Geddy Lee: These Are The 10 Bassists Who Blew My Mind

By Amit Sharma,, December 12, 2018

It's been over three years since Rush played the final show of their 40th anniversary tour at The Forum in Los Angeles, California.

By all accounts, that set could very well end up being the last of the Canadian trio's career - guitarist Alex Lifeson himself admitting that after 50 years they had "no plans to tour or record anymore" and were "basically done".

Today, bassist/singer/keyboardist Geddy Lee finds himself in London to promote his latest venture - Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book Of Bass, which encompasses the instrument itself as well as the players that came to define it - more on that later.

1. Jack Casady

"These first two choices are the original bass players that grabbed my ear. I always found Jack Casady from Jefferson Airplane to be very underrated. He played odd basses, like this Guild that was really modified. He was really into that mod stuff.

"Listen to his playing from the early days or the live album Bless Its Pointed Little Head and you'll hear something really twangy and aggressive for what essentially was a trippy Californian band. He had this heavy tone that pushed the band along. Jefferson Airplane went through a million configurations in their history, but Jack made those early versions of this band stand out for me.

"I really gravitated towards his sound on the song called The Other Side Of This Life. There's a live version of it that we used to cover way, way back in Rush when we were starting out. During the intro, he plays this angry circular pattern and if you listen to that, you'll hear how there's a nod to Jeff in my sound."

2. Jack Bruce

"I had the great pleasure of seeing Jack Bruce in the late 60s. But I could not find another person to come watch Cream with me... what's the matter with people, right?! So I thought, 'Fuck you's all, I'll go by myself!' and bought a single ticket, sat on the balcony and watched them being godly.

"Jack had this super-distorted, big-bottom-y EB-3 that he played and it sounded so unadulterated in this small venue, it ended up being one of the most memorable concerts of my childhood. Cream really influenced those early Rush records, especially being a three-piece. Listen to a song like Spoonful or Crossroads, you can hear a band that would start a song and be unafraid to jam, just winding it out.

"Jack grew up playing the double bass and adapted to the electric, using fretless models early on as well as his EB-3. It's sad he is no longer with us. I also love his solo work; he made some great albums that were under the radar. Bass players, check 'em out!"

3. John Entwistle

"The Ox! Ever since I first heard My Generation right through to Won't Get Fooled Again or The Real Me... he was quite possibly the greatest rock bassist of all time. I don't think it's a stretch to say that.

4. John Paul Jones

"What a complete musician. He began as keyboard player before picking up the bass. Even before Led Zep, he was one of the most popular studio musicians in London at that time. You're talking about the London sound! He played on all those Mickie Most records and was an arranger as well.

"His role in Zeppelin was a lot more profound that people credit him with. He could play keys, had an ear for arrangements and wrote great bass parts - just listen to what he does on What Is And What Should Never Be.

"Full props to John Paul Jones for contributing to my book. We had met before - he's such a lovely and easy guy to talk to. He made it easy for me as an interviewer; I was on the other side of the table, which was a new gig for me! He has such amazing stories. I was looking for people that could light on the period of time and were also collectors. I didn't just pick great bass players, because that's a list that never ends.

"That day when I interviewed him - here in London about a year ago - he sat there fiddling around while we got ready. He played Heartbreaker and everyone in the room stopped talking and moving. It was all about one man on his '62 Jazz Bass."

5. Jaco Pastorius

"After a pair of Johns and a pair of Jacks, I might mix up the names ever so slightly. What can you say about Jaco that hasn't been said?

"I had the pleasure of seeing him in Weather Report in the late-'70s/early '80s somewhere in Milwaukee. A friend of mine from the band touring with us went to watch the soundcheck and came back with this story...

6. Chris Squire

"This one of the more unsung bass players that I got introduced to through my love for Yes. I would say after John Entwistle, Chris Squire had the most impact on my life as a bassist, in terms of both sonically and aspiration.

7. Jeff Berlin

"Bill Bruford, who is connected to Yes and one of my favourite drummers from that period, did a couple of solo albums that really affected me. In his band, he had a bassist named Jeff Berlin.

"They did this song called Joe Frazier, which they'd stretch out live. I think he's one of the greatest, up there with Jaco, in terms of facility, brilliance, dexterity and creativity.

8. Les Claypool

"Shit! I'm running out of spots here. I have to talk about Les Claypool, because he's brilliant.

"When we first toured with Primus opening for us, we didn't know the guys. Les came up and started laying all this complimentary stuff on me, saying he was a big Rush fan, particularly the Hemispheres period.

9. Flea

"I guess I have to mention Flea here, especially now we're talking about Californian players. I dearly would have loved to have talked to him for my book, but I ran out of pages and ran out of time. Also, he's more known for solid-state amps and contemporary instruments, which wasn't quite a fit for a book about the '50s and '60s basses.

"I was in the gym just the other day and heard Give It Away playing. He's such an original player; he can play up top in a way that doesn't get in the way of the vocal - in fact, it enhances the vocal.

10. James Jamerson

"This is really hard because people are getting left out here. But I'm gonna go with an unusual choice back from my roots, someone who insidiously inspired everyone we've talked about on this list. He was from the Motown years and was not a rock guy, but if you want a real education in bass playing listen to Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

"So many of those Motown classics would not have grooved the way they did or would not have been as melodic without his input. There were three players from that period in America: him, 'Duck' Dunn and Carol Kaye, who had the LA sound down. They were pop bassists, not rock bassists.

"But it's important to remember John Paul Jones wouldn't have played like that if it wasn't for James Jamerson. So apologies to Victor Wooten and all the other great musicians, including Paul McCartney, but my final choice could only belong to James Jamerson!"