The greatest exponent of...the bass guitar

[If you start a new The Greatest Exponent Of (TGEO) thread, copy the Rules section so that everyone knows what is expected of them. You might want to change Bletch for your name.


OK, so TGEO… threads should allow us to get through the close season (Euros apart) and retain our sanity. The idea is that you have to

  1. chose one, and only one response to the question/statement in the thread title.

  2. provide evidence

  3. explain why you selected this person or thing.

If you are going to comment on someone else’s choice to defend yours, you must have watched/read/listened to (some of) the evidence. This will be highly subjective, and unless you agree with Bletch, then you’ll likely be wrong. Post your TGEO threads in the Best ever category.

There is to be no namby-pamby “second or third choices” and just as unwelcome is the underhand “I was going to be pick x or y, but chose z because…” tactic. There should be one thing to rule them all.

Post your TGEO threads in the Best ever category.

My Premise

The greatest exponent of the bass guitar is obviously Mick Karn who was best known for his work with late 70s and early 80s new romantic band Japan.

My Evidence

How cool was that fucker here…

That wobbly whar whar budum whar sound is almost animal.

This from his solo album Titles

Shocking song, but the bass is wonderfully unique

My Defence

I’ve heard other people play the bass that probably were more talented, but I’ve never experienced the way that Karn’s bass was so intrinsic to the sound of Japan, Rain Tree Crow, Dali’s Car, etc. The bass was brought forward to be melody and because he played fretless with effects, the sound it made was wonderful.

Go on, tell me I’m wrong…


I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong, but I am going to submit a hero from the world of metal.

Steve Harris, of Iron Maiden. People that don’t know Maiden won’t know that for all Bruce Dickinson’s derring-do in Ed Force One, Steve Harris runs that band. His bass runs their music. He plays it like a lead half the time.

This is Number of the Beast, revered amongst spotty Dungeons and Dragons players of all teen ages. It’s a great example of the bass-led stuff I’m talking about. The solo on 3m5s is superb.

On this track, Two Minutes To Midnight, he could have gotten away with a lot less notes. He doesn’t fucking want to, is the beauty. The bass line is bursting with flourishes. Just elevates the song.

On this, Run To The Hills, you might listen to the opening bars and think “Oh, Steve is having a day off. That’s a nice traditional metal bass line”. You’d be wrong. Bastard can’t help himself. Big fuck off bass solo taking the song to its crescendo, and of course a big bass solo rock ending.

A man totally in love with his instrument. Where others got bored and played lead instead, he made the bass front and centre. You’ve gotta love him.


I cant decide between two but they both started out in the 60s, were massive in the 70s and are the two names that many bass players of today say influenced them hugely. Both now too are sadly deceased.

Mr John Entwhistle of The Who and

Mr Chris Squire of Yes.

Entwhistle used to play lead lines and his playing perfectly complimented Townsends guitar and Moons crazy drum style.Called the Ox because he used to stand there quitely pinning down the sound whilst the other three were going batshot crazy around him. Go back and listen to the early Who tracks and marvel at his playing.

Squire got the most amazing tones out of his Rickenbacker 401 and his harmonics were amazing. He stood out on pretty much everything he played with Yes but a good starting poing would be the Yes album.


down voted for not following the clear rules that bletch laid out.

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Has to be Cliff Burton for me. Not known anyone to get the sound he got out of a bass. He was just a little bit different.

pap got in first… I’m just saying!


Mr Les Claypool from Primus must be in with a shout.

Fuck the rules - I live on the edge

Fatso is now Bletch’s bitch :lou_is_a_flirt:


Ah but I didnt give a second or third choice. I just had two first choices! And following from Gay’s lead (and nicking a quote from Lord of the Flies) “Bollocks to the rules!”


Steve Harris is the correct answer. The bass is the core of their music whereas most use it simply to support the rhythm guitar or the drums. It carries a lot of the melody and his playing is sublime.

surprised in the cliff burton you didn’t post ‘anaesthesia’


The only song I’ve ever played bass on in a band was this. Not exactly hard but a great example of how powerful a bass can be when not confined to the background. Still love this song.

off topic but any excuse


You were in The Sisters of Mercy, suspectsex?

Some good (if obvious) choices here. For something different I’m going to offer up Brian Gibson of Lightning Bolt.

And to pre-empt the ‘best drummer’ thread you can have Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt too. The noise these two make (especially live) his fucking shuddering. Skip to 5 mins in for bass stuff:

Their best album, IMO:

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I’m older than all you runny-nosed kids.

Sit down and I’ll tell you who’s the best, sit down with all the other bassists you’ve nominated and they will all tell you…to a man…the greatest was Jaco Pastorius.

If you want to be impressed…listen to the first 2 minutes…if you want to be amazed listen to the first 5…if you want to be totally convinced…all the way through. :lou_sunglasses:


Colin Hodgkinson of Back Door. Here are some reasons why:

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I have to say, I’m quite partial to The Flyd Owl’s back door.


Great album, but the live version that I posted is just amazing for me and also a great tune. Agree with Maiden Mr Harris the centre piece of the music for sure.

Great thread.

Agree that the answer has to be Jaco Pastorious - a virtuoso seldom seen on any instrument, let alone bass.

Faves mentioned above - Entwistle and Colin Hodgkinson.

Worthy of mention - Larry Graham, who invented the slapping style when with Sly Stone, also James Jamerson from the Motown house band (listen to the line on ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’)

And listen to this guy - Ron Carter, genius bassist in Miles Davis’s 1960s quintet (others were Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter & Tony Williams). Here playing with French rapper MC Solaar, looking like Jeremy Corbyn, but still sounding great.

So cannot I not post anymore bass tunes? As this is a classic!

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Correct answer.

Also one of the genuinely nicest guys in music. I met him last year at a hotel in Cookham Dean I was staying in, that happened to be owned by of Iron Maidens managers (funnily enough I didn’t know when I booked it), and the bar area is covered in Maiden memorabilia. Was completely in my element, and then Steve walked in with Andy Taylor. I was pretty starstruck as always been a big Maiden fan, but he was just quality. Bought him a few pints of Trooper and chatted for an hour or so.

Brilliant, brilliant day.

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