7 Bands Whose Bassist Is The Primary Songwriter: The Beach Boys, Iron Maiden And More

By Joey DeGroot | Oct 06, 2014 09:16 PM EDT

Whenever a band has one member who writes most of the songs, it's more often than not the band's guitar player. However, these seven bands break the mold by featuring primary songwriting contributions from their bassists, rather than their guitarists.

1. The Beach Boys

If anything, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys is known more as the band's primary songwriter than as its bassist. Following a nervous breakdown in late 1964, he even dropped out of the Beach Boys' touring line-up entirely, opting instead to focus on the band's songwriting and record production.

2. Wings

It wouldn't really be accurate to describe Paul McCartney as the Beatles' primary songwriter, since songwriting was split pretty evenly between him and John Lennon (and though credited to "Lennon/McCartney," the songs were rarely true collaborations). Wings, however, was definitively McCartney's band, writing nearly all of the band's songs with his wife Linda.

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3. Thin Lizzy

Though Thin Lizzy's lead guitar duo of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson is the band's most iconic element, the heart and soul of the band was bassist, singer, and lead songwriter Phil Lynott, who fused Bruce Springsteen's and Bob Seger's working class rock with a lean hard rock attitude.

4. Mötley Crüe

The members of Mötley Crüe were so notoriously hedonistic and drug-addled that it's a wonder how they managed to pull themselves together to write, rehearse, and record any music at all, let alone good music. The primary writer of this music was bassist Nikki Sixx, who in interviews certainly comes off as the most intelligent and levelheaded of the bunch.

5. Iron Maiden

Since forming in 1975, 24 people have been members of Iron Maiden, though the only one to have been there from the very beginning is bassist Steve Harris. Harris served as the band's primary songwriter in its early years, and though guitarist Adrian Smith and singer Bruce Dickinson began contributing significantly as well by the mid-80s, Harris still writes more than any other member, either writing or co-writing a vast majority of the band's songs.

6. The Rentals

Bassist Matt Sharp never contributed to songwriting while he was a member of Weezer during the '90s, but this was probably because he was saving up all of his songs for his side project the Rentals, which basically sounds like Weezer ('90s Weezer, it should be noted) with female backing singers and Moog synthesizers.

7. Can

Since nearly all of their songs were created through free improvisation, German experimental band Can didn't exactly have a primary songwriter. Despite this, it could be argued that Can's driving force was its bassist Holger Czukay, who served as the band's producer and edit down their hours-long improvisations into songs and albums.

What are some other bands whose bassist is the primary songwriter? Let us know down in the comments section!

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