Thursday, December 2, 2010

50 Best Bass Lines of All Time: Part 1

Today starts a new series here on Life On This Planet: The 50 Best Bass Lines of All Time: Part 1.

I have been playing bass for over 25 years now and I learned a long time ago that a great bass part does not have to be technically amazing and flashy (although sometimes it could be) - it just has to #1: be creative, #2: fit the song and #3: be memorable.  

The following list is not in any particular order. I have lots of songs to go through, so stay tuned for Part 2 (now posted). Scroll down to the bottom for a Spotify playlist that collects the songs from this entire series.

Jane's Addiction - Three Days
Bass Player: Eric Avery
Album: Ritual De Lo Habitual (1990)
That intro bass part is my favorite bass riff of all time. Just beautiful.

Joy Division - She's Lost Control
Bass Player: Peter Hook
Album: Unknown Pleasures (1979)
Peter Hook took a whole new approach to bass playing - strumming melodies high up on the neck.

Fishbone - Bonin' in the Boneyard
Bass Player: Norwood Fisher
Album: Truth And Soul (1988)
Such a killer groove. It's super busy, but works so perfectly. And check out the bass solo!

Queen & David Bowie - Under Pressure
Bass Player: John Deacon
Album: Released as single (1981), then on Hot Space
One of the most recognizable bass lines ever.

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Bass Player: James Jamerson
Album: What's Going On (1971)
James Jamerson was amazing. His part on this song is super intricate and is just plain brilliant.

Yes - Heart of the Sunrise
Bass Player: Chris Squire
Album: Fragile (1972)
Intense. And it always makes me think of Buffalo 66.

Primus - Tommy the Cat
Bass Player: Les Claypool
Album: Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991)
Try playing that one and then sing at the same time.

Tones on Tail - Go!
Bass Player: Glenn Campling
Album: Released as single (1984), later compiled on Everything
A killer, heavily-distorted, dance-friendly riff.

The Smiths - Barbarism Begins at Home
Bass Player: Andy Rourke
Album: Meat is Murder (1985)
Andy Rourke is completely overshadowed by guitarist Johnny Marr. This is just one of the many examples of his greatness on the bass guitar.

Rush - YYZ
Bass Player: Geddy Lee
Album: Moving Pictures (1981)
Just listen.

Continue to Part 2

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  1. Can't believe you didn't have "Another one bites the dust" by Queen!
    What about "Glory Box" by Portishead?

  2. Another One Bites The Dust definitely has a great bass line. Good pick. :)

  3. or Crazy Little Thing Called Love jajaja I think people tend to forget the greatness of John Deacon!... and Peter Hook is absolutely awsome! but I prefer the bass line of No Love Lost jaja

  4. Yeah, John Deacon's really a solid player. Great bassline in Crazy Little Thing - good call. It's hard to choose a Hooky bassline, I could've picked many. It was also hard to narrow down to just a couple of Eric Avery parts, because I could've had many! :)

  5. I would have put Tempis Fugit or The Roundabout ahead of Heart of the Sunrise, but that's because I'm a child of the 70s.

  6. Check out John Taylor's bass riffs. All the bass riffs mentioned so far are great, but JT's are melodically quite brilliant and tricky to replicate. Have a listen!!!

    1. There is at least one Duran Duran / John Taylor song on this list.... I believe it's 'Rio.' He's definitely a great player. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Wow, Three Days and Bonin' in the boneyard ! But why Parliament is never mentionned ??? Funkentelechy, Sir Nose, Give up the funk, Handcuffs, Rumpofsteelskin. These must me the best of the best ever !!! Or the Blackbyrd's theme, Pinocchio Theory (Bootsy Collins), even 1983...(Hendrix).

  8. Van Halen, "Runnin' With the Devil"

  9. Somewhere they allways seem to forget Fleetwood Mac 's The Chain

  10. where is Ian Dury's Hit Me with your Rhythym Stick? It is just so much better than anything, however good, on your list. It appears nowhere in any of the "experts" bassline lists, I suspect because the sound mix does not favour it at all. When I play it, I use the graphic equaliser to boost the 20hz-800hz. That is on a system optimised for punchy yet DEEP bass. So not fashionable, but simply the best. See how it fits the song, the bubbly lick for the verse, then the punchy bit for the chorus "Hit me, Hit me"