Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass - BOOK REVIEW

"It's not surprising that sooner or later I'd dive down the proverbial rabbit hole into the world of vintage bass guitars."
—Geddy Lee

A review of Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass.

In this beautiful coffee table book, supergroup Rush's front man and bass player Geddy Lee shows us his expansive, important and unique personal collection of vintage, electric bass guitars dating from the 1950s to the 1980s.

It's more than 400 pages long and still, I wanted it to be longer. Reading through it (and yes, I read the entire book, cover-to-cover) I am awash with my own memories of guitars gone by. Some of the guitars that Lee collected were familiar to me. As a person in my 60s, I remember some of these guitars from the good old days.

Still others, like the Rickenbacker 4001S were new to me. Either way, it's fascinating. And what makes it fascinating is Geddy's clear reverence for the instrument that he has so handily mastered. When someone puts this kind of work into a book, it can only be driven by one thing—passion.

It's good that Lee has the financial resources to do something with his passion because had he not acquired, collected, documented, and shared the information about some of these beautiful bass guitars, we may never have had the good fortune of knowing about them.

Lee worked with arts journalist Daniel Richler and master photographer Richard Sibbald to create what I think is the finest coffee table/reference book of its kind.

And that's the thing about this book. It appeals on so many levels.

As a guitar player, I am of course intrigued by these guitars and the stories behind them, told by one of the best bass players of all time. On another level, I think that anyone, guitar lover or not, would find the history of these musical instruments valuable. The book is very well researched, and the interviews with some of music's biggest names add both backstory and context.

Next reason to love this book? The photography. It's hard to describe just how difficult it is to photograph guitars, but imagine trying to take a picture of a mirror without reflecting your camera or your hat or your foot in the photograph. Because when you photograph guitars, that’s exactly what it's like. They are often highly reflective. Seeing how Richard Sibbald handled that problem opened my eyes to new photographic techniques.

I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Richard about his photography, how he was selected by Geddy to do the photos for the book, the techniques he used to capture these beautiful images, and what it was like to work with a literal rock star on a project that spanned nearly two years. Richard was very generous in the telling of that information, and if you want to hear for yourself what he had to say, be sure to listen to the podcast that accompanies this post. I recorded some of our conversation with Richard's permission, and I’m sure that you’ll find the interview informational and educational, regardless of the reason for your interest in this book or the subject.

(Listen to the interview on the Big Scotty Music Podcast #4.)

Whether or not you’re a Rush fan, a Geddy Lee fan, a bass guitar player, or collector, this work of art should be considered the Holy Grail. It's packed full of information and insights you cannot and will not find anywhere else. Geddy peels back the onion for us revealing the good, bad, and ugly about each of these guitars. He lets us know what he likes and dislikes about them, why he picked them for his collection, what they mean in terms of history to him, and to the music world at large.

And with insight from Geddy’s trusted bass tech and curator John "Skully" McIntosh, Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass profiles more than 250 classic basses from Geddy’s extensive collection. They represent every tone in the bass palette, every nuance of the rock and roll genre, as well as blues, jazz, pop, and country. This one-of-a-kind collection features so-called "beauty queens"—pristine instruments never lifted from their cases—as well as "road warriors"—well-worn, sweat-soaked basses that proudly show their age and use.

Personal commentary from Geddy showcases his knowledge both as a musician and an aficionado. This luxuriously produced volume is a revelatory look at the heavy hitters in the world of bass—Fender, Gibson/Epiphone, Rickenbacker, Höfner, Ampeg. It also includes lesser-known but influential global luthiers Antonio Wandr Pioli, Dan Armstrong, and Tony Zemaitis.

The book also features interviews with John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Adam Clayton (U2), Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones), Les Claypool (Primus), Bob Daisley (Rainbow), Ken Collins (Fender expert and owner of the legendary Gibson Explorer Bass), Alan Rogan (veteran guitar tech for The Who), plus comments from many other great players across three decades of rock and roll.

Written in Geddy's singular voice, this book reveals the stories, songs, and history behind the instruments of his inimitable collection. It includes an index and a graphically designed timeline of the history of the bass, as well as an up-close look at Geddy's basses on Rush's final R40 Tour, and his stage and recording gear from 1968 to 2017.

Author and respected vintage expert, Terry Foster and Rush band member Alex Lifeson wrote forewords. Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass is the ultimate compendium for the consummate collector, musician, Rush fan, and anyone who loves the bass guitar.

This book is both a gorgeous read and gorgeous to look at. My only suggestion about this book is that it didn't come with a pair of white gloves. It should be treated as a valuable work of art. It was a labor of love. And what's most important is that this book gives us a backstage ticket to the life of Geddy Lee, the bass guitar player and collector. We’re allowed to join the party, if only for the brief instant we spend looking at Richard's photography, listening to Geddy's stories, and most of all, the sound in our head as we envision the one and only Geddy Lee lovingly, passionately, and expertly playing the bass on a Rush song.

I was awash in nostalgia and gratitude upon reading this book. It brought back lots of memories of my youth as a bass player in a small garage band and the $40 Hofner bass that I learned on. My gratitude to the creators of this book—people who are clearly masters of their art—who took the time to pour their hearts and souls into this incredible masterpiece.

Highly recommended.

Available on Amazon

Hardcover: 408 pages

Publisher: Harper Design (December 18, 2018)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0062747835

ISBN-13: 978-0062747839

Product Dimensions: 11.7 x 1.6 x 11.7 inches

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