As the bassist and frontman of Motörhead, Lemmy Kilmister became a sort of human altar of hard rock iconography. If one thing is for certain, he certainly didn’t adhere to the notion that the bass is only there to add some rhythm to the background. Throughout his career, he took to the stage like a marauding aural empire.
With this unique thundering sound, he proved to be a very singular force within the music industry, but even a behemoth like Lemmy was not without his own heroes. In an interview with Bass Player back in 2003, the whisky swigging rocker shone a light on the masters of the four-string that had inspired over the years.
The first player he chose to mention was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hopping mad rhythm section maestro, Flea. As Lemmy proclaimed: “I think he’s very good indeed. Excellent. He’s an innovator and what he does stands out.”
The next name to receive the approval of the bass overlord was Jet Harris. Harris started out as the bassist in The Shadows, a short-lived British band with a string of pioneering singles between 1958 and 1962; before he formed a rhythm duo with drummer Tony Meehan, he truly put bass front and centre.
This idea of bringing bass to the foreground was clearly a mandate for Lemmy, who said of Harris: “Very innovative for his time, given the band he was in. He gave me the idea that the bass player didn’t have to stand at the back.”
However, when it comes to innovation and iconoclast of the bass, they don’t come any more defiant than Carole Kaye. Hers might not be a name that registers in circles outside of the music nerd fraternity, but there is a fat chance that just about everyone in the western world has heard her play at one point in their lives.
She has played on so many songs, in fact, that nobody knows the exact figure with the accepted rounded total standing at 10,000. And being a Los Angeles session musician in the 1960s means that a fair chunk of that whopping number are bonafide classics.
Lemmy’s assessment was as glowing as you might expect for a trailblazer who transposed her jazz styling into fluid pop melodies. “I liked her. She was a housewife who used to do all the Motown stuff,” He said. “She was great, a fuckin’ outstanding woman. She’d clock out of the house in the morning, play a bit of bass and then clock back in for teatime and feed the kids! Fuckin’ amazing!”
Occupying the top two spots in the list are Paul McCartney and John Entwhistle. As Lemmy told Revolver in 2002: “I love John Entwistle of the Who. Best bass player I ever saw, Entwistle! McCartney’s the second, though. He keeps giving in to the wimp in him, but he’s a great bass player.”
He later went on to further his praise for Entwistle, stating: “The best bass player on the face of the earth. He was the best for me, no contest. He was so in command of his instrument. You never saw him flicker. Never a bum note that I ever heard. And he was so fast, both hands going like hell. The bass solo in ‘My Generation’, you still tie yourself in knots trying to do it now. You can work it out, but it was another thing thinking it up. And that was back in 1964!”
Motörhead icon Lemmy’s six favourite bassists of all time:
- Jet Harris
- Bill Wyman
- Carol Kaye
- Paul McCartney
- John Entwistle