With all the attention and excitement that guitars generate, the humble bass sometimes gets relegated to second fiddle status amongst rock fans and guitar nerds. That never made any sense to us. The low end is where all the action is. Think about it – without a bass, rock music is just a beat with a series of twiddly bits spewing from some geek with a Les Paul. That’s why this week we’re taking a look at some of the most badass and unique basses in our collection. As always, click on the pics to see these killer machines up-close and personal on our interactive memorabilia website.
Here’s a piece that has generated a massive amount of interest over on our memorabilia page on Facebook and it’s easy to see why. This one-of-a-kind triple neck Wal bass was owned and operated by one of the ultimate geniuses of the low end – Chris Squire of Yes. The lower neck is fretless, the middle neck is a “regular” bass, and the upper neck is a guitar with a Telecaster-style pickup and tailpiece arrangement. Here’s the kicker: Chris reconfigured the guitar neck into a 3 double-string octave bass that he tuned AA-DD-GG. Incredibly cool. Check it out:
This bad little booty-shaker belonged to Jethro Tull bassist Glen Cornick and started its life as a mid-‘60s Gibson Thunderbird, but it was completely overhauled by British luthier Christopher Eccleshall. Check out the hand-tooled leather pickguard.
Lemmy Kilmister of Mötorhead is simply the baddest mother (shut yo’ mouth) in rock. That’s a universal constant. Throughout his career, he’s favored Rickenbacker basses and the Rickenbacker company even created a very limited and highly collectible signature model for him. The thing is so hard to get, even we don’t have one (and we have one of everything). We do, however, have this great old Rickenbacker 4001 bass that Lemmy used on Mötorhead’s 11th album, Bastards.
Here’s another fantastic Rickenbacker 4001. It belonged to Bruce Foxton of The Jam and he used it on much of the early Jam material that made them legends.
Let’s keep the Rickenbacker train rolling with one of the more unique Ricks in our collection. This is an 8-string that belonged to Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick. He used it on the Lap of Luxury tour in the late ‘80s. Check out the gigantic headstock.
We’ve got quite a collection of Tom Petersson’s basses, and almost all of them are really interesting. This is an elaborately painted upright that Tom used in the video for “Woke Up With a Monster”.
Here’s another from Tom’s arsenal and it may win the prize for “grooviest bass ever made”. It’s a ‘60s Guild Jet Star bass. This thing is a short-scale instrument with some of the coolest styling we’ve ever seen. Tom used it predominantly in the studio.
This classic Hagstrom 8-string was the first commercially available 8-string bass. It belonged to Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and was used on classic Hendrix recordings including “Spanish Castle Magic”.
With all due respect to the guys in Poison, they’re not exactly instrumental virtuosos. That’s why the idea of Bobby Dall playing this doubleneck BC Rich bass cracks us up so much. What makes it all the more ridiculous is that this bass has a 5-string neck and an 8-string neck. Did Bobby really need 13 strings to play “Talk Dirty to Me”?
The Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman used this unusual Travis Bean bass quite a bit in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. You can see him with it in the video for “Start Me Up”. These basses had necks machined from aircraft aluminum.
Another interesting Wyman bass is this Framus Star. Bill used it in the very early part of the Stones’ career. In fact, Bill signed on with Framus to endorse the Star bass in ’64.
This badass electric upright is an Ampeg Baby Bass that belonged to Canned Heat bassist Richard Hite. He used it on the 1973 album, The New Age.
This Hamer bass was responsible for some of the most important stuff to come out of the early British punk/new wave scene. It was Pete Farndon of The Pretenders’ main axe and it’s a killer.
Recognize this bass? Of course you do. This Hofner is almost identical to the bass Paul McCartney used throughout the Beatles’ career and continues to rock today. This isn’t Paul’s, though (man, we would KILL for that bass). This one belonged to Tony Jackson of The Searchers, who purchased it in ’63 shortly after seeing Paul with his. Tony used it to record the classic “Needles and Pins”.
Alright, folks – we’ve saved the best for last. When it comes to electric bass, there’s one cat who stands atop the Mount Olympus of low end looking down at the mere mortals who pretend to his throne – JOHN ENTWISTLE. Here are three of his magical thunder scepters:
This is an Ampeg AEB-1 bass that John modified by installing a pickup from a Fender Precision Bass.
How about a little lightning with the thunder? This custom lightning bolt bass was created for John by Peter Cook and was immortalized on the cover of The Who By Numbers.
Which brings us to the single greatest bass in our (or anyone else’s) collection. The ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the meanest dog in the junkyard, the biggest Ox in the herd – John’s Alembic “Exploiter” bass. From the day he received it in 1976 until the Live Aid concert in 1985, this was John Entwistle’s #1 axe. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and badass. In the hands of Entwistle, this was the pinnacle of low-end expression.
Wanna know what it sounds like? Check out this video of John playing this bass on “Baba O’ Reilly”. This is a great clip with the bass audio isolated. John’s genius and the power of this instrument are on full display. Since it’s a bass-only audio feed, fast forward to the 1:25 mark. That’s when John starts to open this bad-boy up.
And there you have it. Our little tribute to the fat bottom and the heavy groove. To see more and continue the discussion, head over to our memorabilia page on Facebook and our (award winning!) interactive memorabilia website. Until next week, remember: ROCK IS KING!
ROCK IS KING! Thanks for the Entwistle clip. Very Cool.
SUPERB collection!!! Thanks! Love the POISON bass & SURELY he would've used all 13 strings on "Talk Dirty to me" & surely ALL 13 would've been tuned so he could've played the whole song in open positions!!! Ha ha!
LOVE the Entwhistle clip too! Awesome!