First Bass No.2 – Beg, Steal, or Borrow, but NEVER sell your basses!!!

Kev in unforgivable multiple hair and clothing fashion faux pas, playing his John Birch in Govik, Norway

A cautionary tale in my continuing series about my bass guitars.

Around the beginning of 1979, growing ever confident in my role as a bassist and inspired by the beautiful “blueburst” guitar our guitarist Fos Foster had commissioned from now legendary guitar builder John Birch (remember Dave Hill’s superyob guitar in Slade?) – I ordered one myself. This time, a Caramel sunburst Rickenbacker lookalike, with customised Birch biflux and superflux pickups, and a daunting array of controls bristling across the front. It had the most beautiful slim maple neck and was a dream to play. It served me well through two years with the band Apollo, touring Scandinavia, whom I joined in April 1979, finally turning fully professional. ( You can see me in unforgiveable satin in the photo, playing it at the Torvetten nightclub in Gjovik, Norway in 1980.) It stayed with me into the beginnings of Tubeless Hearts, but alas, like so many stupid kids before me, I messed with the bass, putting different pick ups in it, and eventually, disillusioned with the sound I sold it to a music shop. It was to be one of many basses I regretted parting with, as in the early days, i could only afford to by a new one by getting rid of another. Show me a guy who has a collection of guitars or basses, and he’s either sting, or semi-pro! I’ve always promised myself that if I ever saw this bass again, I’d buy it. It was a beauty!

Next time: Amidst the junk, a gem…

Kev Moore

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15 Responses to “First Bass No.2 – Beg, Steal, or Borrow, but NEVER sell your basses!!!”

  1. supersizeme Says:

    Golly!!! Is that you in the pic Kev?
    You look like Freddie Mercury there! Seriously!

    Nice bass, painful story!

    About those front controls, silver knob things, its not customary on all basses right? Do guitars ever have them?

  2. The knobs…that bass had six, plus a toggle switch. Yes, all basses and guitars have them, but generally 7 is overkill! They all serve the pickups, (the little bars beneath the strings on the body) either to switch between them, change the mix between them, or alter the volume or tone. I don’t know about other guys but I tend to keep everything set the same except the master volume, and do everything else on the amp! I’m currently having a Danelectro longhorn semi-acoustic bass customised and restored, and guess what? It will have one pick up and a “top-hat” combined volume and tone control (so it will appear to only have one knob, yeah!) I think I should christen it “The Minimaliser”. By the way, when its finished, it will be my final entry in this series, but we’ve a way to go yet!

  3. supersizeme Says:

    Oh cool!!

    I’m able to see a major difference, guitars whether electric or (basic?)acoustic have a large vent/hole just above the centre and the strings are majorly from that hole alongside the handle, whereas with bass it runs along the entire instrument, from the handle down the legnth of body of the instrument as it is in your pic, am I right?

  4. supersizeme Says:

    Thats the general pointer I’ve been working off, as you’ve explained that before right?

    Look forward to the oncoming instalments! I’ll be a whiz in no time!

  5. Mmm…okay. Virtually all (except for headless, which we’ll leave out of the argument cos it just confuses things) guitars and basses have strings which are wound around the machine heads on the headstock (RHS of my pic) they then pass through a grooved nut at the top end of the neck, and are held at tension above the fretboard along the length of the neck before passing over the bridge saddles and anchoring in the tailpiece. The gap between the strings and the fretboard is called the action. A solely electric guitar or bass doesnt need a hole, or indeed to have a hollow body, as the pick ups and amplifier will provide the volume. That’ll do for now, I need a lie-down!

  6. supersizeme Says:

    You’re an extremely kind person!!
    That was one hell of a lesson there!! I’ll be damned if I havent learnt anything from that!
    šŸ˜€

  7. There’s a smart pupil! Always praise the teacher! More basses coming up in the next couple of weeks, and no doubt some dodgy hairstyles as well!

  8. Oliver Matthews Says:

    I have a John Birch Bass 1975 Ric copy jus like that! But it has a black scratchplate…

  9. Wow, thanks for commenting Oliver…was the scratchplate original or a later addition?

  10. I have one of John Birch’s Ric style SCDR basses – see the gear pages on our website. Not a thing to ever part with – and FAR more knobs than is really sensible!!!

    Cheers,
    Ian

  11. Hi Kev,

    I was just trawling images and saw your pic. I think I may have your old JB. I bought it in 80/81 and it didn’t have the original bridge pickup. It’s been a great guitar for me over the years but is now a little tired so I am arranging for it to be restored to it’s orignal glory with an original JB pickup to replace the bridge p/u (probably a Simplux rather than the Magnum though)

    Which shop did you sell it to and what p/u did you put on it as this will confirm that it is indeed the same guitar. If it is , I will look out some pics and send them to you.

    • Wow! – The dates sound right. I think I sold it in ’81 – to Carlsboro sound centre in Mansfield. I had foolishly removed the original bridge pick up and added (I think ) a split P-bass pick up in cream. A guy made an aluminium plate to seat it into. If it is my old one and you have pics, that would be great!

  12. I didn’t get the guitar from Mansfield but a shop in Hadleigh, Essex. However it had the cream P-Bass P/ups with an aluminium plate so it certainly sounds like the same guitar. I replaced the aluminium with a small scratch plate (made from an old P-Bass Plate) and the knobs with some gold couloured ones.
    The bass itself is currently with John Birch Guitars and, as part of the restoration, they are going to fill in the holes made by the P-Bass p/up and put a maple veneer on it to get it as close as possible to the original look.
    Not sure how I can get pics to you though as I cannot paste here.

    • Hi. Phil here… Marc’s brother, guitarist in same band as Marc and general guitar anorak.

      First off – you’re not alone in modifying your guitar, I made the same mistake with a beautiful Westbury Standard when I was younger. I had to buy another one off eBay last year to replace it.

      I was with Marc when he bought the JB in ’81. Like you say, it’s a great guitar. And now back to new! As it happens, I run a web design company, so am able to upload the images and I can show you the restore… šŸ™‚

      and, just for comparision…

      (you may need to copy/paste those links to see them).

  13. Andy Wilkinson Says:

    Hi Kevin!

    I too ordered a John Birch Rickenbacker style bass around 74/75 time and still have it. It’s cherry-red natural sunburst in absolute pristine condition, with the original hardwood case and even the original John Birch stereo split guitar lead. Hardly gigged and was used mainly in the 70’s when I played in a amatuer prog-rock type band. The bass has been pretty much dormant since 1980 and protected by that wonderful heavy duty case. Am thinking of posting it on ebay to find an equally appreciative new home. I can send pics if you like – fantastic guitar! Oh, it is a left-handed model.

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