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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Third Bass

Disclaimer: This post may have “selective appeal.” I realize that it may be like one of those posts where people put up pictures of their cats. If that sort of thing bores you, go back to psychotoddler 102 and find something good to read.

I bought a Fender Precision Bass yesterday. In the words of Darth Vader, “The circle is now complete.” My first bass was a Fender Squire Bullet, basically a really cheap P-bass knockoff. But I haven't played a Fender in 20 years. Yesterday, that changed.


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The story of how I came to be a bass player is very un-original. It's been lifted from many, if not all, of the great rock bass players of the ‘60s and ‘70s. But to summarize: I was the second best guitar player in a two-guitar-player band. We decided that it would be better to have one less second-best guitar player and one more bass player. So I went out and bought a cheap one at Manny’s. It was a candy-red job with a smooth neck that played like butteh. It weighed a ton. It got stolen out of my car when I was on a date at Kosher Delight. So I won’t count that as bass #1.


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Bass #1 is the white Quest Manhattan. I bought that a few days after the Bullet got stolen, because it happened that I had been scheduled for my first ever studio recording when the theft occurred. So I ran back to 48th Street and played through all the basses I could find in the $300 range, and fell in love with the Quest. I had never heard of that brand, but it felt good and sounded great. I’ve played this bass for 20 years now. I’ve traveled around the world with it. It’s been on 30 or more recordings. It’s been in music videos. I have no compelling reason to replace it. Except that when I play in front of real musicians, I get funny looks. “Quest? Never heard of it.” Or, “Quest? Didn’t they go out of business in the 90’s?”


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Second Bass is a Washburn AB-20 Acoustic Bass. This came to me through hashgacha protis, divine intervention. I was not in the market for a new bass. However, at the time, I was taking my kids for piano lessons at the now defunct Mars Music in Brown Deer. I’d spend an hour in the acoustic guitar room every week while they played. I fell in love with the acoustic basses. They were all priced out of my range. But I fantasized about having one, maybe playing a kumzitz somewhere with a few guys on acoustic guitars and me on this bass, no amplifier. A pipe dream, really.

One day, a chossid came up to me and said, “I hear you play bass. Are you interested in an acoustic bass?” I don’t know where he heard about that. But I went over to his apartment, and sure enough, he had a beautiful acoustic bass. He told me he didn’t want it anymore. Too many bad memories about what he was like before he frummed out. He was trying to sever the old associations. At the time, I told him that I wasn’t in the market for a new bass, and I couldn’t afford to pay him what it was worth, and that he should just keep it himself. “Use it to play for your children. Write some Jewish music for it.” He was insistent that I at least borrow it for a while. So I brought it home and played it. I used it for a bass line on my lullaby.

A few weeks later, he told me that he really needed money. The Bostoner Rebbe, who had made him frum, was ill and needed someone to help him at home. The chossid, who was working in a nursing home at the time, wanted money for a plane ticket to Boston. I took this as my "sign from above" that I should buy this thing, and I wrote him a check. I used it in concert here. The bass does have some problems with the pickup, specifically that occasionally it stops picking up notes that I play on the bottom two strings. I’ve been told that it would take a few hundred dollars to fix it.


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Third bass is the new Fender P-bass. Again, I have not been in the market for a new bass. But I have always secretly thought it would be nice to have a P-bass. You can’t really be a rock bass-player without a P-bass. Whatever other instrument you play, somewhere in the collection there has to be a P-bass. It’s a rule. I’ve been told this over and over. Sure, I’ve fantasized about other basses, like a fretless bass or a 5 string, but I’ve never seriously thought about buying one of those, and I would probably never use them in concert. It’s hard enough playing a fretted bass and singing on key. Imagine trying that with a fretless! But a P-bass? Sure, I figured, maybe when the kids are out of the house. Still, week after week, I’ve been hanging out at the music store where daughter #2 gets her piano lessons. Most of the basses there are crap, and so there has been little temptation. Each one I’ve played reminded me of how lucky I was to have found the Quest in ’85.

Then last week, I walked over to Steve and said, “What’s new?” And he said, “That P-bass.” I took it off the wall. I don’t know how it ended up in their possession. It was quite unlike any of the other beginner instruments in the store. It was a used P-bass with a 1973 neck bolted on to a 1978 body. A few holes from where the string guards were removed (always hated those things anyway). A nick or two here and there. I plugged it in and tried it out. I was instantly in love. Such a feel! Such a sound! For the first time in 20 years, I was playing something that actually felt better than the Quest! It was as if I had found a precious jewel in a mountain of rubbish. I knew it wouldn’t last long. Someone would snatch it up soon. My only consolation was the knowledge that most of people who bought instruments here wouldn’t know a good instrument from a bad one, and would assume that a new bass is better than a 32 year old one.

I decided to give myself a week. During this time I secretly hoped that someone else would buy the thing and spare me the decision. But yesterday when I brought my daughter in, it was still on the wall, and still played as sweet. I called my wife and tried to explain it to her. 18 years of marriage seems to have resulted in some sympathy for me. To her credit, she told me to go for it if I could talk down the price. In return for which I would probably be paying for a shaitel that can walk and talk on it’s own. Hey, life is about give and take, no?

So now it’s in the bass-ment. I fired up a few CD’s to try it out. First a little Rush. Then some Elvis Costello. But it was really amazing when I started Pink Floyd’s “Money” and I couldn’t tell if the bass riff was coming from my amp or the stereo speakers. You really can tell a P-bass when you hear one.

1 comment:

PsychoToddler said...

Skhoach. Use it in good health. Does one say shehechianu on a musical instrument? or hatov umeteiv? I get those same feelings when I get the music catalogues and see all those new synths. So..far...have..resisted..the..urge... but then again, old keyboards actually sound better than some of the new ones, so its not the same. Enjoy
dilbert | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:18 pm | #

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Same deal with guitars--the old ones are better. Thanks. I hope you can hear it soon.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:21 pm | #

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Congrats on your new P-Bass. You need to post a recording so we can hear it!

As my bubbe always says, "Use it in the best of health."
Stacey | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 2:34 pm | #

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Congrats, can't wait to hear you in concert with this new bass.
Greg T | 05.26.05 - 3:07 pm | #

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"titchadesh"!
Pearl | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 3:17 pm | #

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Congrats. Enjoy it.

I didn't know you were also a Rush fan. Really love their 80s stuff. What song of theirs did you play?

Very sorry to hear about the wig from planet Tarantula you will soon be sponsoring.

dilbert: I gotta go with "hatov vehametiv", but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who knows brachot less well than me.
Doctor Bean | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 3:34 pm | #

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Rush: Fly by night is probably my favorite (listen to my version of Shoshanas Yaakov). Also did Farewell to kings, Bastille day, Closer to the heart, Free Will, (it was quite a workout).

Elvis Costello: played through the first few songs off Punch the Clock. Bruce Thomas is one of the most amazing bass players out there.

Floyd: Played Money, The Wall, and that thing before the wall. Very percussive bass playing on that last bit. YOu can hear the pick on the p-bass very clearly. Very cool to play along with. I just don't have the mega-delay on my bass.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 4:34 pm | #

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A tidbit I heard...

Geddy Lee grew up not too far from the house I lived in before our current one. He attended the shul I went to (not when I attended, of course) and was bar-mitzvaed there.

Many years ago I heard it told that his name is not Geddy (his Hebrew name is, in fact, Gedalia), but rather, GARY. However, his mother had such a thick Yiddish accent, that when she called "G...a...r...y", it sounded like "G...e...d...d...y" -- and the name stuck.

Truth, or (Toronto) urban myth?
Pearl | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 4:50 pm | #

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I knew he was a Jewish Canuk. Is Alex Lifeson also Jewish?
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 5:05 pm | #

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methinks, but am not certain. is he the one who went on the cross-canada motorcycle ride after a wife and child passed away, or was that a different band member? wasn't alex lifeson recently arrested in vancouver for something unlawful?

btw, i loved your line in the post about the BASS-ment. very punny... (just my cuppa tea...se)
Pearl | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 5:09 pm | #

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I have to fess up that I stole the bass-ment line from David Margulis, awesome bass player for Even Shesiyah. He had my wife and me stay in his bass-ment when we spent shabbos with them.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 5:55 pm | #

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DOnt forget the picture of the bass-medresh on their first album
dilbert | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 6:08 pm | #

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Great to hear about your new purchase and enjoy it in good health. I'm in the market for a new keyboard and hope to get my hands on something soon.
I believe I've heard that bass played and it is great. I always prefer a fret over fretless sound. From what I understand you can't really slap well on a fretless.
shloimy | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 7:13 pm | #

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PT,

Let's get down to BASSics here...

You're a doctor, no? When, if ever, are you seeing your patients -- in between posting, or commenting? I can just imagine the scenario:

Patient: "So, Dr. PsychoToddler (that's your name just for the sake of this scenario), could you please tell me what might be accounting for my sleepiness and headaches?"

Dr.: "Um, Mrs. TorontoPearl, if you just wait a moment, I will consult my earlier notes about the pattern of this happening. Please just wait here; I'll be right with you."

(at this point, Dr. PsychoToddler runs out of his office and into the staff lunchroom, pushes away the person tapping away at the communal computer, yelling, "I have an emergency situation -- I need to Google something STAT." And as the person gets up and turns away, the doctor is already checking in with his blog to see how many comments it's accumulated and if there are any worth responding to. After about ten minutes of typing, he remembers TorontoPearl is in his office, waiting for a diagnosis. He rushes back into the room.)

Patient: (that's me) "Doctor, that took BASSically a quarter of an hour. Do you have something to tell me?"

Dr.: (scratching his chin, tipping his head in a quizzical fashion) "Hmmm, after a lengthy review of several months of notes, I've come to the conclusion that you are probably suffering from a lack of sleep. You are a blogger, no?"

Patient: "Yes, but I also work full-time between blogging. Are you telling me I shouldn't be blogging anymore, but sleeping?"

Dr.: "Yes, that is what I'm telling you. The BASS line is --"

Patient: "Don't you mean 'bottom line'?"

Dr.: "No, I mean BASS line. Anyhow, it's this -- don't RUSH into anything just yet. Just slowly ease away from your computer every evening; get into the habit of breaking your bad habit! See me again in three weeks and let me know how it goes."

Patient: "Thank you, Doctor. That's some good advice. Maybe others can learn from your PEARLS OF WISDOM someday."
Pearl | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 7:34 pm | #

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It's uncanny!
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 8:35 pm | #

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...and in the words of PINK ("...so you'd better get this party started...") and ELVIS, not Abbott & COSTELLO, "Thank you, thank you very much...I'll be here all week!"

(Hey, FLOYD, turn off the house lights, will ya. Or pay her some MONEY to get her off the stage. TorontoPearl had better get back to her own blog -- she's overstayed her welcome here in Milwaukee...)
Pearl | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 9:22 pm | #

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See, this is the kind of post that normally generates zero comments. I think I've figured out the secret: Put a disclaimer up telling people not to read the post, and then they all do.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.26.05 - 10:10 pm | #

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So, evidently my musical education is continuing. Would you believe that I didn't understand what you said about there being an accoustic bass in your lullaby? I thought you were referring to a "stand-up" bass, of the orchestral variety. I had no idea that there was such a thing as an accoustic bass of the guitar variety. Oy, vay, do I feel dumb! Well, I learn something new every day.

Enjoy your new bass.

And if you should ever happen to be performing in my neck of the woods, please let me know.
Shira Salamone | Homepage | 05.27.05 - 2:56 am | #