Underrated Musicians – Bassists’ Edition

Bass guitarists are often overlooked in general however bassists such as Geddy Lee of Rush and Les Claypool of Primus don’t have that problem as well as a certain shirtless Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist! Here are 15 bassists who I consider to be underrated.

Disclaimer *this blog is solely my own opinion, also this list doesn’t contains bassists who are always talked about for their playing.*

15. John McVie (Fleetwood Mac)

A founding member of Fleetwood Mac, John McVie was one of two silent members of Fleetwood Mac during their “pop” era with drummer Mick Fleetwood, meaning that they didn’t sing on any songs which could be a reason why he was so out of the spotlight. Everyone knows the famous bass riff from “The Chain” but other John McVie lines include “Say That You Love Me” and “You Make Loving Fun”.

14. Sam Rivers (Limp Bizkit)

When people of Limp Bizkit, they usually think of their loud frontman Fred Durst, and guitarist Wes Borland who is well-known due to his body paint, face masks and other visual appearances but bassist Sam Rivers melodic lines prove to be a key part of certain LB songs off of their most popular album, Chocolate Starfish and Hot Dog Flavoured Water such as “My Way” and “The One” in which the bass creates a countermelody along with Borland’s guitar. He has stated that his playing style is influenced by Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament as well as heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath.

13. Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden)

Almost joined Nirvana in the early 90’s as a rhythm guitarist, Ben Shepherd’s bass playing is made memorable mainly off of the “Superunknown” album in tracks like “Spoonman”, “Fell On Black Days” and “My Wave” in which the latter track, Shepherd uses a flanger effect during his bass solo, forming a unique backbone with drummer Matt Cameron as Soundgarden utilised alternative tunings and time signatures in their songs. 

12. Mike Mills (R.E.M.)

Mike Mills’ bass lines played a huge part in the Georgian alt-rock band’s signature sound along with Peter Buck’s jangly guitars, not just a bassist, Mills contributed many piano/keyboard parts on R.E.M.’s albums as well as lead/harmony vocals. Probably influenced by a certain bassist further up on this list. 

11. Jason Newsted (Metallica)

Could’ve gone for Rob Trujillo here but many argue Jason Newsted’s bass playing was unfairly pushed into the background in the …And Justice For All album and though he may have seemed more restrained than the late Cliff Burton, The Black Album gave us evidence of solid Newsted playing in tracks such as “My Friend of Misery”, The God That Failed”, and “Holier Than Thou”, he also “slaps da bass” in “Cure” and provided more than adequate live backing vocals to support James Hetfield’s. 

10. Bruce Foxton (The Jam) 

When people think of The Jam, they think of singer/guitarist Paul Weller, however some of bassist Bruce Foxton’s riffs drove quite a few of The Jam’s songs such as “A Town Called Malice”, “In The City” and “I Need You (For Someone). Usually in punk rock, the bass follows the guitars but Foxton and The Jam defy this idea with their unique sound of new wave/post-punk in the late 70’s/early 80’s. 

9. Johnny Christ (Avenged Sevenfold)

Avenged Sevenfold are famous for Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance duelling guitars and the late James “The Rev” Sullivan’s drumming, however A7X’s low-end is rarely talked about. Though the bass is sometimes drowned out by the guitars, some of Johnny Christ’s bass highlights include “Scream”, “Afterlife” and “Creating God” in which JC creates melodic lines underneath the guitars. 

8. Andy Rourke (The Smiths)

Another post-punk bassist, The Smiths have the similar dilemma to that of a lot of vocals/guitar/bass/drums bands in which everyone can name the singer and guitarist but not the bassist or drummer. Rourke, along with drummer Mike Joyce have that dilemma, however, despite Morrissey/Marr being one of the most renowned songwriting duos in music history, the songs wouldn’t be the same without Rourke’s melodic bass as well as Mike Joyce’s drumming. Rourke’s bass mixes in well with Marr’s jangly guitar in such songs such as “Hand in Glove”, “What Difference Does It Make?” and especially, “Barbarism Begins At Home” in which, Rourke has a bass solo towards the end of the 7-minute track. 

7. Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) 

The youngest looking 55-year-old you’ll ever see. Influenced by a lot of classic rock and punk, Jeff Ament has been with PJ since their formation as they became popular in the Seattle grunge movement. His driving riffs acts are a key component in songs such as “Go”, “Rats” and “Whipping”. Like with lead guitarist Mike McCready, I feel a lot of Pearl Jam’s members are underrated in their respective instruments and Ament is no exception on the bass.  

6. Krist Novoselic (Nirvana)

Another bassist from a “grunge” band. He may not be nearly as talked about as the late Kurt Cobain or Dave Grohl but Krist’s bass is just as memorable as Kurt Cobain’s lyrics/guitar playing and Dave Grohl’s energetic drumming. Nevermind gave Krist the chance to put his bass in the driving seat on tracks such as “Lounge Act”, “Stay Away” and of course “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Other Krist highlights include “Been A Son”, “Sliver” and “Come As You Are”.

5. Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave/Prophets of Rage) 

I consider Timmy C’s bass lines to be just as valuable to RATM’s aggressive but groovy sound of rap metal as Tom Morello’s guitar solos, especially on tracks such as “Know Your Enemy”, “Take The Power Back” and “Wake Up”. Yet another example of a band in which the bassist and drummer aren’t as recognised as singer and guitarist. C’mon guys!!! 

4. John Deacon (Queen)

The “quiet” member of Queen, he might be a lot more popular than others on this list but he was in a band with Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor! You can be guaranteed a Deacon bass line somewhere in a Queen whether it’s the main riff of “Another One Bites The Dust”, the end section of “The Miracle” or the solo in “I’m Going Slightly Mad” that you’ll need headphones for! 

3. Pino Palladino (John Mayer Trio/The Who/session)

I know Pino Palladino best with his work with John Mayer, along with drummer Steve Jordan. His funky bass lines fit in well with John Mayer’s bluesy guitar playing in particular songs such as “Vultures” and “Rosie”. It’s a shame that Pino, along with Steve Jordan aren’t as talked about JM is in the trio. A session bassist, Palladino has also played bass for such acts such as Don Henley, Jeff Beck, Richard Ashcroft and The Who, hey if The Who are employing you, you must be doing something right!

2. Tony Levin (session/Peter Gabriel/King Crimson/ABWH)

Another session player, just looking at, you wouldn’t think he was approaching his 72nd birthday. As well as bass guitar, Levin plays the double bass and Chapman stick and has worked with plenty of progressive rock artists/bands such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel and had the honour of being the bassist in Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, meaning whenever they played Yes songs, he had the responsibly of playing the late great Chris Squire’s parts. A truly magnificent musician who guess less credit than he truly deserves. 

Before I unveil my top pick, here are some honourable mentions. I could’ve mentioned so many on this list.

  • Mike Dirnt (Green Day)
  • Klaus Flouride (Dead Kennedys) 
  • Mike Kerr (Royal Blood)
  • Mani (The Stone Roses) 
  • Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters)

Now for my top pick. Drum roll or bass roll please!!!

  1. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin/Them Crooked Vultures)

Poor John Paul Jones. Yes, he was in one of the greatest bands of all time but that band consisted of Robert Plant on vocals, Jimmy Page on guitar and John F**king Bonham on drums!!! So it was easy to see why Jones never got the spotlight too often and then and then, when Led Zeppelin reunited for a tour, Jones wasn’t even included!!! Led Zeppelin had a really versatile musician in Jones, as he can practically play almost every instrument known to the human brain as well as arrange strings and composing for films (more of that in a future blog). This was later shown as part of the rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, where Jones lined up on bass/keyboards alongside Josh Homme on guitar/vocals and Dave Grohl on drums. A true musical genius. 

So what do you think, is there anyone I haven’t mentioned who you feel should be in there, leave a comment below and if you’ve enjoyed this blog make sure to like and share! 

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