It's time to give the bass its due.
You may not know this, but your intrepid reviewer is also a bass player, and he's tired of reading about the greatest guitar riffs of all time. With very few exceptions, rock just wouldn't be possible without the electric bass. So let's investigate some of the greatest bass parts of all time. These are lines, or riffs, that made a hit a hit, or that inspired thousands of kids to pick up the instrument, or both.
Here, in chronological order, are my picks for the greatest rock bass riffs of all time.
The Animals, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (1965)
Bass doesn't get more fundamental, and fundamentally important, than this. The bass line pretty much defines the song, and the song (along with the band's famous version of "House of the Rising Sun") pretty much sums up The Animals. And the Animals pretty much sum up the British Invasion, which in turn inspired the expansion and longevity of rock music worldwide. See where I'm going here? It's all about the bass.
Cream "Sunshine of Your Love" (1967)
Sure, Clapton doubles this famous part on guitar when he's not soloing, but really, who needs 'im? This is Jack Bruce all the way. I was too young to ever see Cream, but when I eventually did see Bruce play live - with Ringo's All-Stars - I realized that I'd copped more bass tricks from him than anyone else. And speaking of Ringo...
The Beatles, "Come Together" (1969)
Paul McCartney, the father of melodic rock bass playing. 'Nuff said. Except I'll note that this song received the 1969 Grammy for best-engineered recording. George Martin and the band were inspired to studio greatness by Paul's bass part. Obviously.
Jethro Tull/J. S. Bach, "Bourée" (1969)
"Lead bass" came into its own with Tull's arrangement of this well-known Bach tune. Of all the jazzy "walking" bass lines that have been put in the service of a classical piece played by a blues-based rock band that would go on to win a heavy metal Grammy, this was the finest. And the chordal solo near the end blew my mind when I first heard it.
Sugarloaf, "Green-Eyed Lady" (1970)
Sugarloaf got a couple of other songs on the charts, but only this psychedelic gem had real staying power. Why? The kick-ass bass part, of course. It's so much fun to play that bass players often kick into it during jam sessions. And thus is the greatness that is this bass line passed down from generation to generation of unsung four-string heroes.