5 PINK FLOYD
Money (from The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973)
Roger Waters, never a technician in the classic sense when it came to bass, excelled himself as a songwriter with this world-class bass part – mostly written in 7/4, apart from the bit with the guitar solo, when you can relax because it’s in 4/4. The extreme clarity of the line – and the hellish cacophony of cash registers against which it appears – makes it a mandatory part for all prog-loving bassists to learn. However, even if you can’t play it, you can still marvel at the luscious early-70s production afforded to the Dark Side LP. Dark… so very dark.
Peaches (from Rattus Norvegicus, 1977)
Two seconds into ‘Peaches’ and you’ll know what song you’re listening to; five seconds later you’ll be cursing Jean-Jacques Burnel for his talent and wondering how you can get that tone yourself. You can use a guitar amplifier, of course, like he did when he was young, ignorant and skint, or you can try a judicious bit of overdrive with plenty of high mids for that nasty-but-nice punk sound. Thirty-plus years after its release, ‘Peaches’ has become iconic on several levels: for bassists, because of that intro; for punks, old and new, because of the song’s perfect blend of perverse attitude and anti-establishment sneer; for musicologists, because it covers so many genres (that’s a reggae drumbeat there, you know); and for lovers of the 1970s because it encapsulates those troubled times so well, with a precise line in sarcasm and a banned sleeve.
3 STANLEY CLARKE
School Days (from School Days, 1976)
Throwing everything into the mix and changing the face of bass playing in doing so, Stanley Clarke’s legendary ‘School Days’ features superfast pizzicato, razor-sharp pops, huge string bends and his usual disregard for convention. The song remains an object lesson for anyone interested in the inner workings of fusion bass, and a reminder to all of us that no matter how much we think we know about our instrument, there’s always more to learn. A lot more, in this case.
2 JAMES BROWN
Sex Machine (single, 1970)
Never known by its full title, ‘Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine’, James Brown’s ineffable recruitment drive for the funk was driven by the playing of Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish, whose guitar line accompanies the bass. The song is Brown’s, of course, but without Bootsy’s vibrant, insistent line, ‘Sex Machine’ (a provocative title 49 years ago) would have been half the beast it remains today. Truly, nobody plays it like Bootsy plays it…