The best bassists in rock

18 November 2019, 22:29 | Updated: 18 November 2019, 22:31

Mani of The Stone Roses in 2000
Mani of The Stone Roses in 2000. Picture: Hayley Madden/Redfern/Getty Images

They're often overlooked in favour of the frontman or the flashy guitarist, but NOW... it's time to celebrate our favourite four-string playing legends.

  1. Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers

    No list of bassists would be complete without Flea, who often tops lists as the greatest bassist ever. Originally born in Australia, Flea's real name is Michael Peter Balzary, which doesn't quite have the same ring. As well as being one of the Chilis' founding members, he's also performed with artists like Jane's Addiction, Johnny Cash, Alanis Morissette, and Thom Yorke's supergroup Atoms For Peace.

    Flea playing at Bilbao Festival 2006
    Flea playing at Bilbao Festival 2006. Picture: Alfredo Aldai/EPA/Shutterstock
  2. Mani of The Stone Roses

    The Stones Roses bassist played a vital role in the Madchester explosion at the turn of the 90s with his iconic style, which fused fast rock playing with a dance rhythm. When the Roses disbanded in 1996, Mani went on to join Primal Scream until 2012. Of all the ex-Roses (who got back together in 2012 for a series of huge reunion shows), Mani was always the most active and vocal - he even briefly formed a supergroup of bassists called Freebass, where he was joined by Smiths bassist Andy Rourke and New Order's Peter Hook.

    Mani performing with The Stone Roses at Coachella, 2013
    Mani performing with The Stone Roses at Coachella, 2013. Picture: Startraks/Shutterstock
  3. Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order

    Peter Hook has had a fractious relationship with New Order over the years, and the two factions have been engaging in legal wrangling over the use of the name. Before that he, of course, was part of Joy Division, playing alongside Ian Curtis and Bernard Sumner until Curtis's tragic suicide in 1980. It was with Joy Division where he developed his famous high-note style, claiming that the amp he learnt on was so bad that he could only play high notes in order to hear himself!

    Ian Curtis and Peter Hook of Joy Division performing live in October 1979
    Ian Curtis and Peter Hook of Joy Division performing live in October 1979. Picture: Chris Mills/Redferns/Getty Images
  4. Kim Deal of the Pixies

    Although vocalist and guitarist for The Breeders, it was her bass work with the Pixies that made Kim Deal an icon. She was famous for her minimal bass playing, claiming that a lot of bassists don't know how to "pedal through something." Although penning one of Pixies' most popular tracks, Gigantic, tensions between Deal and Black Francis grew and grew until the band split in 1992. She joined them for their reunion in 2004, but left again in 2013. She's now been permanently replaced by Paz Lenchantin.

    Kim Deal performs with the Pixies at Reading Festival in 1990
    Kim Deal performs with the Pixies at Reading Festival in 1990. Picture: Andy Soloman/Shutterstock
  5. Carlos D of Interpol

    Interpol would not be the band they are if it wasn't for Carlos D's unforgettable bass style. Taking inspiration from Peter Hook, Carlos D was one of the key ingredients of the band. Leaving the band in 2010, Carlos famously hated playing bass guitar, apparently stating that it was not his instrument of choice. Imagine what he could of done with one of his favourites, then?

    Carlos Dengler of Interpol onstage in 2005
    Carlos Dengler of Interpol onstage in 2005. Picture: Lex van Rossen/MAI/Redferns/Getty Images
  6. Paul McCartney

    We obviously couldn't forget about the most famous bassist of all time. Macca not only highlighted the bass guitar as a lead instrument, but also came up with hooks and lines that will be a part of music forever. McCartney himself is particularly proud of his playing of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band and, unbelievably, he's completely self-taught.

    Paul McCartney onstage in 1979
    Paul McCartney onstage in 1979. Picture: Associated Newspapers /Shutterstock
  7. Chris Wolstenholme of Muse

    Famously penning the term "rock neck", which apparently you get from too much head banging, Wolstenholme brought a furious rock edge to Bellamy's intrinsic guitar playing. His style is heavy and performed with an expert's eye.

    Chris Wolstenholme onstage with Muse at Austin City Limits festival in 2013
    Chris Wolstenholme onstage with Muse at Austin City Limits festival in 2013. Picture: Amy Harris/Shutterstock
  8. John Entwistle of The Who

    The Ox - as he was known to fans - was a solid presence in the maelstrom of The Who. Amid the racket of Keith Moon's kinetic drumming, Pete Townshend's windmilling guitar and Roger Daltrey's rock god vocal, the athletic but solid pulse of Entwistle's bass added heart to the band's sound. Just listen to the bass solo on My Generation if you don't believe us.

    John Entwistle onstage with The Who in 1975
    John Entwistle onstage with The Who in 1975. Picture: Thorpe/Associated Newspapers/Shutterstock
  9. Lemmy

    Motörhead's attack was mainly down to the wall of thrash that came from "Fast" Eddie Clarke's guitar, but Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister's growling bass intro to Ace Of Spades is as punk as anything the Pistols or The Clash ever produced.

    Lemmy, playing bass with Motörhead
    Lemmy, playing bass with Motörhead. Picture: Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images
  10. John Deacon of Queen

    Another band of virtuoso performers, in the middle of which was a solid bass player. Along with writing some of Queen's best-loved hits like You're my Best Friend and I Want To Break Free, remember the beautiful glissandos on Bohemian Rhapsody and the dancefloor heart beat of Another One Bites The Dust.

    Queen in 1974: Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon
    Queen in 1974: Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon. Picture: Peter Mazel/Sunshine/Shutterstock
  11. Andy Rourke of The Smiths

    As many people have said, Rourke's basslines for The Smiths were a "song within a song" - just direct your ears to What Difference Does It Make, This Charming Man, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now and countless others.

    Andy Rourke of The Smiths performs on stage at Hammersmith Palais, on March 12th, 1984 i
    Andy Rourke of The Smiths performs on stage at Hammersmith Palais, on March 12th, 1984 i. Picture: Pete Still/Redferns/Getty Images

TRENDING ON RADIO X

Arctic Monkeys have announced European tour dates for next year

Arctic Monkeys announce 2022 European tour dates

Adele reveals 30 album release date

An Audience With Adele: ITV's release date & how to watch

Damon Albarn in November 2020, shortly before the finger-severing incident

Damon Albarn severed his finger while making pesto

An aerial view of the huge Oasis shows at Knebworth House, August 1996

10 of the biggest gigs in history