh today as they did in 1990.
While “Under Pressure” features a ridiculous “I V IV V” chord progression played on top of the vamping bass line, the Vanilla version will have none of that. DJ Deshay kicks it old school with straight-up pentatonics. Unsatisfied by rock samples, Deshay throws in his very own anthemic funk line when the verses get going. Kick it one time, boyyyyy.
According to an article written by Queen guitarist Brian May, the infamous bass line was the basis for the entire song and written by bassist John Deacon.
But what we got excited about was a riff which Deacy began playing, 6 notes the same, then one note a fourth down. Ding-Ding-Ding Diddle Ing-Ding, you might say.
However, when the band returned from a “lunch” break, there was some confusion about how the bass line went. Too many other kinds of lines. Too many beads as well. Deacy could no longer play it. So Bowie plucked the bass from Deacy’s hands and played it proper.
This was a funny moment because I can just see [David Bowie] going over and putting his hand on John’s fretting hand and stopping him. It was also a tense moment because it could have gone either way. Deacy did not take kindly to being told what to do, especially by physical interferences while he was playing! But he was good natured, and it all went ahead. Then we began playing around – using the riff as a starting point.
Did Deacy accidentally start playing the superior Vanilla Ice version of the bass line? I’m afraid the story and the bass line will remain shrouded in mystery, much like Brian May’s Wonderguitar crafted from lightning-stricken cedar.
It may not be true of sex and ice cream, but as far as bass lines go, the Vanilla version is the best flavor.