Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book Of Bass
Geddy Lee HARPER DESIGN
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.