In honor of Innocent Words Magazine’s 15th Anniversary, I will be blogging a new favorites list once a month for the rest of the year. This month I present to you, our faithful blog readers, my 15 Years of Innocent Words Favorite Bassists Of All Time (in alphabetical order).
Being indifferent when it comes to bass, I am glad it’s there in the band, but I don’t obsess over it like a guitarist. I know the bass is important and there are hundreds of bass players that should be on this list rather than the ones I have, but these are the men and women I like. I am not into the flashy bass players or the weird players. I like my bass players to hold down the rhythm and keep the songs chugging along. In a music world where guitar and drum duos have become commonplace, I worry for the future of bass players because they are an important part of a rock band.
(Green River, Mother Love Bone, Three Fish, Tres Mts, RNDM, Pearl Jam)
Jeff Ament might fly below the radar when you think of great bass players, but this guy can hold his own. From punk to rock to world music, Jeff has a style and talent to make it all sound wonderful. Plus, he’s made the stand-up bass cool again and he is a talent when it comes to art.
Metallica purists might crucify me for this, but I like Jason Newsted better than Cliff Burton as a bass player. Don’t get the hammer and nails just yet. I think Cliff is a killer player—if in doubt, just listen to “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” With his flowing mane, cheesy ‘stache, and bell bottoms, this guy took the bass to a new level for metal bands.
The nickname “The Ox” doesn’t sound too flattering, but that is what The Who’s bassist John Entwistle was known as. For the record, he was also referred to as Thunderfingers and The Quiet One, but The Ox stuck. With his Alembic explorer-style bass slung over his shoulder, Entwistle changed the way people saw the bass with his hard-hitting thumb control and treble-twang sound riverboating throughout the Who’s songs. Like many bassists, Entwistle was a quiet soul who let his music do the talking for him.
The Female Bass Player
In making this favorite bassists list, I couldn’t help but to think of how many excellent female bass players there are in music. These ladies couldn’t be omitted, so here are my 10 favorite ladies who rock the bass:
Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins)
Kim Coletta (Jawbox)
Jennifer Finch (L7)
Nicole Fiorentino (The Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, Spinnerette)
Maureen Herman (Babes in Toyland)
Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan)
Rose Marshack (Poster Children)
Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde)
Kelly Ogden (The Dollyrots)
Kim Shattuck (Pandoras, Pixies)
Michael Steele (The Bangles, The Runaways)
Kim Warnick (Fastbacks; Visqueen)
D’arcy Wretzky (Smashing Pumpkins)
Sean Yseult (White Zombie, Star & Dagger)
(Moon Seven Times, Steve Pride & his Blood Kin, The Greedy Loves)
In the 1980s, 1990s, and for a brief time in the 2000s, Don Gerard could be found in a multitude of bands around his hometown of Champaign, Illinois. He’d downplay his significance and even his bass playing, saying he didn’t know what he was doing, but he was doing something significant if bands kept coming to him for his talents. He’d play this sparkly bass, one he wrapped himself, and chew bubble gum while playing, occasionally blowing bubbles while hammering out the notes. And if it was a good night you could see his influence of Soul Asylum’s Karl Mueller in his rock & roll bass stance.
(Ozzy Osbourne, Alice In Chains)
Anytime I hear Mike Inez’ name mentioned, the bass intro to Ozzy Osbourne’s song “No More Tears” enters my brain. That’s when I first heard of this kick ass bassist, and to this day I still think he is one of the best out there when it comes to that heavy low end. His resume speaks for itself—Ozzy, Alice in Chains, Black Label Society, Heart, and more. He can rattle that four-string with the best of them….plus he just has that cool rocker look.
John Paul Jones
The unsung hero of the greatest hard rock band of all time, John Paul Jones kept the classic Zeppelin songs in check with his masterful bass playing, but he also contributed spectacular keyboard work and co-wrote songs. Jones is commonly referred to as “underrated” as a bassist and I feel like that is because he is so damn good at so many things he does in music.
Custom carved Rickenbacker bass that he played on 10 with abandon. Microphone standing high, full throat, and sleeves rolled up. That was Lemmy, enough said.
Years ago, Innocent Words had a short-lived record label for five years and released a dozen albums. The first band signed to Innocent Words Records was Terminus Victor, one of my proudest moments. Scott Kimble was the lead singer, bassist, and mastermind behind the unique band. He dressed in all black, with a black military-style hat and black boots with his pants rolled up a little. Honestly, he scared some people, but he is one of the nicest guys you could meet. When he would step on that stage and strap on that three-stringed bass, he was invincible. He played the bass like a guitar and the sound would rattle in your chest. Sure, maybe I am biased, but if you could see him play, you’d be biased too.
Not many people can play bass, keyboards, and sing all at the same time, but Rush’s Geddy Lee can. However, that’s not why he is on this list. Sure, Geddy is remarkable on the four string, but the main reason he makes the list is his work on the instrumental Rush song “YYZ.” It is pure bliss.
(Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver, Loaded)
Speaking of cool looking bass players, Duff is the prototypical cool rocker. He looks and dresses the part; he plays his bass hung low and can rock it without any trouble. When you need a great bass line that is “in the pocket,” Duff is your man.
For more than 30 years, Karl Mueller held down the bass lines for Minneapolis indie rock stalwarts Soul Asylum. The band’s co-founder wasn’t flashy or outspoken. He played bass like his personality. Sadly, Mueller succumb to cancer in 2005, but he will always be in Soul Asylum as the band still dedicates songs to him night after night while on tour.
(Metallica, Voivod, Flotsam & Jetsam, Ozzy Osbourne)
It’s nearly impossible to replace a legend like Cliff Burton, but that’s what Jason Newsted had to do when Cliff tragically died. The Metallica purist will say the band lost a lot when Cliff died, but Jason was part of taking the band to a level they had never seen before. He took everything he learned from Cliff and expanded on it to become his own player. The best thing Jason did was remain himself when he joined the band and didn’t try to become Cliff part two. Since his departure, Metallica hasn’t been the same.
The first man to play a 12- and 8-string bass. That’s all you need to know. Tom is an innovator with the instrument and has that classic cool sound and vibe when he plays. All bass players should look to Tom first when they are starting out.
(King’s X, KXM)
A left-handed black man with a mohawk playing bass in a hard rock band? Yep, that’s Doug Pinnick. Influenced by everyone from Sly & the Family Stone to the Beatles to Black Sabbath, this guy loves it all and incorporates it into his playing. Doug has been grinding it out for more than 40 years and he still keeps on going. Lord knows it’s not for the money, but because he loves to play music. That’s how it should be.