Q: What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians? A: A bass player.
Too bad the bassist. The music world has no trouble making fun of them.
Jokes like the one above allude to the mentality that bass players are somehow less skilled than other musicians because of the instrument they have chosen.
It’s a misconception, but a powerful one: the past and present of bassists struggle to gain the attention of their guitar and percussion counterparts. Damn, if you walked down Swanston Street in Melbourne on any given night, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a bassist has to dress like rabbits and dance the Hopak to get attention.
In the spirit of changing that mindset, here are nine “bass heroes” who have revolutionized and generally played bass bass.
John Entwistle (The Who)
Like most bassists of his day – especially Jack Bruce (Cream) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) – Entwistle was a phenomenal musician whose importance is still systematically overlooked.
It wasn’t difficult, considering that a crazed drummer, flaming guitarist, and beastly-voiced singer were the other members of The Who, and Entwistle still stood still on stage as they spun and jumped.
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But Entwistle’s bass playing is perhaps the best rock music has known. Check out his short and sweet live solos, huge groovy studio sounds (‘Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation’) and basslines that simultaneously kept the whole band together and sounded like a lead instrument when isolated (here- above).
Geddy Lee (Rush)
I felt compelled to include the late Lemmy on this list as the best bassist-frontman in history, but in the end, another Rickenbacker player takes the gong.
That Lee’s bass playing consistently shines on songs that also feature the best drummer in history (Neil Peart) is impressive in itself. That he manages to do it while manipulating keyboards and vocals (and What voice) is on a whole new level.
Cliff Burton (Metallic)
It says a lot about Burton’s talents that by the time he was tragically killed in a bus crash at just 24, he had already cemented his legacy as the best bassist in metal history.
The guitars and drums on Metallica’s first three albums tend to be fierce and relentless, but Burton’s bass playing and clever use of effects pedals evoke a much wider spectrum of emotions. In the studio, “Orion” is his masterpiece. Live, his solos have always been the highlights of the show.
For guitarists it’s Hendrix, for drummers Buddy Rich. For bassists, it is Jaco Pastorious who is widely recognized as the best musician to ever play the instrument (although he actually started out as a drummer).
Like Burton, he tragically died after a fight with a bouncer outside of a Florida club in 1987 at the age of 35. Nonetheless, the years spent playing with jazz-fusion artists like Herbie Hancock and Ian Hunter, as well as his solo career in 1976, had enough time for him to revolutionize the playing of the bass guitar.
Pastorius created haunting melodies through his use of unique harmonics and phrasing, and explored the range of sounds a bass can produce like none before him.
It’s a coincidence that Wooten found a worldwide following only a few years after Pastorius passed away, but it meant that the position of incredible bass player hadn’t been left vacant for long.
Wooten has been dropping people’s jaws since 1990 with his technically unmatched bass playing fusing Jazz, Funk, R’n’B and Bluegrass. He has won five Grammys during his solo career and as a member of the supergroup trio Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and performs regularly with the group Dave Matthews.
Flea has been the core of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers alongside vocalist Anthony Kiedis throughout the band’s career, and that’s arguably the reason the band has remained so cohesive throughout their many reincarnations.
Whether it’s being halfway through one of rock’s most punchy rhythm sections with drummer Chad Smith, his slap bass sounds that perfectly complement Kiedis’ rap-style vocal performance, or his melodic duets with guitarist John Frusciante on songs like ‘Californication’ and ‘Breaking the Girl’, Melbourne-born Flea is a testament to the versatility and essential character of a good bass player.
The Claypools (Primus)
While Primus is best known for being the group behind the South Park theme and by writing weird and absurd songs like “Mary the Ice Cube” frontman Claypool’s slap-bass work just changed the game.
Watch the video, where his use of effects and the thumb side of his palm turn his instrument into a de facto turntable.
John Myung (Dream Theater)
Like his band, Myung’s bass playing is progressive, crossing genres and emotions sometimes in the same song.
He is a hero for bass lovers as he is technically flawless, able to extract a different tone from each finger he uses, and also admired his musical acumen which he displays by giving space to his solos. and basslines.
A master of scales and fingerstyles from jazz to metal, Myung was named “best bassist of all time” by a MusicRadar poll in 2010.
Mike Kerr (Royal Blood)
The winter of 2014 saw the music world say a collective “How the hell does it do that?” When they found out that the frontman of Royal Blood was making a sound that sounded like 10 guitars using four thick strings.
Kerr also brought new ideas on how to incorporate bass solos into songs – his favorite technique is playing notes higher on the fretboard while the drums become quieter.
Popular rock bands tend to have fewer members since the White Stripes, but now the bass is the main instrument of one of these bands, perhaps a deeper respect for the abilities of the bass and of his players will follow.