1972 Fender Precision Bass Custom

My weapon of bass destruction.

In a few of my previous posts I’ve mentioned my beloved ’72 P-Bass, which has been my loyal rock ‘n roll companion forever. I thought it was time to properly introduce you to her and fill you in on her story…

I’ve been playing guitar for roughly 19 years now. I picked it up pretty quickly, and within 2 years I was playing guitar in a local thrash metal band called ‘Lobotomy’. When I moved to Brisbane, I played guitar in a band for a while before stopping playing live to study graphic design. After not playing in a band for a while, I got back into playing in a band slowly, first with an acoustic band. That didn’t really quell my thirst for ‘rockin’ out’, tho. A work colleague, Dan, happened to be the bass player in local swamp rock/cane punks Sixfthick and was thinking of starting up his own little side project where he sang & played guitar. At that stage he was jamming on some tunes with our boss, Sheldon who played drums. Keen to get back into playing, I said I’d be willing to play bass while they mucked around writing the tunes. I’d been playing guitar for 10 years or so… how hard could playing bass be? Well, it was a lot more difficult than I thought. Playing interesting bass lines IN TIME was a lot harder than it looked. After a while I sort of got the hang of it. Being a fantastic bass player, Dan was invaluable in me learning the tricks of the trade. I quickly grew addicted to bass and wanted to get better and better.

My first bass was a loaner from our next drummer, Jason ‘Cass’ Cassidy. It was a 60’s Japanese hollowbody with no sustain and strings a mile of the frets. I valiantly tried playing this bass, but I knew something wasn’t quite right. I felt clumsy playing my bass lines and knew that I needed a better bass if I was going to do this properly.

Next up was a Mosrite bass that I got imported from Japan. This was a massive improvement. I was able to play some interesting bass lines, but again, there was no sustain and the sound was a little muddy for my tastes.

Dan then lent me his Musicman bass that he played in Sixfthick. This had the sustain and sound I liked, but the width of the neck felt huge in my puny little monkey paws. I was back to struggling my way around the fretboard and feeling like I’d never get the hang of this bass playing caper.

Me playing my first ever Sixfthick show with Dan’s Musicman bass…

A brief dalliance with a silver PRS bass that I found in a hock shop didn’t really help. It sounded great but the neck width was still too wide.

Being a bass newbie, I thought all bass necks would be like this and I was doomed to play simplistic bass lines and have a permanent address in Struggle Town. Then everything changed…

One Saturday morning I was looking through the bass section of my local guitar shop when I saw a beautiful 70’s Fender P-Bass. I’d played a few P-Basses and found the neck width still uncomfortable to me, so had crossed them off my list. But I grabbed the bass off the wall, sat down and started playing it. It was instant love. Finally I had found MY bass. The neck was so easy to play that it almost played itself. The nut width was very narrow and the neck was very worn in which made it ridiculously easy to play. I asked the shop owner about the bass and he said it was a rare one owner P-Bass that had been custom ordered in the 70’s with a Jazz Bass neck. I was such a newbie I didn’t even know then that there was any difference between Jazz Bass and Precision Bass necks. All I knew was this bass was the best bass I’d ever played.

It had led a hard life. The neck had been cracked and expertly repaired by Kinman Guitars, who were one of Australia’s premier Fender experts. It was covered in scratches and bumps. This was before the Fender Relic craze started driving beaten up Fender prices to stupid levels. With these bargaining points I got a fantastic deal on the bass, which as a bonus came with it’s original hard case. As soon as I played her live, my playing improved from the start. I could fly around the frets and play the things I could hear in my head easily. This bass actually made me a better bass player.

My new bass in it’s early days with me…

After playing it a few weeks, I started having trouble with the original Fender bridge. While playing the grub screws would slowly wind themselves down until the strings sat flat on the fretboard. At one show in Sydney, a bridge saddle actually went flying into the crowd during the last song. I dived offstage and scrambled around on my hands and knees until I found it to the amusement of a few punters. As soon as I got back to Brisbane I had Tym Guitars fit a Bad Ass II bridge to it. The change in playability and sound was amazing. Straight away the bass felt more rock solid, with added sustain and grunt. The last piece of the bass puzzle had clicked into place.

Over the next 4 years I played countless shows with my new baby. Along with playing bass in The Tremors, I had joined Sixfthick as the new bass player as Dan had switched to guitar. My P-Bass travelled up and down Australia, slowly getting the shit beat out of her night after night. As most of our shows came with a bottomless drinks rider, I wasn’t uncommon for me to get a little too ‘excited’ at our shows and smack my bass flat against the wall at the end of our shows, which sounded huge and looked ridiculous. Or hit Fred’s cymbals with my headstock. The battle scars on the neck show the consequences of said actions.

But my bass never complained, never went out of tune and night after night sounded frikken’ awesome. After a few years the sunburst colour began disappearing due to my vigorous strumming technique, and my belt buckle added to the damage tally. But I didn’t care. The more beaten she got, the better she looked.

By now, the prices of 70’s Fender’s had gone stupid. My cheap bass wasn’t so cheap anymore. I hadn’t really noticed, and as my P-Bass was my only bass and I didn’t think twice about bringing her on the road. It kind of hit home after a gig in Geelong. After another huge show I was packing up my gear and a punter came up and congratulated me on the gig. Then he looked at my bass. ‘Dude, is that a real vintage Fender Bass?’.  I proudly said ‘Yep. It’s a ’72.’ To which he replied ‘That’s awesome, but what are you doing playing it in Geelong?!’

As I wanted to be able to play my P-Bass until my old age, and at this rate she would be a pile of splinters if I kept playing her as hard and often as I had been, I decided to retire my baby from live use and only use her for recording and on special occasions.

Recording ‘On The Rocks’ in Melbourne.

I tried replacing her with a Japanese P-Bass that I had fitted with a Jazz neck, but it wasn’t the same. The weight was different, the neck was different… After a year I sold her to a friend of mine who needed a good bass.

Jo from Butcher Birds with my old Jap P-Bass. Note the ‘Geddy Lee’ Jazz Bass neck.

Tim from Tym Guitars was nice enough to build me a Tym Bass which had a neck that was nearly a perfect replica of my P-Bass. So as not to cause offense to my #1, I got Tim to build my new bass as a Maton Fyrbyrd replica.

This worked great until I cracked the neck on the T-Byrd in Spain, so while it’s getting repaired my main bass is a fantastic Ibanez Black Eagle, which plays nearly as good as my P-Bass and has massive bottom end and clarity. Unfortunately she’s getting beaten up as well (Fender should hire me as a relic-er), so I think I’ll need to get my Tym T-Byrd back into action soon.

After 2 years, my P-Bass has recently been taken out of retirement for my new band ‘Obliteratti’ as I really missed playing her. I mean it, I actually LOVE playing this bass. After 7 years, I still get excited slipping this beauty over my shoulder, plugging her in and hearing her do her thing. In between songs, I look down and a smile forms on my face… I know I’m lucky to own such a beautiful instrument and I appreciate her more the longer I own her. Both her & I have had a lot of great times together, and she can dish out punishment as good as taking it. My favourite memory is one show at Ric’s in Brisbane a few years ago. It’s a very small stage, so there’s not much room to ‘rock out’. Geoff, the singer, decided to flail about quite close to my bass’s headstock. A little too close… his nostril was over my bass tuning peg, so when I quickly moved, I sliced his nostril open! I saw a red line down Geoff’s left nostril, and a trickle of blood streaming down. Geoff grinned at me and said ”….ow.” and kept on singing. Next day his nose had become infected as my bass tuning pegs were GREEN from 37 years of sweaty pub gigs.

Oh well, this new band is a lot calmer than Sixfthick so she should be safe from exploding into a cloud of tooth picks.

Here is my P-Bass in action with Sixfthick, terrorising the poor kids in Perth.