Growing up listening to rock music and being a bass players wasn't always a super exciting proposition. Most of the great bassists of all time are jazz musicians. Being a rock bass player means holding down the low end and keeping the groove intact. While this can still be challenging -- I've seen some jazz musicians absolutely butcher rock songs thinking they were playing the simplest thing ever -- it still doesn't generally offer the kind of technical workout a bassist might get playing more complicated music.
There are some significant exceptions to this rule, obviously, and one of the most important is John Paul Jones. He was number three on my list of the best rock bass players ever behind Geddy Lee of Rush and John Entwhistle of the Who, but he is number one on my personal list. He is, if not my single greatest influence as a player, certainly in the top two or three.
What he did with Zep, his funky grooves and his rock solid backbone, was a game changer for many young bass players the first time they heard him. He and John Bonham forged perhaps the funkiest and best rhythm section in rock music history. Frankly, I think of Jones as the James Jamerson (Look it up, Linda!) of rock music.
In honor of his sixty-sixth birthday today, here are six of my favorite Led Zeppelin bass lines.
6. Dazed and Confused
The first Zep record is underrated with it's nasty rock and psychedelic blues. Few of Jones' bass parts are as memorable as this one.
5. Ramble On
To this day, still one of the more challenging bass lines to play in any rock song not strictly because of the technical aspect, but because of how it grooves. Who knew a song about Lord of the Rings could be funky.
4. Bring It On Home
Once you get past the initial Delta blues duo part, the riff plus a seriously deep drum and bass groove kick in.
3. Custard Pie
An amazing bass line and he played the keyboard left hand part as well. The complexity of the parts mixed together is unreal and the performances of both are brilliant.
2. The Wanton Song
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Just keeping up with this unison funk figure is tough enough; doing it with such fluidity is nuts.
1. The Song Remains the Same
Easily my all time favorite bass part. The mix of the up-tempo gallup followed by the laid back country blues in the verse is just perfectly executed.