Paul McCartney’s basslines were one of the defining features of The Beatles’ sound. From the early days of the band, McCartney was tasked with filling in the low end of the group’s music, and he quickly found his groove on the instrument. However, as he explained in various interviews throughout his career, some of his most iconic basslines were actually inspired by other musicians.
One of the most famous examples of this was the bassline in “I Saw Her Standing There,” which McCartney admitted to “nicking” from Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You.” However, even that attribution is not entirely accurate. As it turns out, the bassline in question was actually played by Berry’s bass player at the time, Reggie Boyd.
Despite this, McCartney still deserves credit for making the bassline his own and incorporating it into The Beatles’ music in a way that was entirely unique. The riff helped to propel “I Saw Her Standing There” to the top of the charts, and it remains one of the most beloved songs in The Beatles’ catalog to this day.
“So I had to put a little special effort into that, which made it very interesting,” McCartney said. “If you were singing, ‘She was just 17… and going [sings energetic bass-line] well… that became the skill. I could just learn [the bassline for ‘I Saw Her Standing There’], nicked from Chuck Berry, as I’m sure you know. ‘I’m Talking About You’. I’ve given him credit, though.”
“Here’s one example of a bit I pinched from someone: I used the bass riff from ‘I’m Talking About You’ by Chuck Berry in ‘I Saw Her Standing There’,” McCartney revealed to Beat Instrumental in 1992. “I played exactly the same notes as he did, and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people, I find few of them believe me; therefore, I maintain that a bass riff hasn’t got to be original.”
It’s worth noting that Berry’s influence on The Beatles extended far beyond just his basslines. The band covered a number of his songs throughout their career, and his brand of rock and roll was a major inspiration for the group as they developed their sound. From George Harrison’s lead guitar lines to John Lennon’s straightforward approach to songwriting, Berry’s influence could be heard throughout The Beatles’ music.
In the end, McCartney’s “borrowing” of Berry’s bassline serves as a musical inspiration for the Beatles. Even the most iconic musicians in history were not afraid to draw from the works of others in order to create something truly special.