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Geezer Butler names 5 bass albums that shaped his style

Geezer Butler
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns)

With Terry ‘Geezer’ Butler embracing the freedom of life after Sabbath, he is releasing a box set of his solo albums, Manipulations Of The Mind. To mark the occasion, Bass Player sat down with the pioneer of metal bass guitar and talked about his career in Sabbath. You can read about that here.

But he also talked influences, and opened up on the five albums that made him the artists we know today. It's a list that features the obvious – Cream, Jack Bruce, of course! – and then some we might not have expected...

1. The Who – My Generation (1965)

“I used to love My Generation. Every bass player quotes the bass solo in that song. It’s an incredible-sounding bass. Really raw, really rough. That’s the way my sound became when Sabbath started off. I like that raw, edgy sound rather than ultra-bassy. I wouldn’t even attempt to play this solo, haha!

“My bass playing is basic and not too fancy: I’m an average bass player. A lot of people told me that I’ve influenced them the way that [these five players] influenced me, and I get a lot of emails telling me how good I’m supposed to be, but you can’t sit down and say ‘Oh yes, I’m great!’”

2. Cream – Fresh Cream (1966)

“I didn’t really know anything about bass until I went to see Cream. I knew about Eric Clapton’s guitar playing because I’d followed him since he was in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, but Jack Bruce’s bass playing was a complete surprise. I was a guitarist at the time, so I’d never thought about bass – and Jack completely floored me. 

“I’d never seen anyone use bass as a sort of semi-lead instrument, while at the same time being perfectly linked to the drums and the guitar. The way he bent the notes and came down the fretboard was amazing, too. At the time he was playing a Fender VI, which I’d never seen before – they were terrible! I couldn’t even play one note on them, let alone the way he used to play them.”

3. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

“Paul McCartney’s bass playing is unique. I learned some of his basslines and they’re so emotional, especially on the song Something. And that’s just one of his songs – ‘I Saw Her Standing There has a great rock ’n’ roll bassline as well. I’m a Beatles fanatic: It’s great that a band who were so popular were such great musicians as well. 

“I appreciated all of them, even though I was a rhythm guitarist at the time and mental about John Lennon. Their musicianship often gets overlooked, or it did at that time, anyway.”

4. Stanley Clarke – School Days (1976)

“I’m a huge fan of the jazz players – Mingus and the rest of them. When Stanley did School Days, I’d never heard playing like that. People used to tell me that I was a reasonable bass player, but then I heard him, and I felt like just giving up. It was like, ‘Oh my God…’ He took it to a completely new level.” 

5. Joni Mitchell – Mingus (1979)

“Jaco Pastorius was so innovative: he was such a technical player, and I suppose he was the first guy to play like that. I wasn’t into that kind of music, initially – I never even knew it existed. I’d always been told that the bass should be in the background, and played along with the drums, and then Jaco came along and threw away the rules. 

“It was amazing listening to it. You knew you could never come up to his level. You know what he was doing, and at the same time you know you could never do it yourself.”

Joel McIver

Joel McIver is the Editor of Bass Player magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV and occasionally teaches at BIMM.