1. Commodore short-scale two-pickup bass
MY very first guitar – a Japanese short-scale, vaguely Jazz-ish atrocity of a bass, with a plastic Commodore badge on the black headstock. I bought it (cost about £20 from a small ad placed by a bloke in Braintree, I think, complete with fancy strap, which I still have somewhere, a grey curly lead and a home-made oblong plywood case). I was earning about £28 a week at that stage, so it was a fairly serious purchase.
It was also the first bass I sold. I just found whatever I did, I couldn’t make the damned thing as sound fat and bassy as I wanted. Might have helped if I’d had something more than a 20w FAL practice amp to plug into, mind! Googling today to find a pic of something similar, I discovered similar basses are now being advertised for more than I paid two years after selling this bass for a secondhand USA Precision!
Soon after getting the Commodore, someone gave me a dreadful, battered and vaguely Precision shaped object, which was even worse, so I’m not quite counting that as one of my 43+. I hand-painted it jet black, bought a pair of pretty-looking Gibson-style hatbox knobs (though I didn’t know they were called that then) and somehow insinuated a Strat jackplate into the end of the pickguard by the controls, thinking it would look cool. (It did. Shame it had an action that was almost half an inch high and was unplayable above the fifth fret!)
2. Shaftesbury Rickenbacker 4001 bass copy
A QUANTUM leap in terms of quality, with a through-neck, just like the real thing. This one really looked the part, too, and clanked away nicely when you played it with a pick, just like a Rick should. By that time, I’d been through a couple of amps – a 25w valve WEM Dominator 1×15 combo (a terrible bass amp, but a decent guitar amp – wish I still had it now!) and then a secondhand Simms-Watt 100w head and a 2×12 cab (not one of the cool and nowadays sought-after Simms-Watt tube heads, but a solid state job, which actually performed pretty well.)
The original “band” from the ad never really materialised, but I found some other n’er-do-wells to play with. We used to rehearse every Saturday afternoon in my dad’s dusty old barn on the farm, initially without a drummer – drummers were ridiculously hard to find in those days. We eventually recruited this bizarre character I’d sort of know of from school – his greatest claim to fame, reputedly, was being thrown out of a CSE exam for masturbating! True or not, for a fledgling punk band, it was perfect!
Our rag-bag, vaguely punky bunch were called The Rabid Corgis (this was the year after the Silver Jubilee!) and the Shaftesbury saw me through our very first gig. That was in the Maldon Labour Hall (these day’s it’s a small mosque), where we supported a band from Chelmsford called Anorexia. We played a mixture of my own (unspeakably bad) original songs and covers ranging from The Undertones’ “Jimmy Jimmy” to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”.
Unsurprisingly, it would be the Corgis’ one and only gig. We later changed our name to The Dentists, but never gigged again, though the Shaftesbury stayed with me a good couple of years, even after I saved up and bought a proper Fender bass.
It was great for doing the crashing chordy bits at the start of “”Pinball Wizard” with my next outfit, the amusingly-named (or so I thought) Vieux Chapeau. And yes, our set was composed of the very corniest of rock covers – well and truly old hat!