If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, or know anything about me, you’ll know that I was/am a bass player in addition to a singer of folk songs. The LA Weekly recently posted a list of the “20 Best Bassists of All Time”. Naturally, the headline jumped out at me from my Facebook page and I was eager to see who had been listed. The list itself though, had a couple of selections I disagreed with along with several glaring omissions. So, to counter the LA Weekly, and in no particular order, here are my “Top Ten Bass Influences”. Music being so subjective, I would never attempt to say somebody was “the best” – it’s all opinion anyway – but these are the players that had the biggest influence on me and my playing style, along with a video clip spotlighting each one.
Martyn Wylde playing bass with Clarence Clemons 1995
Paul McCartney McCartney is probably the reason I play bass in the first place, The Beatles being the spark that ignited many would-be musicians of a certain age. Although I was already solidly set on a musical path, their influence (and influences) pushed me in a direction I might not otherwise have gone. When my son Bryan wanted to learn bass, this is the song I urged him to tackle first. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82jGgsYkTJo
John Entwistle “The Ox” was number 3 on the LA Weekly list, but number 1 with me for a lot of my teenage years, beginning with the first time I heard “My Generation”. At my first (of many) Who show in 1968, I was fortunate enough to be able to stand practically right next to Entwistle. I’d already been playing bass for four years, but I really went to school that night. An unforgettable experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASJxApEz_YA
Jack Bruce Cream has been my favourite band since I first heard “I Feel Free” on a copy of Fresh Cream I’d ordered from England. Not only was Bruce an incredibly innovative bassist, his soaring vocals and quirky songwriting put him in a class by himself. His solo career was an example of a musician following his muse and encompassed jazz, blues, rock and even opera. The video, unfortunately, isn’t a live performance, but listen to the bass (and the vocal and the composition…). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf2uNw74SQE
Dee Murray Dee Murray was Elton John’s original bassist. For musical examples, please listen to the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album. Every track contains his superb melodic bass, always playing “the song” not just the bass. He varied the sound of his instrument and his approach, sometimes playing with fingers, sometimes with a pick. A musician’s musician. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlifljKJpog
Chris Squire Chris Squire’s playing with Yes is probably the reason why the Rickenbacker 4001 bass is still so popular. Decidedly a proponent of “bass as a lead instrument”, and nobody does it better. I was tempted to include the track “Roundabout” which is my favourite performance of Squire’s, but this live solo might be more of a treat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f09Arbuk5y8
James Jamerson One of Motown’s house bassists, Jamerson’s wonderfully rhythmic and melodic playing was the backbone of many of the label’s biggest hits. When I was first learning bass, I’d play with every song that came over the radio waves, and in those days, the selection was remarkably diverse. You’d hear a Beatles song, followed by a country song, another “British Invasion” record, an “oldie” and then a Motown hit. Here’s a wonderful representation of Jamerson locked in, not just with the rest of the rhythm section, but with the vocalist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6tCqqbnB6o
John Paul Jones JPJ already had quite a musical career going as a session musician and arranger when Jimmy Page asked him to join Led Zeppelin. Listening to his bass lines, you hear him not only locked tightly with the human sledgehammer, John Bonham, but playing in a highly diverse range of styles and with a variety of techniques. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMxSE3CDcpA
Ronnie Wood Before we knew him as a member of Faces and then The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood played bass for The Jeff Beck Group. Taking a guitarist’s approach to the bass, Wood played chords along with the expected walking blues bass lines. I remember him using a Telecaster bass, played with a pick. Always admired that bass – and his playing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFyc_WXWNtw
Roger Glover Longtime Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover is the quintessential British hard rock bassist. He’s played not just with DP, but with Rainbow, Gov’t Mule and has been active as a producer for decades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYflb6GRcWg
Duck Dunn You’ve heard Donald “Duck” Dunn’s playing whether you know it or not. He was the bassist with Booker T and the MGs and the house bass player for Stax Records, playing on recordings by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Elvis Presley and many others. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ965uZKi-w
Sorry for the ads in many of the videos. The folks who put them on YouTube have elected to “monetise” them and there’s no way around it.
Just for your information, here’s a link to the LA Weekly list: http://www.laweekly.com/…/the-20-best-bassists-of-all-time