Nick Beggs has been a mainstay of the British pop and prog rock music scene for three decades, beginning his career with Kajagoogoo (laugh all you want, but Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo told us that Nick’s work back then was a major influence) before becoming a go-to bassist for a whole range of prog musicians. He can be heard on Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson’s new album, The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), out on 25 February. In the meantime, here’s a fistful of albums which inspired our man Beggs.
1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II
John Paul Jones is one of my childhood heroes. Having played with him in his power trio, I know a lot about the man. However, when I first listened to Led Zep II at the tender age of 14, I had no idea that I was going to get the chance to work with him in 1999. I love the fact that this record was made while on the road in America and yet it has an amazing cohesion. I also love the fact that the English press slagged it off. They’ve always had their fingers on the pulse of great music – or is it round the throat?
2. Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans
It’s this record and Yes’s Close to the Edge that dared me to become a pro player – so thanks, Chris Squire. In later years I’ve come to play with Rick Wakeman in the English Rock Ensemble and he cites this double album as the reason he first left Yes, but I’ve never understood why. To me it’s the epitome of everything great about British progressive rock. The media derided it as pompous and overblown. But it’s one of my favourites.
3. Frank Zappa – One Size Fits All
In my teens I didn’t understand what was happening on this record, but in later years I’ve come to see that being a member of Frank’s group required technical abilities that are way beyond most players’ reach. This album is an amalgamation of studio and live footage, edited together by Frank to create a perfect blend of humour, jazz fusion, rock and exemplary playing with German lyrics. The world is certainly a poorer place without him in it.
4. Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior
Stanley Clarke is such a bass-playing icon. His technique is so sure-footed, and during the 70s he and Jaco Pastorius were the masters of jazz fusion bass. This record was very original at the time of its release – employing an amazing production sheen and explosive 16th and 32nd note passages that were expertly delivered by Al Di Meola and Stanley. Mark King once told me that this record was the foundation for Level 42 – I can see why.
5. Rush – A Farewell to Kings
As you can see, there’s a common theme running through these choices. My bass heroes are very much in attendance and Geddy Lee is still one of the world’s greatest. A Farewell to Kings is my favourite Rush record: Geddy’s use of the Rickenbacker was inspirational. Until then there was no trio in the world creating such a symphonic sound. Bass pedals, keyboard,s bass guitar, and lead vocals were all delivered with originality and passion. Rush are Canada’s greatest export.