Old Fender Basses - Sorry but I still don't get it...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassman blue, Nov 6, 2005.

  1. Just had a look on Ebay and I noticed a lot of older Fender basses for sale. Even the "not so sought after" years are now quite pricey. I have had older Fenders and now, one of the basses I play is a "Fender style" bass made by Devon. I've also played Sadowsky's and Lull's and for the life of me, I don't understand what all the fuss is over the older Fender basses. A new Lull, or Devon, or Sadowsky plays like butter, the electronics are state of the art, the craftsmanship is awesome, yet some people swear their old Fender bass just kills. Sorry, but I can't help think that the new basses made by current luthiers are better players, and in the end, a better buy. When I see an older Fender bass for sale, I make a point of picking it up and playing it. Maybe I just haven't found that "one in a thousand" Fender bass that everyone says their old Fender bass is. Ya, having something vintage is cool, and I know there's tons of members on here that love their older Fenders and swear by them. Call me dense, but I just don't get it. :rollno:
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    In most cases i believe the consensus is that vintage fenders dont always play amazingly (due to worn frets and aged possibly warped necks) but they sound amazing.
  3. truckin88


    Oct 18, 2001
    Newburgh, NY
    Sadowsky vrs fender, it is the same style but not the same thing. It is like comparing a WRX STI(Or any new sports car) to a Chevelle SS, different cars that are ment to do different things, but both are still badass
  4. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I think most people believe that basses, like guitars, improve with age and the more obvious problems people used to have with those undesirables might now have been minimized or eliminated. Plus, those older Fenders might have more mojo than any off the shelf Fender you can get today.
  5. This cuts both ways.
  6. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2003
    New York City, NY
    There are certain things you have to keep in mind with "old" Fenders. Not every one had the "magic". These are and were assembly line instruments, not tweaked out one by one like a modern small scale luthier would do. Though not quite a small shop, you expect that one on one treatment from somebody like Sadowsky - this is why you're charged the premium rate.

    Though I'm not amazed at the prices of '70's era instruments (strictly age factor) I find it more than a bit amusing. Back in the day when they were new, the general consensus at the time was they were usually crap. Not all, but you wanted to sift through for the keeper. And I mean sift - people in the know played 3, 4, 5 until they found the best of the bunch. Guitars or basses. Oh well.

    Like any mass produced instruments, you got your dogs, your descents and some excellents. My practical example - this year I was lucky enough to find myself in the market for a vintage (60's) Jazz. My friend's a dealer and had a good number of very nice specimens on hand. I played a '62 refin, '64, '65, '68 and a '69. All were original, except for the '62 (refin only). I went around with them for over an hour, critically listening in a private room through a high end rig. Though they were all wonderful, it was the '62 that was head and shoulders above the rest - no contest, though some of the others were more $$$. Point is - unless you can do that, you don't know for sure what you're getting has "the magic". I believe I found it in this J and I bought it - I wouldn't have otherwise. I was very lucky to find this bass - it's like nothing else I have and I totally appreciate it's qualities. To me it was absolutely worth every nickel. Were the others? I'm sure they were but not to me.

    For one moment I'd like to address "mojo". I've been around a long time and my question is - how do you discern "mojo(wear)" from abuse/lack of care?" A bass with player wear is quite different from a bass that's had the crap beat out of it through disregard for its condition. Basses that look like sh*t only tell me the person/people that owned them didn't give a damn about how they looked - and this does not equal "great sounding instrument that was played a lot for that very reason". C'mon! I have 25+ year old basses that are wonderful players that look beautiful - they were treasured, as a fine instrument should be. My advice - don't fall for that mojo - it could be very misleading.

    Now - modern instruments. IMO = incredible. Great luthiers and advances in technology have made even the cheapest basses light years ahead of entry level 30 years ago. So, there's no automatic magig bullet in ana old instrument. Some of them really sucked and now they still do but they're a lot on money. What you get with the new stuff is consistency. A Sadowsky/Smith/Lull/Fodera/Lakland etc are extremely well done one after the other, over and over.

    There's my $0.02 worth of "vintage rant". The vintage market is out of control. How do I know? I was a millionaire until my mother threw my baseball cards and comics away....... :D
  7. Secondhandloser


    Mar 28, 2005
    I think most of it has to do with the "cool" factor that comes with playing an instrument that is older than you are and pretty hard to find.
    I don't understand why people pay what they do for old Fender's either. I have had a few chances to play pre-CBS Fender's, and was not impressed at all. My money would be better spent on some decent modern bass and a new car.
    I mean, yeah, there is a special sound that comes from a bass with a nearly 40 year old body, 40 year old pickups, 40 year old paint, they just seem smoother to me. But not $5000 smoother. I'll take a Sadowsky, dip it in acid, take it to the beach, let the salt air eat it, dry it out in Denver- and I will have one HXC bass.
  8. jwymore


    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    Being rather vintage myself I have been around Fenders since the mid-sixties and owned a couple back then. I still kick myself for selling them!! :crying: I also now own a 66 Jazz which is a beater but also a great player.

    It just seems like everytime I play an old Fender is has a totally different feel compared to any of the newer basses. This is especially true of the one piece maple necks with the 7.5" radius. They just seem to play themselves for some reason. A lot of the new designs just seem to feel cheap and less substantial when you play them. YMMV
  9. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    Comparing a Sadowsky with a vintage Fender (or any good Fender in my opinion) is like comparing tuna fish with chocolate cake. You'd be dumb to do it.

    I know Sadowsky has his fans, but I could never bring myself to spend the green for one of his basses. Why? I don't like the tone. I love a good passive Fender jazz tone.

    Why are "modern electronics" so desireable compared to old school passive electronics? It's all subjective. I've heard very few active basses that I liked. They all sound way too high-fi and overproduced (except the Stingray, mmmm). Like cheesy elevator music. But if that's your bag, hey whatever man. But I'll stick to good old rockin' Fender sound.
  10. IotaNet

    IotaNet Supporting Member

    BIG +1 to this!

    I won't get into the debate about vintage vs. new but I have always felt that a well-kept instrument signifies "pride of ownership" and such an instrument was probably well taken care of.

    Yeah, yeah, I know that Jaco beat his basses to death but that's a whole 'nother story.
  11. Do you not understand why people like old Jags and 'Stangs either?

    No matter what you may believe, it all boils down to preference.
  12. Funky Doctor

    Funky Doctor

    Aug 28, 2003
    I guess if you don't get it now you will never get it. I like the vibe a classy old and really well played fender gives. It's not really my thing, but it's pretty cool.
  13. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    I think the reason that you see really beat up vintage instruments is that people don't store them correctly. Not that they actually beat them to hell. Most of these are probably actual "closet classics" or "basement classics" that have sat around with no case for decades while various generations of kids have slammed on them, knocked them over, and otherwise abused them.

    Every now and then you see a really old one that's in great condition, you can tell that it was obviously treasured by a player. There was that 1951 P-Bass on Ebay a few months ago that was flawless except for the bridge.
  14. IotaNet

    IotaNet Supporting Member

    I have no problem believing this -- but is a bass that endured that kind of treatment worth MORE money? That's not mojo -- that's neglect/abuse.
  15. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    When I see an old bass in pristine condition, it makes me wonder what's wrong with it, since there must be a reason it wasn't played very much.
  16. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Since I was the first person to use the word 'mojo' on this thread let me just say that imo, an instrument's mojo has nothing to do with its condition. An instrument can be in great condition and have tons of mojo, while a beater's just a beater.
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    As a guy who can't seem to keep his basses looking good, I'm beginning to take offense to the direction this thread is taking. I try and try to take care of my basses. I wipe them down after every gig, I make sure all the parts are in working order, I buy quality bags and cases to carry them around in.

    Then I'll make too quick a turn and bang the headstock into a cymbal. Or I'll walk away from it at a gig or session only to find it on the ground with a big new dent in it. Or I'll have it on a plane and some idiot will put a giant carry-on suitcase full of weights on top of it before I have a chance to stop them. One time, I had to fly on a cold day, and my bass came out of the overhead bin with check marks because it got too hot in the plane.

    So let's not be too darn hasty when we assume someone doesn't take care of their bass because it's dinged up.
  18. My experiences have been similar to yours, Jimmy. I regard my basses as tools and I make sure they're in excellent playing condition but they get honest wear. Sometimes you bang into the ride cymbal on a crowded stage or a drunk goes on stage and knocks it out of it's stand while you're in the john. Years of use means finishes get weathered and worn. If the instrument is used often in gigging conditions, it won't look minthy fresh and there's no way to avoid it.
  19. Akami

    Akami Four on the floor

    I'll tell you what blows my mind is Fender beating and grinding the crap out of a brand new instrument, calling it a relic and selling for a premium!

    We can all have our differences of opinion about new versus old, Fender versus Alembic, and all those opinions are valid because we all gotta play what we chose when it's time to hit the stage, but to my way of thinking, anyone who would buy one of the crappy looking Fender relics needs some new priorities.

    At least an older instrument is filled with stories of the type that JimmyM and Lonote just told.

    I broke the headstock off mine one night when I had to throw it across the room so I could try fight the jerk that pulled me off the stage.
    I know I'm the one who threw it but there was a crisis at hand! :scowl:

    I would never pay what some of the old instruments are going for, but I love looking at them sometimes and wondering what stories each dent and blemish has to tell... :crying: :smug:
  20. BlacktotheBlind

    BlacktotheBlind Supporting Member

    May 5, 2004
    I'm GAS'n for a P-bass, but in my opinion most Fender's are overrated and overpriced. And I also really dont get the big deal with banged up instruments, drooling over them is like getting excited about an old beater car covered with rust and dents. Wear and tear is practically inevitable, but it's still nothing to get excited about. Buying one of these new Fender "relics" is like buying a new pair of jeans with the holes already in the knees.