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This article was originally published in issue #24
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Rickenbacker is one of those brands whose popularity seems to ebb and flow. Sometimes its idisoyncratic guitars and basses are never off TV, at others they're rare sightings. Rickenackers are acquired tastes, too - players tend to either love them or, well, not exactly hate them, but just shrug and fail to get it.
The Ricky bass is possibly one of the US company's most successful products and has a number of prominent users with, let's be frank, not a lot in common between them. Where else would you find Lemmy, John Entwistle, Glenn Frey, Geddy Lee, Phil Lynott, Chris Squire, Roger Glover, Cliff Burton and Sir Paul McCartney on the same team? But before we go any further, which particular Ricky bass do you have in mind when you hear the term? For most it's the classic 1961 launched 4001, but as this exhaustively researched book shows, there have been dozens of modfications, tweaks, re-designs and even hybrids, like 5-string and even 8-string Rickenbacker basses down the years - and that's before you set foot among the really rare models like the 3001, 2030 Hamburg and 2050 El Dorado which, really, don't look much like Rickenbackers at all. And what about the semi-solid 4005s? They are all detailed here, complete with colour pictures and as much of the story as the author was able to prize out of one of America's most entertaining manufacturers.
What attracted a lot of players to the very first (4000) Ricky in the first place was that fabulous neck. OK - that and the astonishing styling. It made a Precision's neck feel like a telegraph pole in comparison and the sound from its twin pickups was out of this world. That slim, fast neck was to cause probems (not least when roundwound strings came along) and the author deserves credit for going into this. It was decades ahead of its time, too. In fact you could make a good case for arguing that the original Rickenbacker 4000 was really the grandaddy of modern bespoke basses, far more so than the workaday Fender (for all that the latter outsold it by thousands to one).
As you would hope from a book by a fan written for other fans, there are times when even a bass player might cry out 'too much information!' but that's just what these books are for and any Rickenbacker bass lover (and there are many) collector or vintage dealer is going to treaure this lovingly researched book. It does have one significant fault - pretty unforgivable in a text book - it lacks an index. That aside it's a 'must have' for anyone captivated by that Rickenbacker magic.