If it pleases the Cort

As I was watching an old Wang Chung video recently I noted that, musically speaking, nothing screams EIGHTIES more than a Steinberger bass. Remember?

 [L-R: Sting, Geddy Lee, Bill Wyman]

[L-R: Sting, Geddy Lee, Bill Wyman]

For about half an hour, the Steinberger bass was the must-have bass of the eighties. It seemed like every prominent player was scrambling to be seen with one--and if you had one, that meant you were Happening.

I was in college at the time, so there was no way I could shell out the $1,600 ($4,800 in today's money) necessary to join the club. I could, however, pick up one of the many knock-offs for a fraction of that price.

Cort's version looked best for me for two reasons: [1] it looked the most like the real thing, and [2] I could get it in white. All genuine Steinbergers at the time were black, as were most of the knock-offs. I chose white so it wouldn't be quite so obvious that I was trying to pass as Happening.

I don't remember exactly when I stopped playing that bass, but my best guess is that it was around 1988. It really didn't suit me well, and my interests had shifted to the guitar for quite a while. Thus it sat derelict (and 25% stringless) for decades, spending its most recent 24 years in my attic. Many times over the years I thought about bringing it downstairs and sprucing it up, making it playable again, but it didn't seem worth the effort or money.

Then, while searching for some pedal or something, I discovered that there are vendors out there who sell pre-wired electronics harnesses for basses and guitars. I'm not sure why I didn't know that before, but there it was. Not only that, but I saw that I could get such a harness in a slightly-but-significantly-different configuration from what I already had. My Cort was configured with two single-coil pickups and the same volume/volume/tone knobs as a typical Jazz bass. However, bestbassgear.com makes Jazz bass electronics configured as master volume/pickup blend/tone--which was exactly what I wanted!

When it came time to rip out the old and solder the new, I discovered four problems: the three new knob shafts and one output jack are wider than the originals. Luckily all it took was some careful re-drilling of the top holes to get them to the right diameter. The pickup jack hole was only slightly too small, but it was metal. I couldn't re-drill that one, so I took a metal file to it and gradually widened it as evenly as I could. After that it was all about the solder and electrical tape. A fresh set of strings and a setup later, my 34-year old bass is back on its feet and ready for gigs!

The next challenge will be rigging a stable stand for it. I'm thinking that a short length of PVC tubing cut in half lengthwise and fastened to a regular stand's cradle ought to do the trick. We'll see.