Did you know that music is made up of three fundamental parts? It’s true, music is comprised of melody, harmony and rhythm, and the bass is responsible for 2 of those elements: Rhythm and harmony. The bass is often passed over when fans speak of their favorite music. In general, it’s the lead guitarist and vocalist which take center stage. However, if truth be told, the bass is an integral part of the group. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at one of the most famous basslines in rock: The bassline from the Beatles “Come Together”. This is an isolated recording, meaning only the bass is heard. When you compare this bassline to the complete track, you can tell that there would be no song without the bass. Knowing this, it’s time to introduce you to some of the best bass heavy songs of the 70s.
The 10 Best Bass Heavy Songs of the 70s
While it’s true that the presence of the bass is not as noticeable as other instruments, it is crucial to the group. The bass lays the groundwork for the song. It is the bass that provides a strong background pulse. If you still can’t grasp it, visit sites like YouTube and do a search for the title of your favorite song with the search parameters “isolated bass”. For instance, look up Pink Floyd The Wall Isolated bass. The result will be an audio track of the bass only. Here, you’ll be able to see just how important this instrument is to the band.
10. Peace of Mind by Boston
Released in 1977 “Peace of Mind” appeared on their self-titled album, Boston. Founding member Tom Scholtz worked on this album in his basement from 1974 to 1975 and what emerged was an iconic, rock and roll masterpiece. The track, “Peace of Mind” has a solid bassline written and performed by Scholtz. which holds the song together and helped to turn it into a fan favorite.
9. Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult
The track “Godzilla” came off their Specters album. Though the song was never a hit, it became a top fan favorite and is still in rotation on many classic rock stations. It was guitarist Buck Dharma who composed the piece based on his love of Godzilla movies. Bassist Joe Bouchard’s happily provided the power. Both bassline and guitar riffs serve to pay tribute to this large, robust and much admired monster. To this day, you can find bassists from beginning to advanced, adding the bassline to their repertoire. Though the track is slightly campy one cannot deny just how the bass reinforces Godzilla’s ferocity.
8. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
If you’d like to catch a sweet bassline, then check out this isolated bass of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit, “What’s Going On”. The bassline is performed by James Jamerson and comes off the album of the same name. The bass does more than just provide a beat. Listen closely, and you can hear how James Jamerson uses the instrument to embrace the sorrow depicted in Marvin’s vocalization.
7. Black Dog by Led Zeppelin
Recorded in 1971 by the legendary Led Zeppelin, “Black Dog” is considered one of the top bass heavy songs of the 70s. Just one listen to the bassline will illustrate its rhythmic power. Led Zeppelin bassist, John Paul Jones took a cue from the 1968 Muddy Waters album, Electric Mud when he wrote the riff. Did you know that the title of the song is named after a lone black retriever that found its way to their studio?
6. Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed
“Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed was released on November 24, 1972, at the Trident Studio in London. Produced by Mick Ronson and David Bowie is not only a memorable track but comes with one of the finest basslines ever recorded. The bassline is courtesy of Herbie Flowers and is composed of twin portamento basslines, if you listen closely to the recording of the isolated bassline, you can hear how one note slides into the next.
5. Sex Machine by James Brown
Listed in Rolling Stone magazine as the fourth greatest bassist of all time, it’s Bootsy Collins that is responsible for the bass line on this track. After listening to the aforementioned isolated bass line from the original track, one can see why Bootsy was named one of the greatest bass players of all time. Finally, did you know that “Sex Machine” became the first major hit with the word “sex” in the title?
4. I Wish by Stevie Wonder
One of the best bass heavy songs of the 70s is Stevie Wonders, “I Wish”. Released in November 1976, it describes Stevie’s childhood. In fact, it’s Nathan Watts funky bassline which was sampled in approximately 26 songs, according to the website whosampled.com, making it one of Stevie’s most sampled tracks.
3. Sweet Emotion by Aerosmth
In truth, there would be no “Sweet Emotion” as we know it without Tom Hamilton’s exquisite bassline. Not only does the bassline provide the rhythmic foundation for this track, but also serves as its heart beat, its soul if you will, deftly enhancing Stephen Tylers razor sharp vocals. However, released in May of 1975, this track got Aerosmith on the map and was their first top 40 hit.
2. Money by Pink Floyd
Found on the 1979 album, The Dark Side of the Moon, this track by Pink Floyd contains one of the most progressive bass lines ever written. Composed by band member Roger Waters, this track can be difficult for some beginner bassists to play due to the 7/8 time. Finally, by listening to this audio of the isolated bass, you can definitely tell that t is the bassline which rules this track. In the end, it was this bassline, surrounded by a bevy of babbling cash registers, that made this song what it was and is: A masterpiece.
1. Good Times by Chic
The 1979 song Good Times revolves around one of the best basslines ever written. The composer of this bassline was the great Bernard Edwards. It’s number one spot on our list of the best basslines of the 70s. Therefore, it is one of the most sampled basslines every written. In fact, at the time of this writing, “Good Times” is sampled a total of 216 times. An excellent example of sampling is Queens “Another One Bites the Dust”. Here, Queens bassist John Deacon took Edwards bassline from “Good Times” and sampled it for their song.
Final Thoughts: The Bass is the Harmonic Pulse of the Band
The 70s had some of the best bass heavy songs of any era. Funk, rock, pop, disco, R&B–you name it, the 70’s had it. The 70s were coming off the experimental years of the psychedelic 60s and gave birth to tracks that championed originality, diversity and uniqueness. Much, much more than a metronome, the bass is responsible for the heartbeat of the song. This is embracing and enhancing the performance of group members including the vocalist.