“I don’t buy the idea that the bass player is the quiet one”: The 5 most notorious bass guitarists in rock

Photo of Sid VICIOUS and SEX PISTOLS, Sid Vicious performing live onstage at Randy's Rodeo Nightclub, San Antonio, on final tour
(Image credit: Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

"I don’t buy into the idea that the bass player is the quiet one,” said New Order and Joy Division bassist Peter Hook in an interview for MusicRadar. “I’ve never liked to be hidden and I don’t like to be patronised.”

Frequently viewed as the quietest member of any band, bass players have historically been pigeon-holed as reluctant rock stars. “This is an important thing to remember,” said Duff McKagan. “If you are a bass player and you want to be the front-centre guy… Well, let’s just say that usually won’t happen for you. Unless you’re Lemmy! If you want to do that, use him as your guy.”

While many bass players choose to blend into the background rather than take center stage, there are some with a hard-earned reputation for going overboard. From Gene Simmons, to Nikki Sixx, to Duff McKagan. In their prime, this elite group became icons of spectacularly bad behavior. Luckily their bass playing was always a thing to behold. You can make your own mind up as you peruse this list of the 5 most notorious bass guitarists in rock and metal.

1. Nikki Sixx – Mötley Crüe

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.