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Music

Paul McCartney's bass breaks world record at auction

@TylerGolsen

When it comes to legendary instruments, it’s hard to get any bigger than the ones used by The Beatles. It doesn’t matter if it was in regular rotation for gigs, played in the studio, kept a backup, barely touched, or even just breathed on once by a Beatle: that guitar, or those drumsticks, or that plectrum, is going to go for big money.

The problem is that most of the gear used by the band members have been kept, stored, catalogued, and guarded with the same amount of privacy afforded to most nuclear launch codes. You want one of Paul McCartney’s Hofners? Good luck. How about George Harrison’s ‘Rocky’ Strat? Not a chance. John Lennon’s red Les Paul Junior from his final show? Squired away. Damn near nothing is going to find its way into the marketplace if it has any kind of Beatles connection.

But there are exceptions. Case in point: Paul McCartney’s Yamaha BB-1200 bass guitar that saw use during the late 1970s and early ’80s recently went up as part of a charity auction orgnanised by U2’s The Edge and producer Bob Ezrin to benefit their charity Music Rising. The bass fetched $496,100, which broke the record for most expense bass ever actioned, previously held by Bill Wyman’s 1969 Fender Mustang which sold for $384,000 at an auction in 2020.

McCartney’s bass was one of numerous instruments donated by the estates of some of the most famous musicians in the world, including Eddie Vedder, Amy Winehouse, Joe Walsh, Elton John, Alex Lifeson, Flea, Slash, Johnny Marr, Joan Jett, Noel Gallagher, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Wood, and Dave Grohl, among others.

Vedder’s smashed blue Fender Telecaster was the second biggest seller of the night, bringing in $266,200 for the charity. That was also a record breaker, as it is now the most expensive destroyed instrument ever sold. Paul Simonon’s smashed Fender P Bass, the same one that was immortalised on the London Calling cover, currently has a permanent residency at the Museum of London. Unless someone can dig up Jimi Hendrix’s charred Strat from the Monterey Pop Festival or Kurt Cobain’s since repaired Fender Mustang used in the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video, I can’t think of any other destroyed instruments that would fetch that much money. Maybe a genuine Pete Townshend smashed guitar?

Obviously the Yamaha is not the bass most commonly associated with McCartney. It’s not even the bass most associated with McCartney during the Wings era, as that honour goes to the Rickenbacker 4001S, which McCartney used from Rubber Soul on. McCartney stripped the finish and famously used the guitar on the ‘Wings over the World’ tour, immortalised in the Rockshow concert film.

All in all, the instruments combined for a total sale of over $2 million dollars for charity. “The proceeds Music Rising earned will help bring live music back to life in a part of the country whose musical culture has been hugely influential in the world,” Edge explained. “We are indebted to all of the supporters of Music Rising who have given us a great opportunity to return to our roots and help those musicians in need”.

So what did McCartney use the Yamaha bass on? Well, ‘Ebony and Ivory’, of course!