When it comes to bands, the most sorely overlooked member of rock is and shall always be the bass player. The thing is that you can be a real crappy bass player and still have a job. Just ask the troll looking guy from the Goo-Goo Dolls. To be honest, it’s one of the more thankless jobs in music because the strings are thicker, the sound is not as obvious as a guitar and just because you sometimes have two less strings, you’re not taken as seriously. But when you listen to great players and you educate your ear, things change quite a bit and you start discerning the crap from the good from the elite. Here’s my list of elite bass players that for some reason or another have taken it up quite a few notches in my ear canals.
21. Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden)
In the debate of who was the best band of the 90’s, one of the forerunners has always been Soundgarden. You just can’t be that good without calling attention to yourself. But far from being a one man show, Soundgarden proved that great musicians don’t need to overshadow each other and can actually collaborate. With the voice known as Chris Cornell, the off time greatness of Matt Cameron and Kim Thayill’s screeching guitars, there was one solid bass player that demanded attention for his skill and for the fact that his bass swung almost to his shins. Ben Shepherd was never a show stealer. Far from it actually. He was understated, looked pissed 24/7 and is massively talented. If you don’t believe me, sit down and really listen to Down on the Upside, you’ll thank me later for reminding you how good it is.
Highlight Tracks: Zero Chance, Ty Cobb, Burden in my Hand, Jesus Christ Pose
20. Nick Olivieri and Scott Reeder (Kyuss)
19. John Deacon (Queen)
Once you scroll down the list it might even seem silly to put John Deacon here but humor me and try to mention two bass lines that are more memorable than Another One Bites the Dust and Under Pressure. He wasn’t a powerhouse of a bass player, he just knew how to lay down a solid riff that got your ass moving. Advantage, Deacon.
Highlight Tracks: Another One Bites The Dust, Under Pressure, I want to break free
18. Adam Clayton (U2)
While The Edge and Bono shall forever be the show stealers (well except in the last album), Adam Clayton shall always be part of the oh-so-solid bedrock for that band that starts with a U. In the last album especially I was impressed with Clayton’s work and he’s been solid for the entire run of the band. You just don’t notice because the other two pretty much suck up all things limelight. But rest assured, beneath the effects laden wall of The Edge and Bono’s theatrics, there be a damn fine bass player keeping it all together.
Highlight Tracks: With or Without You, Magnificent, Get on your Boots
17. Simon Gallup (The Cure)
Simon Gallup is one of those bass players whose main calling card shall forever be the way they tune their instrument. Simply put, pretty much no one else sounds like Simon and he has always been instrumental in giving the Cure’s best music its signature sound.
Highlight Tracks: Anything from Pornography, Bloodflowers, 17 Seconds or Disintegration.
16. Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam)
When you think of Pearl Jam, you think of Eddie Vedder. But when you’re a psychotic fan that owns as much music from them as possible, you love the entire band for their talent and for never being complacent with themselves or the audience. It’s one of the few bands that really does away with what’s popular and does what it wants. Each member is integral to the flavor of the band and you just have to see how much the sound changes from album to album especially when they change drummers. But Jeff has done a great job of sitting in with 4 drummers and always going above and beyond the call of duty, bringing out the upright bass, knowing when to hold back and knowing when to rip shit up.
Highlight Tracks: Jeremy, Hail Hail, Daughter, God’s Dice, Indifference, My Tree, I’m Open, Army Reserve, Save You, Once, Why go, Black, Porch, Garden, Go, Rats, Faithful, All those yesterdays
15. Chris Squire (Yes)
Highlight Tracks: The entire Yes discography
14. Colin Greenwood (Radiohead)
Greatness by any measure is not something easily chanced upon. Radiohead is a great band and it has achieved a level of success that’s incredible since it’s such an organic band in the sense of the word. Everyone contributes, and though Thom is the centerpiece, each and every member of Radiohead brings their A game to every single track. Colin is not the exception and without any one member, they are a lesser band… and they know it.
Highlight Tracks: Air Bag, ‘Packt Like Sardines', Planet Telex
13. Mike Inez (Alice In Chains)
This is a very personal selection simply because if I ever played bass, I’d want more than a couple of songs to sound like Mike Inez. Honestly, the tuning he has on his bass is rich, deep, and just resonates with what I think a bass should sound like most times. Is he the most versatile player I’ve ever heard? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of my favorites.
Highlight Tracks: Nutshell, Rotten Apple, No Excuses, Heaven Beside You, I Stay Away
12. Aston Barrett (Bob Marley)
Quite honestly, Bob Marley would have been pretty big even without his rhythm band… or so we’d like to think. The reality is that behind one of the most iconic voices in music, there was a tremendous band and a key figure in the music was the Family Man Aston Barrett. In basic terms, good reggae needs great bass lines and there’s no way around it for me. Luckily for us, the dub was full on, Bob was given onto the world and even the uneducated know who the Wailers were. That’s thanks in large part to father Marley’s greatness, the confidence he had with an epic band watching his back, and a dub line that let him express his soul.
Highlight Tracks: Exodus, Stir It Up, Get Up Stand Up, Jamming, Buffalo Soldier
11. Mike Watt
Highlight Tracks: his work with the Minutemen, FIREHOUSE or solo… just listen to the guy.
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