The 10 greatest Classic Rock bassists

11 June 2024, 19:05

Classic bassists: Lemmy from Motörhead, John Deacon of Queen and John Entwistle of The Who.
Classic bassists: Lemmy from Motörhead, John Deacon of Queen and John Entwistle of The Who. Picture: Gus Stewart/Redferns/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Radio X takes a look at some of Classic Rock's greatest four-string heroes...

Radio X

By Radio X

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The bass player - are they the unsung heroes of the band line-up? Every great act needs a solid rhythm section to build a foundation on, and the bassist provides the rhythmic backbone that anchors the music.

While the lead guitar player is out there throwing shapes, and the singer is connecting with the audience, some of the greatest musicians in rock have been four-string heroes.

Here are some of the greatest examples...

  1. John Deacon - Queen

    With Brian May on guitar, Roger Taylor on drums and Freddie Mercury on vocals, anyone would struggle to get themselves heard in a band with the musical skill of Queen. But John Deacon was no slouch, taking the band into new territory on the timeless Another One Bites The Dust.

    Queen - Another One Bites the Dust (Official Video)

  2. Bill Wyman - The Rolling Stones

    Another "quiet one" whose work is often overlooked in favour of the more talkative members, Wyman's bass locked in with Charlie Watt's solid drumming - just listen to Jumping Jack Flash or Miss You to hear his unique style.

    The Rolling Stones - Jumpin' Jack Flash (Official Music Video) (With Makeup)

  3. Paul Simonon - The Clash

    The London punks were heavily indebted to the sound of reggae, so it was no wonder The Clash had more rhythmic chops than many of their peers. Enjoy Guns Of Brixton for some pure Clash dub.

    The Clash The Guns Of Brixton 1980

  4. John Paul Jones - Led Zeppelin

    Saying JPJ is just the bass player in Led Zep completely undermines his contribution to the group's sound. He played keyboards and arranged orchestral parts, having made his name as a session musician over the years (the strings on the Stones' She's A Rainbow are his). But Jones had a perfect relationship with drummer John Bonham, creating a formidable rhythm section.

    Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song (Official Audio)

  5. John Entwistle - The Who

    The Ox was the anchor point between the windmilling Pete Townshend on guitar, Keith Moon's frenetic drumming and Roger Daltrey's microphone-throwing antics. His best moment is undoubtedly the bass breakdown in My Generation.

    The Who - My Generation

  6. Talking Heads - Tina Weymouth

    An astounding talent, Weymouth gave the band's post-punk riffs a phenomenal foundation and her funk influences would gain wider recognition on her side project Tom Tom Club.

    Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime (Official Video)

  7. Lemmy - Motörhead

    In a power trio, there's no room for stragglers so Ian Kilmister's ferocious backbone let Motörhead keep one foot in the sound of punk. His finest moment is clearly the opening salvo to Ace Of Spades.

    Motörhead – Ace Of Spades (Official Video)

  8. Geddy Lee - Rush

    With his three-octave vocal range and unique "lead bass" style, Lee's work in Rush took the Canadian band beyond mere power pop and paved the way for prog rock to flourish.

    Rush - Tom Sawyer

  9. Nikki Sixx - Mötley Crüe

    You'd think that the bass wasn't the most glamorous instrument to play in a metal band - but Sixx has proved them all wrong and made a bit to become the most notorious member of this notorious group. His bass on Dr Feelgood is admirably funky.

    Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood (Official Music Video)

  10. Paul McCartney - The Beatles, Wings

    At the time, when Paul stepped in to cover the hole left by the departing Stu Sutcliffe, it must have felt like taking over bass duties was a demotion. But Macca made the role his own, and his inventive lines set the standard for the rest of the decade. Listen to his riffing on The Beatles' Rain for details.

    The Beatles - Rain