Queen topped the US Singles chart 42 years ago today with their bass guitar anthem - 'Another One Bites The Dust'. With Freddie Mercury and Brian May dominating much of the band’s songwriting in the early years – ‘Misfire’ from 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack aside – it wasn’t until A Night At The Opera (1975) that bassist John Deacon delivered a chart smash in the form of ‘You’re My Best Friend’, a song that remains a radio staple the world over.
Deacon cemented his songwriting ability with a 24-carat, solid gold hit in the form of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ from The Game in 1980. Drawing his inspiration after spending time with Nile Rodgers and Chic, it’s known as the genius moment when Queen went disco, but it was actually Michael Jackson (a big fan of the band) who suggested they release it as a single.
Freddie Mercury once said about the track: "Credit for the song should go to Michael Jackson in many ways. He was a fan and friend of ours and kept telling me 'Freddie, you need a song the cats can dance to.' John introduced this bass riff to us during rehearsal. We worked it out and once it was ready, played it for Michael."
In terms of sheer in-the- pocketness, this bass line has few equals, but are there hidden challenges? There’s only one person we can really ask…“The most important thing about this bass-line is the note lengths,” says Queen & Adam Lambert touring bassist, Neil Fairclough. “If you play the notes too long it sounds wrong, and if you play them too short, it sounds staccato. Personally, I just do my best John Deacon impression, with a little bit of freedom in the breakdown.
Live, you might be surprised at Fairclough’s choice of bass on this song, given the mids-free tone of the original recording. “I often use a P Bass, but for this track I'll go for a Stingray, because I read that on the original, John used a Music Man with flatwounds, believe it or not,” says Fairclough.
“I went to Abbey Road studios before the Bohemian Rhapsody film was released in 2018, and they recorded me playing in the scene where the actor playing John shows them the bass part. They wanted the part as it would have sounded in the rehearsal room. It was very strange to hear my part up there on the screen, but very flattering too.
It might even be the best-known bass line of all time. “I think the appeal of this bass line is down to its simplicity: It’s not just bass players who know it—Joe Public knows it too,” says Fairclough. "The entirety of the song is in the bass line, isn’t it? I love playing it every night, because one of the great things about playing with these guys is that they‘re old school and they don’t play to backing tracks or a click. Some nights it might be slightly faster or slower, but that’s part of being a real band. They’re Queen, and they live and breathe the music.”
In a reader’s poll, Mr Deacon came eighth in our list of the Top 40 Greatest Bassists, while his best known bass line, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, came number 1 in our recent poll to find The Greatest Bass Parts of All Time, with 15% of the vote.