I was having a conversation last night about bassists, as in people who play bass guitar for pop music (whether it’s rock or hip-hop or neither). And, the question came up, what has happened to the bass player, as a figure in music? When’s the last time someone identified a promising up-and-coming bass player? Has the role gone so unloved and under-appreciated over the years, that kids just don’t wanna be bass players and they’d rather leave it to the 808?
I guess being a bass player has been fairly thankless throughout the history of popular music. Some of the most visible folks in that position were either too overzealous (Flea, Les Claypool) or too focused on melody that you often forgot they were bassists (Sting, Paul McCartney). There are the understated geniuses like the late John Entwistle (The Who) or the thriving John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), but both of those guys were easily overshadowed by their massively influential guitarists. The Rolling Stones are still around, but they didn’t even bother hiring a permanent bass player after Bill Wyman left in the early 1990s.
You look at the legacy of the bassist in 2009, and you’re essentially left with Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy (who is only notable for celebrity and not for musical talent) and Robert Trujillo from Metallica (but he’s the third person to fill that slot in the decades-old band). Flea and Les Claypool aren’t really challenging the masses with new music, and veteran players like Adam Clayton (U2) aren’t as rock-solid as they used to be.
Where are the new bassists? For example, can you name the bass player in last year’s biggest rock band, Coldplay? Neither can I. Do you know which Jonas Brother plays the bass? Guess what, none of them do. See what I’m saying here?