3. 1975 Fender Precision bass
How many bass players, I wonder, have never owned a P-Bass? My rosewood-board Precision was my pride and joy for a good couple of years – including the Vieux Chapeau years, when inexplicably, I was pictured with the bass and a vaguely Ramones-ish haircut.
I wish I still had it today (the bass, not the haircut) It’d certainly be worth a lot more than the £180 I paid the seller, a guy from Bradwell near Braintree.
That’s my amp of the time in the background, a Custom Sound 150w head (as used by the Boomtown Rats, no less, according to the ads!) sitting atop a really heavy no-make 400w 4×12 cab that was too big to fit in the boot of my Mk1 Ford Escort… It used to hang out the back, with the boot lid tied down with a bungy cord and got wet on more than one occasion!
Later, I had a Mini and had to remove the passenger seat (a simple matter, involving the removal of just two bolts) so l could sit it alongside me…
4. Ibanez Roadster active bass
It was the dawn of the 1980s. I’d recently passed my final jounalism exam (oddly named the Proficiency Test, a bit like the one you did on your bike at school, only less fun) and got a pay rise and a bonus.
In the wonderful world of gear, a new generation of original-design Japanese guitars was in the ascendancy and active basses were all the rage. I remember trying a MusicMan Stingray and not liking it at all. Then I spotted Phil Lynott playing what looked like an overgrown Precision with a headstock shaped like a meat cleaver and suffered my very first dose of G.A.S. – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I read the blurb in a music mag ad, tried one at a trade show and decided I just had to have one, my first-ever brand-new guitar – and still one of only a handful I’ve bought in all these years.
It was a damned good bass. Heavy as hell, but it played well and the two-band active eq was super-powerful and very versatile – not that I ever really needed any sounds my P-Bass couldn’t do, in all honesty.
I really liked the way Lynott had fitted his Ibanez with a mirrored pickguard, so I bought some perspex and made one for mine… that’s when I discovered how bloody hard perspex (what the Americans call Plexiglass) is to work without cracking it. Still, it didn’t look too bad.
The Ibanez saw me to the end of my thoroughly undistinguished time as a bass player, including the rest of Vieux Chapeau (who became The Magnox Reactors, before ignominiously giving up the ghost). The band’s guitarist, Martin Brown, also had an Ibanez – a ridiculously opulent top-of-the-range model with three-band active EQ, gold hardware, mother-of-pearl inlays and a tree-of-life-motif laid into its sumptuous ebony fingerboard (a good decade and a half before Vai had one on his Jem).
I then moved on to a vaguely Costelloish pop-rock band called Emotion Pictures, where the Roadster continued to give good service, though the more we gigged, the more I became convinced I ought to give up bass and just sing and play harp, like my hero, Lee Brilleaux.
Turned out I was a bit better at that…