Photo for Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass

Book Review: Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass

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It finally arrived.

Forgive the fluff, sometimes it makes for good reading but I am fully aware that often the reader would prefer the writer just gets on with it. Don’t worry, expect a review of Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass forthwith.

So, I secretly hoped this gem would arrive by Christmas morning. However, what I wanted was a tad bit expensive. But no way was I springing for the ridiculously priced version. But, Rush fans like signed merch and the regular un-signed copy just didn’t have enough oomph. The Luxe version seemed to cover all bases (or is it basses?) without fully breaking the bank.  Still, did I really need more Rush ephemera? Thus, I didn’t press it and alas no package was opened three months ago. Then I somewhat lost interest. But the bug remained and Lee started touring his book. So I wanted one. Signed.

Therefore, I kept an eye on the available limited editions and the ridiculously priced version eventually displayed “Only Five Left” or some such as I kept looking at the um, not so moderately-priced signed version. Because of my intent to review the Big Beautiful Book of Bass I even reached out to the Rush Backstage Club which acts as a front for Music Today and asked (you never know) if a beat up used version of the book could be sent along with the Luxe version as I was planning to review the book and did not want to thumb through the signed copy. (The ridiculously priced version includes an unsigned copy of the book for reading.)

No dice. In fact, the response seemed more akin to “Get lost.”

Briefly, I lost ALL interest in the book but after my wife laughed at me for thinking I could finagle my way into a free copy for reviewing, my interest perked back up. By now the ridiculously priced version had ticked down from “Only Two Left” to “Only One Left.”

There aren’t any more left.

Silly, maybe, but collectors need all sorts of reasons to permit themselves the indulgence of collecting.

Yes, I got the last one and it’s all because of my wife. You’re welcome Geddy Lee. Now please go make some music with Alex and ask Neil for some lyrics.

In full disclosure I’m not much of a gearhead. When each member of Rush divulged in the usual tour program all the gear they brought with them I glossed over it. However, I began guitar lessons about 15 years ago, in many respects, so I could learn some Rush songs. And I did. At least parts of some. I started on a classical guitar and then bought an electric guitar. But I haven’t touched either in a long while. I do have a little kinship with Lee, however, in that I played trombone for nine years – one of the few instruments using the bass clef. Batman Eating Apples During Gotham City Fire. Very few reading this probably have any idea what that means.

All that said…

The production of this book is so immaculate I didn’t even want to open it. No, I did not open the signed copy. Remember, the regular version came too.  It’s indeed big and heavy and wonderfully put together. No doubt, a lot of thought went into the design and construction. Upon the first flip through the 408-page Big Beautiful Book of Bass you immediately take notice of the rather striking photos of all the different bass guitars. The phenomenal layout makes you wonder who put in the most work, Lee or the designer or the photographer? Clearly, like Rush, the best of the best came together to produce something somewhat extraordinary.

At any rate, after seeing such beauties up close and in such fine detail my first thought was, “Dang, I really want to take up the bass guitar.” Then you read Alex Lifeson’s (Rush guitarist and lifelong friend of Lee’s) “Backword” as opposed to the foreword written by Terry Foster and discover he too had the same thoughts, however much comically tinged insight was put into his contribution. For the book, Lee interviews a number of rock icons and fellow bassists using the traditional Q&A format that I prefer and use on this website as well in my professional career. The Q&A makes for easy reading and comes across as a bona fide interview.

What you get in Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass is a handheld museum. The photography by Richard Sibbald? Simply extraordinary. Lee covers Fender, Gibson and Epiphone, Rickenbacker, Hofner, Ampeg and some of those in between the wheels starting each chapter of the aforementioned with the written word providing some background before diving into near memorizing close-up photos of the various models produced by each company along with sidebar notes. The interviews get interspersed throughout featuring such gems with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Robert Trujillo of Metallica, Bob Daisley of Rainbow, Gary Moore and Black Sabbath, and Les Claypool of Primus, to name a few.

Each bass guitar, like the player holding them has a style all its own something clearly seen as you flip through the pages. The interviews come long, but thorough, and thankfully the question posed by Lee has a different color to stand out from the answer.

The book closes very appropriately and an absolute must with “My Favorite Headaches” which covers all of Lee’s stage and recording gear from 1968 to 2018. For all you dedicated Rush fans – What was Geddy Lee’s first bass guitar? A 1968 Fender Precision.

Wrong. A Japanese-made Canora he bought for $35, money his mom loaned him. The Precision was his first real gigging bass.

Admittedly, my love for Rush certainly points to a painted review as had any one of the interviewees featured in the Beautiful Book of Bass wrote this tome I likely would have not purchased it and for sure not the financial monstrosity now sitting in my office.

However, rock fans, casual Rush fans, certainly bass players and anyone a fan of those Lee interviewed will find this book insightful but most importantly of all historical. Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass contributes a substantial addition to the world of rock music and a broad study into the bass guitar.

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