Martin Gordon Rickenbacker
4001 in 1974

Once upon a time, in a dank, dark, dingy dungeon called the Furniture Cave in Chelsea in 1974 rehearsing material for Kimono My House, it all began so promisingly. I wiggled the Rickenbacker 4001 with abandon and irritated engineer Richard Digby Smith beyond all reason with my demands for sonic perfection.

I played the Rick all through Jet, including at the spectacular CBS convention at the Commonwealth Institute in London (1974) when drummer Jim Toomey went into a spontaneous drum solo during the intro to the very first song.

Steady on, Jim, it’s only the intro

And I played it at the Marquee in London during Jet’s only gig with Ian Macleod in 1975. The music stand in front of him shows that it was still early days for the second version of the glam-bandwagon-climbing Jet. Brian D’Amage had received his slouching orders, so at least the F chords were now rendered cleanly.

Martin Gordon Rickenbacker
4001 in 1976
What do you mean, men’s dresses?

The Rickenbacker made it into Radio Stars but, following one of those innumerable Radio Stars/Hotrods tours, I sold it to their bassist Paul Gray, whereupon (so Paul informed me recently) it fell to bits. The neck began to bend, he says, and lumps fell off it. Clearly I sold it at the right time.

Paul Grey, my Rick
Paul Gray and the Kimono My House bass, pre-banana

So that Rick became defunct. But that doesn’t stop Island Records from flogging CDs (remember them?) featuring it, does it? (Clue – no, it doesn’t). ‘Barbecutie’  turns up on the rather oddly-titled ‘Island Records Post-Punk Box Set – Out Come the Freaks‘. And then Island declare the album to be ‘Explicit’, whatever that means. Explicitly for Mole-lovers? Who knows, or indeed cares? Not I. But I digress

For the remainder of Radio Stars’ brief life, I played a Rick 3001 (and a Precision, but that’s another story). This model was rather less elaborate, but possibly more in tune with the times.

Radio Stars Rickenbacker
3001 in 1977
4003 in 1978
3001 in 1978

And then, to be frank, I dumped Ricks for 20 years, until the 90s. Well, let’s face it, who needed bassists in the 80s? When John’s Children made their US debut in San Diego in 1999, I borrowed a 4001 from Anja Stax. Joy was unbounded.

Actually that’s not strictly true, in fact. We were just about to go into ‘Dirty Pictures’ when guitarist Boz Boorer deliberately began playing an entirely different tune. We had ‘authenticity’ issues until late in the night that evening, I can tell you this much. Sodding purists.

Martin Gordon Rickenbacker
Excuse me, that is NOT how Dirty Pictures goes, my friend

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

Martin Gordon Rickenbacker
4001 in 2007

Then along came my Scandinavian Mammal-debut, in Stockholm in 2011. Here I used local boy Anders Lundquist’s fine-looking black 4001.

Martin Gordon Rickenbacker 2011
And later we are go out for the rotten fish marinaded in petrol, isn’t it?

And finally,  in 2014,  just in time for the GG&S project and subsequent ventures, I bought a 4003 and, for the first time, realised that using Ric-o-Sound is actually a damned good tactic. I had never actually done that before, I have to admit. DI the neck, tweak the bridge – sorted.

Martin Gordon Rickenbacker
4003 in 2014

And there we are. Full circle. Except that now women are allowed, unlike various shower-based discussions held in Radio Stars times. More on this topic soon. Be seeing you!

Martin Gordon 2017
4003 in 2017

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6 thoughts on “Rickenbacker tales

  1. You say the Ric was with you all through Jet and almost made it to Radio Stars, now what is bugging me is Dirty Pictures/Sail Away was recorded by Jet but released by Radio Stars, you see where i’m going ? If the Ric isn’t on DP/SA it didn’t last all through Jet and if it is then it did make Radio Stars……..We need the facts, Martin……..

    1. Well, actually the 4001 must have made it, thinking about it, as Paul Gray bought it. I think it probably IS on DP/SA. I guess I used it less and less. On Songs For Swinging Lovers, I used a Fender Precision (wash my mouth out with soap!) as per the back of the album cover. I think I probably saw it as a second bass, and then exchanged it (!) for a 3001, in time for the Holiday Album.

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

    1. 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. 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. 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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