John Paul Jones' Six Coolest Led Zeppelin Bass Lines on His 66th Birthday

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Growing up listening to rock music and being a bass players wasn't always a super exciting proposition. Most of the great bassists of all time are jazz musicians. Being a rock bass player means holding down the low end and keeping the groove intact. While this can still be challenging -- I've seen some jazz musicians absolutely butcher rock songs thinking they were playing the simplest thing ever -- it still doesn't generally offer the kind of technical workout a bassist might get playing more complicated music.

There are some significant exceptions to this rule, obviously, and one of the most important is John Paul Jones. He was number three on my list of the best rock bass players ever behind Geddy Lee of Rush and John Entwhistle of the Who, but he is number one on my personal list. He is, if not my single greatest influence as a player, certainly in the top two or three.

What he did with Zep, his funky grooves and his rock solid backbone, was a game changer for many young bass players the first time they heard him. He and John Bonham forged perhaps the funkiest and best rhythm section in rock music history. Frankly, I think of Jones as the James Jamerson (Look it up, Linda!) of rock music.

In honor of his sixty-sixth birthday today, here are six of my favorite Led Zeppelin bass lines.

6. Dazed and Confused

The first Zep record is underrated with it's nasty rock and psychedelic blues. Few of Jones' bass parts are as memorable as this one.


5. Ramble On

To this day, still one of the more challenging bass lines to play in any rock song not strictly because of the technical aspect, but because of how it grooves. Who knew a song about Lord of the Rings could be funky.


4. Bring It On Home

Once you get past the initial Delta blues duo part, the riff plus a seriously deep drum and bass groove kick in.


3. Custard Pie

An amazing bass line and he played the keyboard left hand part as well. The complexity of the parts mixed together is unreal and the performances of both are brilliant.


2. The Wanton Song

Just keeping up with this unison funk figure is tough enough; doing it with such fluidity is nuts.


1. The Song Remains the Same

Easily my all time favorite bass part. The mix of the up-tempo gallup followed by the laid back country blues in the verse is just perfectly executed.


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12 comments
Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger

Lemon Song is a strong contender.JPJ bass drives that thing.

Lolasma
Lolasma

and he is still fabulous - have you seen videos of him playing with Seasick Steve?

deepinder cheema
deepinder cheema

I like the 2 well chosen notes  Jonesy plays underpinning the guitarist during Rock n' Roll.

Craig Malisow
Craig Malisow

Great list; I'd also like to give a shout-out to "The Lemon Song" and"What is and What Should Never Be." 

Bruiser
Bruiser

Carouselambra on In Through the Out door has some badass bass playing... 

Ramon LP4 Medina
Ramon LP4 Medina

Are you saying these are your favorite bass lines he played or your favorites that he wrote?   

I'm a little confused right off the bat on the distinction here as "Dazed and Confused" was covered by the Yardbirds before it became Zeppelin and their version was pretty much the same one done by Zeppelin ( with the exception of curse that Zeppelin employed their time honored tradition of not giving proper attribution).  In that example, Jones didn't write the bass line and I don't think he contributed much to the arrangement if at all.  So I'm guessing this is a listing of the former or maybe a mix of the two.  Just curious.

Oh and yeah, I agree that Jones is awesome as a musician and an arranger. 

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Best Rock Bass Players Ever:  Paul McCartney and Jack Bruce, please go to the white courtesy telephone ...

Jeff
Jeff

The Lemon Song is definitely up there and I debated What is and What Should Never Be. That has some cool stuff particularly during the verse.

Jeff
Jeff

Yes, very good call. 

Jeff
Jeff

Played, which is why I posted the Zeppelin versions.

Ramon LP4 Medina
Ramon LP4 Medina

Ha, cool.  Thanks for responding to my nitpicky question.  :)

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