Monday, March 05, 2007


OLP “benbass” MM2

Entered service 4th January 2003, Retired 28th February 2007

In the New Year of 2003 my brother and I got on the train up to central London, I had no beard, a fairly serious weight problem and a wallet filled with birthday money, borrowed money* and stuff I’d saved up. My intention was to visit Denmark Street - hallowed home of guitars, basses and all manner of general all-round coolth – and buy my first bass. This wasn’t my first trip, not by a long way, not even my first with the intention of actually buying something; I’d been playing my dad’s old bass for around 6 months but had decided that I wanted an instrument of my own, one that I could better play my favourite kind of music on.

I dread to think what I sounded like back then, not very good certainly, definitely pretty ignorant of the guitar arts – I essentially walked in, pointed at the black and white Musicman copy and said “I want that one,” with that odd combination of unpleasant arrogance and insecurity that marked my interactions with everyone back then**. Nowadays I’d try anything that looked interesting, examine each instrument like a judge at Crufts, haggle and quibble over prices and generally be one of those annoying nerds that you get in guitar shops, intimidating everyone else. But anyway, I got it home, and spent a long time playing it. Over the next few months it made me progress much faster, its considerably lower action and higher string tension improving my technique no end. My dad was distrusting of the single pickup arrangement, and its general lack of serious low-end thump, but I was happy.

Over the next two years strange modifications were made, pickups were added and changed, preamps installed and repairs attempted. It became a two pickup instrument, with a jazz pickup at the neck and a Bartolini active preamp. It sounded much better, even if the extra cavities made it look a bit worse. This is, however, where it becomes difficult for me to assess how many of its problems were a result of its cheap manufacture and how many were because of my attempts to improve it. I’m pretty sure, for example, that an attempt to sort out some proud frets in 2005 did more damage than it repaired, damage that I only managed to rectify a few months ago (and even then, not without consequences). I have no idea how good an instrument it was when it was new, because at the time I didn’t really know much about that kind of thing, it was easier to play than my dad’s bass, but that isn’t saying much. I think that it was flawed; the dodgy fret job was an attempt to fix a quite serious problem that was already there. I’ve been tweaking it and fiddling with it constantly since then and finally got it, I think, about as good an instrument as it could be about a month ago after an extensive amount of fretdressing, neckshimming and trussrodding.***

All this time it did me good service: it was played everyday for rarely less than an hour or two, often accompanied me to auditions gigs and rehearsals with no problems and generally acquitted itself admirably. It was there when first played with a band, there for the strange period when I played bass in a band that rehearsed in someone’s attic, I was playing with my band at my school leavers’ ceremony, and, finally, it has been there whilst I’ve been traipsing from fruitless rehearsal to fruitless rehearsal whilst at UKC.

On the 28th of March, I went into county music in Canterbury (not normally one of my favourite shops) and saw a newly set up second-hand Yamaha BB604 priced at £200. I played it, I liked it a lot; depressingly, considering I’d spent so much money on the benbass over the years, this thing surpassed it in just about every regard. I pondered and examined, chatted with the clerk and generally did all the things that I normally do. It passed all the tests, it was bought. It was good.

Thus ends the career of the benbass, it will now be retired, hopefully lent to someone who will play it as it’s really quite a good bass, certainly shitpiles better than most instruments people learn to play on. In the meantime, due to space restrictions it sits in its case in the corner of my room.


*Which I’m not sure if I’ve paid back…

**now I’m just unpleasantly arrogant.

*** I’ve been reading too much Joyce, sorry