The original shape was the career-defining brainchild of Roger Rossmeisl, a luthier who had worked previously for Fender and Gibson before designing the Ricky 4000 bass that was released in 1957. The 4001 was introduced 4 years later in ’61 and featured twin truss rods, triangle inlays, two volume and two tone dials and a selector switch, features that are still being used on Rickenbacker's 4000 series to this day. Described as ‘the deluxe two pickup version of the Rickenbacker 4000’, the 4001 had an additional neck pickup added for greater tonal flexibility and response.
Geddy Lee (bass legend off of Rush) described the 4001 as having more ‘twang’ than some of its competitors. These additional frequencies in the mid-range were often a nuisance for music producers and mix engineers who’d look to control and separate the bass from the guitar, with the higher frequencies reserved for the guitar player. Geddy disagreed with this principle and argued that these higher tones were in fact ‘personality’. So, aside from the 4001’s space age looks, it is also their tonal characteristics that separate them into a league of their own.
Paul McCartney with his 'psychedelic' 4001S Bass
As a result of the Rickenbacker 4001’s distinctive sound and unarguably good looks, it has been the choice of global superstars for decades. Paul McCartney first recalls using his 4001S-LH (special left-handed) on “Think For Yourself” in November ’65. The bass was a backup for his Hofner until the spring of ’66 when the Ric became his bass of choice. “Revolver”, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were all recorded using his psychedelic hand-painted Ricky.
Ian Fraser Kilmister (or ‘Lemmy’ to most) had been using Rickenbackers since his ‘Hawkwind’ days. Often modified with decals and graffiti, Lemmy’s favour of the 4001 saw his own signature model being released in the year 2000 on a limited edition run. With hand-carved oak leaves, star neck inlays and gold hardware, only 60 of these guitars were said to have been produced. His love affair with these bass guitars continued until his passing in 2015. A legend, forever remembered for his music and his ability to tear the house down with a Rickenbacker 4001.
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead
If you thought that was enough legend for one guitar, you better chickitty check yourself… Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees favoured a 4001, John Entwistle of The Who played one, Chris Squire of Yes bought himself a 4001 in 1965 with his staff discount at Boosey & Hawkes in Regent Street, Bruce Foxton of The Who, Peter Quaife of The Kinks… Okay, I’ll stop now.
Phil Lynott Of Thin Lizzy enjoying his 4001
Much like King Arthurs Excalibur, the 4001 is a dragon slaying, hand crafted, castle swinging piece of equipment, and should be held in the highest regard and treated with much respect. It will make or break a man/woman, but it also has the power to elevate you - to greatness if you so desire!
All hail the Rickenbacker 4001, and all who sail in her.