Although this is a guitar-oriented blog, it’s important to show love to our four string brethren. In fact, I’m sure many of us dabble in bass, or at least consider ourselves decent bassists (it’s just a guitar without the top two strings rights?) given it’s similarity to the guitar. For me, bass holds a special place in my heart – for many a year it was my primary instrument, before I picked up the guitar.
During my “bass period” I played in a multitude of various bands, but focused mostly on Rock n’ Roll. I had a small arsenal of basses – a Fender Jazz Bass and a Musicman Stingray – but was too young to be a serious connoisseur or collector. My Dad’s good friend Steve lived up the street, and every time we’d go to his house I’d be drawn to this funky looking bass in the corner – his Rickenbacker. Steve is an avid music enthusiast and hobbyist who has been part of all kinds of bands throughout his life, and his Rickenbacker was some of the last remaining evidence of his younger musical endeavors.
Originally, Steve was a keyboard player. He had some wild prog-rock set up that most likely emulated some of his favorites of the day – Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Blue Oyster Cult, Yes, Boston, etc. At some point, I believe Steve wanted to join a particular band – a group that needed a bass player, not a keyboardist. In a common twist of fate that has led so many musicians to their true instruments, Steve traded his keyboard rig for the Rickenbacker and an amp. Now I’m not sure if this was Steve’s true calling (and I have no more information on this particular group) but regardless – Steve acquired this beautiful bass that many years later, another young musician was admiring.
Steve was always a huge supporter of my music – from jam sessions with him and my Dad to my own bands, he was always a positive presence. So one lucky Christmas day (or maybe it was my birthday) Steve and my Dad decided it was time to bestow the great power of the Rickenbacker upon me. Alas, I was the proud owner of one of the coolest and most iconic instruments of all time.
This particular Rickenbacker is a 4001 model that was made in January of 1975 (indicated by the serial number “OA499” on the jack plate). It has all of the classic Rickenbacker features – neck-through construction, triangle inlays, wave-crest headstock, and iconic body shape. But beyond its aesthetic, there are some really unique features of the Rickenbacker. Firstly, Rickenbackers have dual truss rods as opposed to the standard single truss rod. This allows greater control of neck concave, specific to each side of the neck. Second, Rickenbackers are famous for their stereo output jack. Yes, as opposed to a single mono output jack, as seen on most electric instruments, Rickenbacker has two outputs, giving the player an option for a stereo/dual-mono sound. As written on the jack plate, one output is “standard” and together they create the “Rick-o-sound.” Basically, this makes each output jack correspond with one pick up, so with two cables you can run them into separate amps or into the Rick-o-sound DI box that allows you to blend the two. There are many varying opinions about the practicality of this option, but nevertheless, it makes the Rick unique. Lastly, the neck-through construction gives the Rickenbacker its instantly identifiable tone that has become associated with the likes Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, Lemmy, and many others. The 4001 is a truly innovative and unique instrument that has undoubtedly earned its placed in music history.
So overall, this is a very special, classic axe that I am so grateful to have in my collection. Although now I mainly play the six string, I always come back to my roots and slap the bass with the Rick. From some random shop, to Steve’s prog-rock bands, to my own musical escapades, this bass has seen quite a bit in its almost 40 year life span. Vintage instruments are special not only for their tone, but for their history, history that can give a particular instrument distinct tonanilty, unachievable from any physical material – tone only achievable through its own unique life. I can only imagine what this bass will have to say in another 50 years!