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The Best Bass Lines In The World

From Jamerson to Joy Division, Chic to Kaye, this is the place of the bass.

Who are our Favourite bass players Favourite bass players! This lot, that's who.


1 TONY LEVIN "Bully For You" Tom Robinson Band (1979)
2 STANLEY CLARKE "Wild Dog" Clarke/Duke Project (1981)
3 PETER HOOK "She's Lost Control" Joy Division (1980)
4 ANDY FRASER "Mr Big" Free (1970)
5 JACO PASTORIOUS "Birdland" Weather Report (1977)


1 CAROL KAYE "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" Beach Boys (1966)
2 JAMES JAMERSON "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" Four Tops (1966)
3 ROSKO GEE "Walking In The Wind" Traffic (1974)
4= UNKNOWN Theme tune from "General Hospital" TV Series (1970s)
4= JACK CASADY "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
5 DAVID HOOD (?) "I'll Take You There" The Staple Singers (1972)


1 PAUL JACKSON/HERBIE HANCOCK "Chameleon" Herbie Hancock (1974)
2 CAROL KAYE "Good Vibrations" Beach Boys (1967)
3 LEWIS STEINBERG "Green Onions" Booker T And The MGs (1962)
4 STANLEY CLARKE "Schooldays" (1976)
5 JACK BRUCE "Sunshine Of Your Love" Cream (1967)


1 J S BACH "Air On A G-String"
2 WALTER CARLOS "Geodesic Dance" (1971)
3 ALPHONSO JOHNSON "Sweet Wine" Cobham/Duke (1976)
4 JACO PASTORIOUS "4 AM" Herbie Hancock (1980)
5 NATHAN WATTS "I Wish" Stevie Wonder (1976)


1 UNKNOWN "I'm Talkin' 'Bout You" Chuck Berry (1961)
2 JACK BRUCE "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "Politician" Cream (1967)
3 WILLIE WEEKS "Crotch Music" Ron Wood (1974)
4 JAN HAMMER "Hot Rock" Jan Hammer Group (1980)
5 COLIN HODGKINSON "Wasting Time" Neal Schon and Jan Hammer (1982)


1 JACO PASTORIUS "Teen Town" Weather Report (1977)
2 JOHN WETTON "Burlesque" Family (1972)
3 JAMES JAMERSON (?) "For Once In My Life" Stevie Wonder (1968)
4 BOOTSY COLLINS "Sex Machine" James Brown (1970)
5 STANLEY CLARKE "Lopsy Lu" (1974)


"The bass line stands out a lot more than the chords or the melody line. It's not very 'technical', but it's very memorable as all good bass lines should be. It's solid, and it holds the whole thing together. Bach was the master of invention." JW


"I learnt how to do the harmonics in this, to get a harmonic in any key. It's easy on my Alembic — you put your index finger on the note you want the harmonic on and you put your playing finger on the same note down the bottom. Then you pluck the note with your thumb while holding your finger over it. You can go up the whole scale like that. It looks weird while you're doing it, but it works — I've done it on the new album, on 'Easter Easter'." DF


"It's Tony Levin, I heard he played it on the Chapman Stick. It's just incredible, I play it all the time on my fretless — when I pick it up I tend to go to this line for some unknown reason." DF


"This is about the heaviest thing I'll ever hear, I think, that bass is so heavy. The line is great anyway, but the sound is fantastic. The track itself is really special, and the bass-line has always stuck in my head." PP


"It's the archetypal jazz-funk riff, I think. A classic. It was actually put down by the keyboard — Herbie Hancock wrote it — and then Paul Jackson added the bass. It's an absolutely wonderful bass-line, it's melodic, and repetitious without ever getting boring." HT


"Funnily enough this is on Ron Wood's 'I've Got My Own Album To Do', but it seems to typify the whole Motown style of bass playing. There's all the other obvious ones like 'Dancing In The Street', but this seems to sum it all up. It's Willie Weeks' track, and he was one of the great exponents of the Motown style. It's a great, great line." CH


"I love this for the way it walks, a great walking line. Have a listen to this one again — it's so smooth." PP


"Nobody'll remember it — it's the original early 1970s tune that I'm talking about, because they changed it later. I'm afraid I have no details about who played it, but whoever it was, was very good. It's a sort of relentless, African line. It's also pretty clever in the way that it's written, and it's simply the bass line that's good, not the song. It's only a TV theme." AB


"This isn't the easiest of bass lines to hum to someone, because it goes through so many time signatures. In the later parts of the track it reminds me of the sort of thing Stevie Wonder would do. The sound is fairly standard Moog bass." JW


"If you just listen to the drum part it's dead straight. If you just took the notes she's playing, they'd be simple as well, the root, fifth and so on, simple notes. But the phrasing and timing used sound melodic and driving at the same time. She's taken something that's simple in essence and made it sound really interesting." HT


"This is very simple." HT


"Hammer wrote some amazing bass lines, and this one he did with Jeff Beck, the same era as the Tube theme 'Star Cycle'. It's such a good line, and when I had to play it on bass with him it got me into different tunings. On this I'd tune the E down to low C. It helps if you have a spare bass! I had a 3.04 on for that (laughs), bottom of the Rotosound range. When he played it with Jeff he'd play the bass lines on Moog, and was about the only person to sound convincing like that." CH


"This is ultra-simple, but hits the groove. I think it's David Hood, because they used Muscle Shoals people at this time. He's not a flashy player by any means — he's capable of being flash, but usually isn't. What he does generally works." AB


"This to me is the absolute classic rock bass line. It's probably one of the most imitated of rock bass lines, it says it all. For that Chuck Berry vamp it just sits so right with it all. I don't even know who played it!" CH


"I think this is Nathan Watts, and it's a very catchy line. I've been listening to some Bach preludes and fugues lately and Tve heard the same riff — I wonder whether that's where he got it? I know Stevie Wonder's into classical music, listen to 'The Secret Life of Plants'. This line comes from the time when bass players were just on the edge of getting a properly equalised sound." JW


"I really like the open chord sequence that Stanley plays on this — so easy, and yet nobody else thought of it. He's used the E, A and D open and put major thirds on top, and written a tune out of it — works great. I think Mark King's had a listen to this one." PP


"I was an old Free fan, and Andy Fraser was one of the best funky white bass players around. I like this for the solo on it — and it's great to play some of Andy Fraser's lines, just for fingers. He's got this punchy, fat sound. I saw him in Glasgow years ago, and the way he walked around on stage was amazing, using his Gibson EBO. He was a great showman when I seen 'em." DF


"This I like for the space, you know? It's a bit sinister. It speaks to me, that's all I can say." CH


"The bass line on the Four Tops' original is phenomenal, one of the pinnacles of bass playing at the time, when feel was all important. What were they thinking of? There's a slower, more elongated version by Diana Ross on her 'I'm Still Waiting' LP — maybe it was James Jamerson too, I don't know — and the line and playing on it are well worth the price of the album." AB


"They've banned this Stanley Clarke line in all the music shops, did you know that? There's two like that, actually, this and Jaco Pastorius' 'Portrait of Tracy'. Apparently everyone learns bits of those tunes, goes into music shops and tries to show how good they are. 'Schooldays' is unusual in that you play two notes at the same time in fifths, and you're also hitting the strings with your nails as opposed to your fingers. It sounds rocky, like a guitar." HT


"This repeats all the way through. I still can't play it — that's why I like it, I think. I just can't work it out, I can hear it and feel it, but every time I think I've got it... I haven't. It's one of those elusive lines. I've got all the notes and the accents, but it just doesn't sound the same. It's one of those things you can never copy. James would really come down heavy on me!" PP


"A weird one, nothing to do with the bass playing or technical skill. It's just that Peter Hook's line fits perfectly for that song, I think. It's so easy and so naff, but I think it's incredible in that song. With Simple Minds there's been a lot of tracks where the bass has been a really major melody of the song — it's the same with this." DF


"This was one that people really picked up on at the time. Great lines, to me, are often the ones that are most imitated, they get through to so many people. It's one of those lines that speaks." CH

"This line took stuff from the blues and mixed it with rock. From the blues it brought the melody, taking a line that would normally be a solo, instrument or voice. It was played on the bass, structuring the whole song around the riff, and was the forerunner of heavy metal, apart from a couple of Black Sabbath things. It was an archetypal riff that set up heavy metal, and is a classic example of a phrase becoming a song." HT


"Alphonso Johnson has actually caught the feel of Latin music here. His playing is really technical, and the choice of notes, while rather strange, is, I think, perfect. A great bass solo in the middle." JW


"This is over the top, the classic Jaco track. I like the way the line turns around the chords, almost a be-bop thing. It's almost a lead." PP


"It's not a virtuoso piece, although it's very nippy in its way. That's one of the things that Rosko Gee seems to do very well, it floats like a butterfly. You're just not aware that he's getting in so many notes all at once, because the whole thing does just float. The line isn't terribly complicated, but it definitely makes you want to move your feet. Once in the head it's always there. I've come across a lot of people who know it — 'Oh that!' Then they pick up your bass and have a go at it. Then it's: 'Can you teach it to me?'." AB

"A lot of people ask me what the best line I've ever wrote is, and I just love this. It's like a 1990s square-dance. Apart from the first Back Door album, this (the first Schon/Hammer LP on CBS) is the best thing I've done in my life. If you could hear it..." CH

"This is from the first Clarke/Duke Project album, and it's the chords I like. I've been using a lot of chords — I was a guitarist before I was a bass player. When I went on to bass I started using chords as well, that rhythmic thing that Stanley Clarke does, up-stroke with his thumb and down-stroke with his nail on a chord. He's wild. I met Stanley Clarke in Hollywood. Wild. It was at the Universal Amphitheatre, Return To Forever. I just walked up and went, 'How you doing', Stanley? I rip off all your bass lines!' And he said, 'Yeah, right! There's my friend over there,' and walked away." DF


"I think it's played by Carol Kaye, it sounds like her. It's doubled up with guitar, played with a pick, and it's quite early for doubling bass and guitar like that, pre-reggae and so on. I think the line really swings, in the old sense of the word, and it sounds like someone who'd been arranging for orchestra actually wrote the notes. It's a very odd choice of notes, but they all sound wonderful. And at the same time it still boogies along, I just love the tune the bass plays." AB

4 AM

"I'm not so fond of Jaco Pastorius these days because he seems to play too many notes. This is from Herbie Hancock's 'Mr Hands' LP, and Jaco complements what's going on — basically electric piano and drums — and everything that the keyboards play gets a sort of 'answering' line from the bass, rather than Jaco going off on his own. He still puts all his tricks in." JW


"I think it was Jack Casady from Jefferson Airplane played on the end of this, I don't reckon Noel Redding played it. There's a huge amount going on there, and I don't think I could ever play like it because I haven't got this fluidity. It's certainly picked — mind you, he was a really good bass player by all accounts. I think it was pretty extraordinary playing for 1968, and I don't know that many people would be capable of thinking of playing like that. Very strange indeed. And it doesn't sound particularly drug-induced because I don't think you'd be able to play that well. And he uses it like a bass; very difficult to do that behind someone like Hendrix." AB

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Electronic Percussion

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The Wrath Of The Wang Bar

One Two Testing - Copyright: IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


One Two Testing - Feb 1984


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