Bass and drums are often the unsung heroes of rock and roll. A killer rhythm section will make a band soar, while a mediocre bass-drums combo can drag down even the strongest ensembles.
At Gibson.com, we simply can’t get enough of that cascading cannon-style drum sound, and little competes with a flawlessly executed, funky slap-and-pop bassline. It’s the rhythm section’s time to take the spotlight!
Below, check out our list of 10 of the greatest rhythm sections in rock and roll. Let us know in the comments section who you think we’ve snubbed. Happy grooving!
10. P-Nut and Sexton, 311
311 broke out of the ’90s alternative rock collective with their distinct fusion of reggae and rap-metal. Rhythm players P-Nut and Sexton had much to do with the band’s catchy grooves, as the duo evenly balance the band’s rap-metal power with cool reggae vibrations. “Beautiful Disaster” and their eternal cover of The Cure’s “Love Song” wouldn’t jam without P-Nut and Sexton in sync.
9. Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, Green Day
Green Day have never shied away from letting their rhythm section shine. Just listen to the opening riff of “Longview,” dancing along with Mike Dirnt’s buoyant walking bass-line and Tre Cool’s shuffle. While Billie Joe Armstrong often is the face of Green Day, his anti-establishment croons and poppy melodies would have no oomph without Dirnt and Cool behind them, and songs like “Minority” and “American Idiot” would easily lose their punch.
8. Jack and Meg White, The White Stripes
Sure, Jack and Meg White aren’t technically a “drum and bass” combo. But their ability to concoct spirited, no-frills rock and roll with merely Meg’s thumping percussion and Jack’s guitar-and-vocal assault is what puts them on this list. Meg’s playing was always purposeful and clear-cut, and those rhythms proved the ideal counterpart to Jack’s fluid guitar skills and blues-rock leanings.
7. Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine came on strong in the ’90s, with their effusive, deeply polemical music, which infused left-winged lyrics into a tailspin of hip-hop, rock, punk and thrash. While often politically minded rapper Zack de la Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello often stole the show, bass guitarist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk provided a mischievous bottom end, completing all the weapons in the band’s explosive arsenal. “Testify” certainly wouldn’t be “Testify” without Commerford and Wilk fiercely in the pocket.
6. John Entwistle and Keith Moon, The Who
The Who’s live performances were always a cyclone of momentum, with singer Roger Daltrey’s undeniable swagger and guitarist Pete Townshend’s sky-high onstage leaps. Bass player John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon proved an unlikely yet charismatic combination, with wild-child Moon swooning over his drum kid and Entwistle anchored, serving as the calm amid a musical storm.
5. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, The Rolling Stones
While Mick and Keith grabbed the spotlight, The Rolling Stones would never have become “the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” if it weren’t for bass and drums men Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. The rhythm section of the Stones provided the blues, soul and funk feel of the group and a coarse, raw sound that set them apart from the rest of the British Invasion pack.
4. Les Claypool and Jay Lane, Primus
Primus‘ doctrine is distinct and deep-rooted: Les Claypool’s sprawling bass guitar and drum grooves, his madman vocals with near-cartoon lyrics, and biting, whacky rhythms. Claypool and drummer Jay Lane parted ways for several years, but on the band’s latest album, Green Naugahyde, Lane was back in the fold, at one once again with Claypool’s unmistakable slap-and-pop bass, among other tricks.
3. Flea and Chad Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers
There’s little room to deny bass player Flea’s influence on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ funky style, and his chemistry with drummer Chad Smith is just as integral to that sound. Between his slap-and-pop breakdowns and inherent ability to make anything groove, Flea makes Peppers songs pop, from “Give It Away” to “Californication” to “Aeroplane.” Along with Smith’s in-the-pocket playing, the Peppers created a funk-style, bringing together punk, psychedelic, punk and hard rock that spawned plenty of wannabes.
2. Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, Rush
Canadian power trio Rush gained a following thanks to their virtuoso instrumentals and radio-friendly progressive rock style. Geddy Lee proved the quintessential hard rock frontman, with his oh-so distinct tenor – and a bass player, to boot! It’s Lee’s attention to bass grooves and vocal melodies and his perfect fit with drummer Neil Peart – who, consequently, is to praise for much of Rush’s songwriter – that makes this ranking a no-brainer.
1. John Paul Jones and John Bonham, Led Zeppelin
Drummer John Bonham, a.k.a. “Bonzo,” and bass player John Paul Jones crafted an extraordinarily heavy sound that has inspired thousands of bands for decades to follow. Many consider the duo the best rhythm section in rock, with their tight beats and keen sensitivity to each other’s playing – a musical chemistry that’s simply inherent. With their aptitude for heavy metal, rock, roots and blues, Jones, Bonham, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant made Led Zeppelin the definitive band of the rock and roll era.