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Nobody Loves the Bassist

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"I mean, Spitz wanted to play bass. Usually you have to force that on the worse guitarist."
Roger Smith, American Dad!, "Top of the Steve"

Nobody has worse press than the bassist. The singer is almost always the first person who comes to mind when thinking of the band as they perform the vocal melody and they are in the spotlight. The lead guitarist is the second (complete with virtuoso solos, Air Guitar, dramatic guitar face, and strutting around the stage), next there's the wild and crazy drummer/percussionists, then the keyboardist/pianist turning out a lightning-fast solo, and then maybe musicians playing lead instruments which are found in jazz, orchestras or bands - saxophonists, violinists, banjo players, trumpeters, etc.

And last in line, if at all... the bassist. There are hardly ever any bass solos. There are relatively few bassist/singers. There is no hope. Okay, maybe not ZERO hope. For the short heroes' list of bass players who have risen above this cosmic injustice, see Lead Bassist.

This can be enforced or justified. The inherent structure of much rock and pop music encourages a simple, supportive bass line that emphasizes root notes and accompanies the melody. This makes it hard for a bass player to stand out naturally, and doubly hard to do so without simply showing off at the song's expense. So most of the time, a bassist doing his job properly ends up drawing relatively little attention to himself; bassists who try to defy this and push their way into a Lead Bassist role without actually taking the songs themselves into consideration will quickly piss off their bandmates and be shown the door. At worst, they may be treated as a Butt-Monkey or The Friend Nobody Likes.

Even if they don't make it as lead bassist, there are a few upsides, which would explain why so many bassists put up with this. Some people prefer to stay out of the spotlight, or just love playing bass too much to care about it. Others learn the instrument so they'll be in high demand. In fact, it's often said that finding a good bass player is one of the hardest parts about starting a band, while guitarists are a dime a dozen. And if no one pays attention to you, you don't have to worry about Loony Fans and Groupie Brigades (though you might be better off if they don't; compare My Friends... and Zoidberg).

This trope tends to be averted in jazz, soul, funk, and R&B music, especially from the '60s and '70s, where the bass is much more prominent than it is in rock and pop. In small jazz groups, the bassist may get a solo on most songs. In soul, elaborately decorated, fluid basslines are a key to the sound. In funk, bassists do percussive slapping and popping along with muted "dead notes", hammer-ons, and slides.

This trope refers to this phenomenon and media in which it is discussed. Compare Dumb and Drummer, which involves similar levels of disrespect but with outright insults instead of the musician simply being forgotten about.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The bass player was the only band member not involved in Aya Hirano's career-derailing sex scandal (and subsequently the only band member not fired), though he reportedly had to deal with some sexual harassment.
  • In BanG Dream!, Himari is supposed to be the leader for Afterglow, but for all intents and purposes, those roles actually befall Ran, who’s already the lead singer and thus naturally the one the audience would look at. Even Real Life marketing treats Ran as the band’s leader and front-figure!
    • Also, Chisato is a child actor who naturally assumed she would be the face of Pastel Palettes when it was created, only to be visibly annoyed when she was given the role of bassist instead.
  • In Bocchi the Rock!, Nijika firmly believes this, claiming that the three B's of a bad romantic partner are "bassist, bassist, and bassist" and being none too fond of the main bassist characters in the series, Ryo and Kikuri (though it doesn't help that both of them are pretty scummy in their own ways). Kikuri, meanwhile, is a Lead Bassist.
  • Wada (stage name Jagi), the bassist of Detroit Metal City, is the least-focused on of the band trio. Off the job he is a professional musician who does his job because it's his job, and is neither as conflicted about his role as Negishi or as outright crazy as Nishida. His only Day in the Limelight involves this trope being lampshaded by fans talking about how the other two members overshadowing him.
  • In Fuuka, during Blue Wells’ nationwide tour, the band quickly manages to sell lots of photos of the different band members, except for Yuu. It probably doesn’t help that Yuu looks very plain and unremarkable compared to the rest of the band. Even when they play a gig in a rehearsal studio (for an audience of 11 people), nobody wants to talk to Yuu after the gig, except a middle schooler.
  • In K-On!, the classical lack of attention towards the bassist is Mio Akiyama's reason for choosing to play the bass, as she has significant self-confidence issues. This would've been played straight had it not been for one unforeseen, panties-flashing circumstance during their first school festival performance resulting in her being the band's most popular member.
  • The anime of Lychee Light Club pokes fun at this, at one point. The club decides to form a band, and everyone is eager to participate until Zera asks who will be the bass player. Everyone goes dead silent.
  • Invoked with Ako in Negima! Magister Negi Magi, who struggles with worries that she is nothing but a minor character destined to live forever in the background (which, well, is kinda true) and plays the bass in a high school rock band.
  • Show by Rock!!'s adaptation has the bassist of Plasmagica, Retoree, bring this up. She doesn't have the star power of Chuchu, nor the playing ability and wow factor as Rookie Red Ranger Cyan, so she confesses that she feels like the rest of the band and fans don't care for her. Luckily Cyan puts those fears to bed since she considers everyone in the band her dearest friends.

    Comic Strips 
  • Discussed in a Rocky strip, where Rocky and his buddy concludes that being a bassist is a job for slackers since nobody cares if you show up for rehearsals or even for the concerts.
  • Norwegian comic strips:
    • In Desibelles, which is centered around an all-girls punk rock band, Naïve Newcomer Mokki is of course saddled with the responsibility of playing the bass. Guitarist Gina makes a real effort to convince her of the importance of the bassist, to the point where Mokki sincerly wonders if Gina shouldn't play the bass herself. Gina's response is "Pfft, I ain't playing no lame bass!"
    • In Hjalmar, the title character's son is adviced to go to school with a guitar case as a trick to impress girls. When he comes home, Hjalmar is relieved to see that he didn't open the case, because he accidentally packed a bass. When asked why that would make such a difference, Hjalmar tells him that "Bassists rank below accordionists."
    • Pondus' old band didn't even have a bassist. What they had was seven guys on guitar, and a very displeased Jokke on drums. The band broke up when Jokke bought a guitar.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Almost Famous Stillwater's bassist Larry has maybe three spoken lines in the whole film, and he's mainly treated as the dumb one. The director's cut includes this hilarious exchange when he's being interviewed by protagonist William:
    William: How would you describe your role in Stillwater? What is the chemical that you add to the chemistry?
    Larry: I'm the bass player.
    William: Right. And when you take that away... what would be missing? Stylistically? What chemical?
    Larry: The bass?
  • Quinn from Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! is pretty much ignored by the plot, the director, the rest of the cast, and the audience. Ironically he was the only real-life legit rock star in the cast (he's Mark Holmes from the Canadian new wave band Platinum Blonde).
  • The Made-for-TV Def Leppard biopic Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story turns bass player Rick Savage into a Satellite Character with few lines; while he does get plenty of close-ups to remind us that he's still there, he only has one significant chunk of dialogue, and even that is a bit of a backhanded Lampshade Hanging as it is essentially just him noting how he tends to stand at the back of the group watching everyone else.
  • Val from Josie And The Pussy Cats is constantly pushed to the sidelines. According to DVD commentary, it's because she's the bass player.
  • Michael Cera seems to have a thing for this, playing the role of loser bassist in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
  • School of Rock: Bass player Katie has few spoken lines, and is the only one who doesn't get an end-credit solo (at least in the final cut; Jack Black would later let her perform a solo in the reunion concert). The movie's only named bassists are unsympathetic acquaintances of the main character.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: In the film, Scott and one of the evil exes engage in a "bass battle," which is treated as a self-evident gag scene.
  • In That Thing You Do!, when the bass player of the Wonders is referred to (which isn't that often) it's always by description rather than by name. In the credits the character is listed as "T.B. Player," and when he disappears during the band's trip to Los Angeles, nobody really cares; they replace him with a studio musician. Also averted with the replacement bassist in that when the Wonders fall apart the manager tells him (paraphrased) "see you around" while his attitude towards the actual band members is closer to "goodbye and good luck."
    • The eponymous song was written by bassist Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and features a recognizable and melodic bassline. It would be an ideal part for a Lead Bassist to play. Take that out and the song sounds very different, which makes it especially ironic that the group's bassist is so peripheral.
  • In Detroit Rock City, Lex is definitely the fourth man of the cover band Mystery; ironic in that Gene Simmons is a prime example of the Lead Bassist in KISS itself.
  • Weird: The Al Yankovic Story:
    • At Dr. Demento's pool party, John Deacon of Queen introduces himself to the crowd first only by his name to blank stares. When he says he is in the band Queen, the confused looks only continue. Once he finally clarifies he plays bass for Queen, everyone reacts with agreement they at least understand who this person is because, as the bassist, no one at the party has previously cared about him in the slightest.
    • When Al fights with his band, he tells Jon Schwartz that he can replace him with a drum machine, he tells Jim West that he can replace him with a "guitar machine", but when he gets to Steve Jay, he forgets what type of instrument he plays.

  • A couple is seeing a marriage counselor, but are far too shy to open up about their relationship problems. After many minutes of fruitless attempts to start a dialogue, the therapist sighs, takes out a bass guitar, and starts playing - and after a moment, the couple starts talking! The problem is actually very simple, though embarrassing, and at the end of the session, they thank him profusely. "Thank you so much! But, what was the bass solo for?"
    The counselor's good mood evaporates instantly. It visibly pains him to explain: "My friends and I have a band, and I know from experience: during the bass solo, everyone talks."
  • Another joke: A man vacationing on an island is driven crazy by the constant sound of drums, but whenever he tries to ask the natives when it will stop, they look horrified and tell him, "Very bad when drumming stops." Finally, he plucks up the courage to ask what happens when the drumming stops, and the response is, "Bass solo."
  • In the CollegeHumor video "Learning Guitar to Get Laid", it ends with a (fake) ad for a video cassette called: "Learning the Bass and NOT Getting Laid."
  • Let the The Kids in the Hall demonstrate.
  • Q: How many bass players does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: None. The keyboard player can do it with his left hand.
  • Q: What do you call a woman at a bassist's arm?
    A: A tattoo.
  • Did you hear about the drummer who locked his keys in the car?
    It took him an hour to break in & let the bass player out.
  • Comedian Nish Kumar makes a routine about wanting to be either the drummer or the bass player from Coldplay. Simply because this way, he'd still get a lot of money - and remain totally anonymous and disregarded whilst Chris Martin gets all the hate from people who can't stand Coldplay. He settles on the drummer because the drummer gets to sit down.

  • In The Commitments (the novel), Derek is easily the least competent of the instrumentalists in the band.
  • Daisy Jones & The Six: Pete Loving, the bass player for the titular The Six, gets the least amount of focus compared to the rest of the band. He ultimately appears to have been the most stable member, never getting into arguments with the others and staying with the same girlfriend he'd had since before the band got together. The only time he's interviewed is towards the end of the book, and even then he admits he doesn't really have anything to say about about his time with The Six.
  • In I Am America (And So Can You!), Stephen mentions how while the singer and guitarist pick out a group of grade-A groupies to spend the night with, you the pitiful bassist are forced to take from the lowest C-grade dregs. Also, you're expected to room with the drummer.
  • Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty discuss the disdain for bass in general in their book The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way). They note that white Europeans care so little about bass that bass rhythms aren't covered by copyright. Although Drummond and Cauty encourage their readers to make the melody of their future #1 hit suspiciously similar to some other hit song, when it comes to the bass, they tell the readers to just go ahead and directly copy a good bass line from some other song. They also note that the trend is to use synthesizers for the bass lines (the book was written in 1988) because that's preferable to dealing with some "thumb slapping dick head" of a bass guitarist.
    "The great thing about bass lines is that they are in public domain. Nobody, even if they do recognize it, will seriously accuse you of ripping somebody else's bass line off."
  • In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, bass players are two for a penny in Han Dold City.
  • In Soul Music, none of Insanity/The Blots/The Whom/Surreptitious Fabric/And Supporting Bands can actually play their instruments, but the bass player Noddy has it particularly bad since no one seems to care that he has an instrument that is impossible to play (the guitar maker, giggling hysterically, had made it from a lump of wood and some fence wire).

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Law & Order seemingly plays this trope straight when the bass player is the only member of a band to never actually appear in the episode because he and 22 other people are killed off-camera in the opening scene. The trope is later subverted when the lead guitarist laments about how the band will never be the same because the bass player was a musical genius.
  • A downplayed example happens in the V.I.P. episode "Hard Val's Night" where the members of Lit guest star as themselves. Of all the members, the band's bassist gets the least amount of lines and is usually positioned behind the other members. And in the music video at the end of the episode, he's the first one Val eats.
  • In the short-lived British sketch comedy series, Bruiser, the band members of "Pussy on a Stick" all get applause, except for Holness, the bassist. After the performance, they all get women's underwear thrown at them... Holness gets an egg. Backstage, they are making out with groupies, except Holness, who sits alone reading a newspaper.
  • Death in Paradise: In "Music of Murder", the bassist of the Venerators, after being discovered by Richard to be the one who did it, is dragged away and rants about how he'll be remembered forever. Richard expresses his doubts. The guy's just a bassist, after all.
  • A segment from The Kids in the Hall features Kevin McDonald lamenting the woes of being a bass player (represented by Bruce McCulloch) while simultaneously showing admiration.
    Kevin: No one invites the bass player to the party after the show...
    Bruce: Hey, what are you guys doing after the show? (beat) Oh, nothing? Okay.
    Kevin: If he does go to the party, he can only get the good-looking girls'... best friend.
  • In Lost, Charlie's singer brother invokes this while talking to him (who's the bassist and main songwriter): "I am Drive Shaft! Nobody even knows who the sodding bass player is!"
  • When Steve Harvey was a guest on The Tonight Show in 2014, a game of Family Feud was played that pitted Jimmy Fallon, Jason Segel, and Steve Higgins against members of The Roots. The first survey question was, "Name an instrument least likely to get a band member groupies." One of the top three answers was "Bass". Cut to a shot of the band's bass player, looking embarrassed.
  • Nina Van Horn in Just Shoot Me! insists that she "would never sleep with a bass player unless I was bombed out of my mind... oh." The fact that she did precisely that years earlier is the punchline to the entire episode "Nina in the Cantina."

  • In some bands, the bass player is not an official member of the group, usually because he replaced a long-time bass player.
    • The most famous such band is The Rolling Stones, who haven't had an official bassist since Bill Wyman left. Darryl Jones has largely replaced him, but he's a salaried employee of the band, not an official member.
    • Hugh McDonald has been with Bon Jovi since 1994 but was not considered a full-fledged member until 2016, 22 years after he joined them (though this is mostly because the band agreed never to officially replace the original bassist). It would later come out that he had played ALL the bass in the studio, for everything since the band's breakout hit "Runaway." His predecessor Alec John Such was the only official Bon Jovi member to have no writing credits. Both McDonald and Such were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the band in 2018.
    • Pink Floyd went from having a Lead Bassist to none at all when Roger Waters left, and stayed that way, hiring session musicians (usually Guy Pratt) and using programmed synth basses. Waters himself is a curious example; while certainly a Lead Bassist, he's better known as a songwriter, and didn't seem to care for his primary instrument all that much. A considerable number of Floyd songs ("One Of These Days" and "Sheep" come to mind) have bass lines that are essentially single note drones, and David Gilmour ended up doing quite a bit of the actual bass playing in the studio when Waters couldn't be bothered. For Animals he was the band's de facto rhythm guitarist, and for The Wall the stage setup meant he was more or less lead singer with no instrument.
    • Nile have had full-time bassists sporadically since Jon Vesano left back in 2005.
    • Decrepit Birth didn't bother to get a new full-time bassist for quite a while after Derek Boyer left until 2008 when Joel Horner joined. Once he left in 2011, it became a revolving door of live session players once again; Sean Martinez was the most prolific, but A.J. Lewandowski and Konrad Rossa also had their day. Sean currently averts this, as he has been hired full-time and will be appearing on the upcoming fourth full-length.
    • Lonestar hasn't had a full-time bassist since John Rich was fired in 1998. Rich has become famous as one-half of Big & Rich, along with plenty of songwriting and production gigs. Since his departure, Lonestar uses different bassists in concert and session bassists on albums.
    • During Ross Valory's absence from Journey, the band replaced him with non-member hire Randy Jackson (later of American Idol).
    • The Pillows haven't had an official bassist since founding member Kenji Ueda quit in 1992.
    • Blind Guardian is an interesting example. The singer Hansi Kürsch played bass on their first five albums, but Nightfall in Middle-Earth-onward he has focused only on singing, with session musicians playing bass on studio and live.
    • Periphery haven't had an official bassist since Nolly quit. He still plays on the albums but live, his recorded tracks are simply played through the PA with no bassist onstage.
    • Jars of Clay don't have an official bass guitarist or drummer.
  • Some bands love bassists so little that they don't bother having one:
    • The White Stripes. (although Jack White often uses an octave pedal to simulate a bass, such as in Seven-Nation Army)
    • The Black Keys. (although bass is heavily featured on their tracks, played by the guitarist)
    • The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. (Jon Spencer and Judah Bauer both play guitar and alternate playing bass parts with octave filters).
    • Gossip.
    • Deap Vally.
    • Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
    • Device.
    • The Doors didn't even have a bassist, relying on session players or Ray Manzarek's specially tuned "bass keyboard."
    • Sleater-Kinney (although guitarist Corin Tucker's tone and playing style fill the same range that a bassist would).
    • The Presidents of the United States of America, instead of having a bassist, have "basitar" (played by Chris Ballew) and "guitbass" (played by Andrew McKeag), which hold down the bass frequencies.
    • Compared to most genres of Metal or Punk, this is particularly common among Grindcore bands. Many of the most significant bands in the genre forego having any bassist and guitarists running through guitar and bass rigs at the same time are also common. (Discordance Axis is probably one of the earliest examples, and Pig Destroyer was also known for it until John Jarvis joined the band in 2013.)
    • One of the most famous examples of a song without a bass line is Prince's Signature Song "When Doves Cry". When Prince started recording the song, it had one; however, he felt like the song was too generic with the bass line included, and took it out. The lack of a bass track has become a distinctive part of the song's sound.
    • The Inspector Cluzo is a two-man rock band (singer-guitarist and drummer) who not only doesn't have a bass player but goes as far as to have their own label called Fuckthebassplayer Records. They also have a song of the same name and sell T-shirts based on the same idea.
    • Trocadero rarely bass in their songs and live they have two or three guitars but no bass.
  • In a fairly embarrassing story about The Academy Is...'s bassist, a woman approached him and asked if he was in the band, and when he confirmed that he was, the two of them had a one-night stand. She then went on to be horrified the morning after when she learned he was just the bassist, even going so far as to publicly comment on it, saying that "I could find someone here in town as important as a bass player."
  • Fear of this trope is why, when Stuart Sutcliffe quit The Beatles, Paul McCartney was the only guitarist who wouldn't quit on the spot rather than play bass. He still found many occasions to add guitar parts to Beatles albums and would swap between guitar and bass during his Wings period and his later solo career. Even in the image on his trope page, he's holding a guitar.
    • Paul claimed that the good-looking Stuart's inclusion as bassist was something of an attempt to avert this trope.
      "In our minds, it was the fat guy in the group who nearly always played the bass and he stood at the back. None of us wanted that."
    • It also helps that Paul managed to become one half of possibly the most famous songwriting duo in history, which helps him stick in the mind more than a lot of bassists might.
    • Being one of the most energetic and innovative bass players the world had ever seen by that point probably didn't hurt either.
  • The Blue Öyster Cult seem to consciously avert the trope: on at least two of their live LP's, lead singer Eric Bloom calls out bass player Joey Bouchard by name and cues a solo.
    Lemme hear some of that bass now, Joey!
  • Dire Straits was fronted by lead guitarist and lead vocalist Mark Knopfler from its formation in 1977 to its dissolution in 1995. Everyone else came and went as needed...except for bassist John Illsley, the guy standing way, way, waaaaaay at the back of this photo who looks like he's not sure if the camera picked him up. In 2019, Illsey was infamously put on the spot and had to do the band's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech himself because no one had offered to do it for them (in part because Knopfler declined to show up).
  • Roxy Music had a revolving door of bassists. In the inside jacket for Stranded, bass guitarist Johnny Gustafson is the only one not pictured.
  • Rings of Saturn has had bassists sporadically (they didn't even have one when Embryonic Anomaly was recorded; Lucas Mann recorded the tracks himself), and after Sean Martinez left in 2013, they didn't even bother to search for a new live bassist and instead opted to just use pre-recorded backing tracks for everything bass-related from that point forward, until 2018 when bandleader and guitarist Lucas Mann switched from guitar to bass full-time.
  • Session musician Chuck Rainey played bass on The Rascals' recordings, but during live shows, Felix Cavaliere played the bass notes on his keyboard.
    • He would get a little more love from Steely Dan. After the band stopped touring and became a studio-only group, Walter Becker credited Chuck as the reason he stopped playing bass and went back to guitar, as he felt Chuck was just better at it than he was.
  • In the music video for "Legend of Archery" by Driftless Pony Club, Sam Grant gets scolded by Matt, flipped off by Nate, and ultimately kicked out by Craig. It doesn't go over well for them...
  • On The Colbert Report, Steve Van Zandt was asked a question about the E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent. At first, Van Zandt was confused, and then replied, "Nobody told Garry; we don't talk to him."
  • Throughout early Genesis albums, all bass parts were played by the band's rhythm guitarist Mike Rutherford. Playing live he would spend roughly equal time between guitar and bass; when he was on guitar, the bass notes were either left out or played on a pedal bass synthesizer. After lead guitarist Steve Hackett left the group, Rutherford would alternate the two instruments with sideman Daryl Stuermer, generally playing guitar for more contemporary songs. All the instrument swapping led to him using a series of Ace Custom 12-string/bass double-neck guitars; the most famous of which was a Shergold construction (played from 1977 until about 1990) which allowed him to rapidly swap three different guitar uppers (12-string in two different tunings, and a six-string) onto a bass lower section.
  • In Jersey Boys, the bassist Nick Massi is The Quiet One. He barely impacts most of the plot, and he calls himself Ringo at one point. When it's his turn to narrate, though, look out.
  • Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin reunited in 1994 for an Unplugged concert without even telling their former bassist John Paul Jones. Jones would go on to joke about this one year later at Led Zeppelin's Hall of Fame induction ceremony of all things, much to the awkward looks of Page and Plant.
    John Paul Jones: Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number.
  • The Mary Whitehouse Experience book described Queen as consisting of "Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and the other one," said "other one" being bassist John Deacon. The band's resident quiet one, John was the only one who never sang lead or even backing vocals (he hated his singing voice), and he spoke little during rehearsals and even less during interviews unless a question was specifically directed at him, resulting in him being seen as the least memorable of the four. It hasn't helped that Mercury's death hit Deacon pretty hard; not only did he leave the group, but he also retired from showbiz and public life altogether. He has chosen not to participate in any reunions and did not attend the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even Brian and Roger have little contact with him unless they need to discuss financial matters that affect them as a group. The biopic Bohemian Rhapsody acknowledges this by depicting Deacon as the Butt-Monkey (being given the smallest room during the band's songwriting retreat in the countryside) and having the other band members comment on his boring and quiet nature (at one point Freddie realizes he has no idea what John was up to before joining the band). Still, the film does acknowledge he wrote some of the band's best-known songs including "Another One Bites The Dust", "You're My Best Friend", and "I Want To Break Free". Ironically, the success of the film has resulted in John becoming more publicly known, with several tributes and fan art being posted online since its release.
  • Metallica have played with this trope:
    • In their Garage Band days, bassist Ron McGovney was this as far as then-guitarist Dave Mustaine was concerned. Mustaine regularly abused him, but the final straw was pouring beer down McGovney's bass. He received an electric shock when he played it that blew him across the room, whereupon he quit the band and told them to leave. (Mustaine and his fans are still convinced he's done nothing wrong).
    • Subverted with their first official bassist, Cliff Burton, who was not only loved by the rest of the bandnote , but is considered a God of bass as far as bassists and metal fans are concerned. In fact, he contributed so heavily to their first three albums that many fans believe that when he died in 1986, the music died with him.
    • Played straight, in one of the most infamous cases in metal, with the next bassist Jason Newsted, who was treated as the Replacement Goldfish for 14 years. It is believed that the other members were subconsciously hazing him as part of their grief from Cliff Burton's death). It was even (indirectly) admitted there was an attempt to mute the bass as much as they could in his debut album, ...And Justice for All.
    • Their current bassist, Rob Trujillo, subverts this as far as the band is concerned, although many fans still don't like him (but to be fair, he is the bassist in an era when most Metallica fans don't even like Metallica).
  • No Doubt's breakout song "Don't Speak" is essentially a song about no longer loving the bassist. The band itself is actually an aversion as Tony Kanal is one of their main songwriters.
  • In the biopic of The Runaways, bassist Robyn Robbins doesn't have any spoken lines.
    • Also, Robyn was a character created just for the movie, as the real-life Runaways couldn't keep a bass player. Over their career as a band, they had five of them - six if you count when Joan Jett played bass instead of guitar for part of one tour.
  • According to some accounts, Patricia Morrison, nominally the bass player at the time of The Sisters of Mercy's Floodland album, didn't even play on the album; or at least much of what she did play was subsequently overdubbed by Andrew Eldritch playing synth bass (the only song her bass can be clearly heard on is "Lucretia My Reflection"). She later quit the group because she hadn't been paid.
    • Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine is a similar example, openly admitting that she hasn't played a note on any of their (admittedly sporadic) recordings since 1988 despite being credited, since Kevin Shields prefers to play everything he can in the studio himself. She doesn't really mind, though.
  • In a Rolling Stone article, Taylor Swift accidentally backs her SUV into the parked car behind her, which happens to be owned by bassist Amos Heller. The first thing she says is, "Oh, my God. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD. OH, MY GOD." The second thing she says is, "Oh, is that my bass player? It's fine. It's my bass player!"
  • Discussed and inverted by Trout Fishing in America on their song "The Day the Bass Players Took Over the World":
    Now one day the bass players, they decided to uprise
    They were tired of being sidemen to all those other guys
    So they kidnapped the horn section
    They put drugs in the drummer's drink
    And they tied up all the guitar players
    With their big ol' flat-wound strings
    • The duo itself is an aversion, as Keith Grimwood (bass) and Ezra Idlet (guitar) split the vocals about 50/50.
  • Ryan Stasik, the bassist for Umphrey's Mcgee, is the designated social-media punching bag of the group. One song even contains the stanza "Stasik / go take a shower / a shower / will do you justice."
  • Pity Van Halen's Michael Anthony. Not only was he the band member no casual fan could remember, but he also was (musically speaking) the real-life Murderface: Eddie Van Halen generally forbade any bass line that didn't double his guitar notes and insisted on mixing the bass below the point of distinct audibility. For career satisfaction, Anthony pretty much had to settle for availing himself of the massive groupie overstock that accumulated around 1980's Van Halen... wait. Hm. You know what? DON'T pity Michael Anthony. He certainly landed on his foot, though. Eddie even started to neglect Michael, playing most of the bass parts in Van Halen III and the new tracks from Best of Both Worlds (where Anthony only did backing vocals). He only got in the 2004 tour because Sammy Hagar - who later drafted Anthony to both his solo band and Chickenfoot - wanted him to, as Eddie wouldn't even invite him. And when the band started performing again, the new bassist was a teenager (Eddie's son Wolfgangnote )!
  • Similarly to Anthony, both bass players for The Eagles, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt, are less recognized for their bass chops and more for their tenor vocals. Both had been recruited from the country-rock band Poco, where they had played similar roles.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • Bassist Steve Jay makes sure that everyone in the audience remembers him. Al introduces his band members over the course of the concert, letting each of them have a solo. After lead guitarist Jim West and drummer Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz show off their impressive skills, Jay leaves the audience in stitches by playing one note.
    • Keyboardist Ruben Valtierra is more often relegated to the role of "that other guy" and treated accordingly. Most famously, on the cover of Running with Scissors, he's the one way back in the distance, blurred out. On the insert he's lying face-down, presumably dead from the scissors stuck in his back. Until recently, he wasn't even an official part of the band, only joining them on tour so Al wouldn't have to sing lead and play keyboards at the same time.
  • Nine Inch Nails had no bassist in the touring band prior to The Downward Spiral, with bass parts being played on a synthesizer. After the departure of bassist Pino Palladino, Trent Reznor decided not to replace him, going back to the Pretty Hate Machine four-piece arrangement, at least until Atticus Ross joined the band on keyboard, causing Alessandro Cortini to switch from keyboard to bass.
  • In a relatively recent playing of the famous bluegrass instrumental "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", there were... two banjo solos, an acoustic guitar solo, two electric guitar solos, a fiddle solo, a mandolin solo, a harmonica solo, a piano solo, an electric organ solo, and a dobro(!) solo. The bass didn't get a solo. Hell, the bassist didn't get to appear in the music video.
  • Da Yoopers changed bassists twice times in the course of about 5 years: in order, they went from Jim Pennell to Joe DeLongchamp to Dave "Doc" Bradbury, each of whom held their role for only two albums. Each was more prominent than their predecessor; Pennell was quickly forgotten around the time the band achieved regional fame with "Second Week of Deer Camp" (which he didn't even play on — the song had a gutbucket bass played by a guest musician), DeLongchamp wrote and sang lead vocals on the title track of their third album Camp Fever, and Bradbury sang "Grandpa Got Run Over by a Beer Truck", one of their signature songs. After Bradbury and original lead guitarist Joe Potila quit in 1995, Potila's replacement Jim Bellmore played both guitar and bass on We're Still Rockin' a year later. Despite Reggie Lusardi joining as touring bassist in the late '90s, Bellmore usually continued to play the bass parts in-studio until the band's last album in 2006 (although a few songs still featured Lusardi, and a few more both in concert and in-studio featured Dick Bunce, an actor in the band's comedy sketches). The "nobody loves" side usually comes up with drummer Bobby Symons, who has been in the band since the late '90s. He always stays behind the drum kit, and never sings or participates in skits. In addition, frontman Jim DeCaire (who used to be the full-time drummer before he got promoted) usually played the drum parts in-studio, with occasional assistance from Jerry Coffey in The '90s.
  • Keane's original lineup didn't include a bassist, with the bass tracks being played either by backing tracks or a supporting member in live shows. From Under the Iron Sea era shows on, that supporting member was Jesse Quin, who went on to play all the bass parts on Perfect Symmetry and Night Train. He wasn't officially made a member of the band until around the time Strangeland came out, some five years after he began playing with them.
  • After bad experiences with bassists, Waterparks decided to not have one as the current lineup gets along well and didn't want to disrupt that balance by having another member involved. Instead, the band uses fill-in bassists in studio (and occasionally live) and pre-recorded backing tracks during shows. While they might not want a bassist, questions about why they don't have one and if they'd consider having one abound, much to their chagrin. This has opened up some great collaborations, like Mikey Way from My Chemical Romance performing bass on the Cluster EP and live for Waterparks on Warped Tour. In that case, everyone loves the bassist!
    • Both drummer Otto Wood and guitarist Geoff Wigington had previously expressed interest in playing bass for the band, with Otto being the most insistent on it. Obviously this hasn't worked out. This is referenced in the video for "Gloom Boys" by Otto mentioning that he was once the band's bassist...for a day. The video also features a guy trying to become their bassist; in real life, attempts by fans to get Waterparks to let them play bass on stage with them are met by Awsten immediately shutting them down, often by reminding them that Otto and Geoff already called dibs. He's also rejected people by joking that the band "hates friends".
  • Referenced in "The Mesopotamians" by They Might Be Giants.
    I thought that you were dead! I thought you crashed your car!
    No, man, I've been right here this whole time playing bass guitar.
  • Noel Redding, the bassist of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, was frustrated with his position in the band (he was a guitarist before joining) and thought that he wasn't getting enough attention or input. He and Jimi Hendrix clashed so much that he left the band and went back to playing guitar.
  • In Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, co-founders and longtime friends Steve "Lips" Kudlow (lead vocals/lead guitar) and Robb Reiner (drums) have remained consistent for decades, but the band changed bassists several times. However, it's the rhythm guitarist that ended up being the "expendable" slot. After their third one left, they skipped the whole thing and continued as a Rock Trio.
  • In Żaklin, the singer comforts her friend thus:
    does anyone care
    that your boyfriend's an alpaca, it'd be worse if he were a racist
    or even worse, a criminal or a bassist.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins at least had memorable bassists because all were female. And then Billy Corgan decided to neglect that, as he plays the instrument on the studio, the live bassist is not an official member, and when Putting the Band Back Together was attempted, original bassist D'Arcy Wretzky was screwed over (she even notes that "as the conversation continues, the roll [sic] i’m offered becomes ever smaller").
  • Averted with Fall Out Boy, as bassist Pete Wentz is their frontman. However, some FOB fans strongly dislike him, which may be at least partly caused by this trope.
  • Mostly averted with Steel Panther, but after bassist Lexxi Foxx departed, guitarist Satchel had this to say:
    "We did put the word out for bass players, and we've already gotten a lot of submissions. And we've gotten some really great ones as well. No musicians yet. We don't really want a musician, though; we want a bass player. So…"
  • The same story plays out in childrens' classical piece Tubby The Tuba, in which the eponymous musical instrument gets very depressed that his only role in the orchestra is to provide the monotonous repetitive underlying theme on the bass clef staves, the one that more favoured trumpets and trombones and French Horns get to structure their more varied parts and solos around. At one point Tubby laments that nobody realises the tuba is actually there until he gets ideas thought to be beyond his lowly station (for which the other instruments mock him mercilessly). note 
  • Since bassist Nic Potter left in 1970, Van der Graaf Generator, the bass parts have been played on Hugh Banton's organ pedals, which has contributed greatly to VDGG's signature sound. Potter occasionally drops in to play the odd bass part when the organ pedals won't cut it, though.

    Music Videos 
  • In the video for Lit's song "Miserable", the giantess Pamela Anderson eats the band members alive... starting with the bassist (Kevin Baldes). To make things more humiliating, his death was particularly easy for her to accomplish and made him look Too Dumb to Live. He was standing on her lips, so all she had to do was open her mouth and let him fall inside so she could swallow him.
  • The video for Queensrÿche's "Silent Lucidity" features exactly TWO one-second-long shots of bassist Eddie Jackson.

  • Zia from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues knows how to play both bass and piano, but prefers to emphasize the latter due to the unpopularity associated with being a bass player.

    Video Games 
  • Brütal Legend:
    • Justified in that the Killmaster and his Thunderhogs are capable of healing your infantry with their bass music, but have no offensive capabilities and thus they only serve as support units while the rest of your army does the heavy lifting.
    • Inverted with the bassist in Kabbage Boy: he's the only member of the band who treats Eddie with respect and is subsequently the only one who survives Ormagödden's arrival.
  • Guitar Hero:
    • Songs in the Guitar Hero franchise didn't always have bass guitar tracks even if the songs themselves featured the instrument (e.g. "Through the Fire and Flames"). Some had rhythm guitar instead, so if you wanted to form an in-game band (such as it was) with a friend, one of you would have to play second fiddle - but it wouldn't always be bass. It wasn't until the series went full-band that the bass guitar was accounted for in every song that made use of it.
    • In Guitar Hero 2, several of the loading messages between songs played along with this trope for laughs.
      You need a mini-fridge in your practice space. It's more important than a bassist.
      If you can hear the bassist, your speakers are too loud.
    • Also this one from the third game:
      You seem to be having a problem with your bass amp. I can hear it!
    • This is the bassist's problem in Guitar Hero World Tour. She quit her former band because she was sick of being overshadowed by the others. At the end of her story mode, she makes a solo album and becomes famous... with Lou's help.
  • In the Left 4 Dead website for the Midnight Riders, bassist Jake Thorne is referred to as a "provisional temporary band member" despite playing with the band since 1985 on 23 albums, and writing most of the band's songs.
  • Notably averted in Mother 3, where the bassist of DCMC is one of the main protagonists. When the band performs on stage, they all seem to get the same amount of attention. However, the game does have an example of Nobody Loves the Bass, given it has a dusty old bass sitting in the attic as a boss.
  • Power Gig: Rise of the SixString did not include a bass mode.
  • Rock Band:
    • The first game had no solo bass career, as allegedly the bass didn't have enough interesting songs to warrant a solo mode. Fans of the bands found under Lead Bassist disagreed.
    • The instrument shop has an oversized double-neck Fender custom with the description "For once... they will pay attention... to the BASSIST!"
    • One of the loading tips said that if your bassist claims he has an idea, give him a Kit Kat and tell him to think it through a bit more.
    • In Rock Band Blitz you can unlock the super bass power which comes with this description:
      Bass notes are now worth more points. (Bassists, however, are still not worth that much.)
  • Rocksmith, the game that touts itself as the first console game to teach guitar, initially didn't even have a bass guitar mode. That was only added via downloadable content two months after the game's initial release. It has since become standard for all tracks in both of the series' games, so that Rocksmith 2014 never lacked it, but it's odd that it was not only left out of the first game's initial release but added shortly afterward, not a great while afterward as if it needed way more development time or something.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Perhaps playing on this idea, Mario's underappreciated and neglected younger brother Luigi has been seen playing the bass in booklets.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In "Weclome Back", Cool Tapes' members are referred to by Marzipan as "me and The Cheat and our bass player." (It's Strong Mad, for the record.)
    • In one issue of Teen Girl Squad, the girls form a band and What's Her Face, despite her wishes to the contrary, "gets stuck playing bass".
    • In the same sketch, even after half their members are lost, Cheerleader still introduces the band as "I'm Kissyboots, and she plays bass."

    Web Comics 
  • 1977:The Comic, where central character Bud Chambers realizes that nobody notices the bass player. Ever.
  • F@NB0Y$ makes sure to promote the air-bass whenever they mention Guitar Hero.
  • Subverted in Rhapsodies where Shilo, the Circle Band's bass player serves as the band's unofficial executive officer. He's also happily married with kids.

    Web Original 
  • Babylon Bee has an article about a new, dumbed-down bass guitar model specifically for worship bands in church, noting: "It also has decorative knobs, so you can pretend to adjust settings and turn up your volume, even though the church bass is turned off in the house anyway."
  • A Cracked photoplasty of "25 Team-Ups in History That Would Have Changed Everything" had this. Noticed the lack of bassist? (we could guess the guy put Kirk Hammett when he wanted Cliff Burton, but that's giving him too much credit)
  • Glenn Fricker, owner of Spectre Media Group and longtime heavy metal record producer, elevates this trope to an art form. He constantly makes jokes at the expense of so-called bass players; those who can play and maintain their bass guitars as needed simply laugh it off and even wear the T-shirts he sells with his controversial statements on themnote , but very often there are bass players who take it completely the wrong way and flame the comments of his YouTube uploads. Naturally, he often reads these and makes fun of them, as they often do nothing but validate his many criticisms of bass players. He usually plays this trope straight but also discusses it quite frequently, especially in How to Not Completely Suck on Bass Guitar.
    • He despises bass players because he has spent decades producing records for bands with bass players who give their instrument a bad name. The ones he hates are legion, though he doesn't hate them all - the ones he hates have many things in common: They can't play their instrument because they never intended to, thinking that since the bass guitar usually has only four strings and bass riffs usually aren't that hard they don't even need to practice; they can't perform proper maintenance on their gear, including changing strings more than once a decade; and they waltz into the studio unable to play, not knowing their own material, and not caring because they think the producer can just use computers to fill in the gaps. They also tend to spend way more money on tattoos or booze than on anything important to their careers, like good gear or their bands' records. In short, they're more interested in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle than rock 'n' roll itself.
    • That being said, when a 13-year-old kid asked if he should learn bass or guitar, Glenn told him to learn the bass and practice hard and become a great bass player, assuring the kid that a great bass player is in demand wherever he goes. He also advised an aspiring session musician to do the same, for the same reasons.
  • The Hard Times:

    Web Videos 
  • Adam Neely (musician and maker of music theory videos on Youtube) is a bass player himself and generally in favor of bassists. But even he admits that bass solos suck more often than not.
    Adam Neely: Because the bass, up until that point in the performance, has been the foundation, harmonically and rhythmically, when you take a solo that foundation goes away, and the forward momentum of the performance stops dead in its tracks.
  • Used as a diss in Epic Rap Battles of History by Winston Churchill, pointing out to Theodore Roosevelt that if (Mount) Rushmore was a band then Roosevelt would be its bassist (being overshadowed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln).
  • Stevie T created a sketch about how being in a band sucks (and in which he plays all the characters, including the bassist's girlfriend). Not only does the bassist make the universally hated move of bringing his girlfriend to rehearsal (an unspoken rule of being in a band is you NEVER get your significant other involved), he also designs a band logo that the singer dismisses as resembling "a hairy anus", adding, "Yeah, well, you're the bassist, so no one really cares." But then the guitarist & drummer really like it, so it becomes their band logo by majority vote. And then the bassist turns out to not be the one who doesn't know the material for once - it's the guitarist who doesn't know the song and has to make up excuses about how two weeks wasn't enough time to learn it. It's also worth noting that the singer throws drumsticks at everyone in his band, even the bass player's girlfriend but NOT the bassist.
  • The CollegeHumor skit "Learning Guitar to Get Laid" plays as the first installment of an instructional video series which only teaches the bare minimum of guitar techniques necessary to attract girls. The ending gag is an ad for another fictional video series, Learning the Bass and NOT Getting Laid!
    Bass Player: [strums some chords] That was "Free Falling", I think.

    Western Animation 
  • Laney, the bassist for Grojband, is the Only Sane Woman whose objections are often ignored or disregarded by the other band members. She's also frequently mistaken for a boy.
  • In the Home Movies episode "Guitarmageddon", Jason complains about getting saddled with bass, saying it's thankless and the bass player is "the loser of the group." His friends disagree, but when he offers to trade instruments they back out quickly.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper and her brothers have a band named "Short Angry Freuds". She told her big brother Dennis nobody would pay attention to him because he's the bassist.
  • Metalocalypse: Murderface is generally The Friend Nobody Likes, and his role as Dethklok's bassist is often (though not always) said or demonstrated to be completely superfluous:
    • "Why don't you make like a bass guitar and be inaudible?"
    • By unanimous consent, Murderface's bass lines are always re-recorded by the band's lead guitarist Skwisgaar in the final mix, when they aren't tuned to inaudibility or left out entirely.
    • Their producer Dick Knubbler refers to Murderface as "almost part of Dethklok." To his face.
    • In The Doomstar Requiem A Klok Opera, a rock opera where almost every line of dialogue is sung, Murderface gets the least amount of dialogue. He's the only major character that doesn't get a song or major verse of some kind. Mind you that characters like Abigail and Ishnifus, who had just appeared in the tail end of the previous season, both got full-length songs. This was due to Tommy Blacha (Murderface's voice actor) being unable to sing in key, leaving his parts dealt out to other cast members.
    • Murderface admits that sometimes at concerts he'd leave his bass unplugged and just "pretend play". No one noticed.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Dude, We're Getting The Band Back Together!", the boys are trying to re-form Love Händel. When they approach the bass player, Bobbi Fabulous, his response is "You don't need me. I just play bass in the background. Nobody even remembers me."
  • In Regular Show, Mordecai skips the name of the bassist while naming off the popular band 'Hair To The Throne' when they show up at the park, and just calls him "the bass player", then the bassist frowns. He's also the only band member who gets no speaking lines.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation", Homer goes to a rock-and-roll summer camp, and when they begin to run out of guitars, Elvis Costello is forced to suggest that someone learn the bass. The camp-goers don't take it well.
    • In "Covercraft", a music store owner suggests that Homer play bass guitar, and asks him to simply pluck the same string over and over. The owner starts shredding on his guitar, and Homer wonders if he'll ever be able to play so well. The owner responds that he's already one of the greatest bass players of all time.
  • Class of 3000: Philly Phil is very likely the least popular kid at Westley and is strongly implied to have had both a Friendless Background and have no friends other than his classmates. Not coincidentally, he's also their bass player.

Alternative Title(s): Nobody Loves The Bass Player