Top 10 Most Recognizable Opening Bass Lines of All Time

Jamie Reidy reveals his Top 10 most recognizable Opening Bass lines in Rock-n-Roll.

This is the third in a series. I have already covered my  Top 10 most recognizable guitar riffs and my Top 10 most recognizable piano/keyboard opening chords.  Drum beats will follow next week.

Before you start yelling at me for this list, I invite you to take a deep breath and re-read the headline.

It says “Most Recognizable.”  It does not say “Best” or “Most Epic” or “Most Influential.”  It says “Most Recognizable,” as in “The majority of the people in your car, bar or party instantly know what song it is by the first note of the song.”

That first note part is key.

And one more arbitrary rule: Only one song per band.

Now, for the Top 10 Most Recognizable Opening Bass Lines of All-Time.

I will go in descending order:

10. Stand by Me – Ben E. King

9. Man on The Moon – R.E.M.

8. She – Green Day

7. Walk on The Wild Side – Lou Reed

6. Don’t Stand So Close to Me – The Police

5. Breakdown – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

4. With or Without You – U2

3. Come As You Are – Nirvana

2. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen

1. Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith

Which bass lines did I miss?

About Jamie Reidy

Jamie Reidy is a former U.S. Army officer turned little blue pill pusher turned author. His first book "Hard Sell: The Evolution of A Viagra Salesman"
served as the basis for the movie "Love and Other Drugs" starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Jamie is currently writing his new book, "Game On: One Fanatic's Fantastic, Foolish and Futile Attempt to Attend 365 Sporting Events in 365 Days." He discovered his latest story featured on Good Men Project - "Hope Shoots and Scores" - on Day 39 of his crazy journey.


  1. Green-Eyed Lady by Sugarloaf–why does this great bassline get no respect on these lists? Talk about recognizable!

  2. what about 7 nation army?

  3. Um… “Money” by Pink Floyd. It should be top 3 (if not #1) and you completely excluded it. An egregious error.

  4. You missed Under Pressure. In my opinion, the bass line for Every Breath You Take is more recognizable than Don’t Stand So Close To Me.

  5. You missed ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson and “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5.

  6. You missed “Billie Jean”.

  7. Replace “she” with Longview. That should be common sense lol.

  8. Billie Jean.

  9. Pink Floyd – Money (duh!) ;P

  10. My Girl – The Temptations

  11. MojoMark says:

    Rick James – Super Freak. An iconic bass line that is unmistakable.

  12. I KNEW something was wrong here, a void – you’ve got NO Eric Avery/Jane’s Addiction songs? Three Days, for example. Avery must be represented! He’d play two notes and 10,000 people would go nuts!

  13. Nirvana/Shocking Blue ‘Love Buzz’

  14. Well my car’d have to include Weather Report’s Birdland and Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon…but I don’t know how recognizable they are to people who aren’t into jazz fusion…or around in the 1970s. 🙂

  15. Flyingvedhead says:

    a couple more things . . . I don’t think Come As You Are starts with a bass line, but rhythm guitar, if so probably DQ’d from this list. Although I think the bass line from Sweet Emotion is one of the greatest, the version of that song that most people know is the short version (i.e., radio version), in which the opening bass line is edited out. So, I think this song should also be DQ’d although it pains me to say so.

  16. Flyingvedhead says:

    Not a bad music list for a romantic comedy writer. “She” and Come as you are, although great songs and known by their fans, but not sure how well known by most others. I would replace those with Under Pressure (which should come in #1 or 2), and Jeremy. Also, I think you mean Sweet Emotion (long version) which is a great call. No matter how you rank them, Under Pressure, Sweet Emotion (long version) and Bites the dust are the Top 3 in any order (then, With or without you as #4).

  17. gabby watts says:

    Gratitude ~ Beastie Boys.

  18. Another one bites the dust?

    Not that I’m a huge Queen fan, but it’s just obvious, isn’t it?

  19. Excuse me, but I simply must interject — no “Come Together?” Come on.

  20. cheschcat says:

    White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)

  21. oops, sorry: My City Was Gone… (and, glad to break up the above sausage fest!)

  22. the pretenders… Ohio

  23. Live with Me – The Rolling Stones

  24. What? “Under Pressure” isn’t in your list?

  25. What about:

    Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
    Led Zeppelin – Dazed and Confused
    The Clash – Guns of Brixton

    … those are just some off the top of my head. Maybe I just listen to different stuff than the author, but I can’t recall almost half of his top 10.

  26. Does Seven Nation Army count? If not, it should.

  27. National Anthem (Radiohead)

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