Due to their diverse discography, picking the best queen bass lines seemed like an impossible task at first.
The band combined elements of rock, disco, waltz, and progressive music. What`s impressive is that they always managed to do so like it was the most natural thing in the world. What`s more impressive still, is how John Deacon`s bass lines always managed to fit these unique compositions perfectly.
Thus, while a hard task, I decided to make a list to showcase some of his best work. So set your bass tone like John Deacon, and get ready, here are my picks for the 11 best Queen bass lines of all time.
11. Ride The Wild Wind
- Album: Innuendo
- Year: 1991
Freddie Mercury`s vocal delivery on the verse of “Ride The Wild Wind” is tranquil and calming. Yet, the bassline that Deacon is playing underneath it is the exact opposite. However, these two elements fit together extremely well.
For most of the song, he is holding down a fast, intense, and deep groove. He sticks to the same rhythmic pattern, but switches between holding down the root note and playing a melodic line. This retains the intensity of the song, while always keeping the bassline interesting.
To top it all off, we get a bass solo at 3:58 that displays Deacon`s speed and technique. It also helps round out the song as it fades out. Thus, “Ride The Wild Wind” shows what a genius John Deacon was when it came to rhythm, groove, and creativity.
10. You Don`t Fool Me
- Album: Made In Heaven
- Year: 1995
“You Don`t Fool Me” has one of the catchiest basslines I`ve heard in my life. While it`s not as well-known, as some of Deacon’s other work, it is one of the hardest queen basslines to get out of your head.
A big reason for this is that the bassline repeats the same 1-bar groove for about two minutes. This works incredibly well, as it leaves space for the vocals and guitar to build the song up. The bassline is catchy enough to be repeated in this manner, which also grounds and retains the groove and feel of the song.
When Deacon deviates from the main groove at 2:22, he does so in a clever way. He plays one bar of the main groove followed by a bar that starts off in the same way the main groove does. This makes the change in the bassline during the guitar solo seem natural and cohesive.
Thus, this bassline is a great example of when to stay repetitive. It also showcases how to break with that repetitiveness, when the song calls for it.
9. The March Of The Black Queen
- Album: Queen 2
- Year: 1974
Harmonically, “The March Of The Black Queen” is one of Queen`s most sinister songs. It is also a complex composition, with multiple tempo and time signature changes. Yet, John Deacon`s bassline manages to hold the song together perfectly throughout its entirety.
As the band enters, Deacon plays a sustained E, followed by a chromatic G-G#-A lick that helps set the dark tone of the song. Then, at 0:54, he busts out a melodic quarter note groove that leads perfectly into the verse that follows.
Towards the end, when the song sounds like it is about to end, the band enters again for a final crescendo. During this part, Deacon plays a melodic and fast line, that helps the song segway perfectly into “Funny How Love Is”. All in all, this is a well-crafted bassline that is well-tailored to fit every part of the song.
8. The Millionaire Waltz
- Album: A Day At The Races
- Year: 1976
A waltz groove can be challenging territory for a rock bassist. However, not only does Deacon handle it well, he turns the bassline on “The Millionaire Waltz” into a highlight.
He starts off on a high note by playing a bass solo that works in harmony with the piano. Then, as we get into a 3/4 time signature waltz rhythm, he starts off by playing a high, but straightforward waltz groove. It does not take long though before he deviates from it and starts adding melodic fills into it.
Not only does this style fit the song well. It also makes this ambitious song all the more interesting and shows how Deacon`s precision bass sound truly could fit any Queen track. Thus, this song shows just how good of an understanding Deacon had of different styles of music.
- Album: Queen
- Year: 1973
“Liar” is a song that showcases Queen at their more progressive side. It features proficient musicianship from the whole band and a bassline that is both dynamic and interesting.
At the beginning of the song Deacon plays a line with short rests in it, which adds a lot of groove to the song. He changes the line up when Brian May plays a short guitar lick, opting for sustained notes instead of rests to better fill in the low end during it.
Later on, Deacon makes great use of muted notes and chromatic ascends to fit the progressive feel of the song. Towards the end, he goes completely crazy by moving up in register and repeating a 3-note melodic line which leads perfectly to the crescendo of the song.
This song is thus not only a display of Deacon`s technical proficiency. It also shows his ability to always come up with the perfect bassline no matter how complex a song might be.
6. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
- Album: The Game
- Year: 1980
As I`ve said before, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” has one of the best walking bass lines of all time.
While uncommon for a Queen song, the walking bassline suits this classic tune perfectly. On top of that, it makes it stand out, both in Queen`s discography and in the landscape of 80s rock n` roll.
This song is thus a testament to Deacon`s ability to adapt his style to the song. I don`t believe most bassists would have come up with the idea of playing a walking line on this one. However, Deacon did, and it`s safe to say that his decision to do so was a big reason this song became one of the band’s biggest hits.
5. Bicycle Race
- Album: Jazz
- Year: 1978
Between Queen`s dramatic songs about love, life, and death, we find “Bicycle Race”. There are different theories about the meaning of the song. However, at its core, it`s a silly and fun song with a bassline that reflects this vibe.
The main reason this bassline made the list, is the upbeat melodic line that is repeated throughout the song. It is centered around a G# major chord and is played high up on the fretboard. Thus, it provides a happy and playful backdrop for the song, while being melodically interesting at the same time.
There is also a sudden change to 3/4 time in the middle of the song. Deacon makes this change feel natural by starting off with sustained notes. Then, he adds more rhythm to the line as we have settled into the time signature change. “Bicycle Race” is thus a great display of how the bass can set the mood of a song, and how to make time signature changes feel natural.
4. Killer Queen
- Album: Sheer Heart Attack
- Year: 1974
While shorter in length than some of Queen`s more progressive work, “Killer Queen” is an ambitious and complex composition. The song constantly changes and moves between different parts. Despite this, John Deacon`s bassline manages to hold the song together all the way through.
He often enters into new parts with short melodic fills that make the song feel connected. The harmony between him and Freddy is also particularly noteworthy on this track. The bass often plays a line that resembles the vocal line, but without copying it.
There are also several melodic highlights in the bassline. The descending fill at 1:13 comes out of nowhere and adds a lot of flavor to the song and leads smoothly into the chorus. At 2:06 Deacon also plays a similar but less noticeable fill which adds continuity to the song.
This is a song that is hard for a bass player to hold together. Therefore, we can be glad that Deacon was available for the job, as his line on it helped make “Killer Queen” a major hit for the band.
3. Dragon Attack
- Album: The Game
- Year: 1980
On “Dragon Attack” we get to hear the groovy side of John Deacon.
The song was written by Brian May, and for most of the song, the bass and guitar are playing the same riff. It is however a riff that feels more like a bass groove than a guitar riff. As the song progresses, Deacon builds upon the riff, moving up the fretboard and adding more melodic elements to it.
The highlight of “Dragon Attack” is the 8-bar bass solo, where Deacon perfectly constructs it around the main riff. He starts off by repeating the riff and proceeds to add small variations to it. Then, he plays a more free-form solo before naturally moving back to the main groove. If you want to learn how to write a bass solo, this is thus the perfect song to draw inspiration from.
2. Under Pressure
- Album: Hot Space
- Year: 1982
The song came about in the studio when David Bowie suggested he and Queen should write a song together.
With Freddie and Bowie being two of the greatest vocalists of all time, one would thus expect the vocals to be the main attraction of the song. However, it was in fact the John Deacon`s short and sweet bassline that turned out to be the most memorable part of it.
With just two notes and a simple rhythm, he crafted a bassline that has become incredibly well-known. While some know it from Vanilla Ice sampling it on his hit song “Ice Ice Baby”, this only goes to show the genius of John Deacon. I say this because few bassists can say they have written a line so good that it became a major hit; twice.
1. Another One Bites The Dust
- Album: The Game
- Year: 1980
You will have a hard time finding someone who has not heard this bassline at least once. Thus, it should come as no surprise that “Another One Bites The Dust” got 6th place on my list of the most famous basslines ever.
The song was written by John Deacon himself. As a result, the composition of the song is largely centered around the bassline. We can hear this in how the vocal line shares some similarities with the bassline, and how the guitar is often supporting the bassline rather than the other way around.
As for the line itself, it`s more of a disco groove than a rock groove. This made the song stand out, even among Queen`s otherwise experimental discography.
While blending genres in this manner doesn`t always work out, it certainly paid off on “Another One Bites The Dust”. Thus, the song became one of the band’s biggest hits; in large part due to having one of the best rock bass riffs of all time.