Nearly two years in the making, Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass: A Compendium of the Rare, Iconic, and Weird features players and collectors discussing their connection to iconic instruments.
Lee began collecting in 2010, and became a de facto instrument historian as his gathering grew to 250 pieces. The book shares what he learned and discusses examples ranging from player-grade road warriors to “closet queens” that emerge after not being touched for decades. Other perspectives come courtesy of John Paul Jones, Bill Wyman, Bob Daisley, and others along with names familiar in the collecting realm including Fender expert Ken Collins and veteran tech Alan Rogan. Together, they offer insight on revered gems by Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Höfner, and Ampeg along with instruments made by less-celebrated but nonetheless vital names like Wandré Pioli, Dan Armstrong, and Tony Zemaitis.
The photos were shot by Richard Sibbald over a period of 18 months, almost all at Lee’s home and, he points out, “Thanks to my incredibly tolerant wife, who gave up her art studio.”
Production began with 30,000 photographs, and an early draft was nearly 650 pages, which Lee said was unrealistic in part because he wanted black pages, which meant thicker paper to accommodate the ink.
While paring photos, Lee spent two weeks with a designer at Harper Collins, “…basically punching the clock every day and sitting in a cubicle” until they’d chosen just over 1,000 and created a draft of manageable size.
“But even at 408 pages, you don’t want to drop it on your foot!” Lee said.
The end result is a new standard amongst guitar-collection books, fully exhibiting Lee’s astonishing passion for the instruments and the task of tracing their provenance.
“I’m really proud of it,” he said. “I worried it to death and a lot of people sweated over it. But it’s the book I set out to make.”
As with his other interests, wine and baseball memorabilia, Lee revels in the “club” aspect of collecting.
“One’s hobbies make the world a bigger, more-interesting place,” he said. “They‘re a window to the things that fill you up and make you a more-interesting person.
This article originally appeared in VG’s March 2019 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.