The Best Bassist?


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Ahh, the much maligned bass-man. John Lydon called him the most worthless member of a Rock band.

Nick Lowe said that he'd produce a band, they'd have a bit of success and sack the bassist for not being good enough, and then they find that they've lost their sound.

I saw a band not sack their crap bassist and never get the success they deserved (he was out of time).

Who was the most important bassist to a band, who was technically the best, who just made you giggle?

A few to play with:

Sid Vicious or Glenn Matlock?
Bruce Foxton
John Entwistle
Paul MacCartney
Bill Wyman
John Jacques Burnel
Herbie Flowers


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Paul McCartney is, IMO, the most underrated bassist around. His bass was absolutely vital to the Beatles, and formed the core structure of much of their music. At times, it almost seemed like the rest of the song would be just accompaniment.

As far as modern rock bassists go, Justin Chancellor of TOOL is I think the most vital to his band. The backbone of TOOL's music over the last couple albums has been the interaction of the guitar and bass, the two together developing themes and harmonizing.


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Many of these bassists I have not heard of, and will be sure to research. Personally I favor McCartney and Geddy Lee of "Rush".

Though IMO I find this subject to be much like "Who is the best guitarist?" There will alway be differing views and and answers, and often, heated debate. I rarely see this kind of question about anything besides guitars though, and seeing this makes me happy. :)


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best bassist

Being a good bassist can mean different things. Its not about technique as much as composition. No one wants you to play lightning-fast.

If you are Jimi Hendrixes bassist (Noel Redding, Billy Cox) you NEED to be subtle. What makes you good is your ability to know what to do and when, because you are there to anchor down Jimi, when hes exploding into outa space

If you are the Whos bassist (John Entwistle) you can do what you like, because Pete Townsend (early days anyway) is just going to play a few chords. What a luxury. He gets a lot of acolades, but he really had it easy.

A lot of bands just want the bassist to play root notes - listen to Paul Mcartney on 'day in the life' or 'cry baby cry' (and loads more). He plays all sorts of counter melodies. Its not about being a good bassist for him, but more about being a good composer. Its not hard to replicate what he does, just hard to think of it in the first place!

And how many non-bassists can remember these basslines. Take them away, and the Beatles would be half the band they were

What about James Jamerson? Larry Graham? Jack Bruce?

Andrew Roussak

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Just wanted to bring this thread to live again -
sorry that nobody had mentioned John Paul Jones, Roger Glover and Billy Sheehan here.

I would also add Chris Squire to the list.

Simon Jansfort

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You're missing two of the best ones in my opinion. Two very different bass players.

Mark King (from Level 42)
Victor Wooten (from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones)



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I'm glad someone finally tossed Chris Squire into the mix, I was starting to get worried there:) Well most of my personal faves are here: Squire, Levin (a class of his own that man!), Wooten, Entwistle, Flowers, Lee.

Anyone else like John Wetton? He wasn't too bad.

No-one's mentioned Stanley Clarke yet.
I'm also fond of John Giblin, Mick Karn, Dave Meros.


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#1 Charlie Mingus

#2 The Allman Brothers - Berry Oakley

#3 Black Sabbath - Geezer Butler

These would have to be my 3 top bassists. All of them have their own style and sound, and all have been part of music that has had an enormous impact on music overall in all styles.

"Have you thanked the bass player lately? You should, no one else will."


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I think I'll tell my son about your site; he's a bassist and might like to give his opinion about who he thinks is the best bassist.......“I may climb perhaps to no great heights, but I will climb alone.”[Cyrano de Bergerac].

John Watt

Active member
Hey! I play electric guitar but this string wraps around me like a long songlist, playing tunes by all these guys, and seeing most. Too much rock though, not master musicians. A few comments. Someone nailed McCartney. He switched to bass when they fired their bassist in Germany, so he never grew up as a bassist, doing the bass thing. But those electric bass lines were light enough to blend with vocals and chord strumming, not far removed from their skiffle origins. His promotion of Hendrix is what I admire about him the most, the exact opposite of Pete Townsend.

For me, bass is a progressive instrument. It's not a folk or amateur toy to strum and sing to, or bang and bop to. Most bassists occupy their own space alone, a real luxury in a band and onstage. It's a large ensemble requirement, different instruments creating sonic levels. So I'd have to describe them in terms of the relationships their playing creates, not as soloists. And in my professional travels, after pianists, bassists are who singers and band leaders work hard for and pay more to keep, wanting to bring them along all the time. Too many wannabe rock stars wanting to play lead or synths left too few bassists for our generation.

Sting! He bugs me! Solid bass for years as The Police, then switching to guitar. It's easier to sing Sting if you play bass, but working the contra-guitar of Andy Summers while singing is an exercise in musical co-ordination. I love the Police, but only play and sing eight songs. Like playing heavy funk bass and singing lead. Haven't heard that lately, Rick James from Buffalo. That cost him his life. He got too hard, popular and rich.

And all up above, I did not see Jaco Pastorius, my favorite bass entertainer, with his Hendrixian atmospheres, contra-puntal overtones and effects, and his Cirque de Soleil slow motion acrobatic moves. Jack Bruce really set the template for busy bass and bass tones forming the backbone with drums, for electric rock arenas. It's difficult to discuss this with anyone who hasn't played hard rock in an arena, with the huge amount of wattage and sound getting tossed around out there, whether it is mixed coherently or not. Jack's tones, pumped through pre-stereo mixers, may have been farty and blasty live, even though he toned it down every other way in the studio, and with other acts. I'm thinking Theme From an Imaginary Western, with Leslie West as Mountain. Please, classicists, remember, in a rock band what you hear coming back at you, mains, monitors, foldback, side wash, E.Q. control, dance floor, crowd and room echoes, is louder and moves you more than your own playing, not distracted by sheet music, your sound not progressing past you.

What bass talk that's hot for me right now is Ned Steinberger and his electric cello bass. I'd like to thank Corno Dolce for turning me on to his domain. I'm looking for an old cello neck to try one myself, to give to my next bassist, my next best friend, someone I'd let take my bed, drive my car, help me date my girlfriend, loan money, instruments, introduce to my agents.... are you out there? Juni! Juni Booth! Come back. What's the matter? McCoy promising you more?

So that's just so all that. What's a real curiosity is where the first practical bass was used. I can't answer that. Jubal, named in Genesis as the first musician on earth, probably was a drummer, or a singer, that kind of communication working first. And that is a nice reference for talking about the oldest professions on earth.

Geddy Lee getta life outta Rush. Leave Neil alone. Try to learn to jam a blues progression before you get too off about now being the Rush leader. Yeah! Go ahead! Impress me! Let me hear you sing harmony or let someone sing harmony with you for the first time in your life. I'm not impressed with your library of pre-recorded song parts, all Rush, when you can't beat the beat of Tush. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, like the rez blues bands around you when you grew up that you never saw, and the funk and jazzy groups up from Buffalo and Niagara Falls, you never saw. You were rich, and you got richer. How much do you want, and how much can you keep getting away with, holding back, denying fans a more adult musical experience?

I still feel sad every time I head out of St. Catherines on the Q.E.W. and pass the onramp. I jammed with Neil Peart twice in Welland at The Atlas Hotel when he was in Bullrush. I prayed for him, the only musician to get my attention that way.

When continents crumble, while oceans rise, as whales are dying, the bass of the depths will move you first, hit you the hardest, travel the furthest, to be heard last and resonate fully into a fading dimension, like the long low boom I heard the other day, as Lake Erie ice broke from Canada to the U.S.A.

'60 to '64 Fender Jazz basses, rosewood neck, no mute or finger guide. My faves.
Until I hear someone playing cello-bass.
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The bassist from Porcupine Tree, they also have the worlds best drummer :)

If you don't know the band, you should check them out.