17 artists on their favourite ever basslines

Led Zeppelin's secret weapon, John Paul Jones, onstage in the '70s
Led Zeppelin's secret weapon, John Paul Jones, onstage in the '70s (Image credit: Neal Preston/Corbis)

BASS EXPO 2014: To tie in with the official Bass Expo 2014 'best bassline ever' poll, we asked a bunch of super cool bass players for their nominations for most memorable bassline.

From Tool to Jackson 5, and from Rancid to Led Zeppelin, a whole range of genres, techniques, tones and vibes came into play with their choices. So what makes a memorable bassline? Let's find out…

Jaco Pastorius - Portrait Of Tracy

Chosen by John Myung, Dream Theater

"One of my favourite things that I really love is Portrait of Tracy by Jaco Pastorius. To me that is still one of the most unique and magical things to have done. Jaco turned me on to that world of harmonics - after hearing that I went out and bought a book on bass harmonics and studied what were the useful resonant points on the strings and that made me realise what a cool colour it was."

Bob Marley - Stir It Up

Chosen by Mark Damon, The Pretty Reckless

"In the realm of most memorable basslines, Bob Marley's classic Stir It Up definitely ranks pretty high. Appearing on Marley's 1973 classic album Catch A Fire, and featuring the one and only Aston 'Family Man' Barrett on bass, this simple, spacious bassline anchors the groove and supports the song so perfectly that I dare you to listen to the track and not have that line stuck in your head for the next week!"

Metallica - My Friend Of Misery

Chosen by Corey Henderson, Anti-Mortem

"One of my favourite pieces would have to be My Friend Of Misery. The tone is amazing and it's always been one of my favourite basslines."

Led Zeppelin - How Many More Times

Chosen by Jon Harvey, Monster Truck

"The most memorable bassline to me would have to be How Many More Times by Led Zeppelin. It's so simple yet so perfect."

Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters - Palm Grease

Chosen by Henry Upton, Lionize

"There are lots of possible answers for this one! Paul Jackson's initial groove in Palm Grease by the Headhunters which is one of the baddest bass/drum parts I've ever heard. Or, off the top of my head, I'd go with James Jamerson's line in I Want You Back by the Jackson 5. It's melodic and funky and fun to play.There are way too many options, but those come to mind."

Rush - YYZ

Chosen by Christopher Hutchinson, Outfit

"Geddy Lee's finest moment YYZ has everything I want from a bassline. I would recommend learning this to any bass player. With its fiendishly tricky riffs and super quick solos it encapsulates what it is to be a rock axe man. If you can manage to play your way through YYZ you can deal with any other rock bassline no problem."

Pennywise - Bro Hymn

Chosen by Tom Poulton, Landscapes

"One of my favourite basslines of all time would be Bro Hymn by Pennywise. Played by the late Jason Thirsk. This was the first thing I learnt to play on a bass guitar and, in fact, I still enjoy it and still play it to this day. You know a good bassline when you get a load of thirsty punks singing 'whoahs' and chants all over it!"

Nomeansno - It's Catching Up

Chosen by Aaron Beam, Red Fang

"The band began as just two brothers playing bass and drums and singing. The bass clearly needed to fill a melodically compelling role. This bassline is so driving yet catchy. I use it for soundchecks all the time!"

Tool - Schism

Chosen by Conor O'Keefe, Rise To Remain

"Everything around that line is so tightly locked in and unfolds throughout the song in such a hypnotic way, from the instant humble, chordal intro to the dramatic, heavy grooved climax. It's played by Justin Chancellor on a four string, and it has that classic unmistakable thick Wal Bass tone is he known for."

Green Day - Longview

Chosen by Paul Thomas, Good Charlotte

"For me personally, I'd have to say Longview by Green Day. When I first learned and played that bassline, I knew I was a bass player."

Yes - Roundabout

Chosen by James Leach, Sikth

"Roundabout is a true bass classic. When I first heard this bassline it blew my mind. Every section sounds as if it were crafted with meticulous detail and the arrangement seemed more akin to classical music than anything I'd heard in rock music before.

"This is a brilliant example of how a bassline can drive a track along. The tight sixteenth note feel and how the phrase often starts on a off-beat accent all add to it's pummelling hook. I love Chris Squire's tone - tight low end with plenty of aggressive top and grit.

"Definitely a forerunner to today's modern bass tones. I would recommend anyone learning the bass to listen to this track. The use of technique, rhythmic and harmonic understanding has been rarely matched and it was released over 40 years ago!"

Rancid - Journey To The End Of The East Bay

Chosen by Nick Ghanbarian, Bayside

"The song Journey To The End Of The East Bay starts off with a memorable bassline from Matt. You hear two full rotations of the line before the full band comes in, and its stuck in your head by the third time you hear it."

Chosen by Mike Ferri, We Are The In Crowd

"To me, Carousel by Blink-182 is one of the most iconic basslines of all time. Growing up it felt like it was a right of passage as a bass player in a pop punk band to at least attempt to learn how to play this song, which may or may not have driven your band mates at the time a little mad. To this day I still noodle around with it during sound check sometimes and we'll burn through the first minute or so of the song."

Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al

Chosen by Greg Day, Natives

"This bassline is unbelievably groovy and memorable for me. As soon as I hear that fretless baby kick in, it puts a smile on my face every time. Hearing a bassline played with such style and unique groove will go down in bass playing history for me. To top off the glorious bassline throughout the song, there is a lovely run/solo [played by Bakithi Kumalo, other bass by Paul Simon] before the last chorus. It's my all time favourite."

Jackson 5 - I Want You Back

Chosen by Logan Davis, J Roddy Walston and The Business

"I suppose when it comes to 'memorable', the obvious answer is the right answer. With that in mind, grab the next person you see and start singing the bassline to Jackson 5's I Want You Back. Chances are they can finish the rest of the song for you. And remember that time they were killing it at *insert best friends name*'s wedding while that was coming through the speakers."

Cromags - Age Of Quarrel

Chosen by Mike D' Antonio, Killswitch Engage

"I love Age of Quarrel by Cromags. It sounds like the apocalypse to me. It's really fucking good. That what I hear in my head when I think of my favourite bass playing."

Megadeth - Peace Sells

Chosen by Paolo Gregoletto, Trivium

"The intro to Peace Sells by Megadeth immediately comes to mind. In the States, there was a news segment on MTV and they used that bassline every time it came on. When I finally heard Peace Sells, I realised where it came from and it was so memorable. It's definitely one of those go-to riffs if ever something breaks on stage. Just start playing Peace Sells until it gets fixed!"