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5 Essential Classic Rock Bassists Who Deserve A Closer Listen

Updated on February 1, 2016
Former Blue Oyster Cult bassist Joe Bouchard
Former Blue Oyster Cult bassist Joe Bouchard | Source

You know all of the great Classic Rock songs by heart. You know the names of the bands. You can easily identify vocalists like Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper. These guys were all backed by great bass players. Can you name one?

It's funny how we can listen to a song over and over for years, or decades, and not be aware of the people who created it. Whether you realize it or not, the bass lines are ingrained in your subconscious. That's the way music works. Bass guitar is subtle, but it's hard to live without it.

In this article, I'm going to pay tribute to some of the great unsung hero's of Classic rock - The Bass Players.

I'm leaving out the obvious big-name bassist's like McCartney, John Paul Jones, John Entwistle and Geezer Butler. Rather, this article will focus on some legendary bass players who's music is probably part of your life, but the names are not. With one exception, all of these great players are still active, relevant musicians. Look them up!

These 5 bassists ... In no particular order... are essential to the history, and the essence of Rock N Roll.

Joe Bouchard

"Don't Fear The Reaper" ..."Godzilla" ... "Burnin' For You"

As Bassist for the legendary Blue Oyster Cult, Joe Bouchard has laid bass tracks for a large catalog of legendary music. He performed on over a dozen albums with the band. He and his brother Albert comprised the rhythm section for BOC, and together they contributed to countless complex compositions. A music teacher with a Master's degree, Bouchard's playing style can't be categorized. Whether it's Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Progressive, Pop, or even Country, Joe has an instinct for the perfect bass line.

Listen to his isolated bass track from BOC's classic hit "Cities On Flame". His confident command of every note leaves no doubt - Joe Bouchard is a monster on the bass!

Joe's writing credits for Blue Oyster Cult include the sinister "Nosferatu" , "Light Years Of Love" and the scorching Cult classic "Hot Rails To Hell".

His career of evil following Blue Oyster Cult includes 3 solo releases, and numerous other musical projects.

Bouchard's current band is Blue Coupe, a trio consisting of Joe, his brother Albert Bouchard on drums, and Hall-Of-Fame bassist Dennis Dunaway. In this line-up, multi-instrumentalist Bouchard plays guitar and keyboards, leaving bass duties to Dunaway.

Joe Bouchard Isolated Bass Track

John Deacon

John Deacon is rock royalty. As bassist for Queen, Deacon has played on some of the biggest hits in music history. Songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" "We Are The Champions" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" guarantee that you will be listening to John's bass lines for many years to come.

John Deacon actually wrote a number of Queen's hits, most notably the multi-platinum single "You're My Best Friend". A master of melodic understatement, his thick tone and single note bass lines are recognized around the world. Think "Another One Bites The Dust" or "Under Pressure"..... and you instantly think of the bass line.

Although Queen continues to tour, Deacon left the band, and the music business entirely, in 1997 and apparently hasn't looked back.

John Deacon's Greatest Hit

Tom Hamilton

Rock legends Aerosmith have been together since 1970. That's 45 years. In that time, they have had exactly one Bass Player. That would be Mr. Tom Hamilton.

He's laid the groove on a huge catalog of monster hits... "Dream On" "Walk This Way" "Dude Looks Like A Lady" "Love In An Elevator" "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing".....it goes on and on, but you get the point. The man has a golden resume.

Like all good bassist's, Hamilton plays what the song requires, and that's usually a supporting role. But make no mistake...he is one a bad-ass bass player. Listen to his high octane grooving on cuts like "Toys In The Attic" or "Rats In The Cellar".

No discussion of Tom Hamilton's Bass playing is complete without mentioning "Sweet Emotion" , with it's instantly recognizable bass intro. Classic!

Dennis Dunaway

"School's Out" "I'm Eighteen" "No More Mr. Nice Guy" "Billion Dollar Babies"....

One after another, Alice Cooper turned out these Classic Rock staples. This music was ahead of it's time, and cranking out the unique and often menacing bass lines on every one of these hits was the one and only Dennis Dunaway. Though Cooper was the frontman, his band from that era deserves equal legendary status.

As a bass player myself, I've covered many Alice Cooper tunes, and Dunaway is hard to duplicate. His tone, attack and virtuoso playing are unique, and heavily influence Cooper's classic era sound and style.

The Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame bassist currently plays for Blue Coupe, along with Blue Oyster Cult alumni Joe and Albert Bouchard.

Dunaway is the author of the book, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures With The Alice Cooper Group


Roger Glover

"Smoke On The Water" "Highway Star" "Stone Cold" "Perfect Strangers"

Roger Glover has a Rock reputation carved in stone. As bassist for Deep Purple and Rainbow, his career spans over 55 years. In addition to playing bass on such monster hits, his talents as a producer and songwriter have contributed heavily to the era we now call Classic Rock.

This man witnessed the fire that destroyed the Montreux Casino, and the smoke from the fire drifting across Lake Geneva inspired Glover to title one of Rocks great standards, "Smoke On The Water".

Glover has extensive credits as a producer. In addition to Deep Purple and Rainbow recordings, he has produced albums for bands such as Judas Priest, Nazareth, ELF, The Michael Schenker Group, David Coverdale, Status Quo, The Spencer-Davis Group and more.

Still very active as a bassist, writer, and producer, he shows no signs of slowing down. Deep Purple have a loyal and well-earned following. They still tour the globe, playing large venues to appreciative crowds.

More Than Honorable Mentions

Tom Scholz - Boston

The first 2 Boston albums have been a staple on Rock radio ever since the debut release in 1976. Those albums contain amazing examples of songwriting, musicianship, and production. The songs feature some of the most melodic bass playing in Classic Rock history.

What you probably didn't know is that guitarist Tom Scholz (who grew up in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio) played the bass parts on those 2 records. As a bass player, I am in awe of the performance on those records.

Bob Daisley - Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow, Gary Moore, Uriah Heep

If you listen to rock music at all, you've heard the bass work of Bob Daisley.

"Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne....that's Bob Daisley. (He co-wrote it). How about "Bark At The Moon" or "Long Live Rock N Roll"? That's him too! His credits are extensive, and his bass playing is solid to the core. He's backed some of Rock N Roll's biggest performers, and deserves much more credit for his contributions. (Especially from the Osbourne camp).


Bob Daisley with Gary Moore

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    • Revolution Kev profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin K 

      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      John McVie is a great, and often overlooked player. He's appropriate for an article like this, as we have all heard those unique bass lines and most don't recognize the name. Gary Thain has been mentioned many times in reference here, and he's equally deserving. As is Jimmy Bain!

      It's great to see these names being brought up!

    • profile image

      David 

      2 years ago

      Gary Thain. Jimmy Bain. R.I.P

    • profile image

      Chris 

      2 years ago

      John Mcvie is sadly often overlooked great bassist !

    • Revolution Kev profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin K 

      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      You are correct, Sean! Thanks for pointing that out. Not sure how that one got past me.

    • profile image

      Sean Oster 

      2 years ago

      Bob Daisley is one of the greatest bass players and composers to have ever walked the earth but it was Craig Gruber playing bass when Rainbow recorded Man On The Silver Mountain.

    • Revolution Kev profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin K 

      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Good suggestion, Ben! Tony Levin is awesome!

      It was really hard to narrow it down to 5 bassists. In fact, I actually wrote about 7. There are so many great players who have contributed to the genre. I have gotten a lot of suggestions on many great bass players who were not included, including your suggestion!

      Looks like I'll be writing a part 2....

    • profile image

      Ben Butterworth 

      2 years ago

      Where's Tony Levin? He recorded 3 albums with Alice Cooper... (and John Lennon's last 2 albums, 2 or 3 albums with Paul Simon... and on & on) Not to mention, being on retainer for Peter Gabriel for the past... 35 years or so, in conjunction with being in King Crimson for about that same amount of time. As a fellow bassist, "Don't Give Up" is one of the most memorable bass lines I've ever heard...

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