The Beatles: Guitar Heroes 8
Share My Guitar is pleased to announce a new series of guest posts by John F. Crowley about guitars owned by members of the Beatles. Each week we will unleash another article covering the history and impact of these fab guitars.
1964 Rickenbacker 4001S-LH bass (Fire-glo)
When he gave Harrison a new 360-12 model in February ’64, F.C. Hall, the head of Rickenbacker, also brought along a new 4001 bass to show McCartney. McCartney liked it, but as Hall had brought a right-handed model, he had to wait more than a year for a proper left-handed one.
During the band’s U.S. tour, Hall’s son John had the honor of giving it to McCartney. ” I presented the bass personally to Paul at the home they had leased for the Hollywood Bowl show (30 August ’65), not at the show,” Hall recalls. “This home was up on Curzon Terrace, which I guess would be in the Hollywood Hills. [In fact, it was Burt Lancaster’s house.] Also present besides the Beatles and their keepers were Roger McGuinn, Peter Fonda and Joan Baez.”
Harrison recalls its first use on “Think For Yourself” (8 November ’65). It served as a backup for live dates in late ’65, and for the ’66 tours, but in terms of recording, by the time the band made “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” in the spring of ’66, the Rickenbacker had become McCartney’s bass of choice. He used it liberally on Revolver, and, late that year, for “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and for the rest of the Sgt. Pepper sessions.
For the release of that album, McCartney gave the bass a psychedelic paint job (as did Harrison and Lennon to their guitars), and used it that way on record and in videos until late ’68. McCartney resurrected his Hofners for Let It Be but returned to the Rick — now sanded back to a natural finish — for Abbey Road, and in his solo career has played it on numerous albums and tours.
In 1975 McCartney shipped it back to Rickenbacker to replace a pickup, check out the report of former Rickenbacker finishing shop lead man Mark Arnquist.
It needed some help . . .
Mark Arnquist worked at the Rickenbacker factory “from July 1972 to October 1976. I was the lead man in charge of the area from when the instruments came into the finishing building until [owner] F.C. Hall picked them up in a van in the afternoon. I worked on most of the instruments to be repaired in that time frame, and if there was a need for structural or any fret work, I got the job.
“The P.M. bass came back to the factory prior to the ‘Wings over America tour.’ It needed some help. The original cast bridge was cracked, and the saddle assembly rattled and was sagging. The horseshoe magnets were dead. The coil was fine, but the cobalt magnets — stone dead. The frets needed some serious dressing and a new nut. (He has played around with a zero fret extension over the years, and the bass originally had a stock nut) . . . The finish was nothing at all. It had the patina of dirty wood and sweat. It didn’t stink of armpits, but it was not sealed, and we actually discussed sealing for him. We decided not to, as we were already doing work that was not asked for.”
And then there was the do-it-yourself sanding job . . .
“The whole bass was not stripped by a professional at all. There were plenty of hack marks and sandpaper gouges . . . The horns just appeared to have been scraped and sanded too much. The front and the back were fairly well done but all of the edges and contours were done amateurishly . . . The bass was definitely his; the original Fire-glo was still in the routes, and under the pickguard there was still some finish.”
The Rickenbacker doctors operate . . .
“The team that worked on it was four guys: Arlo (given name Howard, I cannot remember his last name) in the electronics area; Joel Heline in check out; Gene Garbis in woodshop/fretting, and myself at the assembly bench and at the buffing area. We had a gathering of minds, and after sending the cobalt magnets out for charging we got the bad news that they would not hold a charge. Bill Myers (plant manager) gathered us and we discussed our options.
“We opted for a custom coil/pickup for ‘The Man.’ The idea was to overwind a stock coil for a 4001. This is what he got. The tailpiece was replaced with a new casted piece and saddle assembly. The saddles were cut/spaced using calipers, not the normal eyeball method, and the saddles were buffed to a high sheen. The fret work was done by Gene, and then I got the bass after it came back into the finishing building. I leveled and buffed them, then assembled it. Joel was the next to get it, and he made a bone nut for it. There were some blanks left over in Bill’s desk, and one of them was used. Then it was filed and restrung with the strings that it came in with . . . [McCartney] only sent it in to get the horseshoe pickup fixed. We took it upon ourselves to do all this work.
“This group was really into this job. Lots of love and care went into what we did. After a few of the staff looked at it, Jim Ruthledge (the only lefty bassist in the factory) played it. He loved what we had done. And off it went.”