When I first played in bands – I usually ended up borrowing instruments. The first ones I owned were mostly poor quality copies – the cheap and ubiquitous Woolworth’s version of a “real” bass. For a little while in the ’80’s, I borrowed a real Fender Jazz bass. It just changed my whole idea of what playing bass was about. Previously, bass playing had been a bit of a chore – thumping root notes and fighting to stay in tempo with wayward drummers. Trying to coax a reasonable sound out of poor quality kit. The Jazz had a construction quality which meant playing felt a lot “lighter”, and the sound just came over a lot more musical, As I learned more about bass playing, it became apparent that I needed a proper bass, and I also found out I had been turned into a Fender player.
I didn’t own a “quality” bass guitar until 1996 – and when it arrived, it was a Fender Precision MIJ Bass. This was an absolutely unremarkable, bread and butter model, but most importantly to me, a Fender bass. Tobacco sunburst, no fancy colours or sparkles. Precision – basic. Intended to be a working bass for gigging and some early recording the Citizens had coming up. I’d been borrowing a fretless Precision for a while, and had just got used to the no-nonsense feel, and distinctive sound of the Precision. I saw my, (fretted version), one afternoon in a Camden Town guitar shop, and out came the cheque book.
I used the Precision exclusively after that, until early 1999. But after that chance encounter with the beat up G&L in 1997 – it was only a matter of time. By 1999 I was looking for another bass and I saw a G&L LB-100 for sale in the Birmingham branch of The Bass Centre. There just weren’t that many G&L’s around at the time, but I thought it might just do the job. I jumped on a train and travelled up with enough cash to buy it – with a Hiscox hard case thrown in to sweeten the deal. I tried it out through a Trace Elliott combo – similar to the GP-7 I used at the time, and made my mind up in a couple of minutes. An absolute no brainer. The feel of the G&L immediately brought back the feeling from that day in Denmark Street. In comparison with the Precision, it just felt more solid, more developed, heavier, better quality – more bass all round. Even though, at heart, it still felt like a Precision, it’s sound just had a certain extra punch. A little extra “authority”, perhaps. I’d originally intended to try and find a backup for the Precision – but the G&L quickly became my main bass for rehearsals, gigging and recording.
The LB-100 was designed by Leo Fender with George Fullerton, and first became available in late 1993. Since Leo Fender had moved on from Fender in 1965, he had been involved with a few designs which obviously took their heritage from some of Leo’s early innovations. Many were out and out improvements of earlier classics, and the LB-100 obviously takes it’s inspiration from the Precision bass. In fact, it’s pretty much a pimped up Precision all round. The materials and components are all upgrades on standard Fender fare – but at heart, it’s a Precision.
Just about every part of the LB-100 is an improvement on the standard specification. The body is ash, with a semi-translucent, rich, black to red to translucent gold, sunburst – instead of the plainer, greener looking, tobaccoburst Precision. The 34″ scale neck is a nicely figured chunk of rock solid maple with a rosewood, 7.5″ radius fingerboard – as opposed to the polyurethane clad maple neck and flatter board. The G&L body has much more refined contours, although it’s outline closely resmbles it’s ancestor. The tuners and electronics both seem to be quality components, and the LB-100 generally feels, I don’t quite know how to put it – less wiry. The pickups are G&L Alnico, “Vintage” split coil units with white covers. They sound solid and Precision-like, with a little extra “throat,” to my ear – giving them a slightly different, more modern character.
Although closely resembling a Precision, the LB-100 appeared with a similar headstock – differing, in that a small barb appeared on the lower edge of the stock, near the posts for the “D” and “G” strings. The characteristic G&L “hook” seems to change over the years – depending on the model. The recently reissued LB-100’s have evolved a distinctly different shape at the headstock from this early example.
The main differences between the LB-100 and the Fender Precision are seen at the neck plate, and at the bridge. Both are Leo Fender innovations for G&L. The bridge is a much heavier, cast and chromed unit – which locks the string saddles closely together, (adjusted and tightened at the side of the unit with a little grub screw). The saddles are individually cast, and are much heavier than the usual Precision saddles which, themselves, resemble the same mechanism as found on six saddle Telecasters. The G&L “Saddle-lock” bridge unit also has a thick bar underneath, (from memory), which fits into a rout on the body. It’s all about providing a solid anchor at the join of bridge and body, and all about the transmission of string vibration to the ash body.
The neck joint has three bolts, instead of the usual four, and is covered on the back of the body by a branded and serial number stamped, black metal cover plate. I’m not sure what the intent was with this change to the original specification – although the G&L appears to have a simple neck-tilt adjustment facility, similar to some three-bolt Fender guitars. Three bolts instead of four sounds potentially more troublesome – especially on a bass, Certainly, I don’t think G&L still use the three bolt design. I’ve noticed that the most recent G&L designs feature six bolts! That said – I’ve never had any problems with this example. The pocket seems a wee bit longer than on a Precision. Perhaps that’s got something to do with it. I like the look of the three bolt – and the fact that it precisely dates the guitar, is part of it’s unique character.
In fact, the G&L’s unique character was further revealed when I did some early cleaning and maintenance. When I removed the neck, I discovered that the guitar was quite special, and possibly quite unusual here, in the UK. The serial number indicated that the guitar was built in the G&L factory in Fullerton, California – in 1993. 1993 was, in fact the very first year of production for the LB-100, and the first production date is supposed to be quite late-on in the year. It’s been thought, perhaps as late as October / November. It seems you can only date a G&L roughly with it’s serial number – the numbers are spread across each year’s entire range of production models. The best way to date a particular guitar is by checking the neck and body. G&L were kind enough to stamp exact production dates on both.
Checking the dates on my LB, revealed an interesting bit of history.
Both dates reveal manufacture dates in late September 1993, (although the date stamp on the body is pretty hard to read. A friend of mine thought it could even read 1988). The real interesting find is the, handwritten “LEG” on the neck, and a similar mark in the control cavity. That denotes that both parts were originally destined for a G&L Legacy Bass. The Legacy Bass was intended to be just that – a legacy of the life and work of Leo Fender who, had died in 1991. The Legacy Bass was produced in quite a short run between 1992 and 1993, and was eventually superceded by the LB when it became apparent that Zon had already trademarked the “Legacy” name. “Legacy Bass” became “LB”, and pre-manufactured parts were rebadged, as components were redirected to the new LB-100 production lines. The date and “LEG” mark on the neck means that the guitar probably dates from the transition period, and therefore is one of the very first LB-100’s produced from the last of the “Legacy Bass” components in stock. There aren’t a lot of these around. Especially here, in the UK.
The LB-100 was such a joy to play, that I pretty much used it exclusively from it’s purchase, in 1999, until I left the Citizens in early 2007. Things were getting difficult at home, and I needed to be there – much more than I needed to be in a studio. It was unfortunate that the period when I left was one which saw the Citizens putting in a lot of extra work in preparation of recording an album. A lot of the tracks had already been worked up, but circumstances meant I couldn’t commit to the hours for recording – so I unfortunately had to walk away and let someone else do the bass job. I left the G&L in storage, with the rest of the group’s equipment, at Fortress Studios near Old Street in London – where the band had relocated to rehearse, and where they went on to record the album, “Shiny Light,” in late 2007 / early 2008. The Citizens continued to gig for few years after that, but I didn’t return to take up the bass again, although the door maybe wasn’t entirely closed. I continued to store most of my stuff with the rest of the band’s equipment whilst I moved on, and away from London.
Then sometime in 2013, just after I’d moved, I got a call from Herb, the Citizens’ guitarist, with a bit of news…
“Err… Someone’s nicked your bass”.
The Fortress was a big building, housing rehearsal rooms clustered around what used to be Suede’s old Greenhouse Studios. There were a few office rooms and storage cages in the basement which you could rent and leave your gear in between rehearsals and gigs. They were really useful, since they kept open well into the night. If you had to clear out late from a gig in a club somewhere around the London area – you could always drop the gear off before you went home. There was a bar as well, and the venue regularly held small club nights and other private revels. There was a secure door at the front, but with people coming and going at all times of the day or night – I suppose it was always going to be a difficult task to keep tabs on absolutely everyone in the building, at any one time. From what we could gather – someone had slipped down to the storage cages at some point, and had opportunistically tried to force the doors of a couple of the cages. With the rehearsal and recording studios in virtually round-the-clock use, literally anyone could be carrying equipment, and wouldn’t necessarily raise suspicion. When the Citizens’ cage door was forced, the felon grabbed the first two things they could, and legged it. Unfortunately, that was a Corina bodied SG, and with it, my LB-100 in it’s “Citizens of Pompeii” stencilled, Hiscox flightcase. Bummer.
Of course it wasn’t insured. I just never got round to it. The sick feeling of losing the G&L took a few days to subside. Even though it hadn’t exactly been in my close posession for a while – It was still a big part of me, and I felt angered that it had been stolen away. I sent emails to all the people I knew in bands and studios who might, just, possibly, come across it. I scoured eBay and Gumtree and Craigslist, in case someone tried to flip it. I searched the London newspaper classifieds. Nothing.
I don’t remember the names of the sites now – but I came across a few websites whereby you could register your equipment and notify a wider international community. These were, in some cases, supposed to be monitored by the Police and the usual, high-street, second-hand outlets. I didn’t really hold much hope – but what the hell.
Then, a while later in 2014, I got an anonymous email, which said simply…
“Looks like your bass has resurfaced”.
…and with it was the link to a Cash Converters webpage showing a G&L LB-100 bass, which looked very familiar.
In fact the photos featured the distinctive, and uniquely numbered, neck plate. There was no doubt about it. My bass had, indeed, resurfaced.
I don’t know who sent the tip-off, but I thanked him by return email and immediately phoned up Herb at his work in London. In fact, I can’t thank enough both the anonymous person who first tipped me off, and Herb – who stepped in as the man on the spot, to liberate the bass.
Within the hour he was at the Cash Converters store with a photocopy of my original Bass Centre receipt, and a Policeman in tow, just in case. To Cash Converters’ credit – they handed the bass over without quibbling. Thanks again all round to those who helped. A few weeks later, I was able to take posession of the bass once again. Although the Hiscox case had disappeared I, at least, had the guitar back where it belonged. Quite a journey – and a case in point that it’s a small world – especially with the internet, and an interconnected, online second-hand instrument market. I highly recommend properly documenting your precious guitars in whatever way you can – just in case you ever have to search for them. If you come across a suspicious Korina SG-1, (still missing), do please let me know.
Examining the guitar – there were a few marks that I don’t think were there before – a few black ding marks on the neck, and a big Cash Converters sticker on the top horn, (which was virtually impossible to shift). I also think the temporary keeper might have tried to tweak the neck or something along the way. The setup seems to be well out from what it used to be, the action’s now a little higher than I like it – even though the saddles are right on the deck of the bridge. They hadn’t bothered to change strings though – the same set of Stadium Elites that I put on it back in 2006 were still there. (In fact they’re still there even now). I spent a good while soaking the sticker off with naptha. (What sort of glue do they use??). But apart from a bit of a clean up – it’s still as it was.
I mainly play six string guitar now, and only really pick up the bass to have a quick rumble, or to put down a basic bass track to play over the top of. Otherwise – the bass stays in a new Hiscox case most of the time. However, putting this blog together has reminded me that I need to have a good look over it, at some point – probably soonish. Writing all this stuff has made me keen to re-appreciate the LB and to get to know it all over again. I’ll see if I can give it a good recondition and check the setup over properly. It’s another job for when I finish the latest batch of projects.