40 Of The Greatest Bassists Of All Time – Picked By NME Readers


1Jenny Lee Lindberg

Pooneh Ghana/NME
Bassists never get the credit they deserve, so this week we asked NME.com users for their favourites. Here's 40 fantastic four-stringers, as picked by YOU, the reader. Kicking us off is Warpaint's Jenny Lee Lindberg, whose spidery fret work is "totally what makes that band" says Reuben Chiles. Couldn't agree more, Reuben.

2You said:

You said:
Jenn Five/NME
Nicky Wire

You said: “Scissor kicks, milkman caps, glitter AND a degree in politics!” – Catherine via Twitter
We say: An enthralling performer and fierce political motormouth, the Manics man not only delivers the band their driving low end and onstage theatrics, but encapsulates the spirit of the Welsh group, too.

3Kim Deal

Kim Deal
Kim Deal

You said: “A total hero. Pixies are nothing without her massive contributions and huge spirit.” – Claire Tufford
We say: We’re not sure her former band should be written off just yet, but it’s true Pixies’ aura seems dimmer since parting with the Breeders star. Simple, snaking, perfectly executed bass lines.

4You said:

You said:
Jaco Pastorius

You said: “Jaco Pastorius hands down! Nobody has anything on Jaco!” – Eddy Bowes
We say: Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo’s personal hero, this jazz innovator, who worked with the Weather Report and Joni Mitchell, was a four string demon before his death in 1989, aged 35.

5You said:

You said:
Carol Kaye

You said: “If Carol Kaye doesn’t make it onto the @NME #BestBassist list then, well, that would a poor list of best bassists.” – Parri
We say: You might not know Kaye but you’ll know her elegant bass lines like the back of your hand. Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Scarborough Fair,’ The Monkees’ ‘I’m A Believer’ – session star Kaye played on all of them.

6You said:

You said:
John Deacon

You said: “Even for a bass player he's cruelly underrated. He truly was Queen's secret weapon.” - David Grant
We say: The solid foundation to Brian May’s more attention-grabbing guitar histrionics, Deacon’s reputation as one of rock’s good guys has only been enhanced by his refusal to take part in any Queen reformation without Freddie Mercury.

7You said:

You said:
Bruce Foxton

You said: “Weller was The Jam’s superstar but credit’s got to go to the mighty Foxton too.” – Daniel Paulson
We say: True that. Foxton's vibrant, inventive bass fret work gave the Jam the zest that made the mod champions.

8Mani Mounfield

Mani Mounfield
Mani Mounfield

You said: “His speed and precision is unparalleled.” – Adam Galbraith
We say: As if his groundbreaking sonics with the Roses didn’t give this effable Manc enough of a claim to legend status, he later became a member of Bobby Gillespie’s hellraising Primal Scream. A monstrously assured technique and endearing demeanour make him an indie hero.

9Krist Novoselic

Krist Novoselic

You said: “Nirvana were the best band of all time so Krist is the best bassist ever. Simple.” – James Terriers
We say: Kurt became an icon. Grohl became an arena-filling mega star. But Krist was just as important to Nirvana, his dirty, sliding bass lines anchoring the grunge chaos around him. You’ve got to love his cheery smile too.

10Gary Jarman

Gary Jarman
Gary Jarman

You said: "As passionate as bassists and frontmen come." - Jill Swinder
We say: Can't argue there. A true punk, Jarman's bass playing is often violent and thrashy but he never misses a note or a beat.

11You said:

You said:
Eric Avery

You said: “No conversation about the best bassists ever is complete without Eric Avery.” – Jonny Tarner
We say: Avery began his career trying to emulate Joy Division's Peter Hook, resulting in a musician with a creative and propulsive style which led him through Jane's Addiction and tours with NIN and Garbage.

12You said:

You said:
Mark Hoppus

You said: "The man, the legend, Mark Hoppus." - Sarah Smyth
We say: Maybe not the most technical or revered of bass players, but there's no denying the slinking pop-punk pull of bass lines like the one on 'What's My Age Again'. The Blink man's a likeable bass legend.

13You said:

You said:
Carlos D

You said:"You've gotta love Carlos D, he's gotta be up there with the greats." - Jenny Sadler
We say: Event though Interpol revealed that he actually disliked playing bass guitar a few months after he left the band in 2010, Dengler's winning style - best evidenced on 'Evil' - was always cool and calm.

14You said:

Paul McCartney

You said: "for bringing lyricism and melody to rock bass." - Mike Foley
We say: We'll hand over to John Lennon (Playboy, 1980) for this: "Paul is one of the most innovative bass players ... half the stuff that's going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatles period."

15You said:

You said:
Chris Wolstenhole

You said: “A dynamic bass player who can play dirty gritty fast basslines or a more traditional style!” – Ronan Sterry
We say: From album to album, Chris has switched up his instruments and his style, using all manner of distortions. He's to thank for bringing a heavier rock sound to the band pinned down by his muscular bass-playing.

16You said:

Laura Palmer/NME
Este Haim

You said: “Este Haim not neccessarily for skill but for style !” – Beth Willows
We say: Haim's eldest sister is perhaps the most exciting new bassist of the decade – and not just because of her awesome gurning bass-face. Energetic and dynamic on stage, her lines are a integral part of the Cali sound.

17You said:

You said:
Colin Greenwood

You said: "Take your pick of amazing Radiohead bass lines - there's all the proof you need that he's the best." - Seb Bryant
We say: Listen to the opening to 'National Anthem'. Got the chills yet? Colin is to thank for some of the most glorious moments in the band's lengthy career. He also plays other instruments. What a guy.

18You said:

Phil Lynott

You said: "No debate - Lynott all the way." - David Feathney
We say: A popular suggestion among readers and rightly so. After stints singing for various bands, Lynott formed Thin Lizzy in 1969, becoming known for songs such as 'The Boys Are Back In Town and 'Jailbreak' to which he brought a melodic, passionate style.

19You said:

Alex James

You said: “Yes he’s a Tory and a bit annoying, but I still rate him above everyone else.” – Prakash Jay
We say: The Blur bassist is perhaps the most iconic of British music in the 1990s. He had so many good lines: from the legendary 'Girls & Boys' 'I Know'. Despite spending more time with cheese these days, he's still one of our favourites.

20You said:

You said:
John Entwistle

You said: "The Ox! Who else?!" - Sharon Cockburn
We say: Entwistle's shuddering bass line in The Who's 'My Generation' is perhaps the most genius moment of the band's whole catalogue, giving it a dynamism and energy that brought it alive. A definite frontrunner for best of all time.

21You said:

Murdoc Niccals

You said:"Not sure about best bassist ever, but Gorillaz have all the best bass lines. 'Feel Good Inc' is massive" - Peter Klohnnson.
We say: It's true - there's a groove to those Gorillaz records, largely down to Murdoc, that's key to their winning charm. We're with you, Pete.

22You said:


You said: "An innovator. It's easy to take the piss out of RHCP, but Flea's insane."
We say: Though the Chilis may not have the critical acclaim they once had, Flea's talents at this point should be beyond debate. If his slap technique on songs like 'Give It Away' is too overbearing for you, try his amazing, more subdued Atoms For Peace contributions.

23You said:

Peter Hook

You said: "He's integral to his bands' sounds." - Matt Deverall
We say: A huge character with even bigger bass lines, former Joy Division and New Order man Hooky is outspoken but on stage lets his fret work do the talking in the most staggering way.

24You said:

Andy Rourke

You said: "It'd have to Andy Rourke for me, so many cracking bass lines i.e. 'Headmaster Ritual' or 'Barbarism Begins At Home'" - Sean Doyle
We say: It's the weaving bass work on 'There Is A Light' that does it for us Sean but point taken - Andy's a stunning talent whose brilliance was a key part of the Smiths' restless, kinetic energy.

25You said:

You said:
James Jamerson

You said: "James Jammerson created some of the best motown bass lines that have ever existed." - Ryan Thornton
We say:'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', 'What's Going On', 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' - all Jammerson classics. An astonishing bass talent.

26You said:

You said:
Walter Becker

You said: "Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame. Never seemed to play the same note twice and myriads of chord and key changes to contend with, too." - Jon Dunn
We say:A technical virtuoso, Becker's bass lines were complex but never for the sake of it or at the expense of melody. No wonder plenty of you suggested him.

27You said:

Chris Squire

You said: "Chris Squire of Yes. His bass playing helped to define the sonic possibilities of both the band and progressive rock in general." - Alison Henderson
We say: A brilliant craftsman when it came to writing teasing bass lines. AND, as you can see from this photo, a snazzy dresser to boot.

28You said:

You said:
Pino Palladino

You said: "Session player Pino Palladino has played for Nine inch Nails, The Who, Paul Young, Paul Simon, Joe Walsh to name a few! Diverse!" - Gareth Owen
We say: His CV says it all.

29You said:

You said:
Les Claypool

You said: "Les Claypool of Primus. You don't get many bands where the bassist is more important than the guitarist." - Joe Young
We say: Tapping, flamenco-like strumming, whammy bar bends, and slapping - nothing's out of reach for the gifted Claypool, who's bass lines stood at the centre of Primus' idiosyncratic sound.

30You said:

You said:
Tina Weymouth

You said:"Weymouth's gotta be in the list. Her bass lines for Talking Heads were the driving force of David Byrne's band" - Brian Thompson
We say: Spot on, Brian - but don't forget Tom Tom Club. Her bass line in 'Genius Of Love', with all its seductive slips and slides, made that a party anthem to be reckoned with.

31You said:

You said:
John Paul Jones

You said:"In the shadows of Page, Plant and even Bonham but a huge part of Zeppelin - played keys as well" - Motion Device
We say: A bassist who needs little introduction. Jones' bass riffs sparked off Page's guitar with excellent, inimitable chemistry.

32You said:

You said:
Cliff Burton

You said:"A metal icon like no other. RIP" - Shanti McCloughlin
We say:You only need to look to 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' for proof of Cliff's tidal, muscular brilliance on the bass. Sorely missed since his 1986 death.

33You said:


You said:"If you don't include Lemmy I'm disowning you, NME. He's the most unique bassist ever" - Charlie Hampton
We say: Lemmy sounds like he's swallowed razor blades, hammers his bass like there's no tomorrow and keeps his riffs straight and powerful. What more do you want from a true rock star?

34You said:

Lou Barlow

You said: "It's Lou Barlow all the way. I can always rely on him to make my body shake with his riffs at Dinosaur Jr gigs." - Ryan Clement
We say: A star with both Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh, Barlow's reputation as an indie-rock hero is well deserved.

35You said:

You said:

You said:"No other bassist is pushing boundaries like him" - Kyle Weller
We say:Fusing live bass with throbbing electronica and jazz, in years to come this cult figure will be remembered as a ground breaker.

36You said:

You said:
Leland Sklar

You said: "Sklar has done it all and is due way more recognition than he gets" - Eve Teller
We say: The missing link between Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton - Leland has played with them all. A master of his instrument.

37You said:

You said:
Mike Watt

You said: "Nobody shreds like Mike Watt!" - Billy Charlebois
We say: The Minutemen man's a more cult figure than many on this list but his bass powers are just as persuasive.

38You said:

You said:
Charles Mingus

You said: "No one's done more for jazz bass than Charles." - Ella Willerstone
We say: True Ella, but Mingus' influence goes beyond jazz - everyone from Amy Winehouse to Flying Lotus credit him as an inspiration and understandably so. A soulful titan of his craft.

39You said:

You said:
Aston Barrett

You said: "With the Wailers he played a massive part in music history. Respect." - Jenny Blazckowski
We say: The man who gave groove to Bob Marley - what else can we say? His delicious dub bass work for the Wailers are so crucial to their brilliant reggae warmth.

40You said:

Gene Simmons

We say: The bass-wielding frontman of rock titans Kiss, Simmons is not just one of the genre's biggest personalities, but one of it's finest four-stringers.

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