So, you think you’re a music aficionado huh? You know all the latest and greatest underground acts, you liked Alexisonfire before the break up, and you own at least one dubstep album (ironically of course). Let’s see how good you really are.
Think of 5 Vocalists.
Think of 5 Guitarists.
Name me five bass players.
The casual music fan won’t be able to. In the world of rock n roll, it’s usually the Vocalist, Guitarist (Lead, not Rhythm) and occasionally Drummer who are the ‘faces’ of the band, the popular guys who people remember. I’m sure whilst having a shufty through your mental music rolodex (under ‘B’ for Bassist) you probably thought of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Widely recognised as one of the most unique and energetic bass players to grace popular music (and rightly so), he is usually the first example to crop up. Perhaps you also thought of Sting, Paul McCartney, Lemmy from Motorhead, Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy. You’d be right to do so, but I would argue they sprang to mind because they are vocalists and bassits, identified as ‘frontmen’ and not for their four-stringed antics. If you thought a little more into it, maybe you came up with other names, Nate Mendell, Geezer Butler, Duff McCagan, Mike Dirnt, Bootsy Collins. I’d wager that most would only remember these guys due to their slightly ridiculous monikers as much as their talents.
Even whilst writing this article, I had the accusation levelled at me that ‘bassists don’t even do anything’. On the surface, this may seem like the case, you very rarely see a bass solo, often bass players stand almost immobile in their allotted stage space while Guitarists and Singers leap and strut about like pompous pongids. Those maligned four-stringers are fulfilling a crucial role, however, bridging the gap between the rhythms and the melodies of the song, helping the Guitarists keep time with the Drummer. A solid bass Riff can often compromise the backbone of a song, think ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, with John Deacon perhaps the perfect example of the forgotten bassist (He was in Queen too damnit!). Other notable examples are Fleetwood Mack’s ‘The Chain’ (or ‘that song off the Formula one on telly’) or ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes, although technically not a bass riff. A competent bassist is integral to any half-decent band, bringing soul and warmth to many styles of music, and being indispensible in genres such as Funk, Jazz or Blues.
So the next time you see a band, or listen to a song, spare a few thoughts for the guy stood awkwardly at the back. They may not be centre stage, but the Bassist is just as vital as any other. Attune your ears, and listen in for the low end. Who knows, you might just enjoy it.
And before any keyboardists chime in with ‘what about us? We never get any recognition either!’, don’t bother. I, as with everyone else, am not listening.