Dennis Dunaway's Bass on John Lennon's Rock 'N' Roll

In 1975, recording sessions had an unspoken rule that you refrained from asking other artists for photos or autographs. You might strike up a conversation around the coffee pot in the hall but generally you gave people space to think about their recording.

Recording at the Record Plant in 1975

Recording at the Record Plant in 1975

Jack Douglas was the producer of Neal Smith’s Platinum God album. I had agreed to play bass and Neal had a hot rod guitar player from Rochester, New York named Mike Marconi on board.

We were laying down tracks in Studio B at the Record Plant when the telephone rang. It was John trying to find a line out. I told him to dial 9. The phone rang again. It was John. "Dial 9 for the line out," I said. The third time he called, I said, "Number 9… number 9… number 9…" He didn’t call again.

Then someone came in from Studio A and said that John Lennon’s bass player didn’t show and he asked if I was up for it. I said I was committed to playing on Neal’s session but they were welcome to borrow one of my basses if that would help.

Dennis Dunaway and his 1970 Fender Jazz bass that John Lennon used on Rock 'N' Roll.

Dennis Dunaway and his 1970 Fender Jazz bass that John Lennon used on Rock 'N' Roll.

They borrowed one of my 1970 Fender Jazz basses. It was white at that time but was painted fluorescent green for the Battle Axe show - not to be confused with the Gibson GB-O Frog bass.

The next day, they returned my bass and that’s the last I heard about it until decades later when I read an interview by Rockin’ Reggie Vinson who said he had played bass on John’s Rock 'N' Roll album at the Record Plant.

So several times over the years, I had asked Rockin’ about the sessions. I wanted to know what songs he used my bass on but he could only remember two or three songs for sure.

Cindy Dunaway, May Pang, and Dennis Dunaway, 2014

Cindy Dunaway, May Pang, and Dennis Dunaway, 2014

In recent years, Cindy and I have become friends with May Pang. Even though I had avoided asking her any questions about John, one night, in a quiet room at a loud party, May started talking about John. I asked her about the Record Plant and told her my John story. Yes, she said she was at the session and said she could tell me what songs my bass is on. She grabbed her phone, Googled the album cover, and showed it to me. She said, “Any songs that credit Phil Spector as producer were recorded on the west coast. The songs crediting John as producer are the songs with your bass.”

When I spoke with Rockin' Reggie Vinson recently, he confirmed that he played my bass on that album for several songs including "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Stand By Me," "Peggy Sue," and "Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin’."

Mystery solved 40 years after the sessions.

 

Rock 'N' Roll
By John Lennon