The Future of Rock (and Rock Bass)

What will happen after all the classic rock bands are gone?

By Jon Liebman
Photo: Christian Sahm
October 11, 2018

After conducting this week’s interview with Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson, it occurred to me that more and more of the touring acts we see these days happen to be rock bands that first rose to prominence some thirty or forty years ago, now offering feel-good nostalgia to fans who’ve been enjoying their music for decades.

Thinking back on those glory days of the music business, it’s quite remarkable when you look at how much the scene has changed since the ‘70s. In the old days, a band would make a record, strive to get as much radio play as possible (later, MTV), and depend largely on record sales and touring as their primary sources of income.

Today, as people continue putting out records, I often find it difficult to understand how the expense is justified, given how the “kids” seem to have figured out how to get so much of their music for free. But hey, somebody must be buying these records.

Nonetheless, touring seems to be more important than ever in today’s music world. That’s true not only for today’s hit makers, but also for the classic rock mainstays, tribute bands, oldies groups and the like. Why are these bands so popular? Is it because people enjoy reliving the musical halcyon days of their youth, or is it something about rock & roll itself? Maybe it’s both. Regardless of the reason, how long will the classic rock/oldies trend continue?

Fast-forward to the year 2050:

Imagine life after Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, and all the other classic rock bands are long gone. Will fans feel that same nostalgia from, say, John Legend, Beyoncé, Adele, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, and Taylor Swift?

While no one can predict what kind of emotional response the future aging rockers will evoke, as we look back on the last forty years, we understand, with certainty, that none of classic rock bands of that era would be nearly the same without those rock bass heroes, so many of whom we’ve been privileged to interview, one-on-one, on

First, consider the giants, including John WettonChris SquireJack Bruce and Lemmy, all of whom soldiered on, all the way to the end. Thankfully, we have all those recordings. RIP.

What’s also quite remarkable is the number of bands in which the original bassist still plays a prominent role: Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Gene Simmons (KISS), John Lodge (Moody Blues), John Taylor (Duran Duran), Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick), Dusty Hill (ZZ Top), and Garry Tallent (Bruce Springsteen), to name but a few.

Then there are the high-profile bass players who left their respective bands (for various reasons), all leaving memorable legacies: Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane), Michael Anthony (Van Halen), Peter Cetera (Chicago), and Chuck Panozzo (Styx) – actually, Chuck didn’t totally leave the band; he just “scaled down” his role a bit, handing the bulk of the bass duties over to Ricky Phillips.

And those notable replacements, including Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), Kenny Lee Lewis (Steve Miller Band), Jason Scheff (Chicago), and Robert Trujillo (Metallica). Also see our exclusive FBPO features, 10 Bands Who Changed Bass Players, Part 1 and Part 2.

Thank you, rock bassists. You’ve laid the foundation for future generations. What happens next is up to them. Here’s hoping…

Want to share a thought about the future of classic rock and/or rock bass? Feel free to leave a comment.

In the meantime, check out my interview with Jeff here.

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