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Bearing the logo, 'Rickenbacker', impressed on the truss rod cover at the headstock along with 'MADE IN U.S.A. / MODEL 4001', and bearing the dating code 'QA / 126' stamped on the jack-plate cover, the two-piece maple neck with walnut center strip, the bound fingerboard of bubinga inlaid with faux-pearl triangle position markers, the body of maple with walnut center strip and top binding, the black finish with later applied red, white, blue and yellow pigmented medium, accompanied by a letter of provenance
44 ½ in. (113 cm.), overall length
33 ½ in. (85.1 cm.), scale length
Paul Simonon.
Desmond Coy (also known as Desmond Letts).
Stephen Coy.
Egan, S. (ed.) The Clash on The Clash: Interviews and Encounters, Chicago, 2018.
Gilbert, P. Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash, London, 2009.
O'Hagan, S. (March 2008) “The Buzzcocks were very Mondrian and we were Pollock,” The Observer, London.
Olwell, G. (August 2003) "Paul Simonon: The Clash Art Punk," BassPlayer Magazine.
Rowley, S. (October 1999) "Paul Simonon's first ever bass interview," Bassist Magazine, London (10).
Walsh, S. and Perry, M. (October 1976) “The Very Angry Clash,” Sniffin’ Glue, London.
The Clash: Westway to the World (Director, Don Letts, 2000).
Paul Simonon Recalls A Great Moment in P Bass History Fender https://www.youtube.com/fender
The Clash - White Riot (Official Video) https://www.theclash.com/watch
The Clash - White Riot (Live) https://www.theclash.com/watch

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Lot Essay

Formed in 1976, The Clash were at the vanguard of British punk, credited alongside the Sex Pistols for amplifying the movement into a nationwide, indeed global, phenomenon with their unique style, confrontational lyrics and explosive on-stage energy. With a social conscience and radical political outlook, the band declared themselves anti-Fascist, anti-Violence and anti-Racist, their intelligent protest anthems earning them the record company slogan "the only band that matters,” a label since adopted by fans and journalists alike. More than the sum of their parts, the band’s diverse musical influences led to five legendary albums including their peerless self-titled punk debut in 1977 and seminal masterpiece London Calling in 1979, ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the top 20 greatest albums of all time. Beyond his iconic status as the blurry, guitar-smashing rocker immortalized on the cover of London Calling, bassist Paul Simonon’s contribution to the enduring musical and cultural legacy of The Clash is immeasurable. With his James Dean charm, he brought an irresistible mix of Hollywood glamor and streetwise edginess to the group, and defined the band’s visual style with his artistic vision. Rapidly developing from an absolute beginner to a skilled guitarist, Simonon was responsible for some of the most distinctive bass lines of the era, sparking a wave of young musicians to embrace a breadth of musical genres.

Growing up among first generation immigrants in the then predominantly black London neighborhoods of Brixton and Notting Hill, Simonon was immersed in the sounds and culture of ska, dub and reggae. While studying at London’s prestigious Byam Shaw art school, Simonon attracted the attention of guitarist Mick Jones during auditions for Jones’ then group the London SS. Despite Simonon having never sung or touched a musical instrument before in his life, Jones and manager Bernie Rhodes recruited him in May 1976 for a band they were putting together, rounding out the line-up with the addition of lead singer Joe Strummer that June. Credited with coining the band’s name, Simonon told Sniffin’ Glue magazine in 1976 that The Clash represented “a clash against things that are going on,” establishing the group’s socialist sentiments and unflinching commitment to confront the issues of the day.

Mick Jones initially tried to teach Paul the guitar, but swiftly decided that instructing him in the rudiments of bass would be simpler. "It was sort of disappointing for me," Simonon told Scott Rowley for Bassist Magazine in October 1999, "I had these grand dreams of being Pete Townshend…. So once I was handed the bass I thought, “I'll just pretend I'm playing guitar.” Which is pretty much what I did from day one." To simplify things further, Paul painted the notes big and bold on the fretboard of his first guitar, a Perspex bass that Mick’s ex-London SS bandmate and Generation X bassist Tony James had made at school, so that he could quickly parrot Mick when he called out a note. Within months of first picking up a bass, Simonon was thrust on stage when the band made their live debut supporting the Sex Pistols at Sheffield’s Black Swan pub on July 4th.

What Simonon lacked in musical experience, he made up for with creativity and flair, putting his art school chops to work in steering the visual identity of the band, turning his attention to everything from clothing to stage backdrops. "I consider the Clash to be conceptual art," Simonon would later tell Bass Player magazine. Interviewed by former Mojo editor Pat Gilbert for his definitive 2004 biography Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash, longtime collaborator Don Letts explained "He just had an idea instinctively of what The Clash were about… Paul was essentially The Clash’s musical and culture barometer." Letts’ Grammy Award winning 2000 feature documentary The Clash: Westway to the World saw Paul recall his early artistic experiments: "I got some gloss paint and got my shoes and just sort of splashed a bit here and there and it looked pretty good… and took it a stage further and got this black shirt and did a bit on that with sort of a different paint… There were sort of brass stencils and you could clip them together and we used those to sort of spray on lettering, whatever, and it became a sort of Rauschenberg thing." The chaotic Jackson Pollock inspired shirts stenciled with political slogans and song lyrics became key to the band’s early image, mirroring their explosive musical energy. Paul’s early instruments similarly received the anarchic art treatment. Although responsible for the most iconic rock ‘n’ roll guitar smash of all time, Simonon’s destructive impulses usually manifested as customization and light vandalism, roughing up all his basses to add a bit of character and generally slinging them around. "I used to chip bits out of it", he told Pat Gilbert, "just to give it some life." By the time The Clash joined The Sex Pistols on the infamous “Anarchy In The UK” Tour in December 1976, his first bass had received a full Pollock-esque paint job to match the band’s stage wear.

By the end of 1976 the Tony James bass had served its purpose as a beginner’s guitar and Paul needed something superior, noting in a short 2011 video for Fender that he had a desire for a Rickenbacker at the time. Simonon had met American singer-songwriter Patti Smith at her London Roundhouse and Hammersmith Odeon gigs, before she leapt on stage during The Clash’s headlining gig at the ICA on 23 October 1976. Having maintained a transatlantic friendship, Patti assisted Paul in acquiring the present bass guitar sometime in early 1977, in advance of The Clash beginning recording sessions for their first album. Perhaps in tribute to his benefactor, a photo of Patti Smith from her Horses album cover adorned the guitar during Simonon’s ownership, seen clearly in backstage photographs taken at the Rainbow Theatre in June 1977. Customized in a similar style to his first bass, Simonon overpainted the standard white pickguard in black, before utilizing the drip technique to splash colorful intersecting lines over the body and pickguard. Along with the photo of Patti Smith, various decals and stickers were then applied to the guitar, including the buzz-word Positive to the upper horn, likely a reference to Bob Marley’s 1976 song Positive Vibration.

Simonon recorded his bass parts for the band’s seminal self-titled debut album on the Rickenbacker, the first session taking place on Friday 28 January to record debut single White Riot and its B side 1977. Recorded over three weekend sessions from 12 February 1977, the album featured songwriters Jones and Strummer sharing guitar and vocal duties, with Simonon on bass and Terry Chimes on drums. "There was some dispute over whether he [Simonon] played on that album," session engineer Simon Humphrey told Pat Gilbert, the suggestion being that Jones recorded the bass parts, "but he did… Mick had taught him to play the bass lines parrot fashion". Released on 8 April 1977, The Clash was the ultimate punk protest record, perfectly reflecting the zeitgeist of boredom and frustration among British youth at the time and railing against the status quo. In 2003, Mojo ranked The Clash at second place on its list of the Top 50 Punk Albums, and Rolling Stone ranked the US release at number 77 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

On 11 March 1977 the band showcased the album at the Harlesden Coliseum in London and unveiled a new militaristic look, which included the first on stage appearance of Paul’s newly splattered Rickenbacker. Always slung low à la Dee Dee Ramone, Simonon would continue to use the Rickenbacker bass as his primary stage guitar throughout 1977 as the band heavily toured the album. The Harlesden show would turn out to be drummer Terry Chimes last gig, with Topper Headon announced as the band’s new drummer. The single White Riot was released a week later, the Rickenbacker seen in both the studio-shot promo video and the official video created by Don Letts. The band kicked off a 28 date headlining White Riot tour of Britain on 1 May 1977, taking punk to the provinces. Numerous photographs exist of the landmark show at London’s Rainbow Theatre on 9 May, where the band played to their largest crowds yet. Despite a riot breaking out during The Clash’s set, Strummer has cited it as his favorite ever Clash moment, later referring to it as "the night that punk really broke out of the clubs."

After recording a third single Complete Control at London’s Sarm East studio, The Clash set out on the Get Out Of Control tour to promote the single, beginning with a series of dates in Europe. Wonderful photos by Denis O’Regan and Ian Dickson show the band’s performance at Mont De Marsan Punk Festival in France on 5 August 1977. Simonon can be seen playing the Rickenbacker in circulating footage of the band’s appearance on French television show Un Sur Cinq on 28 September, as well as their 4th October Munich show, recorded for Wolfgang Büld’s film Punk in London. The British leg of the tour continued in October, with the show at Manchester’s Elizabethan Ballroom on 15th November 1977 filmed for Granada TV and screened on the television show So It Goes. Simonon played the Rickenbacker right through to the band’s final shows of 1977 at the Rainbow Theatre on 13-15 December, as seen in photographs by Jill Furmanovsky and Andre Csillag. Although limited evidence has surfaced, an amateur photograph purporting to be from the Lanchester Polytechnic show on 26th January 1978 suggests that the guitar was used for at least one of the smattering of low-key UK Midlands shows in late January 1978 to demo the band’s new material in preparation for recording their second album.

Although used extensively over a year of heavy touring and recording, Simonon had always found the Rickenbacker’s sound rather thin and stringy. "I always wanted to get a set of four legs and make the Ricky into a table, it was so flat," Simonon joked to Bassist Magazine in 1999. "Staying in tune was a problem: I'd tune up before we went onstage but - with the heat and jumping around and banging it like God knows what - it started going out of tune." At some point in early 1978, prior to commencing recording sessions for Give ‘Em Enough Rope in March, the Rickenbacker was retired in favor of a white Fender Precision.

Simonon gave the Rickenbacker to longstanding friend Desmond Coy (aka Desmond Letts) as a gift for his son Stephen, who had expressed a desire to learn the bass guitar. Desmond almost certainly first associated with Simonon through his brother, punk/reggae DJ and Clash videographer Don Letts, who directed several of the band’s music videos, as well as the aforementioned documentary The Clash: Westway to the World. Interviewed for the documentary, Strummer recalled how Letts, then DJ for London’s first punk club The Roxy, introduced the punk scene to a lot of reggae records they otherwise hadn’t come across: "That gave us a lot of new information. That rasta punk crossover was like really crucial to the whole scene." Notably, Rocco Macaulay’s memorable photograph of Letts walking towards a line of police during the Notting Hill riots of 1976 was chosen for the front cover of the band’s 1980 EP Black Market Clash and 1993 compilation album Super Black Market Clash.

The Rickenbacker model 4001 bass was the two-pickup variant of the single pickup Model 4000. Introduced in 1961 it's "cresting wave" body and headstock design paid homage to the California surf culture. Both the 4000 and 4001 utilized Beauchamp’s "horseshoe" designed pickup at the bridge while the 4001 added a Rickenbacker single coil pickup at the neck. By the mid-1960s they had dispensed with the horseshoe design but employed a large nickel pickup cover that mirrored the earlier horseshoe magnet. Like most higher priced models the 4001 was equipped with a second jack and selector switch to facilitate Rickenbacker's "Rick-O-Sound" stereo output.

Unique to the Rickenbacker bass was the "neck through' construction. While Fender utilized a bolt on neck and Gibson married the neck and body with a glued in neck joint, the body and neck of the 4001 was cut and fabricated as one piece from two slabs of American rock maple laminated together with a walnut center strip. The "neck through" construction increased audio sustain and coupled with Rickenbaker's pickups produced a distinctive tambour beloved by Rickenbacker aficionados. Along with Simonon, The Who's John Entwistle, Peter Quaife of the Kinks, John Deacon of Queen and Stu Cook of The Creedence Clearwater Revival, were all devotees of the Rickenbacker 4001.

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