What we have here is a Rickenbacker 4005. If that was not rare enough already, it is a lefty. Even rarer than that, it is also a Bass VI. Apparently the 4005 was introduced in 1965 and remained in production until 1984. This also applies to the 4005/6 model seen here, although perhaps the 4005 was never a production model as much as a custom model, so lord knows if any were made after the late 60s. It is a guitar very much of its time, appearing in the tiny gap of time between the rise of the humbucker and the fall of clean tones as well as the only time when bass VIs were 'relevant'. Unlike the Fender Bass VI which was a stand-alone design, or the short scale basses turned VIs made by Gibson, this appears to be the full 33 1/2 inch 4000 series bass scale, meaning chords are a distant memory here. The price here is steep, but seemingly justified. I can't say another of these will EVER see the light of day, especially not in Left handed spec.Thanks Andrew, I've been meaning to feature a Rickenbacker 4005 bass for a long time and you managed to find a lefty Bass VI version. Very cool. I've also been meaning for a very long time to mention a really fantastic book, The Rickenbacker Electric Bass - 50 Years As Rock's Bottom by Paul D. Boyer and published by Hal Leonard. Although you might think that as the book covers a very specific niche subject that it would only appeal to the real fanatics, it is so well written and beautifully illustrated with colour photographs throughout that I think it would keep ANY guitar enthusiast enraptured for hours, and not just the bass players and/or Rickenbacker enthusiasts.
Other weird 4005 basses to look out for are the 8 string version, the lightshow edition, and the 8 string lightshow edition.
Before I go I'd like to talk about the unfortunate tale of this bass for a second. Given the extortionate cost of the 360 model guitar in the late 60s, we can only imagine the cost of the 4005. This obviously hurt sales, and the lack of any real big names behind the model didn't help. The model is also unique in being an early example of an actual semi-hollow body bass, rather than the mis-named EB2 and violin body hollowbodies. But as 1970 approached, the disastrous pickup placement (on some bass models, the bridge pickup touches the bridge) and hollow body were seen as outdated and the thin sounding pickups were too weak for the in-crowd. By the early 80s they were so utterly worthless that the bassist for one of Steve Albini's groups, and the bassist for the Replacements, Tommy Stinson, were easily able to afford them. The closest shot at fame the bass had was with Mani from the Stone Roses (who later ditched it in favour of the underrated 3000 series bass), and only rare appearances since.
This sad history means what is a very unique design of bass basically languished in obscurity before becoming so valuable no-one can buy them. Ricks are called semi-hollow for want of a better description, but the body top is thicker and a solid piece of wood, routed out from the rear with the neck set under the pick-ups creating a union of centre block and neck rather than the slim tenon joint used on the laminate Gibsons. This basically means the body isn't going to thump like a violin bass or EB2 bass, and is likely to be far more piano like. The only basses with similar construction not custom made are the small-bodied G&L ASAT and the Gibson Midtown bass, both of which have their own tone as well. I honestly think Rick need to reissue this thing, it may have failed first time round, but times have changed, and this bass is primed to be a hit. The world has changed! We're mature enough to realise our stupidity now! We'll burn all the P-Basses if you just put this back in production!
The 4005 served as a baseboard for some interesting variations. The first of these was the six-string 4005/6. Similar in purpose to Fender's "Fender VI," the instrument was strung EADGBE, but an octave lower than a standard guitar. Both rounded-top and WB [i.e. non-rounded top "with binding"] versions of the 4005/6 exist, and at least one leftiy4005/6 was made. While the six-string bass was offered on price lists from 1967 to '78, very few were made.
The book also shows a photo of a 4005/6 (very possibly the very same example that we have been looking at here) being examined by David Jones of True Tone Music.
The lefty Rickenbacker 4005/6 shown above is currently being offered for sale by Chicago Music Exchange via Reverb.com and has a Buy It Now price of $18,950.
G L Wilson
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