If you could only see the beautiful hue of this Precision Elite II finished in Sienna Burst, you’d melt.
Arguably the most devastating of Fender’s bursts, this finish was made famous in the early ’80s on P-Basses, Jazzes, Strats, and the like. It starts at the center of the instrument in a honey yellow see-through tint and, around the edges, radiates into the most breathtaking chestnut color. I used to think nobody could produce a shaded top more pleasing to the eye than a Rickenbacker Fireglo, but one look at this, and I’m not so sure!
Anyway, that fantastic finish is on our subject of the moment, a Fender P-Bass Elite II, produced between 1983 and 1985. At the time, a lot of bassists were demanding active pickups and mass bridges, and the good people at Fender decided to listen to the customer and produce what they thought would fit the bill. I guess they also got a look at some of the bastardized Fender basses floating around and decided to add a second creme-colored split pickup above the bridge.
I haven’t seen too many of these babies on the concert circuit, so I guess that’s the reason for the short (two-year) lifespan. I have owned few of this era P-Bass and Jazz versions, and I have mixed feelings about them. First off, some are downright boat anchors; super-heavy, ash-bodied cumbersome units! And then, when I have just about made my mind up to hate the bastards, along comes a really lightweight resonant instrument that really feels good. The operative word being instrument.
There are a lot of guitars and basses out there that just cannot be referred to as instruments. Let’s face it, I don’t have to say words like Harmony or Kent to rustle up subconscious memories of the dreaded “talent-numbing husks.” Some of the big names have been party to that clambake over the lower-quality years in the past. It happens in most big businesses. The point when production numbers mean more than quality. By now, this position has thankfully been laid to rest in most guitar manufacturing facilities in the United States. Today, there really is a lot of great QC in the ol’ US of A.
Okay, hold on for a second and let me explain. I realize Harmony and Kent made a lot of good instruments. I use lower-priced monikers simply to make a point, so excuuuse me! Those companies did occasionally float a turd in the corporate pool! If you don’t believe it, try playing a Sekova bass through a four-hour show!
Back to the P-Bass Elite II. As you can see, this bad boy is lookin’ mighty nice. The white pickguard sets off the finish nicely and the sounds emanating from its bowels gots some soulfulization, too. The maple ‘board neck is very comfortable, and rosewood fretted and fretless versions also appeared. Some of the other interesting variants in the Fender lineup were the Walnut Elite and Gold Elite P-Basses. The former version sported a walnut body and neck, and an ebony board! And a nice Firemist-style gold finish and gold-plated parts brought the Gold Elite version into the spotlight.
The Sienna Burst Precision Elite II Bass, with active electronics, mass bridge, and white pickguard. Photo by John Slog.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’96 issue.