Paul McCartney, left, and Brian Ray perform in concert at Hersheypark Stadium on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, in Hershey, Pa. Owen Sweeney via Associated Press
Paul McCartney in New Jersey: Meet Brian Ray, the man who plays bass
Published Sept. 1, 2017
Who’s the man who plays bass for the most famous bassist in the world?
Meet Brian Ray, who will be on stage with Paul McCartney as the ex-Beatles’ One on One Tour comes to the area starting with Sept. 11 and 12 shows at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“I’m playing bass and with Paul McCartney," said Ray, a California native, "it’s a giant honor and a giant responsibility because he’s responsible for having played, recorded and written the very most important bass lines in pop music history. These bass lines are intrinsic to these hit records. If you don’t have those bass parts, the songs and the records just aren’t the same. Take ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ for example. If you remove the bass line, it’s really not as interesting. ‘Dear Prudence,’ ‘Something’ by George (Harrison), so many of these songs are made exponentially more interesting because of Paul.
“To be entrusted to play the bass lines that he recorded while he goes off to play a cool guitar or awesome piano, it’s a big job, a big responsibility and a whole lot of fun for me.”
Paul McCartney, pictured at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 7, 2016 in East Rutherford. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ray has been with McCartney for 15 years. His first show with Macca was the 2002 Super Bowl and it’s been a few world tours from there.
“It’s a big charge for me play with Paul and bring his music to life again for his hungry, hungry fans and to stand up on stage and feel the tide of love that he’s engendered from all of those years of giving so much – it’s really something to behold,” Ray said. “I’m super grateful for it.”
The McCartney shows of the last 15 years are redefining what elder statesmen rock stars can do. McCartney, 75, had plenty of vigor when he last came to the area with a 2016 show at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
“He doesn’t cheat on the high notes” Ray said. “There no changing the keys into lower keys. It’s really something else.”
As for Ray, he’s also had a career that’s so far been something else. He has Jersey connections, too. A reissue of his other band’s album, the Bayonets’ “Crash Boom Bang!,” comes courtesy of the Far Hills’-based JEM Records. A double A-side solo single, “Here for You” and “Cinnamon Girl,” was recently released on Stevie Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records.
Paul McCartney (C) performs along with US musicians Rusty Anderson (L), Brian Ray (R) and Abe Laboriel Jr. (back-C) on June 11, 2015 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris. (Photo: PATRICK KOVARIK, AFP/Getty Images)
“He’s been such a great supporter of the music I’ve made with my partner, Oliver Leiber, and our side project, the Bayonets,” said Ray of Van Zandt.
“Here for You” is a garage rock gem that starts off with a smirk and breaks into a smile. The cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” with a coda of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul,” is personal for Ray.
“One of the main reasons, besides the fact it’s a seminal guitar-riff song, that it’s meaningful for me is because Neil and my late sister, Jean Ray, were very close in the ‘60s,” Ray said. “As a result, I got to meet and hang out with him as an 11-year old.”
Jean Ray was a member of the folk duo Jim and Jean. Young was transitioning from Buffalo Springfield to a solo career.
Rusty Anderson, from left, Paul McCartney and Brian Ray perform in concert at Hersheypark Stadium on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, in Hershey, Pa. Owen Sweeney via Associated Press
“They had a tryst, a dalliance,” Ray said. “That song was indeed written for my sister.”
Jean Ray got her brother his first big-time pro gig — playing guitar for Bobby Boris Pickett of “Monster Mash” fame on a fundraising tour for infamous record producer Phil Kaufman. Ray had to wear monster makeup while he was playing.
Kaufman later introduced Ray to Etta James and that led to a 14-year collaboration. He left his role as James’ musical director when he penned the Smokey Robinson hit, “One Heartbeat,” in 1987.
“I thought I was big stuff now and I was going to go down and start writing nothing but hit records for big artists,” Ray quipped.
That’s not exactly what happened. Instead, Ray picked up plenty of gigs here and there. A gig there, in France with Abe Laboriel Jr., aka McCartney’s drummer, led him to the long and winding road he’s on now. Rusty Anderson on guitar and Wix Wickens, keyboards, are also in the band. McCartney has been playing with them live longer than he played with the Beatles.
Now, it's the Prudential Center in Newark; Madison Square Garden in New York City on Sept. 15 and 17; the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sept. 19 and 21; and Nassau Coliseum on Long Island on Sept. 26 and 27.
“We’re hitting it hard and we’re going deep,” Ray said. “We’re hitting the boroughs and it should be a very, very special time.”
Chris Jordan: firstname.lastname@example.org
PAUL MCCARTNEY ONE ON ONE TOUR
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, and Tuesday, Sept. 12
WHERE: Prudential Center, 25 Lafayette St, Newark
TICKETS: $34.50 to $355 (plus fees)
INFO: www.prucenter.com; visit www.brianray.com for more info on Brian Ray