Top 5 bass intros of all time

You’re here because, just like us, you love all things bass. The truth is that bass players are often underrated and their contribution to a song is often overlooked. They never hold the stage like the lead singer and when most come to recreating blistering solos, it’s the lead guitarist that people are interested in. Just like us, you know that this is wrong and that bass players are often the key to creating a sound that becomes iconic.

The chances here are that we’re going to offend a few people along the way. Putting together a top list of anything is never an easy task and restricting ourselves to just five has made this even more difficult. What follows are our top picks. These are the bass intros that have made the song, these are the intros that are instantly recognisable and these are the bass intros that inspired a whole generation of bass guitarists. They showed that playing bass could be cool.

Let’s get started.

1) Queen and David Bowie – Under Pressure

‘Do do do de de do do, do do do de de do do’. This legendary baseline is enough to make anyone pick up and start playing. Of course, we have John Deacon and his Fender Precision Bass to thank for this intro and riff that have gone down in history. The interesting thing here though is that there has been debate over who even wrote the baseline in the first place.

In 1982, Deacon credited Bowie with composing that famous riff. As far as Bowie was concerned, the riff was already in place before he entered the room. It’s Brian May that brings clarification in 2016 by clearly stating that Deacon was the genius behind this but Bowie had caused him to misremember it and so inadvertently changed it.

A great intro like this grows more remarkable over time. Perhaps that’s why Vanilla Ice chose to sample it for his hit ‘Ice Ice Baby’. The problem was that he failed to credit Queen or Bowie but this soon changed following a lawsuit.

2) Wild Cherry – Play That Funky Music

As a hard rock cover band, ‘Play that Funky Music’ wasn’t really a track that you’d expect from Wild Cherry. With its catchy baseline, it soon becomes apparent that you’re in the era of disco and that Wild Cherry had indeed become funky.

Written by Robert Parissi, the song featured Allen Wentz playing the iconic baseline that we all know and love. The move towards this style of music came about as the public just wanted songs that they could dance to. This saw Wild cherry pivot in a very different direction.

Vanilla Ice again crops up here. he released his own version of the song and, as seems to be a common theme, he failed to credit the writer. This would later cost him $500,000 for infringing copyright.

3) Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train

Crazy Train was Osbourne’s debut solo single back in 1980. Coming from his album, Blizzard of Ozz, this track was co-written with Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley. It is Daisley that we have to thank for the amazing bass intro as well as the ongoing riff. For this track, he selected a Gibson EB-3 and played through one of Rhoads’ Marshall stacks.

This song has been voted number one in a poll of the top 50 Osbourne songs. In a poll by VH1 in 2009, it ranked 9th on the list of 40 Greatest Metal Songs. It also ranked 23rd as the greatest rock song of all time.

There is no doubt that the popularity of this track is down to the baseline of Daisley. Sure, there are lyrics focused on the cold war and the unique Ozzy screams, but there is more to this song. It is the bass that is groovy. It’s the baseline that makes this song listenable and enjoyable. Take the bass away and the song would struggle to stand on its own two feet.

4) Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

We could apologise for featuring Queen and a certain Mr Deacon for the second time, but the truth is that we’re not going to. This is one of these songs that everyone recognises in an instant. That opening riff is the one that proves exactly what a bass guitar can do. Let’s be honest, it’s impossible not to love absolutely everything about this song.

Interestingly, it appears that Deacon may have drawn inspiration from elsewhere with this song. If you take a listen to Chic’s number one song “Good Times”, you’ll realise that the baseline from Bernard Edwards is practically the same. What Deacon did was simplify the riff to make it his own but, in fairness, Chic probably deserves a songwriting credit here.

5) The Beatles – Come Together

It just wouldn’t be right to compile a list of the best bass intros without including The Beatles, and specifically Paul McCartney, at least once. When you take the time to properly listen to any Beatles track, there’s no escaping the fact that McCartney’s baselines add something really special.

With Come Together, McCartney provides a smooth and rolling baseline that gives the song its depth. While the riff sounds simplistic, this is perhaps its appeal. What works really well here is the bass of McCartney alongside Harrison’s solo.

If you’ve ever picked up a bass guitar, there’s a very good chance that this is a song that you’ve attempted to play. It has certainly become a timeless classic.

Final thoughts

Okay, we know that we’ve missed some pretty legendary songs from this list. We’ve not even had the chance to mention Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, or Around the World by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Then there are the likes of Aerosmith and their Sweet Emotion track that certainly deserves recognition.

Perhaps going beyond the top five is a post for another day, but if there are any other songs that you think we should have included, we’d love to hear from you.