1982 Fender Precision Bass, as made famous by Nick O'Malley
Natural P-Bass stunner, with all the chiming treble and punch that you could wish for from a high-grade ash body. Which is just perfect if you're in a band putting a rocket up British guitar indie in the noughties. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what Nick O'Malley must have been thinking.
If you want to know more about how the Precision came to be the definitive bass guitar, check out the full story with our 1972 Fender Precision. Suffice it to say that this one's absolutely part of the bloodline, when a Fender Precision was still called a Fender Precision, and before the new name of Standard Precision came in to distinguish it from the '57 and '62 Precision reissues that launched in 1982.
I'd love to say that Nick O'Malley was playing his 1978 P-Bass on Arctic Monkeys' debut with I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. It would take us one step closer to completing the set-up, with this 2006 Arctic White Strat already filling the spot for Alex Turner's guitar. But it looks like the P-Bass in that debut has a classic butterscotch finish rather than the natural finish of this one. Still, there's plenty of action with Nick on his Natural P-Bass throughout the studio and live years. It's just the guitar for a treble that cuts through and adds to the band's edge, while still giving you plenty of warmth when you roll back the tone. You won't get so much sustain with the ash body compared to what you'd expect from Fender's more standard choice of alder. But that's not really why you're playing it. It's for the percussive punch that drives the band forwards in lockstep with your drummer. And this one really does the business.
See & Hear It In Action
Arctic Monkeys, Glastonbury 2013: Just ahead of the release of AM, the album that conquered the world, Arctic Monkeys smash Glastonbury. Nick's Natural P-Bass in and out of shot - including a rare and blistering airing for Fake Tales Of San Francisco, 23 minutes in. As put-downs go, you don't get much better than "You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham".
A 1978 Natural P-Bass at Norman's Rare Guitars: The same age as Nick O'Malley's and the same spec as this 1982 P-Bass. Mark Agnesi once again at the top of his game with the Guitar Of The Day. "These things are rockers, man!"
Be the first to hire this natural wonder. I bet that you look good . . .
Fender's original choice of wood for their guitars was ash. Those now-prized beauties of the early-1950s were almost all produced using ash for the body. Alder took its place as the go-to wood in 1956 - it was more easily available, easier to work, and true to Leo Fender's eye for economy without loss of quality, cheaper. But when it comes to their natural finish guitars, it's the lovely sweeping grain of ash that comes to the fore. And, because the wood's on clear display, rather than under a painted finish, you can always be pretty sure that you've got a piece of premium ash in your hands.
Everything on this 1982 model is original. All the classic features that have made the Precision the go-to choice for thousands of guitarists. With the added bonus of the higher treble response and punch that the combination of a maple neck and ash body give you.
I say original, with one confession. I've had to replace one bridge saddle & screw. The result of the blood, sweat and tears of its previous owner - the sweat, mainly. Adjusting the intonation, the fixing screw just broke in two, rusted in to the saddle by a life lived to the full on the road. I wouldn't trade that broken saddle and screw for anything. A guitar with history, a story to tell, and a wood that's aged to its sweet spot. Nothing better.
This one has its distinctive chips and scratches, not many, and no more than you'd expect. Properly set up, the neck plays beautifully, the electrics are perfectly earthed, and the sound has all of that punch these ash-bodied basses are famous for. Roll back the tone knob, and you're back into that classic P-Bass warmth from the 60s. Utterly versatile, and a lovely player!
And finally, the incredibly interesting to some, deathly tedious to others, bit. It's not always straightforward to date these late 70s/early 80s Fenders, at least from the serial number. It shouldn't be that difficult. In 1976, CBS introduced the system that should make production date (or at least decade) a doddle. An "S" prefix for "Seventies", and "E" prefix for "Eighties". So, this P-Bass should be from the 1970s. But it isn't. It's from 1982 - the neckstamp and pots are pretty clear about that. So, what happened there? Not much apart from systems meeting real life. Despite the efforts to introduce clarity and consistency into the Fender dating system, the "S" prefix was still in occasional use until 1982. After comparing this and other "S" prefix models from the same year to their 70s counterparts, my guess is that Fender used it for any remaining stock from the 70s - in parallel with the "E" prefix for newer models including the new name for the Precision, the Standard Precision, introduced in 1981. Whatever, this one's a 70s style P-Bass in all but date - and all the better for it!
Sources & Links
Legendary Lows: The Precision Bass Story: The story as told by Fender. Just a fantastic source of information about the evolution (minor adaptations over complete redesigns), use (just look at the list, then add your own), and influence across the decades.
1982 Fender Price List: Thanks to Guitar Compare for all the archives. Real treasure trove. Think about it, back then, an uncased Natural P-Bass, brand new for $720 (though I suppose with inflation, that's pretty much an equivalent to today's prices).
Ash vs Alder: What's The Difference?: OK, specialist magazine lovers only, but a nice bit of insight from Fender into the choices and sounds when it comes to ash vs alder.