Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Late 70s S8 Series Fender Jazz Bass

Hmmmm .... there's nothing like a vintage instrument to kick my salivary glands into overdrive. This late 70s sunburst Fender Jazz bass is no exception. It's been the main squeeze of Kuantan-based multi-instrumentalist/slapmeister Achoy for as long as anyone can remember, and a legend in its own right.

Checking the serial number at Fender's U.S. Instruments Product Dating website got me a little confused. According to Fender, an "S8 + 5 digits" serial number denotes an instrument manufactured between 1977 and 1978. But what about an "S8 + 6 digits" serial number? Further research on the web revealed that I was not the only one facing this dilemma, and no one seemed to have an answer.

As a last resort, I emailed Fender Consumer Relations with a couple of pics of the bass, and was relieved to be told that "CBS typically used 5 or 6 digits after the prefix, so it's completely normal to see 6." They also confirmed the authenticity of the instrument. So, folks, the Jazz Bass dates to between 1977 and 1978.

Years of sweaty and smoky gigs had taken their toll on this bass. Both the bridge components and bullet truss rod adjustment nut were immobile, metal fused to metal by layers of hardened crud and rust. Additionally, the neck had way too much relief, and the G string was noting out at the upper reaches of the fretboard. Not good, as Achoy loves to solo way up high.

Some people might find the condition of the bass a tad off-putting, especially the gnarly back of the neck. But this is exactly what Achoy loves --- "loads and loads of mojo," says he.

The electronics were working fine, so a few squirts of contact cleaner was all that was needed. I was surprised to find that the control cavity was shielded with carbon paint, complete with a grounding tab. The condition of the tab told me that it had been in there for at least as long as the CTS pots had. The plastic output jack is another story, however. I assume it was a replacement for the original Switchcraft jack.

The 7.25" radius bound fingerboard sports 20 well-worn frets, and looks more like ebony than rosewood. Nice and smooth, I tell you. Yes, I did mention that the frets are "well worn." Does Achoy want a fret dress? No, he says, coz he likes it the way it is. When the frets eventually get totally worn down, he'll send the bass in for a full refret. That's what he says, and I'm fine with that.

Meanwhile, the body looks like it's solid ash. Talk about heavy! The fretboard also sports block inlays which could either be abalone or mother of pearl. I've included a collage of these gorgeous inlays, hope you find them as droolicious as I do.

The maple neck has a nice, meaty profile, much like a slimmed-down baseball bat. It's bolted on to the body in typical 70s triple-screw fashion, complete with the "micro-neck" (micro-tilt) adjustment mechanism.

The dreaded rust/crud bond plaguing the bridge and bullet nut was eventually broken via various methods involving chemicals, heat and cold. Then came a thorough cleaning with a metal "toothbrush," and final coating of blue grease. Put them back together and they were good to go.

With the truss rod and bridge back in working condition, I was able to straighten the neck, slap on a new set of strings; and adjust the bridge saddles for optimum playability. Achoy says that this new setup suits him to a T, and I am very thankful that he appreciates my efforts. Nuff said, let's look at some pics.

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