40 THE DOORS
Riders On The Storm (from LA Woman, 1971)
This seven-minute (album) or four-minute (single) song takes everything that was best about The Doors – acid-drenched psychedelia, a threatening blues edge and that era-defining drone – and anchors it all with a rock-solid bass-line. True to the production values of the day, Ray Manzarek’s throbbing keyboard bass is all low frequencies and no mids, adding to its thunderous presence.
39 THE CURE
The Lovecats (single only, 1983)
As a perfect example of the application of the upright bass in modern pop music, the bassline which propels ‘The Lovecats’ is insanely catchy, based on a nifty fourths-based triad and oozing the sound of wood. After the first hundred listens or so (this song has been a radio and indie-club staple for 25 years), Robert Smith’s wailed, appropriately feline vocals and the honky-tonk piano may set your teeth on edge a little, but there’s no arguing with the quality of that funky bass part.
Digital Man (from Signals, 1982)
Geddy Lee is the man when it comes to the bass guitar, as we all know, and when his band Rush hit what was arguably their creative peak in the late 70s and early 80s, they simply could not be stopped. ‘Digital Man’ may have a theme which has aged a little in the post-internet boom era, but Lee’s twisty, rock-solid bass-line gave the song an edge which the years have not diminished. Geddy alternated between a J-Bass and his trusty Rickenbacker 4001 on the Signals album, and his mastery of the instrument is at its finest during these unparalleled six minutes.
37 GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION
Hair (from Graham Central Station, 1973)
Five minutes of a huge, badass bass-line from the man who invented the slapping style anchor his band’s debut album, and what hot minutes they are. Preaching a message of open-mindedness while his bass thumps and preens along underneath, Larry Graham brings his blend of funk and R&B to the table in no uncertain fashion – and if you can play along with him, you’ve arrived as a bass player. The fact that Larry has played with the finest funk performers on the world – Sly & The Family Stone and some upstart named Prince – reveals volumes about his enduring influence on the world of bass, as on the world of music in general.
36 RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Give It Away (from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991)
Inspired to their greatest heights yet by überbeard Rick Rubin, the Chilis recorded an astounding album in Blood Sugar Sex Magik, still their finest hour by a long shot. ‘Give It Away’ was a monster of a single, with a bass-line from Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary that more or less made up the whole song with its famous, liquid slide motif and some beautifully dexterous fills. There’s some chickengrease guitar and a thunderous drum pattern on top of the bass, of course, not to mention Anthony Kiedis’ rap about tolerance and spreading the love, but this song is Flea’s through and through.
35 THE JAM
Town Called Malice (from The Gift, 1982)
This superb bass part might have been inspired by any number of Motown hits (‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ comes to mind), but it’s perfect for this gritted-teeth slab of post-punk angst. What makes the song so addictive is the jauntiness of the line, contrasted with Paul Weller’s lyrical venom about British life in the Falklands War era. Only The Jam could pull off such a trick, and it’s gratifying to this day that the public responded with massive enthusiasm, sending the song straight in at No. 1.
34 CHARLES WRIGHT AND THE WATTS 103RD STREET RHYTHM BAND
Express Yourself (from Express Yourself, 1973)
Bassist Melvin Dunlap probably never thought that two decades after he laid down the unforgettably hooky bass-line for the original ‘Express Yourself’, the line would become the mainstay of a gangsta-rap anthem. On the 1973 version Dunlap’s bass part was also played by a guitar, but when LA rappers NWA sampled the bass-line and made it the centre of a new song, also called ‘Express Yourself’, they dropped the guitar part and amped up the bass, a joyous Jackson 5-style mid-ranger. Genius, in either incarnation.
33 BILL WITHERS
Lovely Day (from Menagerie, 1978)
You’ve probably never thought of ‘Lovely Day’ as being driven by a bass-line, as it’s well-known for its mellow vocal hooks, specifically the “lovely daaaaaaaaaaay” chorus which closes it. Well, think again: the song comes complete with a sweet, descending line that adds a funky fill each time it goes down a step and then adds a dexterous turnaround on the way back up. Writer and producer Jerry Knight played the line, one of the most instantly recognisable of the whole R&B catalogue, and certainly the best-known of any Withers song.
32 GRANDMASTER FLASH & MELLE MEL
White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It) (single only, 1983)
Inspired by the bass-line from ‘Cavern’ by art-rockers Liquid Liquid, the Sugarhill label’s house band bassist Doug Wimbish created a monster when the line was applied to a strident rap about the perils of cocaine abuse and a primitive drum machine. Try playing it, go on: you’ll do the Es and the Gs before falling over in the third bar. It’s worth persevering with, however, and then having a crack at the supremely funky bass-plus-horns lick that follows the chorus.
Crossroads (from Wheels Of Fire, 1968)
Taking an old Robert Johnson blues song, ‘Cross Road Blues’, buffing it up and retitling it simply ‘Crossroads’, Cream created a legendary entry in the British avant-garde blues canon. Of course, Eric Clapton is on sublime form throughout this superb song, especially in its original live form from Wheels Of Fire, but it’s Jack Bruce’s domain from start to finish. Applying his famous deftness of touch and melodic awareness to the blues chords, Bruce showed us all that bass could dominate a composition without being over the top. What a man. What a song.