13 Most Popular European Bass Guitarists: The Low-End Legends of the Old Continent
Alright, bass lovers, strap yourselves in, because we’re about to embark on a groove-tastic journey through Europe! While everyone’s always obsessing over lead guitarists, we’re here to give the unsung heroes, our beloved bassists, the limelight they so rightfully deserve. These bass wizards, hailing from various corners of Europe, have set the world stage ablaze with their infectious rhythms, unparalleled skills, and seismic low-end vibes.
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1. John Paul Jones (England)
The Zeppelin Luminary
Let’s kick things off with a legend, shall we? You might know him as one-fourth of the rock gods, Led Zeppelin. John Paul Jones wasn’t just the backbone of Zeppelin’s sound; he was its soul. With tracks like “Ramble On” and “The Lemon Song”, JPJ showcased the perfect balance of technique and feel.
Apart from being in one of the biggest rock bands ever, Jones has an expansive solo career and a penchant for avant-garde collaborations. From bluegrass to opera, this man’s done it all!
2. Jack Bruce (Scotland)
The Cream of the Crop
As one-third of the iconic power trio Cream, Jack Bruce put the bass guitar on the map as a lead instrument. His work on tracks like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” truly redefined what it meant to play the bass.
Beyond Cream, Bruce had an impressive solo run and played with a plethora of musical greats. His ventures into jazz fusion and his collaborations with artists like Frank Zappa showcased his versatility.
3. Peter Hook (England)
The throbbing bass lines of Joy Division and New Order? That’s Mr. Peter Hook for you. Instead of the traditional bass grooves, Hook’s melodies often carried the main theme of the songs, like in “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Blue Monday”.
Hook’s high-register bass riffs, combined with his chorus-heavy tone, made him stand out. It’s a sound many have tried to emulate, but there’s only one Peter Hook.
4. Geezer Butler (England)
The Sabbath Behemoth
Black Sabbath’s sound was as heavy as a freight train, and a lot of that heft came from Geezer Butler’s monstrous bass lines. Tracks like “N.I.B.” and “War Pigs” exemplify his hard-hitting style that laid the foundation for heavy metal bass playing.
Lyricist and More
Often overlooked is the fact that Butler was also the main lyricist for Black Sabbath. He penned many of the band’s iconic songs, diving into topics ranging from social issues to the occult.
Alright, take a deep breath, grab a snack if you must, because we’ve only just begun. Ready to dive back in?
5. Jean-Jacques Burnel (France)
The Stranglers’ Secret Weapon
The punk era had its fair share of bass maestros, and Jean-Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers was definitely among the elite. His gritty and aggressive bass lines on tracks like “Peaches” added a unique flavor to the punk rock stew.
Martial Artist Meets Musician
Fun fact: Burnel is a black belt in karate! Maybe that’s where he gets his power-packed playing style from?
6. Martin Kemp (England)
Pop Sensation with Spandau Ballet
Let’s step into the world of 80s pop with Martin Kemp. As the bass player for Spandau Ballet, Kemp gave us some of the most memorable bass grooves in pop history. Just listen to “Gold” or “True”, and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
Silver Screen Star
Apart from his bass antics, Kemp ventured into acting and has quite the portfolio, both on TV and the big screen.
7. Jeroen Paul Thesseling (Netherlands)
Master of the Seven Strings
Venturing into the world of extreme metal, Thesseling, with his seven-string fretless bass, redefined technicality. His work with bands like Obscura and Pestilence showcases his jaw-dropping prowess.
World Music and Beyond
Thesseling’s explorations aren’t limited to metal. He’s delved deep into world music, combining complex rhythms from various cultures with his bass expertise.
8. Chris Wolstenholme (England)
The Muse Maestro
Last but not least, we have the dynamo behind the rock titans Muse. Wolstenholme’s bass lines are nothing short of epic. Be it the fuzzed-out madness of “Hysteria” or the spacey grooves of “Starlight”, Chris ensures the bass isn’t just heard but felt.
Apart from his low-end duties, Wolstenholme contributes vocals, guitars, keyboards, and even the harmonica to Muse’s vast soundscape.
9. Holger Czukay (Germany)
The Experimental Genius
If we’re talking European bass guitarists, it would be sacrilegious not to mention Holger Czukay from the pioneering band Can. Holger wasn’t just about laying down grooves; he was about pushing boundaries. His work on tracks like “Halleluhwah” introduced a fusion of rock with world music elements, jazz, and more.
Before sampling became a mainstream thing in music, Czukay was experimenting with it. His innovative use of shortwave radios, dictaphones, and other devices gave Can’s music a unique soundscape.
10. Marco Mendoza (Spain)
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Nomad
Having played with the likes of Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Ted Nugent, Marco Mendoza’s bass credentials are rock solid. His fluid style and captivating stage presence have made him a favorite among rock aficionados.
The Jazz Side
Besides rocking arenas, Mendoza has a softer side. He’s quite the jazz musician, often blending intricate jazz lines into his hard rock performances.
11. Pino Palladino (Wales)
Bass for Hire
Pino is one of those bassists who’s played with, well, everyone! From The Who to Jeff Beck and even pop icons like Adele, Pino’s fretless bass sound has graced countless albums.
What makes Pino stand out is his versatility. Be it soul, pop, rock, or R&B, he brings a distinct touch to every track he plays on, making him one of the most sought-after session bassists in the world.
12. Jo Bench (England)
As one of the few female bassists in the death metal scene, Jo Bench, of Bolt Thrower fame, has held her own and then some! Her relentless bass lines on tracks like “Those Once Loyal” prove that metal knows no gender.
Jo has been an inspiration for countless budding bassists, showing that it’s all about passion, skill, and dedication.
13. Jonas Hellborg (Sweden)
The Bass Virtuoso
Jonas Hellborg stands in a league of his own. His bass playing is a blend of jazz, fusion, world music, and more. With collaborations with the likes of Shawn Lane and Michael Shrieve, Hellborg has been a vital force in pushing the bass guitar into uncharted territories.
Hellborg’s use of unique instruments, including his custom-built Warwick basses, and his exploration of Indian and other world music rhythms make his sound unforgettable.
Europe, as we can see, is bursting at the seams with bass talent. From the UK to Germany, from Spain to Sweden, the continent has given the world a plethora of bass legends who have, in their own unique ways, expanded the horizons of what it means to be a bass guitarist. So, while our list could go on and on, these are some who’ve truly left an indelible mark on the world of music. These legends, with their fingers dancing on fretboards, have created magic that has resonated across continents and generations. So, next time you’re jamming to a tune, and you feel that irresistible urge to nod your head to the rhythm, take a moment to salute these European bass giants! Rock on and keep groovin’! 🎸