Hive Five: Geddy Lee’s Favorite Bassists

Geddy Lee performs with Rush in Las Vegas, August 2010. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Scarcely anyone in the rock realm fits the phrase “bass player’s bass player” better than Rush frontman Geddy Lee, whose helium-addict vocal delivery and thunderous thumb have been crucial components of the power trio’s Platinum-plated career for nearly four decades now. Rush spent the past spring and summer celebrating the 30th birthday of their monumental Moving Pictures album by playing it from start to finish all across the globe, and on November 8, the simultaneous album and video release of Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland will offer a taste of that tour to anyone who ever played air drums to “Tom Sawyer” or hurt their head trying to count out the kooky time signatures on “Limelight.” The concert captured on the aforementioned formats also allowed Lee to acknowledge Rush’s Spinal Tap-is-our-life status by heartily shouting “Hello Cleveland!” to the assembled multitudes. Between Time Machine’s salute to the band’s former glories, and the promise of a new studio album, Clockwork Angels, on the horizon, it seemed like an excellent time to grill Geddy about some of the bass men who made the biggest impact on his own fret-melting maneuvers.

1. Jeff Berlin (Bruford)

I first was introduced to his playing through Bill Bruford, the original drummer of Yes. He [Bruford] did a number of solo records, and the first couple featured Jeff Berlin’s playing. I remember being in London one time and going to see them play live, and I had never seen a bass player that had such histrionics, but he was so incredibly dexterous, and had kind of a driving sound too. Even though he was at heart a jazz player, there was still a bit of rock in his playing. I would say he was a very big influence on me at one point.

2. Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane)

He was the first bass player I became familiar with who had the kind of bold tone that dared to creep up into the guitar range a little bit, and wrote parts that were quite inventive and nontraditional.

3. John Entwistle (The Who)

Similarly, John Entwistle, for those same reasons [as Casady], except John Entwistle was a bit more overt and flashier than Jack was. John Entwistle, especially on “My Generation,” just threw it all out there, and for a young bass player that was so admirable and ballsy and audacious.

4. Jack Bruce (Cream)

I just loved his playing, I loved the fact he was in a three-piece but how much space he took up. But also, as a guy who played bass and sang, he was very influential to me. I loved his vocal melodies. I loved his whole attitude towards playing. I mean, the Who were essentially, in my mind, a three-piece as well, they were a three-piece with a singer. But certainly Cream were one of my favorite bands, and a very influential band to me when we first started out. Alex [Lifeson, Rush guitarist] felt the same way; we used to play a lot of Cream songs.

5. Chris Squire (Yes)

Another bass player who was very adventurous, very melodic, and very, very impressive. From the Time and A Word album, I think that was the first [Yes] album that really grabbed my ears, and I became kind of a lifelong fan of theirs. And I totally admire his tone. In fact…when I got my first recording advance, he was the reason I ran out and bought a Rickenbacker, I was trying to emulate his sound.

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