Time to pay tribute to those who lay down the bottom end of the music spectrum, the mighty bass guitarists of the Rock era. My musical idol, the late John Entwistle of The Who, is in a totally separate league from everyone else in my opinion, but that don't mean the rest of them suck. On the contrary—here's the best of the rest:
20) JACK BRUCE (Cream) I tend to think Cream is just a tad overrated in the overall scheme of things, but there's no denying what a fine musician this guy is. He filled in the gaps admirably whilst Clapton wailed away during his solos.
19) LEE ROCKER (The Stray Cats) Anyone who can tackle an old upright acoustic bass and make it rock can't be all bad!
18) JOHN DEACON (Queen) The highly reticent member of Queen, to be sure, but he came through loud and clear with his bass work on "Another One Bites The Dust", as well as "Dragon Attack" from 1980's The Game album.
17) FLEA (Red Hot Chili Peppers) I'm not a big fan of RHCP, but Flea was able to make Stevie Wonder's funky classic "Higher Ground" even funkier with his titanic bass playing.
16) CHRIS SQUIRE (Yes) A poor man's John Entwistle in many ways. He'd have scored a whole lot higher on my list if Yes' music wasn't so bloody tedious throughout most of their career.
15) MICHAEL ANTHONY (Van Halen) While not nearly as technically-accomplished as the others on this list, Mikey makes my list on pure chutzpah and personality. This is also a personal "fuck you" to Eddie Van Halen for kicking this guy out of the band for no good reason. Fuck you, Eddie, and take Diamond Dave with you!
14) DONALD "DUCK" DUNN (Stax Records/The Blues Brothers) This dude is about as prolific and funky as they come. Played bass on just about everything important that Stax put out in the '60s.
13) NICK LOWE (Brinsley Schwartz/Rockpile) Understated bass playing from a guy who is better known for his songwriting and producing prowess. Check out his thumping pulse on tracks like "Heart Of The City" and "Bobo Ska Diddle Daddle".
12) BILLY BLOUGH (George Thorogood & The Destroyers) His bass bits on 1978's "Move It On Over" are what initially drew me to the song in the first place. As Charlie Daniels once sang about Elvin Bishop, "He ain't good-looking, but he sure can play..."
11) DUSTY HILL (Z.Z. Top) For a man whose fingers resemble nothing more than big link sausages, ol' "Groover McToober" can lay down some bad-ass bass!
10) JOHN LODGE (The Moody Blues) Very underrated player who reminds me of Entwistle at times, especially on "The Story In Your Eyes" and "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock 'N' Roll Band)".
9) LEMMY (Motorhead) Hardly the most technically proficient bass player in the world, but what he lacks in technique he makes up for with volume and attitude. Almost like another rhythm guitar, really.
8) GEEZER BUTLER (Black Sabbath) Totally unorthodox style of playing, but hey, whatever works! His best moments were "N.I.B." and "Heaven And Hell".
7) DEE MURRAY (Elton John Band) This man, rest his soul, never gets any credit for his outstanding work on EJ's recordings from 1970 thru 1975 and in the early '80s. Very subtle, to be sure, but check him out on "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "Ballad Of Danny Bailey" from Yellow Brick Road and see what I mean.
6) PAUL McCARTNEY (The Beatles/Wings) John Lennon may have had issues with Paul on numerous fronts, but even JL accurately gave Big Macca his due when it came to his bass playing, saying that he was grossly underrated for it. I tend to agree. "All My Loving" is an early example of Sir Paul's prowess on the ol' violin bass.
5) BILL WYMAN (Rolling Stones) About as exciting as watching paint dry in concert, but Wyman was about as rock solid as anyone on record. Love his funky little bass lines on "Undercover Of The Night" and "Winning Ugly".
4) JOHN PAUL JONES (Led Zeppelin) Like Wyman, he was boring as whale shit to watch play live on-stage, but on vinyl JPJ delivered big-time, especially on that first Zeppelin album on tracks like "Dazed And Confused" and my personal all-time Zep favorite, "How Many More Times". Not a bad keyboard player, either.
3) JAMES JAMERSON (The Funk Brothers) The majority of the music produced on Motown Records in the '60s wouldn't have been nearly as good without this man. Entwistle himself acknowledged Jamerson as a big influence on his own bass playing.
2) TOM PETERSSON (Cheap Trick) Four strings ain't enough for this dude—he's best known for playing an 8-string bass, and sometimes even a 12-string behemoth! Check him out on CT's 1988 Lap Of Luxury LP on their excellent remake of Elvis' "Don't Be Cruel" and especially the underrated track "All Wound Up"—it's sure to rattle yer pots and pans...
1) GEDDY LEE (Rush) This guy never ceases to amaze me with his multi-tasking in concert. The boy not only plays very complex bass lines, but he doubles on keyboards and sings some fairly advanced lyrics—all at the same time! And he doesn't even wear a tuque! Pretty good, eh?