Rickenbacker 4003

Rickenbacker 4003

Year: 1992

Made In: USA

Specs: Maple body, maple neck-through, pau-ferro fretboard

Electronics: Rickenbacker single coil pickup x 2

Controls: Volume x2, Tone x 2, three-way switch

From the moment I started playing bass in the late 80’s, I always wanted to get a Rickenbacker. The iconic shape, the distinctive tone, they were really a bass to aspire to own. They were the kind of bass that you weren’t allowed touch in the few shops which stocked them, the price tag being not too dissimilar to that of a small car.

With the arrival of internet commerce in the 90’s, the prospect of owning one started to become a little more realistic and, after a lengthy period of saving, I took the plunge, buying a second-hand 4003 Fireglo model from a seller based in the USA.

It was everything I hoped it would be, devilishly nice to look at and with a ferocious, punchy tone. As time was to prove, the 4003 had a substantially more aggressive growl to it than any of the 4001 basses I’ve encountered over the years. It took some time before I arrived at a setup I was truly happy with, though. No matter how much I loosened the treble side truss rod, there was always a bit of back bow on that side of the neck, but I wasn’t a big problem.

I used it quite extensively for a few years, the best comment about it coming from a chap at a gig who told me “I couldn’t see or hear your band, but I could feel your bass“. Depending on the band I would switch between using a plectrum and finger playing. With the plec, it was fine, but the lack of a forearm contour really caused me problems when I used my fingers. The wretched treble pickup surround also made life harder than it ought to have been. For how I play fingerstyle, the pickup cover was utterly useless, it being in exactly the place the best tone and tension is found along the string.

I did love the sound out of it dearly but, after one more gig where I came away with a painful forearm bruise for a few days due to the sharp binding, I did what I thought at one point would be absolutely unthinkable and eased it on out the door.

I still really miss that tone, though.