Bass, how low can you go? Ten best bass players
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
I had a bass guitar when I was 19. It did not work out well...but fortunately for us, these ten bass players persevered and had talent (rather than just being able to play a poor version of Save A Prayer and an unrecognisable version of Rio)...
1. Peter Hook
Hooky is the bass player that doesn’t play like any other bass player – he’s playing melodic lead guitar and his solos were such a key part of both Joy Division and New Order’s sound. There are bass players that play like Peter Hook, but Peter Hook plays like no one else.
2. Carol Kaye
Carol Kaye was the session bass player - she played with Richie Valens, The Crystals, The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, The Mothers Of Invention, The Monkees, Sonny and Cher, Glen Campbell, JJ Cale, Matthew Sweet, Frank Black, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Four Tops. That’s a stunning career.
3. Bernard Edwards
Co-founded Chic and created era-defining disco classics, including Good Times, Le Freak as well as co-producing Diana Ross, Debbie Harry, Sister Sledge and many more. His bass lines are joyous and were sampled by numerous bands, most famously on Rapper’s Delight which is based around Good Times.
4. Tina Weymouth
From the sinister bass line of Psycho Killer to her subtle tour de force of Once In A Lifetime, she’s often overshadowed by David Byrne, but without her Talking Heads would never have been as good.
5. Kim Deal
Pixies may have been Black Francis’ band, but her guttural driving bass lines were the thing that first attracted me to them. Tame and Debaser are as much her songs as Frank’s, even if he wrote them. And as the song goes, we all want to be Cool As Kim Deal.
6. Mick Karn
Mick Karn’s fretless bass defined Japan’s sound – his music was like an exotic sculpture (he would indeed go on to be a sculptor). His bass lines could be strange and eerie or he could create a disco tour de force – Quiet Life is a stone cold classic.
7. Paul McCartney
Yes he wrote some of the most brilliant songs in the world and he could play everything – but his bass playing was stunning. Tomorrow Never Knows, Taxman, Paperback Writer – his playing acted as a counterpoint to the song’s melody and he created bass melodies of his own. So talented.
8. Larry Graham
Sly & The Family Stone, Grand Funk Central, Prince – he pioneered the slap-bass style – listen to I Want To Take You Higher – the bass drives the whole thing and it’s incredible.
9. Danny Thompson
Blues, folk, jazz – you name it, he’s played it. My favourites are his playing with John Martyn on the Solid Air album, which is just gorgeous.
10. Bootsy Collins
A career that included Parliament, Funkadelic, James Brown’s JBs – he is a leading name in funk. Plus if you played bass on Sex Machine, you are a legend…
And a late addition:
11. Derek Forbes of Simple Minds
I have no idea how I could have omitted this incredible musician. Another bass player that feels like he is playing lead - his bass lines were fluid, funky, fretted and fretless. Check out songs like Theme For Great Cities, In Trance As Mission, Promised You A Miracle - they are mesmerising. I love Simple Minds but they were never as great after he left.