Few are the bass players you recognize in one passage….
A master of the instrument in a pop context, a consummate song player, and among the most prolific players whose career emerged during the “new wave” rock era of the 1980s and continued until his untimely passing in 2020, Matthew Seligman anchored several influential slabs, singles, and ensembles throughout his remarkable career.
He was an official member of Bruce Wooley and The Camera Club, the Thompson Twins, The Soft Boys (replacing founding bassist Andy Metcalfe), and The Dolphin Brothers, among others.
Seligman’s array of session / sideman credits read akin to a who’s who of modern rock, including: David Bowie’s Live Aid band, the hit “Absolute Beginners” and the soundtrack to Labyrinth; Thomas Dolby (“She Blinded Me With Science”), Robyn Hitchcock, The Waterboys, Stereo MCs, Chris Bell, Sinead O’Connor, Tori Amos, Kimberley Rew, Alex Chilton, Morrissey, Chrissie Hynde, and Sam Brown to cite a select few.
A melodic / pocket fretted and fretless player Matthew’s main weapons of choice were the Fender Jazz and Ibanez bass.
Dig this short list of Matthew’s unmistakable bass artistry…
I’m writing this as Matthew Seligman slips out of this life and into wherever souls go next. Everybody goes, but none of us were expecting Matthew to leave us so abruptly, forever. It is strange and very sad to be talking of him in the past tense. I first met Matthew in 1976 in Cambridge, just before the beginning of the Soft Boys. He had nice dark hair and was very charming, with a slight break in his voice.
A joyous and funky bass player, he made Underwater Moonlight an exuberant LP to record and listen to. His manic bass run at the end of “Insanely Jealous” and his stately propeller dive into the last chorus of the title
track, as well as the insistent groove he brought to “Kingdom of Love” are some of the finest bass playing I have ever witnessed.
Matthew truly believed in the Soft Boys and the record. It was early 1980 and the second Cold War was intensifying. I fondly remember stomping over to the pub after a session and him saying through the dismal spring wind, “We may all be about to be blown up, but at least we’ll have made a classic album.”
The band didn’t survive too long into the bleak 1980s, but Matthew found a home as a bass player in many great musical shells. The Thompson Twins, David Bowie, Morrissey and Chrissie Hynde were all lucky beneficiaries of his intuitive and circular grooves.
As well as bass playing, he specialized in one-liners. “Pop music is about over-stating the obvious” and “What you’ve proved to the music industry is that you can’t sell records” are two of my favorites.
I’m profoundly grateful to have played music with him – you could really see his face light up like a full moon when he listened back to a take he enjoyed. Onstage he would lope and lurch and pace when the music moved him. Matthew is, was, and always will be one of the greats. My heart goes out to his partner,
Mami; his children Daisy and Lily, and all who were close to him and his lunar intensity.