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Carmine Rojas - "China Girl"

As featured on Let's Dance by David Bowie
EMI, 1983

Let's Dance

Even though this album is ingrained in my consciousness (I grew up in the '80s for God's sake), I'd never really zoned in the bass until recently: big mistake. Carmine Rojas lays down some textbook work in how to play for the song, while still kicking serious rear-end in the process.

The magic of his playing on "China Girl" (if you discount the superlative song-defining riff he conjures up at letter D) is that it sounds (and looks) deceptively simple, but isn't: As any serious low-ender knows, it's no breeze to set up a rhythm section lock this tight while making it sound so effortless and stylish.

In the main, Carmine's playing speaks for itself, but here's a couple of small observations:

* Most cover-band (and YouTube) bassists play beat four of bars 5 and 9 as a B, but if you listen closely, it's actually a C. I agree that it makes more sense as a B, as it helps neatly spell out a G major triad, but, what'ya gonna do? Rojas obviously dug the sound of a C here, and I for one have no intention of arguing with David. Bowie's. Bass. Player. ;-)

* There's a whole bunch of staccato markings in the verse sections. Rojas isn't very consistent here, so it's your call if you want to play them all as written, or take it in your own direction.

* Note the almost imperceptible 16ths that Carmine fires off on beat two of bars 64, 72, 120 and 160; tiny points of colour that further enrich the already luxurious groove.

According to the January 1988 issue of Guitar Player, Rojas tracked his parts on Let's Dance using an early-'70s Fender Jazz Bass with a '68 Tele Bass maple neck, a natural finish and DiMarzio P-J style pickups.

I don't normally do tab versions of songs, but these Bowie transcriptions came about for teaching purposes, so there you are. ;-)

Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2011