A few days ago, musicradar.com posted an interview with Geddy Lee – from the band Rush. Geddy also named 10 bassists that “blew his mind”. We thought it would be a good idea to make a synopsis of that list. The full text can be found HERE.
10. James Jamerson
I’m gonna go with a choice back from my roots, someone who inspired everyone we’ve talked about on this list. He was from the Motown years and was not a rock guy, but if you want a real education in bass playing listen to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. So many of those Motown classics would not have grooved the way they did or would not have been as melodic without his input. There were three players from that period in America: him, ‘Duck’ Dunn and Carol Kaye, who had the LA sound down.
It’s important to remember John Paul Jones wouldn’t have played like that if it wasn’t for James Jamerson. So apologies to Victor Wooten and all the other great musicians, including Paul McCartney, but my final choice could only belong to James Jamerson!
I guess I have to mention Flea here.I was in the gym just the other day and heard “Give It Away” playing. He’s such an original player; he can play up top in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the vocal – in fact, it enhances the vocal. He can go low and high – and I’m a massive fan of how he works it up high, as counterpoint to the melody of the song.
His solos are insane from a technical point of view. You can see how much he loves to play – he’s having the best time, and I love to see that in a bass player.
8. Les Claypool
I have to talk about Les Claypool because he’s brilliant. When we [Rush] first toured with Primus opening for us, we didn’t know the guys. Soon, we started jamming before the shows in the dressing rooms. There was only one rule to the jams – you couldn’t play your main instrument! Then I started watching them from the side of the stage every night.
I’d never heard a bass player do anything like that, doing single notes in a rock way then going to slapping and popping in this slinky, almost humorous way. It was very effective rhythmically. So as much as he says I inspired him when he was young, he kinda inspired me in the middle of my career, making me realise I could get a lot more rhythm out of my playing.
[Claypool] is a pioneer of the bass guitar. He’s got this very original attitude and fresh approach with this highly creative, albeit quirky, player.
7. Jeff Berlin
Bill Bruford, who is connected to Yes, did a couple of solo albums that really affected me. In his band, he had a bassist named Jeff Berlin. I think he’s one of the greatest, up there with Jaco, in terms of facility, brilliance, dexterity and creativity. He could play his instrument and you’d swear you were hearing another guitar and bass – three instruments – when it was just Jeff. We’ve become friends over the years and I have so much respect for him.
6. Chris Squire
This one of the more unsung bass players. I would say after John Entwistle, Chris Squire had the most impact on my life as a bassist, in terms of both sonically and aspiration.
[I loved] Yes. When I heard “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” from [the album] “Time And A Word“, the bass came blistering out of the speakers and I was wondering: ‘Who is this?!’. He sounded adventurous and rhythmic. He played with a pick, but I don’t hold that against him, haha! Chris was so orchestral, creative and complex, his parts are classically structured in that they’re inventive and all over the place. Chris is the reason I wanted a Rickenbacker 4001. He’s what took me from John Entwistle to my next step in twangy tone!
5. Jaco Pastorius
What can you say about Jaco that hasn’t been said? I had the pleasure of seeing him in Weather Report in the late-’70s/early ’80s somewhere in Milwaukee. A friend of mine from the band touring with us went to watch the soundcheck and then later that night, we watched the show. I’d never seen a bassist like that, making the sounds he got out of his fretless. It was unbelievable; he was the combination of a technician and a sound stylist, very adventurous and experimental with tones. He set the bar that so many others are compared to.
4. John Paul Jones
What a complete musician. He began as keyboard player before picking up the bass. Even before Led Zep, he was one of the most popular studio musicians in London at that time. You’re talking about the London sound! He played on all those Mickie Most records and was an arranger as well.
His role in Zeppelin was a lot more profound that people credit him with. He could play keys, had an ear for arrangements and wrote great bass parts – just listen to what he does on “What Is And What Should Never Be“.
3. John Entwistle
The Ox! Ever since I first heard My Generation right through to Won’t Get Fooled Again or The Real Me… he was quite possibly the greatest rock bassist of all time. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that.
He was a bass player’s bass player. He didn’t play guitar. He didn’t want to do anything other than play awesome bass. He had the dexterity; it was just so fluid, man… a pure joy to listen to. Plus, he could get that twangy tone out of almost any bass he played.
Like me, he was a collector. He had one of the first true bass collections back in the day. Sadly, he passed away and that collection got sold on to other people. I’m very happy to have one of those instruments. He will always be my hero and among the top bassists that have ever lived.
2. Jack Bruce
I had the great pleasure of seeing Jack Bruce [and Cream] in the late 60s. Jack had this super-distorted, big-bottom-y EB-3 that he played and it sounded so unadulterated in this small venue, it ended up being one of the most memorable concerts of my childhood. Cream really influenced those early Rush records, especially being a three-piece.
Jack grew up playing the double bass and adapted to the electric, using fretless models early on as well as his EB-3. I also love his solo work; he made some great albums that were under the radar. Bass players, check ‘em out!
1. Jack Casady
I always found Jack Casady from Jefferson Airplane to be very underrated. He played odd basses, like this Guild that was really modified.
Listen to his playing from the early days and you’ll hear something really twangy and aggressive for what essentially was a trippy Californian band. Jefferson Airplane went through a million configurations in their history, but Jack made those early versions of this band stand out for me.
I really gravitated towards his sound on the song called The Other Side Of This Life. During the intro, he plays this angry circular pattern and if you listen to that, you’ll hear how there’s a nod to Jeff in my sound.