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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

(Off Topic) The Only Bass: The Rickenbacker 4003

Well, it's not the only bass, but it is the only bass I could ever play.

I come from a musical family, and played classical piano from early childhood through two years of college. I also played bass, which I picked up in high school after seeing Rush in a small ballroom (about a month before they exploded and got huge). That Ric sound! That OMG voice! Wow! Here is the song that did it for me: Bastille Day. (Turn your volume up to 11, give it a listen, piss of your fellow co-workers, and then come on back and keep reading.)

Classic Rickenbacker 4001 (note darker brown tone compared
to replacement 4003 below)

Me with my 4001 in 1980 (l), and my brother Anthony
(r) on his beloved Les Paul. (He also had an SG), in a club.
I found a 4001 Ric in 1976 for $750 bucks (then), and snapped it up, taught myself, and played it in many bands around the Midwest, bus and all. After my last band broke up, some of our equipment was stolen, including my beloved bass. I didn't replace it. Like a heroin addict, if I had picked one up again I would have dropped out of graduate school and eventually left my family to go back out on the road and play.

Fast forward 35 or so years. I finally broke down and decided to buy a new Rickenbacker 4003 bass (the classic Ric bass that replaces the 4001). Black and maple are easier to find than Fireglo (like mine), which is almost always out of stock. Our local music store is on 12- to 18-month back order for Rick 4003s, and the company won't tell you when they will arrive. These basses are handmade (and they don't produce nearly enough to satisfy demand).

I checked American Musical Supply daily, but they were always on back order. And then, with one page refresh, a Fireglo popped up, with a notation that it was "hurt." The price was way below retail ($1,599 including expensive custom case instead of $2,399.) I used online chat and the person said it would be a tiny mar or scratch, would likely not be visible anywhere, shipping was free, and I had 60 days to return it (shipping free back, too). How could I lose?

I ordered it. When it got here, I opened the case and studied the bass. I could not find a thing wrong with it. Nothing. Then I noticed that the case had a small scratch/mar. I think that was the issue. (I have been told by people in the business who know more than me that someone who works in the warehouse combined the SKU numbers, scratched the case, posted it as "hurt" and someone else he knows was supposed to snatch it up and then sell it and pockets the money. I was offered $1,000 more than I paid a week after I got it. And it has only gone up in value.)

The finish is amazing. It feels like silk. If I could sleep comfortably with it, I would.

The new 4003 Rickenbacker bass.
As the online description notes, the 4003 is famous for its "ringing sustain, treble punch and solid underlying bass tones that made Rickenbacker a household name." Indeed. A subtle strip of binding graces the elegantly curved body and the Rosewood fingerboard. Deluxe triangular inlays and stereo capability are standard features. The 4003 has a Vintage Tone Selector, an additional control included standard.

(Prior to 1984, Rickenbacker basses utilized a capacitor in the treble pickup circuit to emphasize treble tones coming from that pickup. However, changes in tone preference and a call for higher output led RIC to discontinue the use of this capacitor in favor of a more balanced sound. Nevertheless many users added this capacitor back into the circuit, experimenting with and sometimes preferring the sound of the older configuration, despite the resulting drop in volume.).

I haven't put the capacitor back in, but with the classic tone selector, I really don't need to. With a simple pull of the treble tone control, the Vintage Tone Selector will allow a player to move between both sounds at the drop of a hat. Pressed in, you'll hear the familiar balanced tone of the 4003, while pulled out to engage the circuit, you'll appreciate the bite and crispness popularized by such artists as Chris Squire and Getty Lee.

Now, if I could only play like I used to. I am currently rehearsing with my brother (who played with me in my last two bands) and another great high school guitarist named Sasha to play this weekend at a recital. We are playing "Hotel California" with my brother's instructor Eddie--who can play well anything with strings. The song includes a great back and forth extended guitar solo session.

We might put a band together for some fun on the weekends, as there are several clubs out here where amateur bands play 4-5 songs each.

I have already named the group: The Hip Replacements.



Anonymous said...

Whoa! The best independent Civil War publisher around, also happens to be a bassist who listens to Rush? I love it. Keep thumping and publishing man.


RCA said...

Great band name -- for those of us in that stage of life... -- RCA


Awesome, Ted, and of course I love the name.

BTW, if you do find a way to sleep with the bass comfortably, just don't drool on the circuitry.

TPS said...


I drool on it every time I hold the damn thing.