So I played a "Vintage Holy grail bass" thread
Last week we did a mini-tour in South-eastern Europe. One of the clubs we played was a wonderful blues/rock basement that we rocked very hard. The place holds Jam sessions regularly so they always have a couple of instruments lying around. The cool thing is that the guys owning the place are all musicians so the stuff hanging around were pretty sweet and vintage-y.
There was a cool Pearl drumkit from the early 80's, some Japanese Fender guitars, an original Hammond B3(!!!) that I hate myself for not jumping on the opportunity to play, but someone had to play bass, and '76 jazz bass that belonged to the owner of the club.
The guy was more than kind and let me play it for a couple of songs. But here is the deal. The bass was in a pretty good condition, setup really well (yet, not to my liking) but considering that those go for anywhere between 1.5-3.5k I was not really feeling the magic. It sounded very good, the built quality was very good (plus the fact that thing has survived almost 40 years is actually a big testament to that), it was obviously very nicely broken in, but I couldn't stop thinking that my less than 1k custom/parts Jazz bass had more of everything, well, except weight.
The coolest thing about this one, though I think was the story behind it. The owner used to work on freight boats and he actually picked this up while he was living in Cuba for peanuts, (something like less than 100 US dollars at the time) around the late 80's, where people started gravitating more towards high-tech, active, 5ers and those weird paddle stuff.
I know that this subject has been discussed to death, about how vintage fenders are ridiculously over-priced, but here is the thing. 70's Jazz basses, have always been my dream basses(I blame you Geddy Lee and Tim Commerford), they look awesome, they sound great (due to the pickup placement, at least in my opinion) and they have wonderful necks, but this being the 4th one that I played and the first one that I did in a band situation, I think that I have come to the conclusion, that I will never own an original vintage one.
If you have any stories, about being let down by vintage basses or basses that you held in high esteem, please feel free to share.
"The way it used to be isn't the way it was !"
My experience having once owned a '70s era Jazz many moons ago, and from time to time find and play a '70s era Jazz at various music stores is that there is a heck of a lot of difference and variation between each instrument, even within the same year. Modern instruments and repros are so much better made today, and because of CNC production, are virtually alike. What this means to me is one has to really try a number of vintage '70s Jazz basses to find their 'holy grail'.
I have a 77 jazz, very heavy with a rosewood board. I was the second owner and bought the bass in 1980. It was the only bass I owned and played until 2003. I have to agree- it's a good bass, but not a great bass. Putting Fralins in helped, but replacing the bridge after it got all rusted did not help at all. I keep thinking I should go BadAss II and put an Audere or J East pre into it, but instead I just keep playing my SSD or Warwick.
Possible Flames about to start here. :eek:
It's my opinion and my experience. Someone out there has a different opinion and experience. Of that I'm sure.
The term vintage is now applied to the '70s.
Fender's of that era were not the same sonically as those of the '50s & '60s. Fender went through changes in the CBS era.
So "holy grail"? Look a decade or two earlier.
I'm not saying every '70s bass is a POS at all! I am generalizing and saying the reputation belongs to an earlier era.
It really is a instrument to instrument thing. For instance, I've played a Fretless '75 P that was stellar - and the asking price was absolutely ridiculous. I later bought a '78 Fretless P, and it was... underwhelming. 70's Fenders are notoriously hit and miss, though some players will swear by them anyway.
I also have my dad's modded '76 Jazz. I am NOT a fan of that bass, and his was modded when he bought it to be even worse.
Moreover I have to agree with you on the 60's stuff. I have also played a '66 jazz that has been my reference point for judging jazz basses, until a couple of years when I found MY fender holy grail, a MIA Jazz that has been by far the best I have played until now. I was still not that much into the pickups, but I could have easily replaced them with what I like. I actually offered to buy that on the spot, but the guy got it like a week before that, so that was not happening.
He still has it, but I don't want it anymore. I am not sure if he plays it that much really.
I have a couple of 1970s basses, and have played dozens more.
I am glad I bought my new bass, since it's at least as good in every way, and better in some ways, yet doesn't have the wear and tear from previous owners.
I can now create my own vintage relic by years of use.
Remember, these basses were all new once, someone has to play 'em for years to make them 'vintage'.
I do miss the '71 single coil Tele Bass I had, but only due to the look.
The neck was huge and twisted slightly, so it was a bugger to play.
I am the owner of a 73 Jazz Bass. I bought it 2nd hand the same year. It's been my only instument during maybe 20 years. I am still in love with Jazz Basses but I must admit that I am now playing most of the time high end eastern clones (namely Bacchus basses and a G&L Tribute JB-2) for the following reasons :
- This bass has tons of stories behind it and I would not appreciate to have it stolen or damaged.
- Pups on my new instruments have more power and cut better through, unless in very quiet environments such as smooth jazz.
I have a late 1960s EB-2 with the two pickup setup. It's not exactly the usual holy grail of basses, but it sounds good and is easy to play. It's also modified with a Dimarzio One pickup, which means it's not even close to muddy sounding. I like it. But, it's just another instrument.
2 months ago, I tried an old 'P' (from 1962 I think) in a jam session. The guy is the original owner of the bass, bought it at 14 years old.
Play well, sound like a 'P', surprisingly not very heavy.
But no magic here for me as well. I was playing a good bass, but not a fantastic bass to my taste.
Your "vintage" may not be my "vintage". To me, vintage is 1950's or 1960's. IMO 1970's is old but not vintage.
A 1960 Precision, all original burst, looked almost new.
A 1962 Jazz, Oly White, kinda beat-up.
Two 1965 P's, stripped and refin'd natural before I bought them.
A 1968 P, original burst, kinda beat.
A 1978 P, all original Oly White. Looked new.
I sold all those because they just weren't as good as the 1964 P and 1965 P that I did keep, and along the way, those I sold were because somebody got to thinking they were worth way more than I thought they were worth, so... they're gone.
There was a recording studio that I spent about a year and-a-half in that had an original and well-cared-for 1962 Oly White P in the in-house stable of instruments, and while It was a really good bass, I never thought it was "great".
No, they are not all the same. I still have the 1978 Precision that I bought new as a youngster, and while I'll keep it for sentimental reasons, it's not a bass I play anymore, because the weight, the chunky neck, and the sound just does not add up to a bass of unqualified wonderfulness.
Vintage Fender basses are something that I believe I have some perspective on, and truthfully, even my 1964 P, which is the best Fender bass I ever got my hands on, it is surpassed by many modern basses, IMHO. The cool factor and history is undeniable, but they are not all a "holy grail". My .02.
I own a '69P with an early 70s J neck. It is the most "vintage" sounding instrument I have ever heard - by that I mean it has aged to a very mellow sounding bass. You can't get any sort of harsh tone out of it - it's not very bright even with newish strings. So if your goal was to get that sort of sound - then this would indeed be the Holy Grail. These days that's a sound I use occasionally, but not my primary tone goal.
I loved that bass back in the day run through an Acoustic 370. Still a nice sound. These days I just love other things more.
FWIW - that P is a very light bass. It surprises me that others are saying their old P's are heavy. Mine is made of bass wood - a very light wood indeed.
Same opinion here.
I've had mixed reviews of the 70s Jazz basses I've played, but they are all decent. Definitely inconsistent, but overall, good. And I too LOVE the placement of the pickups. I'm glad companies still do the same placement.
Me, I'm trying to find some vintage Musicman basses to play. Those are my holy grail! I own one of the older Stingray 5s that were made (came out in '87, mine is 88/89 parts), but still haven't laid hands on a Pre-EB Stingray, Sabre, or Cutlass. My buddy has an 86, which is slightly after EB, but an amazingly cool bass.
I got to borrow our recording engineer's 1973 Rickenbacker 4003 for a series of concerts a few years back. It took a while to get used to, but the thing sounded so smooth in the mix it was almost like a fretless. Very easy to play, really. The kicker was that this was his 'second' instrument. I got to record with his 70's p-bass on a session and that was wonderful, too.
I played a 1968 4001 as my main bass for 35 years ...
Then I got a 73 4001 and I liked it better than the 68.
Then I got a 1989 4003 and I liked it better.
Then I got a 1990 4003 and I liked it better.
Then I got a 2001 4003 and I liked it better.
Then I switched to 4004 basses.
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