I have come to accept that Lemmy is dead and he won’t be coming back. I’m not happy about it, but I’ve accepted it…
…so somebody has to play a Rickenbacker bass.
I picked up a Ric 360 just after Thanksgiving last year, as long-time readers should remember. (Long-time readers should probably also get out more…but I do love you.) At that time I had no intention of buying a Ric bass to go with it. I wasn’t entertaining the idea at all, even in the weeks right after Lemmy died–although I did think it would be cool. So how did this happen?
I started listening to a lot of progressive rock. No, really. That was the motivation. I started listening to Yes in spades, and Chris Squire always played Rickenbackers. And so did Geddy Lee (of Rush) for a long time. Les Claypool has been known to wield a Ric. John Deacon, sometimes. Once in a while you’d see Entwistle with one. Of course, McCartney before he landed on the viola-shaped bass. Tommy Stinson of the Replacements…Cliff Burton of Metallica…Roger Waters when he wasn’t playing a Fender…and of course Lemmy… There are all these bass players I’ve looked up to forever that played Rics. (Most of them played the 4001 model, while mine is a 4003–but who cares? I just said “mine!”)
…but it starts with Chris Squire. The first time I saw a Ric was in Squire’s hands–my bass teacher had a Ric-brand promotional picture of Chris Squire on the wall of our lesson room. The first time I heard a bass tone and thought, “how did he get that punch and that sustain at the same time???” it was Chris Squire on “Heart of the Sunrise.” And the first time I priced one and thought, “Yeah…right…” it was because I was on a Yes kick. And then I got older, cared more about who played what, and discovered all the above names…perhaps or maybe DEFINITELY most associated with the instrument being Lemmy Kilmister. Chris Squire died in 2015 (and I didn’t get that sad about it until recently–more on that in a moment). So did Lemmy. This is at least in part in tribute to two of my heroes. Disparate as they may be.
The real story here though is why I recently started listening to Yes in the first place. I have a friend who does some writing for local publications. (I’m not going to use his name, because I didn’t ask his permission.) He gets to interview cool rock stars who come through and sometimes he asks his Facebook friends (like myself) for questions. He had an interview with Jon Anderson of Yes scheduled, and I had a question and also a comment… I wasn’t going to share this publically because it was nice that it was just my own little story for a while…but maybe it’s nicer when it’s shared.
I asked something to the effect of “In 1993 I saw Yes and you said you always loved playing “All Good People.” Is that still true?” But then I also said that I just wanted to thank him for something. In 1994, Yes’ “Talk” album was a regular listen for me. On the night my mom died, I was listening to “I Am Waiting” off of that record over and over again, and it is quite probably the last song she ever heard while she was alive. And that’s a sad memory, but it’s also kind of a sweet one, and I wanted to relay my thanks to Jon Anderson for that because it’s nice that there was still something beautiful in the room when something else that was terrible happened. My friend relayed that story and reported back to me that Anderson appreciated it and said he’d think about it when he played the song on an upcoming tour. I don’t know if it really stuck with him or not, but that was really cool to hear.
After that, I immediately started listening to Yes in earnest for the first time in several years. Of course the first two songs I listened to were “All Good People” and “I Am Waiting.” But it snowballed… As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I picked up a boxed set of their first 12 studio albums and I’ve been digging the hell out of it. The whole time thinking, “No…but really…how DID he get that punch but also that sustain???” And through it I realized I never really mourned Chris Squire, who was a huge influence to me in my formative years as a bass player. For the past few years I’ve been on serious punk, metal, and country kicks, respectively…and it just took some time for me to get back around to prog, man… And now that I am, yeah, it sucks that Chris Squire died, and I overlooked that at the time.
Today, after driving to work with “Tales from Topographic Oceans” playing on my stereo, I looked at my bank account, and as luck had it, I had some extra money. (I won’t go in to where it came from. It’s nothing sordid–it’d just come across as bragging and this whole post is close enough to that as it is.) I’d previously glanced at the prices on used, vintage Rics and figured why not go to my local Guitar Center and see if they had one? They did have one…but the problem was it was new, not used. I asked to play it anyway, and spent about a half-hour checking it out. Even though it was a **little** more money than I had in mind (but not much more) I knew I was in love before I even made it to the counter. I was already texting my dad and brother about it, while I was waiting in line.
Buying this bass feels great from an “I’ve finally got one!” standpoint, sure…and I’m not going to pretend that it was all reasons of seeking closure that made me buy it. I largely bought it because–dammit–I COULD. But there’s a little bit of closure there too. There’s a little bit of “For Lemmy.” There’s a little bit of “For Chris.” And yeah–I’m going to go there–there’s a LITTLE bit of “For Mom,” what with the Yes connection… But there’s also a LOT of “for me.” Because this thing is awesome, and worth every penny. (Incidentally, it was a few less pennies than the guitar. And this time I remembered to pressure them in to throwing in a free strap and set of strings to go with it.) And, hey…always nice to have new friends, isn’t that right, Rickenbacker 360?
It was a long, weird process to get to the point of buying it, and I’m not sure if sharing it even really went anywhere, or if it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened…but don’t we look happy together?