John ‘Rhino’ Edwards has had a varied career to say the least but is perhaps best known for being the longest-serving bass player in UK rock band ‘Status Quo’ after joining full-time in 1986. He has also worked with Peter Green, Cliff Richard (on Dave Clark’s ‘Time’), The Pet Shop Boys, Kim Wilde, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and also extensively with Judie Tzuke.
JRE has been a huge influence on me as a bass player with his greatest message being one of musical restraint. With Quo records in particular, he often reserves any deviation from the main groove (often root notes!) for the last chorus or fade out. His quirky brand of melodic and rhythmic fills come just as we feel secure in the feel and rhythm of the accompaniment, making for an extra element of excitement as the recording ends.
Here are my top 10 suggestions (in no particular order) for those who want to dive a little deeper into Rhino’s playing and add him to their list of favourite unsung heroes of the bass guitar.
1. Katiera Island (Live) – Judie Tzuke [Road Noise - 1982]
This track was originally featured on Tzuke’s debut album ‘Welcome to the Cruise’ with bass provided by UK session ace Mo Foster. The live version features Edwards with an Alembic bass – an instrument also favoured by Stanley Clarke (himself a big influence on JRE). Edwards even plays a solo on this track and he channels Clarke throughout the recording with his use of harmonics, open string tenths and the occasional slap passage. The heavily chorused semiquaver lines found throughout are reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius – another of Edwards’ influences.
2. Don’t Come Around Here No More – Rhino’s Revenge [Rhino’s Revenge – 2000]
Rhino wrote this bassline to pay respect to his biggest influence – Free’s Andy Fraser. It is a quirky line with funky pentatonic licks. Even better, the bass is exposed for the first verse so we get to hear his Status bass in all its glory.
3. Cut Me Some Slack – Status Quo [Backbone – 2019]
Right up front in the mix, Edward’s bass thunderously doubles the guitar riffs but plays several fills throughout, ranging from his signature ‘slides’ at 1:20 to rolling triplet figures at 3:17. Notice how each fill gets more exciting as the track moves along.
4. Bad News – Status Quo [In Search of the Fourth Chord – 2007]
On the subject of Quo and their signature shuffle feel, this track penned by Edwards features the bass player on lead vocals too with his son Freddie providing a guitar solo. While the bass pumps away on the root notes for the most part, there’s still plenty of triplet-based blues scale and pentatonic licks to keep your average rock bassist in a state of sweat.
5. Heaven Can Wait – Judie Tzuke [Shoot the Moon - 1982]
Almost classifiable as ‘fusion’, this track features a heavily syncopated bassline with flurries of semiquaver lines to connect the phrases.
6. That’s a Fact – Status Quo [Aquostic II: That’s a Fact – 2016]
This re-recording of the 1976 version (with Alan Lancaster on bass) features Rhino playing a short bass solo towards the end of the track - bluesy licks with a rubbery, slippery tone.
7. The Living Rock – Rococo [Run From the Wildfire – 2010]
This Zappa-esque track is a catchy piece of prog-rock featuring time and feel changes. Recorded in the 70s but unreleased until much later, this track shows that Rhino can play more sophisticated music than he’s given credit for. The section in 7/4 time starting around 4:12 feels so natural when played by good musicians.
8. Overdose – Status Quo [In the Army Now – 1986]
The bass playing on this Parfitt-penned track is a masterclass in pop-rock bass playing. The chords are joined together by Edwards' melodic, tasteful lines that are propulsive in the choruses and lyrical in the half-time verses. The fade out gives him lots of space to improvise around Rick Parfitt’s vocal ad-libs.
9. A Man Could Get Arrested – The Pet Shop Boys [West End Girls single – 1985]
As was the fashion in those days, Edwards is doubling a synth bass part that varies in rhythmic complexity throughout. Lots of syncopation and 16th note lines make for a funky pop track courtesy of Rhino and his future Quo bandmate Matt Letley.
10. My Back Pages – Trond Granlund [Hearts in Danger – 1985]
This cover of the classic Dylan composition is based upon another version by the Byrds but I think Edwards’ bass playing is rocking and much more melodically interesting than the older, better known recordings.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey through these records. This list is far from exhaustive - it was hard for me to choose my favourites among JRE's recorded output. For more information or to buy Rhino’s excellent latest solo album, visit: http://www.rhinosrevenge.com/
Header photograph by Saskia L.