4001 tales

A tale of a Rickenbacker 4001

Once upon a time, in a dank dark damp dingy dungeon in Chelsea in 1974, it all began so promisingly. Martin Gordon waggled his  Rickenbacker 4001 with abandon and encouraged it to unburden itself of significant amounts of clankery. Which is just what young Rickenbackers respond to, they love it really, it’s shows them that you care for ’em. You can always bring flowers. Least said, soonest mended, as my old mum used to say. Sorry, where was I…..

martin-gordon-sparks_edWell anyway. It’s future looked assured until one fine day in 1978. Lo (it’s what they say, sort of biblical), it was deliberately and with malice aforethought purchased by fine bassist Paul Gray and subject to incessant, ceaseless and incessant bouts of savage Hot Roddery…

Up to the point where (so Paul informed me recently), it fell to bits. Viola. It turned into a banana, he says, and lumps fell off it. C’est la vie, matey. Cling clang clong, it went. But not any more. But that still doesn’t stop Paul Grey, my RickIsland Records from flogging CDs (remember them?) featuring it, does it? (Clue – no, it doesn’t). ‘Barbecutie’  has pole position on the rather oddly-titled ‘Island Records Post-Punk Box Set – Out Come the Freaks’. And then it says ‘Explicit’, whatever that means. Explicitly for Mole-lovers, perhaps. Who knows, or indeed cares. Not I.

But it doesn’t matter. I got another one, at least temporarily, from Antje Stax when John’s Children made their US debut in San Diego in 1999. We were just about to go into ‘Dirty Pictures’ when guitarist Boz Boorer began playing an entirely different tune. We had ‘authenticity’ issues until late in the night, I can tell you this much:








Then when I made my own personal US debut, in Boston 2007, I borrowed one from Tristan da Cunha’s bassist Brian Church. It was even a blond one, for old times sake:





Then along came the Scandinavian Mammal-debut, in Stockholm in 2011. Here, courtesy of Anders Lundquist, I used a fine-looking black one:








And finally,  in 2014,  just in time for the GG&S venture, I bought a 4003. And there we are.

4003 in 2014

4 thoughts on “4001 tales

  1. Hatty Hattington

    Offhand question: of all the basses you’ve used in your life, which one(s) have you disliked playing the most?

    1. MG

      Well, what an interesting question. The Mole fraternity would probably expect me to say the Fender Precision owned by my subsequent replacement, but I later used one on Swinging Lovers, so it can’t be that. I am tempted to mention the plexiglass Danelectro owned by Phil Lynott which I used for a few dates in Ireland and which was quite horrid, but it wasn’t the worst.

      The undoubted worst was the BC Rich 8-string which I impulsively bought in New York. It was an enormous slab of a thing, which even had rubber feet. It looked wonderful but, and this I only realised much later, it was not possible to make it sound even halfway decent. I go on about this in the Blue Meanies story.

      In desperation I stuck it in a London guitar shop on consignment, and about a year later somebody gave it a new home. I was enormously relieved, in every sense.

      1. Sardine M. Hattington

        Interesting – did you use it for the entire Blue Meanies album? I’m pretty sure that was the one you were miming with to Pop Sensibility.

        1. Hauptwebmeister

          Sardine? Is that you, mother?

          That is the one. Actually it sounded almost passable on the later ‘My Mother Said’, by that other band who recently cancelled their retirement in order to retire immediately. They were, in many ways, gagging for it.


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