Best bassline ever?

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I'm not a big fan of pop music, so I must admit Michael Jackson wasn't on my iPod. (Although I do have a copy of "Thriller" on LP, which I bought for $0.99.) But as a bassist, I have fond memories of playing a 30-minute rendition of "Billie Jean" at an outdoor party a few summers ago. I'm not sure how it happened, but everybody kept dancing, and we didn't know how to end the song, so we just kept going around and around those same sixteen notes over and over again, broken occasionally by the singalong chorus.

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According to Q Magazine, as quoted by Songfacts.com, that wondrous piece of bass music was written by the man himself, who spent more than three weeks perfecting it. Check out this early demo version from 1981. The slap-bass solo in the bridge was played by Louis Johnson, who has said at least once that he co-wrote the song. (And who, incidentally, plays a MusicMan StingRay, my bass of choice.) Listening to the instrumental remix of "Billie Jean" on Grooveshark, it sounds like it starts with bass, then is doubled or replaced with synth-bass after the strings come in.

It didn't make Stylus Magazine's top 50 basslines of all time, but it's got to be in my top five, along with Pink Floyd's "Money," Charlie Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song" (which kicks in after the intro-solo), Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused," and the double-bass on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (that's an electric and an upright, starting in unison, then trading parts for the rest of the song).

Or am I just being nostalgic? What are your faves?

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About the author

    Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.

     

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