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John Entwistle’s Gear: 1974–1985

Alembics and Sunn

Alembic

News (June 2012): Christie’s to auction Alembic as part of its Popular Culture: Rock & Roll Memorabilia sale, to be held on 12 June 2012. The instrument is currently owned by Brad Rodgers of whocollection.com.

The Who/John Entwistle

A 1976 Alembic Bass guitar; serial number 76-A046, in natural finish, neck through body constriction [sic], curved maple top, mahogany body cores, maple and walnut laminate neck, ebony twenty six fret fingerboard with oval abalone inlays and LED side markers, headstock with walnut facing and silver Alembic logo, two pickups, four rotary controls, one selector switch, two mini-toggle switches (one broken), jack and cannon connector sockets, gold plated Schaller tremolo bridge/tailpiece with four adjustable saddles; and an original blue rectangular hard shell case with red plush lining — owned and played by John Entwistle on stage with The Who; accompanied by a black and white image of Entwistle playing the instrument on stage at the Winterland, San Francisco, 28 March, 1976.

Estimate:

£10,000–£15,000 (US$15,440–$23,160)

Realised:

£10,000 (US$15,460)

Provenance:

Ex-lot 63 Rock ‘n’ Roll Memorabilia 1956–1984 – The Property of John Entwistle, Sotheby’s, London, 7th April, 1988

From the collection of Brad and Diana Rodgers of www.whocollection.com

Exhibited:

This guitar was exhibited at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio from 1998–2007

Lot notes:

According to the original lot description the LED side markers on the guitar were at the request of Entwistle as an essential tool when the stage was entirely blacked out during The Who’s concerts in 1975 and 1976.

Christie’s would like to thank Rick Turner for his assistance with this lot.

See lot details at christies.com

Navigate to an era or just scroll through

1974–1976

Bass guitars

Alembic bass, courtesy Brad Rodgers, www.whocollection.com.

Alembic bass, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

  • 1974 Alembic Series I basses

    • One in natural finish zebra wood (the first one); others finished as pictured at right and below.
      • Zebra wood one sold in Sotheby’s 2003 auction.
      • Indistinct serial number (74 011?) impressed to top edge of headstock.
      • Estimated £2,000–£3,000; sold for £13,200.
    • These Alembics featured active electronics and five-pin connector along with the standard jack.

      John (about the first one): Bought from Fred Walecki whilst holidaying in L.A.… I had it re-wired back to stereo by Peter Cook. He brought it along to a Who rehearsal when he’d finished — I plugged it in and it blew my mind. I jetted to San Francisco 3 days before the tour started and bought three more!

      From the August 1989 Guitar Player

      He happened upon a second-hand Alembic in a Los Angeles music store. “Someone had wired it incorrectly, so I gave it to my guitar tech, Pete Cook, to fix. Right before we were to leave for a U.S. tour, he brought it to a rehearsal, where I tried it and was, of course, blown away. I flew over early to order three more basses from Alembic, who eventually built me the Explorer-shaped models.”

    • Instrument at right owned by Brad Rodgers; on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1998–2007.
  • Fender “Explorer-Bird”

    Fender “Explorer-Bird”

    Fender “Explorer-Bird”

    • Used in studio only, 1975 and 1978.
    • Gibson Explorer-style body with Fender Precision Bass maple necks and machine heads; gold-plated hardware, two volume controls/one tone control.
    • Several custom-made by Peter Cook, in white (later given to Pete) and orange/red.
    • As seen in the Who Are You segment of The Kids Are Alright film, 1978.
    • Orange/red one sold in Sotheby’s May 2003 auction. Estimated £2,000–£3,000; sold for £12,000.
    • Currently owned by Dave Schools of the band Widespread Panic. He bought it from the Sotheby’s May 2003 auction of John’s estate. See article on relix and photo of Schools.
    Ca. 1978, Ramport Studio
  • 1973 white Rickenbacker 4001 prototype 8-string bass

    Rickenbacker 8-string
    • Used in studio only: Success Story, 1975.
    • Serial no. MH2553.
    • Reverse (low string/high string) setup.
    • Wavy headstock, with four-a-side machineheads.
    • Cream finish with chequered binding; through neck with rosewood fingerboard, dot markers.
    • One of two; other one bought by Chris Squire.
    • Sold in Sotheby’s May 2003 auction. Estimated £1,500–£1,800; sold for £4,560.
  • Custom Peter Cook “Lightning Bolt” bass

    Click to view larger version. Custom “Lightning Bolt” bass, made by Peter Cook. Courtesy Rock Stars Guitars.

    Click to view larger version Custom “Lightning Bolt” bass, made by Peter Cook. Courtesy Rock Stars Guitars.

    • Featured on The Who By Numbers album cover drawing
    • Used on many tracks
    • On display at Hard Rock Café, New York.

    The 2004 display of The Who at the Hard Rock Vault in Orlando, Florida, thanks to Michael Mullins.

    Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Vault display, ca. 2004.
    Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Vault display, ca. 2004.
  • Custom Peter Cook “Flame” bass

    Click to view larger version Custom “Flame” bass, made by Peter Cook. Courtesy whocollection.com.

    Click to view larger version (141kb) Custom “Flame” bass, made by Peter Cook. Courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

    Click to view larger version Custom “Flame” bass, made by Peter Cook. Courtesy whocollection.com.

    Click to view larger version (187kb) Custom “Flame” bass, made by Peter Cook. Courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

    Sold by John at auction in April 1988. It was the highest-priced Bass of all the ones that John sold, fetching approximately $33,000. John stated in the catalog that this was used on the U.K. Television show Top of the Pops in the early 1970s.

    Currently owned by Brad Rodgers, see whocollection.com.

    • Yellow and red finish, flame-shaped body, and flame-shaped red plastic pickguard.
    • Gold hardware.
    • Bound neck with 24-fret rosewood fingerboard, dot inlays.
    • Flame-shaped headstock with red plastic truss rod cover.
    • Two pickups, three controls, gold bridge baseplate with four adjustable saddles.
    Cook Flame bass

    News (28 April 2010): Christie’s to auction Peter Cook custom “Flame” bass, as part of its Popular Culture: Rock and Pop Memorabilia sale, to be held on 24 June 2010. The instrument is currently owned by Brad Rodgers of whocollection.com.

    Rock Stars Guitars for sale at Christie’s

    Four iconic guitars feature from Brad Rodgers at www.whocollection.com — the largest single-owner collection of The Who memorabilia to ever appear at auction — two previously owned by Pete Townshend, and two by John Entwistle [...] The most striking example is the Paul [sic] Cook custom-made bass guitar, of flame design (estimate: £15,000–20,000). Owned by John Entwistle, and played by him during the Top of the Pops The Who performance circa 1976.

    See christies.com

    Realised: £30,000 ($44,880)

    See lot details on christies.com.

Amplification: 1975

Ca. 1975, Sunn rig, with amplifiers moved to side-stage rack: two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs (outside top), two Sunn 3x12 speaker cabs (inside top), two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs (outside bottom), two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom).

Ca. 1975, Sunn rig, with amplifiers moved to side-stage rack: two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs (outside top), two Sunn 312 3x12 speaker cabs (inside top), two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs (outside bottom), two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom). Bass is 1974 Alembic with zebra wood.

  • Amplifiers
    • Two Crown DC 300 power amplifiers or two Sunn Coliseum Power Amp power amplifiers.
    • Two Alembic preamps
  • Speakers
    • Two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs
    • Two Sunn 3x12 speaker cabs
    • Two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs
    • Two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins

Selected quotes

All quotes and references are copyright their original owners and are included for reference only.

From the November 1977 Guitar Player (read an excerpt of the article):

About two years ago, while one of the “Fenderbirds” was being repaired, John happened to pick up a stock Alembic for a rehearsal. He liked it so much that he ordered several — unmodified except for their extremely low actions.

Excerpt from January 1977 interview with John in International Musician and Recording World:

How did you come to start using [Alembics]?

Well, I’d heard about Jack Cassady using one and I’d seen photographs of them and Rick Turner from Alembic ’phoned me up one day — he’d heard I was in New York — and he brought along a bass for me to try out. It was a short-scale, but it felt quite nice and so I asked him if he could make me one to my specifications. He sent me an estimate and a description of what he was going to make me but I never followed it through — in fact, I lost the bit of paper! Later, I was on holiday in Los Angeles and I found a guitar shop that sold nice old guitars. The guy asked me if I’d be interested in a second-hand Alembic. I tried it out and I really liked it, so I bought it just for the collection and never really bothered with it. We had a rehearsal one day and I had five basses made with an Explorer body and Thunderbird pick-ups and Fender necks — I’d had them made up for the next bout of touring. I was getting all the necks straightened at the time, so just for a laugh, I brought along the Alembic and plugged it in. The sound was really amazing, so I changed over to Alembic — the five Explorers never got used.

How different was the sound?

Well, it’s got a ... whole frequency sweep on it. You can get any sounds you like, just by varying the switches and by turning the tone controls backwards and forwards. it’s also about three times as loud as a normal bass. It’s a lot clearer — in fact, it’s very hard to get it to sound dirty. You have to wind it right up. It’s also got this feedback effect — when you have all the frequency switches right down in their lowest positions, you get this sort of signing sound.

Are you after a very clean sound?

Yeah, I sort of pioneered the trebly bass sound, the piano sound, and I use an awful lot of treble. The Alembic’s got such an amazing amount of treble — it’s almost ear-piercing. But you don’t lose the bottom. A Fender is perfect for treble, but there’s no bottom and Gibson is perfect for bottom but there’s no treble. The Alembic has both, and it’s much louder. And also when I get bored with playing trebly, I want a bass sound that really cuts through — not just a boomy sound.

Tell me about the Alembic’s “lightshow.”

Well, at the side of the guitar neck, you’ve usually got small marker dots. On the Alembic they’re red lights instead — L.E.D.’s. Mind you, you have to plug the guitar into a power supply. That supplies power for the lights as well. It also works on battery but the lights are connected directly to the mains power supply.

What do you play through?

I use two stereo Stramp pre-amps and four big Sunn slave amps. They go through two 3 x 12″s in big PA-type cabinets, two standard pressurised 4 x 12″s, two pressurised 18″s and two 18″s in PA-type cabs again. So I’ve got some of the cabinets pushing the sound right out, and others which are just for the stage. It’s all miked through the PA as well. The guitar, I have about two-fifths up and amps are on number five — of course, the pre-amps are virtually right up, so I’m using about half volume.

You don’t suffer any loss of tone with the guitar down?

No, because the Alembic has individual pick-up pre-sets on the back, so if you wind them up, you don’t lose anything on the volume control. There’s also a dummy pick-up in the middle and two controls to eliminate hum and buzz, so I never get any buzzes or anything.

Do you still experiment with other basses?

I fiddle around with different ones. Gibson are trying to make me something similar using the same tone circuitry as the Alembic. They’re getting together with Moog to work something out. They made a prototype which they were going to put Alembic electronics in, but we managed to convince them it was going to be senseless to make me twelve Gibson guitars all with Alembic stuff on. There’s one thing about Alembic — it can be hard to vary the controls while you’re playing because there are so many, so it would be nice if, when they did the Gibson one, they could give me some floor controls so I can either control it from the guitar or the floor.

When you record in the studio, how loud do you play?

Up to now, I’ve been playing very quietly because it was the only way I could get a clean sound. Consequently, as I’m playing quietly I get a very bassy sound — a normal sort of bass sound which I don’t like. But now, with the Alembic, I’m probably going to be able to play a lot louder in the studio — and more trebly. I’ll be playing through two cabinets and there’ll be a separate sound coming out of each one. It’ll be more or less a stage sound that I try to put on recording, unless the number merits a normal bass sound.

Click image to view larger version. John’s second Alembic, 1974 Alembic Series 1, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

Click image to view larger version. John’s second Alembic, 1974 Alembic Series 1, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

Click image to view larger version. (729kb) John’s second Alembic, 1974 Alembic Series 1, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

Click image to view larger version. (729kb) John’s second Alembic, 1974 Alembic Series 1, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

Click image to view larger version. 688kb) John’s second Alembic, 1974 Alembic Series 1, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

Click image to view larger version. 688kb) John’s second Alembic, 1974 Alembic Series 1, courtesy Brad Rodgers, whocollection.com.

Ca. 1975, with Alembic zebra wood bass

Ca. 1975, with Alembic Series I bass in zebra wood.

Ca. 1975, with Alembic bass

Ca. 1975, with Alembic Series I bass.

Ca. 1975, Sunn rig, with amplifiers moved to side-stage rack: two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs (outside top), two Sunn 3x12 speaker cabs (inside top), two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs (outside bottom), two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom).

Ca. 1975, Sunn rig, with amplifiers moved to side-stage rack: two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs (outside top), two Sunn 312 3x12 speaker cabs (inside top), two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs (outside bottom), two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom). Bass is 1974 Alembic with zebra wood.

Ca. October 1975, with Alembic Series 1 bass in zebra wood. Alembic/Sunn Coliseum Power Amp amplifier rack visible at right. Peter Cook “Lightning Bolt” bass headstock/neck visible on stand at left (as seen on cover of The Who By Numbers).

Ca. October 1975, with Alembic Series 1 bass in zebra wood. Alembic/Sunn Coliseum Power Amp amplifier rack visible at right. Peter Cook “Lightning Bolt” bass (courtesy Rock Stars Guitars) headstock/neck visible on stand at left (as seen on cover of The Who By Numbers).

Ca. 1975, Sunn rig (with amplifier rack barely visible at far left): two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs (outside top), two Sunn 312 3x12 speaker cabs (inside top), two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs (outside bottom), two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom).

Ca. 1975, Sunn rig (with amplifier rack barely visible at far left): two Sunn 412L 4x12 speaker cabs (outside top), two Sunn 312 3x12 speaker cabs (inside top), two Sunn 1x18 speaker cabs (outside bottom), two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom).

Ca. 1976, with Alembic bass and Sunn rig. Courtesy whocollection.com.

Ca. 1976, with Alembic bass and Sunn rig. Courtesy whocollection.com.

John with guitar maker Peter Cook.

John with guitar maker Peter Cook.

In the studio with Alembic Baby Bass fitted with Bigsby reverse tremolo.

In the studio with Alembic Baby Bass fitted with Bigsby reverse tremolo, as used on the bridge of 905 and Dancing Master.

On stage with Alembic.

On stage with Alembic.

On stage with Alembic.

On stage with Alembic, and backup.

On stage with Alembic.

On stage with Alembic.

On stage with Alembic.

On stage with Alembic.

Boss Chorus Ensemble pedal, courtesy Rock Stars Guitars.

Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble pedal, used on stage mid-’70s, courtesy Rock Stars Guitars.

1976–1985

Bass guitars

One of the three Alembic Explorers.

Click to view larger version. One of the three four-string Alembic Explorers.

  • Alembic Explorer bass

    • Bird’s eye maple body featuring:
      • Through-walnut neck.
      • Spider’s web wire sterling-silver inlay, which later appeared to be brass as the instrument’s lacquer yellowed with age.
    • Graphite-reinforced neck of laminated walnut and maple.
      • Fingerboard with music-note inlays in mother-of-pearl Gothic script.
      • LED markers on the top edge.
    • Two master volume controls with a selector switch to choose from the presets, active lowpass-filter controls.
    • Five-pin (Cannon) and standard jack connectors. Standard Alembic electronics.

    John worked with Alembic to design these basses. There were at least two of this model made, plus a “V”-shaped headstock model and an 8-string.

    “Alembic took two years to make the three basses for me. The other 4-string is in a Hard Rock somewhere. I sold it as its punishment for going wrong at the beginning of Live Aid.”

    John sold the main instrument to the Hard Rock Café. The four-string model pictured at right sold in the 13 May 2003 Sotheby’s auction in London for £50,400.

  • 1980 Alembic Explorer four-string with a “Vee”-shaped headstock

    1983 Gastank television performance with the Alembic with “V”-shaped headstock.

    1983 Gastank television performance with the Alembic with “V”-shaped headstock. (See clip of this performance on YouTube.

    • As seen on the cover of Too Late The Hero
    • Not used on stage with The Who (see photo at right for 1983 television appearance performing with this bass guitar. h/t Wil Bogantz)
    • Serial no. 80-1742, impressed to body end of fingerboard.
    • “Weighs a ton.”
    • Sold in Sotheby’s auction, 13 May 2003. Estimated £2,500–£3,000; sold for £15,000.

Alembic subsequently released a retail version of the “A”-shaped headstock model, renaming it the “Exploiter.”

Other bass guitars

  • Alembic Explorer 8-string
    • As used on Trick of the Light and You.
    • Identical “Explorer”-shaped body as above, with “A”-shaped headstock.
    • Used on stage ca. 1979 for Trick of the Light.
    • John:

      “I wrote a lot of songs on this one. The bass was so loud on stage The Who and their road crew used to vacate my side of the stage whenever I played it. The neck was so difficult to control I finally had Alembic make me one with a graphite neck.”

  • Hamer Quad Standard 12-string bass
    Hamer Quad Standard 12-string bass, courtesy 12stringbass.com.

    Hamer Quad Standard 12-string bass, courtesy (12stringbass.com [archived]).

    • Reportedly used on Quadrophenia Soundtrack.
    • Completed 25 January, 1979. Only one ever made.
    • Bound body;
    • Quad pickup only, no humbucker installed in second route (a cream DiMarzio humbucker was later added in the open route);
    • 21-fret rosewood set neck; custom double- and triple-dot markers.
    • Sold in 1988 for £1,100.
    • Serial no. 0139
    • More info and pics at 12stringbass.com (archived).

Amplification

1976

  • Custom Gelf amp rack
    • Customized Alembic IN-1 pre-amp/splitter with electronic crossover, feeding mids/highs to one preamp, lows to another.
    • Two German-made Stramp 4120 stereo preamps, which split their outputs to one power amp each.
    • Four Sunn Coliseum Slave 300-watt power amps (two for low frequencies, one for mids, one for highs/full-range).
    • At least three of these Gelf racks built by Kenny Flegg of Gelf.
  • Speaker stacks:
    • Two Sunn 412L 4x12 cabs (outside top)
    • Two Sunn 312 3x12 cabs (inside top)
    • Two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom), with 18 Vega speakers
    • Two Sunn 1x18 cabinets (silver-grille), with 18 Vega speakers (outside bottom)

1977–1979

  • Custom Gelf amp rack, as above
  • Three or four speaker stacks:
    • Four Sunn 412LH 4x12 cabs (top)
    • Two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (bottom), with 18 Vega speakers
    • Two Sunn 1x18 cabinets (silver-grille), with 18 Vega speakers

1979

  • Custom Gelf amp rack, as above
  • Three or four speaker stacks:
    • Sunn 412LH 4x12 cabs (on top)
    • Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (on bottom)

1979–1982/1985

  • Custom Gelf amp rack, as above
  • Speaker stacks:
    • Three Sunn 412L 4x12 cabs (top)
    • Three or four Mega 1x18 cabs (bottom), with Gauss drivers
    • Miked with Sennheiser 421 microphones

Selected quotes

All quotes and references are copyright their original owners and are included for reference only.

From May 1977 Guitar Player

I’ve started using the Alembic where the extra treble and the facility to get up high means that I can take more solos. I’ve finally fulfilled my role in the Who. You see, I wasn’t really playing what I wanted to play. I was using a Thunderbird bass which was very difficult to get any top from. To do this I had to run one amp into the back of another and they were so loud that I could only play with that sound for maybe two songs. With the Alembic I can play like it all the way through, varying the volumes.

Actually, I’ve had two major changes. Before I had the Thunderbird I used to use an extremely trebly sound and play lead figures, and I was OK with a Precision bass. Then we started playing stadiums and huge places that held up to 70000 people and the sound just didn’t carry — it sounded like a little click at the back of the audience. So I changed the whole equipment and the basses to the Thunderbird. In a way it was an advance for me because I’ve been in a rut ever since Tommy which was the last album where I used a Precision. I’d work out a series of lines that flowed into each other with the twang of the trebly sound and I’d find myself drifting into that every night, unless it was a bit of free form. So from there my whole style changed for about five years until recently when I’ve had another change onto the Alembics — the best change I ever did.

From the August 1989 Guitar Player

Although [John] was happy with the bright, clear tone of the Alembics, and assortment of inconveniences ultimately forced him to move away from the instruments after more than a decade. “Unfortunately, the basses were very sensitive to the climate changes on our tour schedules, and I’d spend as long as a half-hour before every gig making adjustments. Also, I grew tired of the bloody 5-pin Cannon jack and transformer box I had to use with them. What finally put me off was when we did Live Aid. Right before we were to play, my main bass went dead because I’d accidentally crossed some wires while changing the battery. I ran for the backup bass but couldn’t tune it because there were no transformers backstage. At that point we were introduced, and I barely managed to get back onstage in time to start ‘My Generation.’ If you listen closely to the video, you can hear me tuning the D string as we go. I just about got it in tune in time for the bass solo. I sold the main bass to the Hard Rock Cafe — that was its punishment.”

From May 15, 2002, Guitar Center interview

I eventually changed to using Sunn 300-watt Coliseum Amps powering four 18 PA bins plus additional 12 cabinets (up to sixteen 12 cabinets at one point).

From the November 1977 Guitar Player (read an excerpt of the article):

John Entwistle’s amps are the responsibility of Bill Harrison, who stands to the rear of the bass cabinets when the Who are onstage. Each of the two signals of John’s stereo output is sent to its own Stramp 4120 stereo preamp, where they are again divided and relayed to one of four Sunn Coliseum slave amps. The Stramps are turned all the way up, the Sunns set at about 5 or 6. The current speaker array includes a pair of Sunn W bins, each with an 18 Vega speaker; two standard Sunn enclosures, each with a Vega 18; two Sunn 4x12s; and two Sunn 3x12s. Entwistle describes his goal: “Mainly the sound qualities that I am looking for in this particular amping system center around the fact that I like separation between low and high notes. I can have four different sounds going on at once, with the equalization of the preamps and four amp heads. Just flicking two switches on the preamps allows me to select which sound I want at any given point.”

Unlike the vast majority of bassists, John has his strings (Rotosounds) changed before every concert in order to attain maximum crispness. The task is another of Alan Rogan’s responsibilities. Entwistle says, “You don’t get that initial twang if you use the strings again. You can always turn up your treble control to get it like the day before, but then you end up getting a lot of whistle.” Entwistle’s action is probably the lowest of any modern electric bass player. As John laughs, “I like my strings on the *other* side of the frets.”

The Who’s bassist has a huge collection of vintage instruments, though all of his road basses are currently Alembics. His newest ones are a matched set of three, constructed to be as identical as possible. About two years ago, while one of the “Fenderbirds” was being repaired, John happened to pick up a stock Alembic for a rehearsal. He liked it so much that he ordered several — unmodified except for their extremely low actions. Alembic president Rick Turner recalls, “John then inquired as to the possibility of our doing some Explorer copies. I kind of resisted, because I’m not usually into doing copies of stuff, but then I said — what the hell; might be interesting — so we went ahead.”

The Explorer-shaped Alembics have necks and bodies of birdseye maple and walnut. The seven-piece laminate necks are long-scale. Each instrument has two master volume controls with a selector switch so that John can preset two levels and then switch back and forth. The electronics are otherwise stock Alembic circuitry: two pickups that are medium impedance and gain-adjustable, internal preamp, and a dummy pickup for hum cancellation; the tone controls are active low-pass filters. The instrument attaches to the cable through a 5-pin connector and may be sent to an Alembic IN-2 input module that distributes the signal to any of various components — PA, amp, recording console, etc. Turner adds that the Alembic recently sent John another bass, a new model with a medium scale graphite neck, and an ebony body with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece.

Amplification

Sunn rig, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com
Sunn rig, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com
Sunn rig, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com

John’s custom amp rack, with two Stramp 4120 preamps and four Sunn Coliseum Slave power amps (input module/splitter slot is empty). Cabinets are Sunn 412LH 4x12s. Courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Gallery of John’s custom amp rack and speaker cabinets. All images courtesy and copyright rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn 312, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn 312 cabinet, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn 412, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn 412 cabinet, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn 412LH, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn 412LH cabinet, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn Bass bin, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn Bass bin, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn Gelf amp rig #2, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn Gelf amp rig #2, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn Gelf amp rig #3, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn Gelf amp rig #3, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn Gelf recording amp rig, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn Gelf recording amp rig, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Click to view larger version. Sunn Coliseum Slave, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Sunn Coliseum Slave, courtesy rockstarsguitars.com.

Ca. 1976, the custom Gelf amp rack by Kenny Flegg, with two Stramp 4120 preamps and four Sunn Coliseum Slave 300-watt power amps, and Alembic input module.

Ca. 1976, the Gelf custom amp rack by Kenny Flegg, with two Stramp 4120 preamps and four Sunn Coliseum Slave 300-watt power amps, and Alembic input module.

Ca. 1976, Sunn speaker cabinet setup

Ca. 1976, Sunn speaker cabinet setup, with two Sunn 412L 4x12 cabs (outside top); two Sunn 312 3x12 cabs (inside top); two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins (inside bottom), with 18 Vega speakers; two Sunn 1x18 cabinets (silver-grille), with 18 Vega speakers (outside bottom).

Ca. 1979, Sunn rig comprising three Sunn 412LH 4x12 cabs and two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins.

Ca. 1979, Sunn rig comprising three Sunn 412LH 4x12 cabs and two Sunn W 1x18 reflex bins.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1979, custom amp rack, with four Stramp 4120 stereo preamps, Alembic input module/splitter, and four Sunn Coliseum Slave power amps.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1979, custom amp rack, with two Stramp 4120 stereo preamps, Alembic input module/splitter, and four Sunn Coliseum Slave power amps.

Ca. 1982, Sunn rig.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1982, Sunn rig.

Ca. 1982, Sunn 412L 4x12 and Mega 1x18 cabinets.

Ca. 1982, Sunn 412L 4x12 and Mega 1x18 cabinets.

Ca. 1985, custom amp rack, with four Stramp 4120 stereo preamps, Alembic input module/splitter, and four Sunn Coliseum Slave power amps.

Ca. 1985, custom amp rack, with two Stramp 4120 stereo preamps, Alembic input module/splitter, and four Sunn Coliseum Slave power amps. Topped by Conn strobe tuner.

Alembic Explorer

Ca. 1976, with Alembic Explorer

Ca. 1976, with Alembic Explorer.

In the studio with Alembic Explorer

In the studio with Alembic Explorer.

Ca. 1979, with Alembic Explorer.

Ca. 1979, with Alembic Explorer.

Ca. 1979, with Alembic Explorer.

Ca. 1979, backstage, with Alembic Explorer.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1979, performing Trick of the Light, with John on 8-string Alembic Explorer and Pete playing 4-string Alembic Series I.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1979, performing Trick of the Light, with John on 8-string Alembic Explorer and Pete playing 4-string Alembic Series I.

Ca. 1979, Sunn ad.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1979, Sunn ad. Courtesy Martin Forsbom.

Click image to view larger version. Sunn ad, courtesy thewho.org.

Click image to view larger version. Sunn ad, courtesy thewho.org.

John’s Alembic bass on display at the Hard Rock Café in Berlin. Courtesy Martin Forsbom.

John’s Alembic bass in its original display at the Hard Rock Café in Berlin. Courtesy Martin Forsbom.

John’s Alembic bass

Alembic Explorer details

Alembic 4-string bass.

Click to view larger version Alembic 4-string bass.

Alembic rear adjustment screws.

Click to view larger version Alembic rear adjustment screws.

Alembic 4-string bass sideview

Click to view larger version Alembic 4-string bass, side view.

Alembic 8-string bass body

Click to view larger version Alembic 8-string bass.

Alembic 8-string bass

Alembic 8-string bass

Alembic Explorer on display at Hard Rock Café, Berlin

Photos courtesy Colin Baker.

Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 1
Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 2
Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 3
Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 4
Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 5
Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 6
Alembic Explorer, on display at Hard Rock Café in Berlin, courtesy Colin Baker. – no 7

Click images to view larger versions. Courtesy Colin Baker.

Alembic Explorer on display at the Hard Rock Vault in Orlando, Florida, 2004

Photos courtesy Michael Mullins.

Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Vault display, ca. 2004.
Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Vault display, ca. 2004.
Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Vault display, ca. 2004.

Click images to view larger versions. Courtesy Michael Mullins.

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