"Bass solo, take one. (echo)
, before the start of "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)"
So Nobody Loves the Bassist
, eh? Think again. That dude in the spotlight, the one everyone’s cheering for, the famous face everybody remembers ... is it me, or is that axe he/she’s wielding suspiciously oversized? VINDICATION! The Lead Bassist takes up an instrument that screams "anonymous role-player
," and somehow rides it to fame. For one reason or another, he’s better-known than the band’s lead guitarist, or even the lead singer.
But what could cause such a perversion of the natural order? There are four fundamental factors that can give birth to a Lead Bassist:
: The Virtuoso. This bassist is so famously skilled and so near the top of the field as to overshadow the band’s other musicians—who may be excellent in their own right, but not necessarily at the pinnacle.
: The Singer. This musician is mainly famous for being a lead vocalist, or part of a Vocal Tag Team
. The fact that he plays a bass is secondary, and may even go unnoticed by casual fans.
: The Face of the Band
. This bass player is well known for non-musical reasons, such as:
- Being a founder or guiding creative spirit of the band.
- Engaging in notorious behavior, such as drunken misadventures or a newsworthy love life.
- Being Mr. or Ms. Fanservice
- Having a successful career in acting or another field outside of music.
- Having a successful career when leaving the band.
- Dying tragically ... or at least memorably.
: The Genre Lead. Rather than rock or popular music, this bassist plays jazz, funk, African folk music, etc., genres in which the bass cuts a larger figure—sometimes even a central one.
Bassists may qualify under more than one of these tropes: Paul McCartney
, for example, manages to flawlessly embody Types A, B, and C.
This is not a list of "Good Bassists" or "Bassists I Like."
This page is for bass players who, for one reason or another, garner a distinctly larger
share of public notice than more traditional band "frontmen" such as the singer or lead guitarist. If the bassist is the least-known member of the band, he doesn't belong here, however well-regarded he is
(future musicologists will dub this the "Entwistle
See Nobody Loves the Bassist
Fictional & Quasi-Fictional Examples:
- Before switching primarily to the guitar, Abbath Doom Occulta was the bassist/singer/frontman for Immortal.
- Martin Eric Ain was a co-Face of the Band and spokesman during his tenure with Celtic Frost.
- Juan Alderete de la Peńa of Vato Negro is a type D (bass-driven noise rock).
- Emma Anzai of Sick Puppies is just as well known as lead singer/guitarist Shim Moore. Due to their nature as a 3 piece band, Anzai's bass has a lot of room to shine,and each album sees her stepping up to the mic more and more often from simple backing vocals, to vocal tag team and outright taking the lead here and there. She's also considered very attractive.
- Tom Araya, the bassist and lead vocalist/frontman of Slayer.
- During her stint with Kittie, Talena Atfield was the band's undisputed Ms. Fanservice.
- Not only is Walter Becker a famously virtuosic bass player, but after the first few albums, he and Donald Fagen pretty much were Steely Dan. Co-face and co-songwriter of the band with Fagen.
- Jean Baudin of Nuclear Rabbit: Types A (rocks an ELEVEN-string bass!), C (he's the founder/leader), and D (the music's built around his eccentric technique).
- Sean Beasley of Dying Fetus constitutes half of a Vocal Tag Team with John Gallagher.
- Jason Netherton filled the same role before Beasley and is now the frontman for Misery Index.
- Brett Beavers was the bassist and bandleader for Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack, and has since become a famous and sought-after songwriter and producer.
- Jack Blades has been the co-lead singer for both Night Ranger and the supergroup Damn Yankees.
- Andreas Blomqvist of Seventh Wonder is his band's big name, famous both as a founder and for his fret-tapping speed runs.
- Derek Boyer of Suffocation is notorious for his bizarro antics, both onstage and off.
- Ron Broder is the bassist and lead singer of Coroner.
- Brian Bromberg: Behold an example of his work. All those "guitar" tracks are actually bass lines (with the strings tuned up high). He's released several "bass-only" albums. Don't love the bassist? Too-bad—he's all you've got!
- Jack Bruce was the bassist and primary singer of Cream, and has had an low-key but well-regarded solo career.
- Cliff Burton of Metallica was a well-regarded instrumentalist, but is iconic among long-time fans because of his formative influence and early death.
- John Cale (Velvet Underground, solo), Types B and C, through his song-writing, production, and multi-instrumental skills.
- Erlend Caspersen (Blood Red Throne, Spawn of Possession, Deeds Of Flesh, etc.): Type A, also a Type C due to his highly influential status among metal bassists.
- Justin Chancellor of Tool is a Type A. Although everyone in the group is enormously talented, Chancellor has a distinctive sound and plays many of the more recognizable Epic Riffs. (Though some of the epicest, like "Sober", were actually performed by his predecessor Paul D'Amour.)
- Al Cisneros (Sleep, Shrinebuilder): Type B, C and D. With Sleep, Cisneros was such a key figures in the evolution of Doom Metal that he can be partly credited with the importance of the bass in the genre.
- Stanley Clarke (Return to Forever, The Seatbelts) is a genuine jazz celebrity, as well as a bandleader in his own right.
- Les Claypool: Les is the epitome of Lead Bassist, being types A, B, C, and D
- Peter Cetera was the long-time co-singer and most recognizable face of Chicago.
- Bootsy Collins (George Clinton) is one of funk's most recognizable faces and sounds, and even sang occasionally (with Bootsy's Rubber Band).
- Max Collins is the singer and frontman of Eve 6.
- John Cooper is known as the vocalist of Skillet.
- Kim Deal was the face of The Pixies alongside Black Francis, sang the occasional lead, and was the lead singer & bandleader of The Breeders.
- Russell DeCarle is the lead singer of Prairie Oyster.
- Joey DeMaio of Manowar is the band's main songwriter, and famous for his piccolo bass and solos.
- Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Autopsy, Control Denied, Dark Haul, Faust, Testament, Vintersorg, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Charred Walls of the Damned, Obituary, Sadus, Dragonlord, the list could go on): Type A for his technical skills on the fretless bass and a Type C for being in all of those bands and many more (for at least one album).
- James Dewar sang for both the Robin Trower Band and Stone the Crows.
- Leif Edling of Candlemass is celebrated as the band's main songwriter.
- Bernard Edwards was a central identifying face of Chic, a defining contributor to the band's signature funk sound, and a well-known songwriter/producer.
- To casual listeners, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are Flea, singer Anthony Kiedis, and those other guys.
- Mike Flores of (Origin) usually steals the spotlight because of his fast and highly technical playing—not to mention that he's one of the band's main songwriters, an occasional stand-in vocalist, and has the second-longest uninterrupted tenure after Paul Ryan.
- Dave Fridmann of Mercury Rev is a household name in the industry—not only for his band, but as a producer both for them and the Flaming Lips.
- Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth's co-singer and co-Face of the Band.
- Larry Graham is the inventor of the "slapping" technique, which he popularized with both Sly & the Family Stone and Graham Central Station.
- Keith Grimwood of Trout Fishing In America is a Type B, since he splits lead vocals about 50-50 with guitarist Ezra Idlet and they write most of their songs together.
- Steve Grisaffe (of country band River Road): Type B.
- Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is a seminal figure among bass players, writes most of the band's songs and is as recognized as Bruce Dickinson.
- Johnny Hedlund is the lead singer of Unleashed.
- Mike Herrera was known as the singer for Mx Px, and later as the frontman of his own band Tumbledown.
- Marco Hietala]] was the singer of Nightwish, the singer and bandleader of his old band Tarot, and an extremely influential instrumental stylist for Finnish metal.
- Peter Hook was the co-founder of Joy Division and New Order, and famous for his distinctively high-pitched, melodic playing.
- Mark Hoppus of Blink182 shares frontman and singing duties with guitarist Tom Delonge, and is also lead singer of the band +44.
- Ricardo Iorio, bassist and singer of the Argentinian bands V8, Hermética, and Almafuerte, is considered a seminal figure in his country's metal and popular-music scenes ... bordering on national-hero status.
- James Jamerson (Funk Brothers/Motown Records session musician): Type A and D
- Gary Jarman of the Cribs is half of a Vocal Tag Team type with his twin Brother, Ryan.
- Janice Marie Johnson was both the lead vocalist and lead bassist of A Taste of Honey.
- Percy Jones (Brand X, Tunnels, various Brian Eno albums): Type A, without a doubt, and on fretless electric bass, to boot.
- Jesse F. Keeler of dance-punk duo Death from Above 1979 is both type C and D, due to appearing on every release with the sole other member of the band, drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger. The lack of any other members means that Keeler's heavily distorted, grinding bass takes the forefront of the band's sound.
- Steve Kilbey of The Church: Type B.
- Lemmy Kilminster, pictured atop this page, is the long-time singer and bandleader of Motörhead, an iconic elder statesman of old-school heavy metal, and the mayor-for-life of Drinkin' Island.
- Mark King of Level 42 is type A, B and C. Arguably, he's type D as well, since Level 42 is a very funk-inspired pop band.
- Bakithi Kumalo is a Type D, as one can hear on nearly half the tracks of Paul Simon’s Graceland.
- Greg Lake, vocalist and bassist of King Crimson. Bass, guitar, vocals, and lyrics in Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Type B
- Joe Lally of Fugazi often carries the melody in the band's songs, sometimes relegating the guitars to near-rhythm capacity, and also contributed a couple of lead vocals.
- Dominic "Forest" LaPointe (Augury, Beyond Creation, Atheretic, Quo Vadis etc.): Type A. Mastering a left-handed 6-string fretless bass guitar is bound to get quite some attention.
- Geddy Lee, lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist of Rush. Canonical combo of A and B.
- Jon Leon earns his Type C by being the founder and only permanent member of a Revolving Door Band.
- Garry Lowe of Big Sugar is a definite D, occasionally migrating to B and C. Despite being a hard rock blues band with country influences, Garry counterpoints all of this with serious funk jams and R&B riffs, and is very easy to spot: four well-dressed white boys and a shirtless, wild-haired Jamaican.
- Nick Lowe can play several instruments, but has often functioned as the bassist in bands which he has played in or lead — and has sometimes been the face or joint face of those bands. That puts him in type B, but his skills as a songwriter and producer probably move him more into type C.
- During his time with Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott was the principal songwriter, singer, and Face of the Band.
- Aimee Mann, singer-songwriter, guitarist and bassist. Type B
- Michael Manring: Very much Type A. Much of his latter-day output consists of solo fretless-bass performances, leading one admirer to quip "he's not so much a bass player as he is a one-man band who just happens to play bass."
- Terry McBride was the bassist/singer of the country band McBride and the Ride, and later became noted for his songwriting (including for Brooks & Dunn, whose road band he joined).
- Paul McCartney: A, B, and C. Probably the best known bassist of all, helped by turning the violin-looking Hofner bass into an Iconic Item.
- Mike Mills sang several R.E.M. songs, and in public often served as co-Face of the Band (in tandem with Michael Stipe).
- Charles Mingus, Jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader. Types C and D
- Arif Mirabdolbaghi: Types A and C, for writing the band's lyrics until recently.
- Colin Moulding: Type B and C
- Danny Myrick: Type B and C. Myrick fronted the 1990s band Western Flyer. Several years after they broke up, he became a successful songwriter (including "She's Country" by Jason Aldean) and producer.
- John Myung: Type A
- Johnette Napolitano (of Concrete Blonde): Type B and C - Concrete Blonde is basically Napolitano and whoever she decides to play/record with.
- Tomomi Ogawa: Primarily a Type B with some elements of Type C. Co-vocalist & main lyricist. And according to the other bandmembers, band mascot...
- Richard Page (Mr. Mister): Type B
- Roger Patterson was a very firm Type A (in fact, he was responsible for a good portion of the band's early buzz) and an even firmer Type C due to both said initial buzz and his tragic death.
- Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report, solo): Types A and D. His alcoholic descent and unfortunate death add C to the list.
- Tom Petersson: Type C—he’s not more memorable than Rick Nielsen or Bun E. Carlos, but he certainly rings more of a bell than singer Robin Zander.
- Dickie Peterson (Blue Cheer): Type B
- Doug Phelps is both the bassist and the on-again/off-again lead singer of the Kentucky Headhunters.
- Doug Pinnick handles lead vocals for King's X.
- Joe Principe is definitely a Type A.
- Suzi Quatro, singer-songwriter, bass guitar player, and actor. Type B
- Reita of The Gazette is notorious not only for his virtuosic musicianship, but for his look—in the Visual Kei world, apparently, the iconic nose band makes the man.
- John Rich was originally a Type B in Lonestar, where he traded lead vocals with Richie McDonald. Lonestar has not had an official bassist since Rich was fired in 1998; several different bassists have backed them on the road without being counted as official members, and they usually use a session musician in the studio. Although Rich no longer plays bass, he has become a Type C for his work as one-half of Big & Rich, as well as several songwriting and production credits.
- Mark Sandman of Morphine was Types B, C, and D, rolled up into in one doomed Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly package.
- Troy Sanders is a little bit of Type B, a little bit of Type C.
- Marcel "Schmier" Schirmer is the vocalist for Destruction.
- Jacob Schmidt of Defeated Sanity is a firm Type A and Type C, as he shares songwriting duties with Lille Gruber and is renowned for both his astounding technical ability and deep knowledge of theory.
- Jason Sellers: Type B and C. Originally a bassist in Ricky Skaggs' road band, he recorded two solo albums in the late 1990s and played bass on both. He is now a prominent backing vocalist and songwriter (most notably, he co-wrote Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay").
- Billy Sheehan: Type A (when you can keep up with Steve Vai it's a given!) , and the Face of the Band for Mr. Big.
- Gene Simmons is a huge combination of Types A and C, writing most Kiss songs with the other Face of the Band, singing at least half the tracks, and being the most recognizable of the bandmembers (he loves to give interviews and has among other things a reality show).
- Nikki Sixx wrote most Mötley Crüe songs with the other guy that's usually given the shaft, the drummer. His wild life (including being dead for a few minutes!) also gave some recognition.
- Squarepusher: Types A and C—his bass playing is as well-known as his electronic work.
- Yes's bassist Chris Squire is the prototypical Type A. He's also sung on a couple of solo albums, some of which repeat his famous stunt of using only multitracked bass guitars. As far as being a Type C, he's the only member of the band to have appeared on all of their albums.
- Jeffrey Steele: He was the lead singer/bassist in the 1990s country band Boy Howdy. He remains notable as a solo artist, songwriter, and producer.
- Peter Steele: Types B and C.
- Sting: Types B and C.
- John Taylor: Type C, especially as he's Heterosexual Life-Partners with the only consistent member of the band, Nick Rhodes. Also a mild case of A, since John's unorthodox and genre-defying basslines were uncommon at the time, but widely emulated since then.
- Jeroen Paul Thesseling: Type A. Playing with two acclaimed Technical Death Metal (Pestilence and Obscura) bands is bound to get you some respect. Also a Type D of sorts, and he has done flamenco and jazz work. Most people know him for his monster 7-string fretless bass.
- D.D. Verni is a Type A and Type C, as he's the only founding member remaining other than Bobby, in addition to his basslines playing a very prominent role in the band's sound.
- Sid Vicious: Type C, with a giant, 72-point “C” (and he couldn't even play!)
- Peter "Peavy" Wagner (Rage): Type B and C.
- Roger Waters: The lead creative force and co-lead singer of Pink Floyd between Syd Barrett's departure and the band's 1980s resurrection. Even now he has successful solo tours.
- Norman Watt-Roy from The Blockheads: Type A. Has become Type C since Dury's death with fans chanting "Norman, Norman, Norman..." during solos. He is also unquestionably the fan-favorite Blockheads member.
- Lyn-Z Way: Type C. Her marriage to Gerard Way has overshadowed her abilities as a bassist to the point that "fans" often show up to her band's shows only to see if her husband is there.
- Alex Webster: Types A and C, as Cannibal Corpse is essentially his band and always has been. If you count his previous band, Beyond Death, he qualifies for Type B as well.
- Pete Wentz: When your marriage, indiscreet photos, and Estrogen Brigade are more common knowledge than what you do for a living ... you’re a Type C, full stop. (He's also known for being the band's main lyricist.)
- John Wetton (of King Crimson, UK, and Asia): Type B
- Tina Weymouth: Type B
- Brian Wilson: Type B and C, though he pretty much abandoned the instrument by the time he started work on Pet Sounds.
- Nicky Wire has been the most well known member of the band since Edwards disappeared.
- Kip Winger (Winger, natch) was his band's lead singer and lancer (The Hero, of course, was Winger's hair).
- Jah Wobble was Type A in Public Image Ltd. and added Type C in his other ventures.
- Victor Wooten: Type A. Arguably Type D, but that would require his conforming to a genre.
- Doris Yeh: Type C to a T. Also Type B for her role of supporting vocals as well.
- Stuart Zender (Jamiroquai, Azur) Type D.
- Henrik Linder of Dirty Loops is a straight type A.