The Led Zeppelin Legend Confronts a World Without Bass

Times are tough for bass players. Not only are Creed and Metallica using temps, but it seems like more and more bands are dispensing with the pesky four-string wielders altogether. In search of an expert assessment of this trebling trend, we played some bottomless new music (sans ID) for one of rock’s most revered low-end thumpers: Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, who just released his bass-happy solo album, The Thunderthief (Discipline). –Brian Hiatt

Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Bang” [Laughs] “The voice is great—is this a girl band? It sounds like a really enthusiastic demo. It’s got a great vibe. What would the bass do here? Just follow the guitar. I could reproduce the whole thing [on bass], but I don’t know if it’d make it better or not.”

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “Shakin’ Rock’N’Roll Tonight” “I love the twin guitar intro; shades of Jimi Hendrix mixed with Creedence Clearwater, isn’t it? It sounds like it’s recorded in a bar, and it’s got a blues bass player you can’t hear–but it doesn’t matter. The bass would just add to the general swamp. I quite like it—I hear a bit of Elvis there.”

The White Stripes “Fell in Love With a Girl” “It’s 1978 again—it’s a thousand bands. I can imagine how you can get into it if you’re that age, but it doesn’t really hold much interest for me. I’m sure the lyrics are witty and insightful and all that, but I’ve heard it all before.”

Local H “Bryn Mawr Stomp” [After 20 seconds] “Enough. If someone sent this to me and said, ‘Would you produce this?,’ I would’ve turned it off by now. [No bass player] is the least of their problems.”