Bass Playas: Who are the greatest bassists in the world?
If your nickname at school hadn’t been "awkward dork", you’d be a frontman, blowing the clothes off the nearest member of the opposite sex with your tight leather pants and matching lungs.
If you could handle 6 strings without your fingers falling off you’d be a guitar hero, super talented and super sexy.
The bass is where the boring member goes, eschewing even the primal rage of the drummer for a life of A-pedal anonymity.
Look at AC/DC. One of the tightest, finest exponents of hot rocking ever to stride the face of the earth, but Cliff Williams seemed to have lost his personality along with his leather wristband in 1976.
He stands at the back. He plays an E. Admittedly he makes millions of pounds a year but it can’t be the most creatively satisfying career can it?
Despite this there are a few hardy souls who buck the trend, bass players who appear to be there by mistake. Tweaking the nose of treble clef superiority with their subsonic superpowers, they’re the leanest,meanest and coolest guys in the band – Let's check ‘em out!
Steve Harris – Iron Maiden
When I was 16, I spent most of my time drinking cider and enjoying... erm... 'intimate' moments with a well used VHS Kathy Lloyd Playboy special.
Steve however spent his formative years knocking out something altogether different: Stone cold metal classics like Phantom of the Opera and Running Free, and possible the greatest band logo in rock n’ roll history.
Employing a slightly odd and very,very difficult 'slap n’ tickle' technique, his playing meant he managed to come out looking good despite a penchant for pinstripe spandex. The fact that he’s regarded as one of the nicest geezers in rock only adds to that sinking feeling you get when you realise you have no friends and struggle to pump out twinkle twinkle little star on your instrument of choice (The ukulele).
Joey Dimaio – Manowar
Roadies. They smell, they’re thick, they’re only good for tightening lug nuts and carrying speakers right?
What they certainly aren’t is musical geniuses just waiting for the opportunity to crank out a solo 12-string versions of the William Tell overture, followed up by a 42 minute operetta based on The Iliad that somehow gets them signed to Geffen records.
Sure Manowar are fucking ridiculous, but its a rare 4 string sorcerer indeed who can come out ahead in a band that features a singer with a 7 octave range. I've included a bass solo of theirs in the playlist below. It's played on a 12 string bass.
Lemmy – Motorhead
How may drugs have you taken?
How may people have you sexed up?
Lemmy would laugh at your pathetic attempts if he had time between swigging from that whisky bottle. His name may have come from blagging cigarettes from all and sundry (lemmy a fag mate…) but in return he gave us some of the tightest,dirtiest,all-round greatest rock n roll on the planet.
John Entwhistle – The Who
Outwardly, the man known as 'The OX' is everything a bass player should be: Quiet, resolute -hey, he was even raised in Chiswick. Boring, boring Chiswick.
But look at that buzzard Bass, listen to those truly monolithic grooves. He may be the most boring man Bill Wyman has ever met, but he’s a groove-layer par excellence.
Stig Pederson – D.A.D
Throughout his career with never-quite-as-popular as they deserve Danish rockers D.A.D, Stig has elevated bass playing to Zen levels.
Realising that minimalist is the way to go, he's dispensed entirely with 2 superfluous strings.
His position on the list isn’t based on musical prowess however, but on his bubble perm, rocket-shaped choice of axe and predilection for dressing up as a recently ejected fighter pilot - complete with parachute. Despite his status as a comedy Scandinavian, he still manages to anchor down some of the most lyrically complex, layered and just plain great pop rock of the last 20 years-do yourself a favour and check them out.
Billy Sheehan – Mr Big
So, there’s this guitar player right? His name’s Steve Vai.
He was in this band with this dude called Frank Zappa-maybe you heard of him? Well little Stevie managed to be in that band and not ever get upstaged by big Frankie Z. And when Steve got hired by a certain ex-Van Halen frontman, he hired a bass player.
Who was better than him.
Most people know Sheehan’s later project Mr.Big for the insipid ballad To Be With You. What they don’t remember is the ultra high velocity rockin propelled by Sheehan and his ridiculously dexterous down tuning.
Cliff Burton – Metallica
There’s a lot of middle managers out there that think latter day Metallica are great. They’re wrong.
Want proof?Listen to what’s going on in the background on Trapped Under Ice. Now listen to Load (actually,please don’t).Cliff’s demise may have marked the start of Metallica’s supergroup status, but it also started a slippery slide into creative bankruptcy that left most original fans wondering what might have been.
John Paul Jones – Led Zeppelin
Hey hey mama gonna make you move.
JPJ never quite seems to get the kudos afforded fellow mudshark incident survivors Page and Plant, but would Kashmir really sound so awesome if it wasn’t for the greatest rhythm section in rock history? Despite hanging out with a post-Kyuss Josh Homme a little too often in recent years, he remains a down-with-the-kids wrinkly talent.
Geddy Lee - Rush
Geddy Lee is cool because Geddy lee don't give no shits what you think. Maybe you think he looks like a nightmarish female Wurzel Gummidge? No fucks given.
Maybe the fact that only dogs can hear his voice as it dissolves glass and beams off into space has put you off buying that Rush boxset? Geddy is too busy absolutely ruling at everything to care.
He wrote 'Bytor and the Snow-Dog', but he's still happy making toboggan safety videos in his spare time.
Face it, Geddy is amazing - accept him into your life as your personal saviour right now.
Geezer Butler – Black Sabbath
The heaviest, Loudest member of the band. Oh-the band is Black Sabbath by the way.
The awesome moustache and ability to create relevant, amazing albums outside his day job only adds to his brilliance and makes you realise just how far Ozzy really has fallen.
Colin Grigson – Bad News!
His name is Colin Grigson,and he gets the fucking night bus home. Only in the band because he owns a PA system, Colin still managed to cobble together the middle eight’s to such all-time classics as Masturbike and Warriors of Ghengis Khan, he’s the only one here who’s playing resulted in his throat being slit at a major rock festival.
Currently working as deputy branch manager for Crouch End Nat West.
Oh, and apparently one of The Beatles played the bass too… let us know if you think of any others (apart from any members of The Sex Pistols, you've got to have some standards).
Find Matt on Twitter