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35 Rock Songs with Bass: The Heartbeat of Rock Music

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The presence of a distinct and powerful bass line in rock songs cannot be overstated. The bass guitar lays the foundation upon which the entire rock song is built. Its resonance and rhythm are not just parts of the music—they are the soul of it.

In this article, we’ll explore some iconic bass-heavy songs, delving into the intricacies that make them unforgettable.

1. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen

Another One Bites The Dust by Queen is a testament to the power of a good bass line in rock music. Released in 1980, this song features a bass riff that is instantly recognizable, pulsating through the whole song. The bass guitarist, John Deacon, created a line that is both simple and deeply effective, driving the song forward with a relentless rhythm.

What makes this song iconic is its crossover appeal. It’s not just a rock anthem but also a hit in disco and funk. It’s a catchy tune you can’t help but groove to. The song also showcases Queen’s versatility, proving that a rock band can successfully experiment with different genres.

2. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers struck gold with the iconic song Californication. Flea, the bass guitarist, is renowned for his energetic and melodic style, and in this song, he delivers a bass line that is both lyrical and rhythmic.

Californication creates a rich tapestry of sound. The song is a commentary on the impact of Hollywood culture, and the bass line acts as a grounding force, underscoring the song’s message.

3. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes is known for its compelling bass riff. However, it’s not played on a bass guitar! Jack White used a semi-acoustic guitar, tuned down to create the deep, resonant sound that mimics a bass. This riff has become one of the most recognizable on the music scene, cementing Seven Nation Army as a universal tune.

The song’s influence extends beyond rock music, becoming an anthem in sports stadiums and political events.

4. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

Radioactive is a modern take on rock songs. The song features a bass-heavy sound that adds to its apocalyptic and intense feel. The bass line in Radioactive is not just a background element but a driving force that gives the song its powerful and dramatic tone.

Radioactive stands out for its fusion of rock, electronic, and pop elements. This blend has helped the song reach a wide audience, resonating with fans across different musical preferences. The bass, though more synthesized than traditional rock bass, is integral to this blend.

5. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd features a bass that is as expressive as it is subtle. Roger Waters, the bass guitarist, provides a sound that blends seamlessly with the acoustic guitar and synthesizer, creating a soundscape that is both ethereal and grounded. This song is a reflection on the absence of former band member Syd Barrett.

The bass, though not as prominent as in some rock songs, plays a crucial role in setting the mood and pacing, adding depth to the song. It shows that a bass doesn’t need to dominate to be effective.

6. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple is renowned for its guitar riff, but the bass line played by Roger Glover is equally significant. The bass underpins the famous riff, providing a solid foundation that drives the song.

The song recounts a true incident – the burning of the Montreux Casino during a Frank Zappa concert. The bass adds to the dramatic storytelling of the song, creating a sense of urgency and intensity. It’s a song where the bass is integral to the narrative.

7. Come as You Are – Nirvana

Come as You Are by Nirvana, released in 1992 and featured on the studio album Nevermind, showcases a bass line that is as haunting as it is memorable. Krist Novoselic, the bass guitarist, creates a dark, moody undertone that perfectly complements Kurt Cobain’s vocals and guitar. The bass is a key element of the song’s grunge aesthetic, adding to its raw and introspective feel.

This song is celebrated for its lyrics and the distinctive sound of the bass, which contributes significantly to its enigmatic appeal. It has become an anthem of the grunge movement, highlighting the role of the bass in creating the genre’s signature sound.

8. Killing in the Name – Rage Against The Machine

Killing in the Name by Rage Against The Machine features a bass that is as aggressive and impactful as the song’s lyrics. Tim Commerford’s guitar work is a powerful force in the song, driving the high-energy and confrontational tone that Rage Against The Machine is known for.

The song is a protest anthem against institutional racism and police brutality. The bass is not just a background element but a key component of the song’s explosive energy.

9. Come Together – The Beatles

Come Together by The Beatles features a bass line by Paul McCartney that is as smooth as it is groovy. This bass is iconic in its own right, complementing the song’s bluesy feel. McCartney’s approach to the bass in this track is a masterclass in restraint and groove, demonstrating his versatility as a guitarist.

This song stands out for its enigmatic lyrics and distinctive rhythm. The bass in Come Together is a prime example of how a good bass can add a unique character to a song. The bass is sinuous and catchy, forming the backbone of the track.

10. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Billie Jean might be known for its stellar vocals and dance moves, but the bass, played by Louis Johnson, is equally legendary. It’s a defining feature of the song, laying down a funky, driving rhythm that’s instantly recognizable.

Billie Jean is iconic not only for its tune but also for its groundbreaking music video and the famous moonwalk dance move. The bass contributes significantly to the song’s rhythm and mood, making it one of the most memorable parts of this global hit.

11. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac

The Chain by Fleetwood Mac is renowned for its climactic bass sequence. The bass is central to the song’s structure, particularly in the famous chain-breaking final section, where it takes a leading role. The bass in The Chain is both melodic and powerful, perfectly complementing the song’s themes of breakup and endurance.

12. Bombtrack – Rage Against the Machine

Bombtrack opens with a sound that’s as explosive as the title suggests. Tim Commerford’s bass playing sets the tone for the entire song, providing a heavy, driving rhythm that underscores the band’s aggressive and confrontational style.

Bombtrack is celebrated for its politically charged lyrics, powerful instrumentation, and raw energy, driving the message home with every note.

13. London Calling – The Clash

Released in 1979 by The Clash, London Calling features a bass that is as urgent and compelling as the song’s message. Paul Simonon delivers a line that drives the entire track, perfectly encapsulating the song’s theme of impending crisis and defiance. The bass in London Calling is not just rhythmical support; it’s the heartbeat of the song.

This song is iconic for its politically charged lyrics and its status as a punk anthem. The music creates a sense of urgency and rebellion, making it a quintessential track for fans of punk rock.

14. Creep – Radiohead

Creep by Radiohead is known for its emotive lyrics and haunting melody, but the iconic bassline, played by Colin Greenwood, is crucial in setting the song’s tone. The bass is subtle yet powerful, underpinning the song’s dynamics and adding depth to its introspective nature.

Creep stands out for its raw emotional honesty, creating a sound that is both ethereal and grounded. The song has become a modern rock classic from rock legends that resonates with listeners all over the world.

15. Ramble On – Led Zeppelin

Ramble On features bass by John Paul Jones that is as melodic as it is rhythmic. The bass is an integral part of the song’s journey, weaving through the verses and chorus with a light, dancing quality. It’s a prime example of how a bass can be both supportive and lead in a song.

Ramble On is celebrated for its imaginative lyrics and its blend of acoustic rock and electric guitar elements.

16. Hysteria – Muse

This iconic song is renowned for its intense vocal performance and complex bass, played by Chris Wolstenholme. The bass is the driving force of the song, delivering a sense of urgency and power that is hard to ignore. It’s a testament to the technical skill and creativity of the guitarist.

Hysteria stands out for its fusion of alternative and progressive elements. The bass is a key component of this fusion, providing a backbone that is both intricate and commanding. The song is a favorite among guitarists for its challenging and inspiring bass.

17. I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness

I Believe in a Thing Called Love is characterized by an energetic and vibrant bass line played by Frankie Poullain. The bass complements the song’s high-energy glam rock style, driving the rhythm forward and adding to its catchy, upbeat feel. This track demonstrates how a bass can contribute significantly to the overall fun and lively atmosphere of rock.

This song is celebrated for its revival of the glam rock style, complete with falsetto vocals and flashy guitar solos. The bass underpins these elements with a solid groove, enhancing the song’s playful and exuberant vibe. It’s a perfect example of how the bass can add depth to a rock song’s infectious and joyful nature.

18. Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie features one of the most memorable basslines in rock history, played by John Deacon of Queen. The bass is instantly recognizable and forms the backbone of this collaborative masterpiece. It’s a prime example of how a simple yet effective bass can become the heart of a song.

The collaboration between Queen and David Bowie resulted in a song that is both poignant and powerful. The bass adds to the song’s emotional depth, providing a steady foundation for the dynamic vocal performances of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

19. Nothing Else Matters – Metallica

Nothing Else Matters features a deep and resonating bass line played by Jason Newsted. The bass in this power ballad adds a layer of depth and richness to the song, complementing the emotional lyrics.

This song stands out for its departure from Metallica’s usual heavy metal style, offering a more introspective and melodic approach. The bass is integral to this shift, providing a warm and resonant foundation that supports the song’s emotional depth.

20. Sex Machine – James Brown

Sex Machine by James Brown is a groovy, funk masterpiece. The bass is played by Bootsy Collins and is central to the song’s funky rhythm. It’s a perfect example of how the bass can drive a song’s danceability and overall groove.

21. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Metallica

For Whom the Bell Tolls opens with a thunderous bass intro by Cliff Burton that sets a powerful tone for the entire song. This bass is not just an accompaniment but a leading force, showcasing Burton’s innovative approach to the bass guitar. It’s a perfect example of how the bass can set the stage for a heavy metal masterpiece.

This song is known for its intense energy and depth, both lyrically and musically. The bass adds a layer of gravity and power to the track, perfectly complementing the song’s theme inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name.

22. Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson

Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson features a bass that is as sleek and rhythmic as the song’s title. The bass groove, played by Terry Jackson, is a fundamental part of the song’s appeal, laying down a rhythm that’s both catchy and sophisticated. This track demonstrates the important role of bass in pop music, adding depth and groove to an already cool tune.

Smooth Criminal is celebrated for its fast-paced beat and Michael Jackson’s incredible dance moves, making it a standout track in Jackson’s repertoire.

23. Longview – Green Day

Released in 1994, Longview by Green Day is marked by a distinctive bass riff by Mike Dirnt that opens the song. This bass is an integral part of the song’s identity, showcasing the bass guitar’s role in punk rock as a driver of melody and rhythm.

Longview is an important track in Green Day’s discography and a defining song of 90s punk rock. The bass perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the genre.

24. Stockholm Syndrome – Muse

If you’re looking for intense and driving music, look no further than Stockholm Syndrome by Muse. The bass complements the song’s heavy guitar riffs and dramatic vocals, adding to its overall power and intensity. It really shows how the bass can amplify the energy of a rock song.

This song stands out for its fusion of alternative rock, hard rock, and electronic elements. The bass is a crucial part of this fusion, providing a solid and driving rhythm that underpins the song’s dynamic and complex structure.

25. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed features a smooth and mesmerizing bass played by Herbie Flowers. This bass is iconic for its relaxed yet catchy groove, perfectly complementing the song’s narrative style, adding a layer of cool sophistication.

Walk on the Wild Side is known for its storytelling. It pushed the boundaries of what was lyrically acceptable at the time, which is another thing that makes this tune worth a listen.

26. Crossroads – Cream

Crossroads by Cream features Jack Bruce on bass, delivering a driving blues bass that forms the backbone of this classic blues-rock track. The bass is dynamic and powerful, providing a solid foundation for Eric Clapton’s guitar work and Ginger Baker’s drumming.

This song may be a Robert Johnson cover, but it’s a testament to Cream’s musical prowess, and the bass contributes significantly to the song’s high energy and improvisational feel.

27. Ace of Spades – Motörhead

Ace of Spades by Motörhead is characterized by Lemmy Kilmister’s fast-paced and aggressive bass playing. The bass in this song is not just a rhythm section – it’s a leading force driving the song with its relentless energy. This track is a perfect example of the bass’s role in heavy metal, providing both rhythm and melody.

Ace of Spades is a quintessential heavy metal song known for its speed, power, and attitude, epitomizing the spirit of the genre.

28. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Smells Like Teen Spirit features a simple and effective bassline by Krist Novoselic. The bass anchors the song, providing a solid foundation for Kurt Cobain’s guitar riffs and vocals. It’s a great example of how the bass can be the grounding force in a grunge anthem.

Smells Like Teen Spirit is often hailed as the anthem of Generation X, capturing the spirit of disaffection and apathy of the era. The song’s raw and rebellious energy makes it a landmark track in the history of rock music.

29. Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Give It Away is renowned for Flea’s funky slap bass technique, which is central to the song’s infectious groove. This bass exemplifies the band’s signature style, combining elements of funk and punk to create a rhythmically complex and energetic backbone for the song.

30. Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz

The bass plays a fundamental role in setting the mood for this song, providing a deep, pulsating rhythm that meshes seamlessly with the track’s blend of hip-hop, rock, and electronic elements. Feel Good Inc. is celebrated for its eclectic mix of styles and its satirical lyrics.

31. Around the World – Daft Punk

Around the World by Daft Punk is notable for its great bass rhythm that forms the core of the track. The bass is simple yet incredibly catchy, playing a repetitive motif that becomes hypnotic. This track is a perfect example of how electronic music utilizes bass rhythms to create a danceable and memorable hook.

32. Orion – Metallica

Orion from Metallica’s 1986 album Master of Puppets features some of the most memorable and melodic bass solos by Cliff Burton. This instrumental track showcases Burton’s ability to use the bass as a lead instrument, creating complex and emotive melodies that add depth and texture to the song.

Orion stands out as an epic and ambitious instrumental track in Metallica’s catalog. The bass solos are a defining feature, demonstrating the potential of this specific guitar in heavy metal music. It can go beyond traditional rhythm section roles and lead the musical narrative.

33. A Town Called Malice – The Jam

The Jam’s A Town Called Malice is driven by a prominent and rhythmic bass played by Bruce Foxton. This bass is the heartbeat of the song, providing a fast-paced, mod-influenced rhythm that complements the song’s energy and urgency. It’s an excellent example of how the bass can be the driving force in a rock song, particularly in the mod revival and punk genres.

This song stands out for its sharp, energetic sound that captures the spirit of the mod revival movement.

34. Papercut – Linkin Park

Papercut by Linkin Park features a bassline by Dave Phoenix Farrell. While it’s not overtly prominent, it plays a crucial role in the song’s dynamic. The bass in Papercut underpins the song’s blend of nu-metal and rap-rock, providing a solid foundation that supports the complex layering of electronic elements, guitars, and vocals.

Papercut is celebrated for its intense and raw energy, combining heavy guitar riffs with electronic beats and rap elements.

35. Sail – AWOLNATION

The bass in this song is more synthesized than traditional, creating a haunting and powerful backdrop that drives the song’s atmospheric and emotive feel. It’s a great example of how electronic and alternative rock can merge, with the bass providing a key element of the song’s sonic landscape.

Sail stands out for its dark, electronic vibe, and the bass is integral to creating this mood. The deep bass makes it a standout track in the genre of electronic-infused rock. It’s also a great song to add to your rock workout playlist.

A close up of an electric guitar.

What Makes a Good Bass Song?

Several key factors define a good bass song. This quick bass lesson will show you how you can elevate the role of the bass guitar from a background rhythm instrument into a pivotal component of musical storytelling and expression.

A Memorable Bassline

All the best songs have a memorable bassline. This doesn’t necessarily mean complex or fast – it’s about creating a line that’s catchy, distinctive, and resonates with the listener. Bass players should creates lines that have a character of its own, as seen in songs like”Another One Bites the Dust by Queen. These lines become synonymous with the songs themselves, demonstrating the power of a well-crafted riff.

Rhythmic Foundation

A great song often uses bass to provide a rhythmic foundation. This aspect is crucial in genres like funk, punk, and metal, where the song thrives on energy and momentum. The bass should create a powerful and cohesive rhythm section, as shown in Ace of Spades by Motörhead.

Harmonic Depth

The bass notes should complement the harmonic structure of the song, filling out the sound and adding richness. This is particularly important in songs with more complex or emotive chord progressions, like Nothing Else Matters by Metallica.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity can turn a standard track into a great song. This might involve innovative techniques, like slap bass, the use of effects, or inventive approaches to melody and rhythm. Songs like Hysteria by Muse showcase how a creative and technically challenging bass line can become the centerpiece of a song.

Integration with Other Elements

A great bass song isn’t just about the bass line; it’s about how well it integrates with the other elements of the song. It should work in harmony with the vocals, guitars, and drums, complementing them without overpowering them. The interplay between bass and other instruments is crucial, as seen in Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz, where the bassline perfectly meshes with the song’s other components.

Emotional Resonance

The key component of a good bass song is whether or not it’s able to invoke emotion. Whether it’s the melancholic undertones of a slow bass line or the adrenaline rush of a fast-paced riff, the best bass songs are those that connect with the listener on an emotional level. For example, the bassline in Creep by Radiohead adds to the song’s haunting feel.

A good bass song in rock music is defined by a memorable bass line, a solid rhythmic foundation, harmonic depth, creativity and innovation, integration with other musical elements, and emotional resonance. It’s these qualities that allow the bass to step into the spotlight, transforming a song from ordinary to extraordinary and leaving a lasting impact on listeners.

Conclusion: The Unwavering Pulse of Rock Music

Throughout our exploration of rock songs, one thing has become abundantly clear: the bass guitar, whether in its traditional form or synthesized iteration, is more than just an instrument in the background. It’s the unwavering pulse of rock music, an essential thread that weaves through the fabric of each song, giving it depth, power, and emotion.

From the funky slap bass of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the haunting electronic pulses of AWOLNATION, each song we’ve delved into showcases the bass’s ability to shape and define the sound of rock music. The bass lines in these tracks are not just accompaniments but are often the driving force behind some of the most iconic and memorable songs in the rock genre.