Wednesday, January 12, 2011

McCartney's Rickenbacker 4001S LH Bass

In 1964, Paul McCartney could have bought any bass guitar he wanted.  The Beatles had come to America.  They were pulling in almost $50,000 for a show, which was not bad money in the days when minimum wage was only around $1.00 an hour in the United States.  

McCartney seemed content to play his lightweight Hofner bass, which had become a trademark by now. But the owner of Rickenbacker Guitars had other ideas.

F.C. Hall
Francis Hall or F.C. Hall had already presented George Harrison with the Rickenbacker 360/12-C63.  During February of 1964  Hall had shown McCartney the model 4001S Rickenbacker bass guitar, however it was a right-hand model and it was much heavier than the Hofner.
The other turn off was that Hall asked for a small fee for the bass. 

Also keep in mind the scale of the Hofner was mere 30.25”, while the Rickenbacker scale was just under 34”.  This would have taken some getting used to after all those years of playing a short scale instrument.

John Hall
Rickenbacker’s home base is Santa Ana California.  It was not until they built a left-handed model and gave it to Paul at the Beatles Hollywood Bowl concert that August, did McCartney accept the gift.  Like all of us, who can turn down a freebie?

A young John Hall, Francis' son, presented McCartney with the bass.

The Rickenbacker 4001S LH was created in January of 1964. It was finished in Fireglo (Rickenbacker's answer to red-burst). McCartney claims he put it to use on Rubber Soul and Sergeant Pepper. He used it in concert in 1966 and on a tour of Japan. However, the Rickenbacker bass was generally confined to the recording studio.

"It sounded a little clearer, too," McCartney states, "and it seemed a little heavier - not just literally heavier but it played a little more solid than the Hofner." Paul says the long-scale Rickenbacker felt different, but stayed in tune much better than the Hofner.

To any guitarist or bass player, this would make sense.  The longer scale causes the strings to be more taught, thus tonality is a little bit better. Plus the Rickenbacker pickups were superior to the Hofner pickups.

McCartney used the Rickenbacker bass on such songs as Paperback Writer, Rain, Penny Lane, and Strawberry Fields.

Let's skip ahead a few years later when the Psychedelic era came along. Without their knowledge, the Beatles songs and lifestyle had affected the fashion of the day.

Carnaby Street was the fasion center.  Men were wearing paisley shirts with large collars and puffy sleeves along with bell bottomed hip-hugger trousers. Women chose mini-skirts with go-go boots and granny dresses.  

These were the days of tune in, turn on and drop out and freak out.  Young people speaking their mind, getting so much resistance...fall behind.

It was during this time the Beatles became acquainted with some other local bands that had painted their guitars with psychedelic colours and designs.

John, Paul, and George decided to each have one of their guitars painted in this manner.  George chose a Stratocaster, John had his Gibson EJ-160 painted and Paul chose his Rickenbacker bass.  The guys painted the instruments themselves using aerosol spray paint.

Fast forward to after the Beatles breakup.  George was the only Beatle that did not remove the psychedelic paint job.  Lennon had the finish sanded off his Gibson hollowbody, but sketched a caricature of himself and his wife on the guitars lower bout.  Paul sanded the finish off the Rickenbacker 4001S LH and did not repaint it.

Paul used the Rickenbacker bass up through 1968.  At that point, Fender gave the Beatles some free equipment. It was not until Paul’s Wings tours did the bass reappear.  Perhaps Paul was trying to change his image.

Rickenbacker currently offers the model 4001 V63 PMC as a reissue of Paul’s bass.  The neck-through bass is made of solid maple with a 33.25” scale.  The width at the nut is 1 5/8”.  The unbound neck is capped with a rosewood fretboard with 20 frets and dot position markers. 

The tailpiece and bridge are RIC special design models.  The bass comes with two Toaster Top™ pickups, which are wired in monaural.  The bass is 45 1/16” in length and weighs 10 pounds.



Robbie said...

Great bass, great song, great man!!!!

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