Top 10 greatest bass players of all time
Ok Ok, this may be a bit controversial but here is our top fifteen bass players list”Â¦
Many of the top 15 come from the punk period. This is because for a few brief years the bass was shoved up in the mix to become the lead instrument. There have been many great players for years but these are the bassists who drove their band’s sound and these are the bass players who mainly played with that fantastic heavy sound.
1. JJ Burnel (Stranglers)
The Black and White album by the Stranglers still has the best bass sound on it of all time. It’s heavy, dark and belligerent- a bit like the young JJ. Not only did he invent a style of playing and got a generation to notice the bass, he also created the whole notion of lead bass playing in a rock band- the bass lines were also super catchy as well.
2. Bob Weston (Shellac)
The current world bass champ, Weston has the most fantastic bass sound. The Shellac albums are, of course, some of the best recorded albums you can hear with the bass one of the keys. Weston’s heavy bass playing has become a science, with his Rusty Box effects pedal and every part of his gear examined to get the maximum crank Weston has got that sound nailed perfectly.
3. Peter Hook (Joy Division)
Influenced by Burnell and Black Sabbath Hooky took the bass somewhere else- those early Warsaw and Joy Division bass lines are brilliant examples of the science of bass- powerful, brooding and uber melodic they sound tracked the post punk dark ages.
4. Jah Wobble (Public Image Limited)
Now that’s a signature bass sound. The aptly named Wobble had a bass sound that could cause earthquakes. He learned to play bass in about seven days and came up with the rumble on the debut Public Image single before soaking up dub/krautrock and dark funk to write all those key bass lines on the early Pil records. His solo career has been equally fascinating- whatever type of music he merges himself with you can still hear him in the middle of the action.
5. Steve Hanley (The Fall)
The Fall have had a million line ups but they have never had a bass player as good as Hanley in the line up since he left after a punch up in the USA. His intense playing and that tough, gnarly sound were the backbone to frontman Smith’s waspish poetry for years and stand the test of time.
6. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
The Chili Peppers may have gone a bit too comfy slipper in recent years but when Flea dredges up the bass to the top of the mix he still has it. A great player.
7. Dee Dee Ramone (the Ramones)
We are not looking for complex here- McCartney and Geddy Lee were technically great and key bass players but there is something about Dee Dee’s root note barrage that sounds brilliant to this day. Most of the Ramones bass lines were written on the bass and the vicious down strokes aligned to Johnny Ramone’s equally tough guitar changed the way a generation thought about music. And he looked cool as fuck as well.
8. Lemmy (Motorhead)
If it’s is a truism that you have to look like what you sound like then the walking it like he talks it Lemmy fits the bill perfectly. Sometimes live his bass drowns out the whole band- which is sonic perfection. lemmy seems to hit all the strings at once to make that avalanche rumble. In the middle of that though he is a really fucking great player, whose use of bass chords is stunning.
9. Joe Lally (Fugazi)
Joe Lally’s slinky bass lines were a key part of the Fugazi sound, giving the band a swing and a rock hard spine for the guitars to splatter all over.
10. Colin Moulding (XTC)
The first two XTC albums were full of these tough and off kilter pop nuggets. One of the keys was Moulding’s bass that was driving and incredibly tight locked into the rhythm section but still poking up the mix leading many of the songs and off setting the catchy guitar.
11. Tracey Pew (Birthday Party)
the late Tracey pew was a larger than life character in a larger than life band, nicknamed the Paunchy Cowboy his brutally heavy bass negotiated its way through swing jazz and blues lines that were very much the signature of the early Birthday Party.
11. Bootsy Collins (James Brown etc)
He had the funk.
13. Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag)
Before he got drowned out by Greg Ginn, Dukowski’s bass was dominating Black Flag- especially on the unreleased demos that litter the Internet. If you want to hear a really brutal piece of bass playing then check ”ËScream’. The album version sounds limp in comparison.
14 Dub bassists
All Jamaican music is built on the bass, god knows who plays many of those bass lines but their mixture of floor shattering bottom end and great melodies are the hook that pulls you into another musical world.
15. Tessa Pollitt (The Slits)
Tessa merged funk and dub and punk and became the key player in the punky reggae party.
Also Mani from the Stone Roses- great player who had a million kids dancing to his bass”Â¦