Basses

As long as I’ve played guitar – I’ve mostly played bass. When I started out, as a teenager in the 1970’s, the bass player was usually the player with the least technique or actual equipment. It was the job nobody really wanted to do. The bass was often just a cheap plank – usually purchased from Woolworth’s – which offered little more than a vaguely musical thud. Amplification helped, of course – but if it was to be up to scratch, it was usually large and heavy. If you were to be serious about playing bass – you needed a van too. (And if you had a van, you might as well shift all the other gear while you’re at it – or so the rest of the band said). The position of bass player seemed just a little above that of roadie.

But all that ignores the effect that the electric bass guitar has had on the development of modern popular music. The immediate predecessor to the first electric bass was the unamplified, stand-up, double bass. When early rock and roll bassists used a stand up, they developed a highly rythmical approach which locked with the drummer to provide an up-tempo beat. there was just a hint of musicality too, which helps give musicality to the bass, kick drum. Once the electric bass developed and offered amplification and portability – the player could begin to exploit the full musical range of the instrument. The bassist became, perhaps, the most important player in any band. The drummer might well provide the actual beat, but it’s usually the bassist who really controls the tempo. In modern pop and rock, the drummer usually picks out the backbeat on the snare drum. (And it’s the snare drum which everyone actually dances to). It’s the bassist who controls the “one”, and the root of the chord. The bassist therefore controls the real fundamentals. It’s not too difficult – not flashy at all – but a decent bassist knows how to lock with a drummer, and drive the whole group. Ladies and gentlemen – let’s hear it for the rhythm section. And all of the flamboyant rock guitarists and vocalists in the world, are nothing without one.

At it’s most basic – the electric bass guitar is literally just a stick of wood and wire with pickups on, and it really hasn’t changed any, since the early 1950’s. With guitarists, it’s often a question of “just one more” in the collection. With bassists however – what’s the point? They all do much the same job don’t they? (OK – maybe just one more for the collection). The bass guitar controls the basics, with the absolute basic equipment. It’s always been so, and if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

There’s really not much to take care of with a bass. Of course – learning how to adjust one properly, and keep it in fine fettle, is basic for any player who really wants to understand what it does as a musical tool. But it’s such a simple thing really. This being my first proper bass – I’ve tried to look after it, over the years. Upgrading wasn’t really much of a task. It’s more a cosmetic refresh – rather than a complete restyling or rebuild. But it’s been worthwhile highlighting some of the original period stylings which were overlooked, and left out of the 1996 build.


Fender “1957” Precision Bass


At first – I played bass guitar parts using a six-string guitar. My first real basses were unsatisfactory and deeply unfashionable. Most of the time – I borrowed whatever bass guitar the group happened to jointly own.

But this was the first bass guitar, of any quality, that I ever owned myself. A Japanese built, 1996 Fender Precision bass. This was bought from new and featured on some early recordings, and at early gigs with the Citizens. It was only “retired” when I replaced it a few years later with my G&L. The guitar is a basic, vintage style P-Bass, and after a while in storage, I decided to upgrade the guitar to focus on the real look and sound of the classic 1957 Precision it was originally modelled on. The upgrade involved a new set of Fender “Custom Shop ’62” pickups, together with a some vintage chrome bolt-ons and an authentic, 1957 style, anodized gold pickguard.

1993 G&L “Legacy”/LB-100 Bass


I played my first G&L in a little shop, somewhere on London’s Denmark Street. It made an impression. This 1993 version came into my posession a few years later, and the guitar went on to become my favourite bass. G&L was founded by Leo Fender in the 1980’s, and before his death in 1991, he was involved with the redesign and evolution of many of his original Fender concepts. The LB-100 – first produced in 1993 as the “Legacy Bass”, was basically, a tricked-up Precision bass. Solid as a rock. The “Legacy” moniker had to be dropped in the first months of production, due to copyright issues. This early production model is badged as an LB-100, but internally, the components are marked as “Legacy”. Of all my instruments – this is the only one I’ve left as-is. I played it throughout my time with the Citizens and the bass and I have been through a lot together. I’ve cleaned it and kept it the best I can – but sometimes you just have to admit, you can’t improve on a classic.

My LB-100 has remained unmodified since I bought it, second-hand in 1999. When I finally got round to stripping it down for a refit and recondition in 2019, I discovered all-original components – including a neck and body stamped “LEG” – denoting that they were originally intended for a G&L “Legacy” model from late 1993. The LB-100 line, itself, dates from late 1993, and was the new name for the “Legacy Bass”, (the original name having run into copyright difficulties). It’s highly probable, therefore, that this is one of the very first LB-100’s in production.

So, I was naturally distraught when my bass was stolen from rehearsal rooms. Fortunately, fate played a part, and I was reunited with it several months later. It was at the time, and still is, my favourite bass guitar.