Geddy Lee’s Big Beau­ti­ful Book Of Bass


Classic Rock - - Stuff - Tim Batcup

Rush man’s jour­ney down the vin­tage-bass rab­bit hole.

Lav­ish. Sump­tu­ous. Cof­fee-table­crack­ing. It would be an un­der­state­ment to say Geddy Lee’s en­trance into the world of high­end books is an en­thu­si­as­tic one. Ap­prox­i­mately the size and weight of a paving slab, this ex­haus­tive gem serves as a cul­tural his­tory, a mu­si­cal love let­ter and a peek into the par­tic­u­lar patholo­gies of se­ri­ous col­lec­tors with deep pock­ets. Based on a core of 250 basses from Lee’s per­sonal col­lec­tion, which, in­cred­i­bly, he only started ac­quir­ing in 2012, the Rush bas­sist’s fas­ci­na­tion/ob­ses­sion with the in­stru­ment in­fuses ev­ery shim­mer­ing page. And shim­mer­ing they are.

Crammed with gen­uine world-class pho­tog­ra­phy by Richard Sib­bald, ev­ery an­gle, shadow and close-up could be il­lus­trat­ing a Sotheby’s cat­a­logue. It’s the in­stru­ments them­selves though, and Lee’s idio­syn­cratic, yet witty and self­ef­fac­ing prose that re­ally drives the project. Struc­turally, Lee ded­i­cates chap­ters to the big hit­ters in the in­dus­try: Fender, Gib­son/Epi­phone, Rick­en­backer, Hofner and Am­peg, plus an­other col­lect­ing myr­iad smaller, more niche man­u­fac­tur­ers: Burns, Dan­elec­tro, Vox et al. It’s then all topped off with the ic­ing and bait for the Rush fan – a chrono­log­i­cal (Lee’s use of, that is, not in­stru­ment date) ex­am­i­na­tion of the basses used on stage and record­ing with the band, re­plete with sig­na­ture mod­els, an­no­tated set lists, and the ever-near pres­ence of Lee’s long-time bass tech and col­lec­tion cu­ra­tor John ‘Skully’ McIn­tosh.

There’s a lot to ab­sorb, and the job of try­ing to in­sert the predilec­tions of a self­con­fessed bass nerd into a wider cul­tural con­text – while re­tain­ing in­ter­est for the less-zeal­ous mu­sic fan – is a tricky one. Lee’s so­lu­tion is to in­ter­sperse the tech­s­peak with a suc­ces­sion of en­ter­tain­ing in­ter­views with ma­jor pro­po­nents of the in­stru­ment: John Paul Jones, Robert Tru­jillo, Les Clay­pool and Jeff Tweedy, among oth­ers. The best of these is a re­veal­ing and en­dear­ing chat with Bob Dais­ley and his love (shared by Lee) of Tony Ze­maitis’s hand-en­graved, met­al­topped works of art, of which a photo of Lee’s own graces the book’s cover.

It’s not en­tirely fault­less. No one’s go­ing to sit down and read it from cover to cover, and the sheer mag­ni­tude of it feels in­tim­i­dat­ing at times. How­ever, be­tween Lee’s in­fec­tious de­vo­tion and hand­some pro­duc­tion val­ues, it can claim own­er­ship of its ti­tle with lit­tle com­plaint.

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