The Top 10 Most Overlooked Band Members

March 11, 2009

We all know that being in a band is a team effort. It’s never a one-man show. So it’s unfortunate sometimes when fans just assume the lead singer writes all the lyrics and the guitarist is the only one composing the music. This is why we need to give a few shout-outs to some of the most talented musicians in the industry who rarely get the respect they deserve.

By Dustin Sussman

The following article does not represent the opinions of Spike TV or its affiliates.

10. Jason Newsted – Metallica


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I’ve always loved Jason and hated the fact that most people, including the band, have constantly made him walk in Cliff Burton’s shadow. This man gave 150% every single time he hit the stage and never ever complained. He was dedicated to all things Metallica and always felt fortunate to be a part of the band.

It is so f***ing stupid even to try to compare Jason to Cliff on a music level in the first place. It’s apples and oranges, man. They have two completely different styles of playing. It’s a taste issue. Personally, I prefer Cliff’s style of playing. His love for Rush, as well as the Misfits, made him one of the most unique bass players of his generation. Jason on the other hand, brought an intense physicality to the stage as well as huge backing vocals that absolutely gave the band a much heavier sound during live shows. He also used a pick while Cliff did not.

The one thing I will admit is the fact that nobody headbanged like Cliff Burton. Nobody. 


9. Vinnie Paul – Pantera


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Even though he was pretty much overshadowed by his brother’s groundbreaking guitar work (and Phil’s big f***ing mouth), Pantera would have never been the same band without Vinnie’s speed metal drumming skills.

The musical relationship between Vinnie and Dime was something so special and unique that it almost brings a tear to my eye. Mostly all of the band’s energy revolves around the way Vinnie and Dime played together. His energy as a musician is also something a lot of us take for granted. Giving every ounce of energy you have every single show is no easy task.

His work on “F***ing Hostile,” “Domination,” and “The Art Of Shredding” easily puts him in the pantheon of the greatest heavy metal drummers of all time.

And, for those that are thinking it, I almost put Rex on this list as well.

8. Tina Weymouth - Talking Heads


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Tina is hands down one of the greatest females to ever pick up a bass guitar. Period. The fact that a white girl could be that funky is beyond me. I would also guess that she was quite influential to young girls who thought about picking up the bass in the first place.

Tina also had a way of putting such a distinct sound on any song she would touch. From “Psycho Killer” to “Take Me to the River,” Tina left her unmistakable mark on everything the Talking Heads ever created.

7. Michael Anthony - Van Halen


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I’ve always felt that, without Michael Anthony, Van Halen wouldn’t have been the same band. I’m not knocking Eddie and "Diamond" Dave, but this man was literally the backbone of the group. When Michael put his ripping bass and unbelievable backing harmonies together with Alex’s (who is also very underrated) hyper drumming, each song seemed to blast right into the cosmos. It’s also no easy task to keep up with Eddie lick for lick.

People don’t realize how much his backing vocals affected the band’s live shows as well. His energy alone is what rock ‘n roll is all about. Go back and watch any gig form the ‘80s and you’ll see what I mean. Anthony is always holdin’ down the chorus front while Dave is screaming like a wild man and flirting with groupies in the front row. Love this f***ing guy.

6. Ray Manzarek – The Doors


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Ever since the Oliver Stone flick The Doors dropped back in 1991, people have had a sour taste in their mouth for Mr. Manzarek. I’m still kind of on the fence about the guy myself, but I also can’t even imagine being in a band with Jim Morrison without losing my patience every once in a while.

In the film, Manzarek is portrayed as being a sellout who was willing to sell his art if the price was right. I really don’t know how much truth there is to this because the movie is basically dedicated to Jim Morison and the purity of his art. This negative perception of Ray absolutely takes away from his skills as a keyboardist.

On a technical level, there are few that can even rival him even today. It’s always seemed that his so-called "square" persona has overshadowed his unbelievable skills as a musician. His whimsical organ work on “Light My Fire” is still one of the most brilliant compositions in pop music. I’m not understating the skills of Robby and John, but Ray does seem to get the shaft due to Jim’s immortal legacy. 

5. George Harrison - The Beatles


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Even though people referred to him as the quiet Beatle, his guitar playing was most certainly not. From his slide guitar work to his soft and soothing vocals, George had always been quite underrated during his years as a Beatle.

I don’t think George cared at all that Paul and John took up most of the spotlight, but I find no problem with pointing out his irreplaceable contributions to the greatest band in the history of music. It was a beautiful thing to see his solo LP All Things Must Pass go on to become the best-selling album by a solo Beatle. George totally deserved it.

4. John Entwistle – The Who


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Holy flurking schnit was this guy good.

The song where I really started to notice John was during the live version of “Young Man Blues” at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Keith is pretty much running the show as usual, but I couldn’t help but be blown away by Entwistle’s effortless technique and fluttering fingers. His leather skeleton suit ruled pretty hard as well.

I can see why people would take him for granted due to his clam, cool, and collected manner. But it is a beautiful thing to see a musician that could get the job done without having to call attention to himself through over-the-top flamboyant antics.

3. Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel – The Band


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There have been a lot of things said about how the movie The Last Waltz made it look like Robbie Robertson was the leader of The Band because he was pretty much the star and main narrator of the film. If anyone was the head of The Band it was Levon Helm. Helm was touring with Ronnie Hawkins before any of them joined the group, so I guess it would be safe to say that he started the f***ing Band. End of discussion.

On the other hand, when it came to this list, I was very torn on who was the most overlooked musician in the group. Even though I still feel that they were both very underappreciated, Rick Danko and Levon did sing lead on almost every single Band tune. This really only left Garth and Richard, who were always hidden in the back working their brilliant wizardry.  Richard did do lead vocals on songs like "I Shall be Released," but he still seemed to be hard to notice.

Garth, who was classically trained in piano, music theory, harmony and counterpoint, originally joined The Hawks as a "music consultant" and his bandmates each paid him $10 a week for music lessons. Richard also played the piano, keyboards, drums, lap slide guitar, harmonica, clavinet, marimba, and conga. Talk about the backbone of a band. These men are two of the most multi-talented musicians in the history of popular music. 

When Garth breaks out the saxophone at the end of “It Makes No Difference,” I get choked up every time.

2. Geezer Butler – Black Sabbath


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Not only did Geezer write almost all of the lyrics for Black Sabbath, it was his demented dreams that inspired the band to take a more satanic route with their image and musical content. The other reason why he is so high on the list is the fact that he can f***ing rip on bass.

When it came to fame, most of the attention went to Ozzy and Tony. I love Mr. Iommi to death and will never deny his groundbreaking Birmingham sound, but Geezer just didn’t get enough credit for his immense talent and creative contributions to the band. Have you ever watched how fast this man’s fingers are moving while playing a bass guitar? It makes me never want to pick up an instrument ever again.


1. John Paul Jones – Led Zeppelin


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There are indeed a lot of bass players on this list and for good reason. Throughout rock ‘n’ roll history, guitarists, vocalists, and even drummers have had the luxury to be more experimental with their instruments while bass players were forced to sit back and hold s**t down. They don’t call them "base" players for nothin’.

This can been seen most vividly in the roots of Led Zeppelin. Like John Entwistle, Jones had to hold his own with one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. John is also on of music’s most versatile musicians. Besides the bass, he also can get down on the guitar, lap steel, mandolin, ukulele, autoharp, sitar, and the freakin’ cello. Many also feel that the experience Jones had doing session work earlier in his career contributed greatly to the band’s studio achievements. Jones’s professionalism did not add to the rock star myth of Led Zeppelin, but did make them one of the best live and studio rock bands on the planet.

Which rock musicians do you think are the most criminally underrated?