Tag Archives: Rock n Roll

1975 Rickenbacker 4001 Bass

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!

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“LZ-’75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour” by Stephen Davis

Along with the Beatles, Led Zeppelin are the definitive “band.”  With four distinct personalities,  unprecedented success, an iconic sound, and loads of unusual behavior that have evolved into legend, LZ raised the bar for every Rock n’ Roll band to come.  Maintaining a well protected mystique during their most prominent years, few know the true story behind the world’s greatest rock band.  In 1975, LZ embarked on a North American tour that would go down in Rock history as one of the most wild and legendary tours ever.  One lucky, young journalist, by the name of Stephen Davis, was invited to join the party.

LZ had just released the now classic album, Physical Graffiti, and used this tour to promote new songs like “Kashmir,” “The Wanton Song,” and “Trampled Under Foot.”  Davis, one of the few members of the press that LZ trusted, was given a backstage tour pass, personal interviews, and a seat on the infamous Starship airplane.  His entire experience was documented in three notebooks, which Davis lost for 30 years – only to be rediscovered in 2005.  That discovery led to this book.  Unveiling some legendary events – like LZ’s stay in Los Angeles – providing honest criticism of performances, and giving insightful details about the people and environment of LZ’s world, Davis paints an enthralling picture, drawn from the eyes of a young journalist living the dream.

With many hilarious and unbelievable stories that have become Rock folklore, greatly influencing the cult classic Almost Famous, LZ-’75 is a must read for any Zeppelin fan or Rock history buff.  A relatively short and easy read, this book takes you back to a time when Rock n’ Roll ruled.  It’s hard to imagine, but in 1975 LZ were the most commercially successful band in the world – akin to a modern-day Rihanna or Katy Perry.  Dethroning the Beatles, LZ played for the largest crowd in history, and in 1975 Physical Graffiti was No. 1 on the Billboard Charts.  Davis’ tale is an insiders look on how the band members and entourage kept their sanity, and kept the show rolling amidst this unprecedented success.  From Page’s battle with a broken ring finger to Bonham’s split personality to Plant’s historic quotes (“I am a golden god!”) to John Paul Jones’ subdued English manner, Davis shows the real Zeppelin, warts and all, as they once again crossed the pond to conquer America’s youth.

So check out LZ-’75 by Stephen Davis for an entertaining and unimaginable look back at the high water mark of Rock n’ Roll!

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The Vox AC15 Custom 1×12

Although ideally most of us would be practicing through a 50 Watt Marshall stack everyday, few of us have living situations that permit such awesome noise levels.  Sure, you can get an attenuator, but still, size, price, and general inconvenience are issues.  That why it’s important to have a bedroom amp – a smaller, quieter amp suitable for the apartment building or close quarter living.  But just because it’s small doesn’t mean it can’t rock!  That’s why I picked up the Vox AC15, a bedroom amp that doesn’t make me feel like I’m putting on the world’s smallest performance for the local spider population.

Truth is, the AC15 C1 is more of a hybrid bedroom amp.  Today, almost every venue you play at is going to mic your amp and run it through the PA.  You can have a Fender Blues Jr. and it’s gonna come through the PA as loud as a stack.  50/100 watt amps are essentially pointless, unless you’re doing a stadium tour – but they are still awesome.  Nonetheless, bringing a smaller amp to a gig makes transportation easier, and as long as the amp sounds as good as a larger counterpart, will perform equally well when mic-ed through the PA.

The Vox AC15 C1 is a great, little amp that gives you bang for your buck.  With just 15 Watts of tube power, this amp has one 12″ Celestion Greenback Speaker and offers the full array of classic Vox tones.  It has built-in analog Tremolo, spring Reverb, a “Tone Cut” knob and full EQ for the “Top Boost” channel, giving you a lot of tonal flexibility.  I use it mostly for “chimey” clean tones and  dirty blues sounds, but have found that it breaks up nicely when pushed, without being overly loud.  It’s just a great amp for getting awesome tones at quieter volumes.  That being said I have used it on multiple gigs where it was mic-ed, and it sounded fantastic – nobody even knew it was a little 15 watt box.  The major downsides are no Effects Loop, and although foot-switchable, it doesn’t come with a foot switch, but at around $520 it’s hard to beat the quality and versatility of this classic amp.  Plus, the aesthetic of Vox is iconic, and their amps looks great on stage, subconsciously forcing the audience to draw connections between you and little band called The Beatles – not bad!

For more on the Vox AC 15 C1, check out the Vox website.

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“Skydog – The Duane Allman Story,” written by Randy Poe

Anybody with a goal needs a role model or hero through whom they are inspired and educated.  As a musician, I find it extremely helpful to read biographies written about my idols.  By reading about someone’s life, you can learn enormous amounts about their character, their journey to success, their struggles, and how to apply their experiences, and resultant wisdom, to your own life.  Often times a retrospective look can easily identify the positive factors contributing to a person’s life and achievements, and point out the negative, helping future generations avoid the same pitfalls.

My most recent read was “Skydog – The Duane Allman Story,” written by Randy Poe.  The Allman Brothers are one of my all-time favorite groups, and Duane, one of my guitar heroes.  This book is the definitive biography of the man and the group, and truthfully tells the tragic tale of their haunting success.  From Duane and Gregg’s’ early childhood, to Duane’s sudden death, to the 2000 era Beacon Theater concerts, this comprehensive book has it all.

One of the great lessons I learned from this book was about the power of a team, or a group of people with a unified goal.  Much like a sports team, a band needs people at different positions to function maximally.  This could be drummers and bassists, songwriters and businessmen, personalities – there are many dynamics that make up band chemistry.  Duane and Gregg had each achieved moderate success in the late 60s, but it wasn’t until that fateful jam with Dicky Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley and Jaimoe Johansen, that they became a force to be reckoned with.  When this band, just like a sports team, was “on,” there was no stopping them.

Another interesting thing about the Allman Brothers was their mixture of “high” and “low” art.  All hailing from the South, their music was drenched in Blues, Country and Folk traditions – the music of the people.  These musics are typically orally communicated (no written music), lacking sophisticated harmony, and designed for purpose – emotional relief, work song, etc.  Conversely, the Allman brothers were heavily influenced by Jazz music, mainly John Coltrane and Miles Davis.  This music emphasized intellect, complex harmony, and extended instrumental improvisation.  Fusing elements from all of their influences, the Allman Brothers created a unique new sound, combining the Blues feelings with Jazz improvisation, instrumental compositions and Rock music.  This blend gave birth to some of the most original songs in Rock n’ Roll, like “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Midnight Rider.”

Unfortunately, the bands’ greatest commercial success would come after the death of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.  Just 25, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident in the bands’ hometown of Macon, Georgia.  Not long after, and just three blocks away, Berry Oakley, 24, was also killed in a motorcycle accident.  The death of these two key members was a crushing blow to the group, who were in the midst of recording their most famous album, “Eat a Peach.”  Much like other bands with iconic fallen leaders – Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones – the Allman Brothers’ losses thrust them into a new musical direction, paying tribute to the deceased, while trying to fill their void.  When “Melissa,” “Ramblin’ Man,” and “Jessica” skyrocketed the Allman Brothers into commercial stardom, it was a haunting success that should have been shared by all.

Ultimately, this book is a great read for any Allman Brothers fan or Rock n’ Roll history buff.  Outside of the ABB, Duane was an active sideman who contributed to many sessions, most notably Derek and The Domino’s’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.”  His story is riddled with appearances and anecdotes from many cultural icons, connecting the dots between the ABB, British music and American Pop.  A unique, inspiring, and tragic saga, “Skydog – The Duane Allman Story” is a must read for any aspiring musician.

“There ain’t no revolution, it’s evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.” – Duane Allman

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