Sounds of typewriters in music

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So yeah, the one thing that is utterly irresistible in music for me is the sound of typewriters. It’s the idea of the souls of old genius writers still hovering above the keys, the hard strokes, paper rolling…Whether they’re green (Olivia Tremor Control’s ‘Green Typewriters’-suite on Dusk at Cubist Castle), Kafka and Milosz-induced (Max Richter’s phenomenal ‘The Blue Notebooks’) or Eno on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (by strategy)’ or Ms John Soda’s While Talking etc...

What other records containing sounds of typewriters are really good?
(I’m not looking for songs with only one keystroke or end-of-line ping, the sound of a typewriter has to substantially add to the quality or ‘identity’ of the song/composition.)

Gerard (Gerard), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:05 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

dissidents 12" version by thomas dolby.

the typewriter is an essential element to the overall ambience of the track if i recall. has been a while and they are long those versions .. but i am sure there is a lot of typewriter action within ..


mark e (mark e), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:09 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Bryan Ferry's "Kiss & Tell." Why I don't know.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"Wordy Rappinghood" of course!

jed_ (jed), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:11 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Wordy Rappinghood, x-post

Billy Pilgrim (Billy Pilgrim), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:13 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

sometimes you just gotta love this place eh
(see also: TS: Dizzee Rascal Vs. Dizzy Gillespie)

there's is a song on Position Normal's second album Goodly Time that not only has typewriter sounds in it all the way through but is about a guy with a typewriter-fetish --it's got this sweaty-palmed voice-over talking about how the clang of the carriage return gets him horny, that kind of thing. but i forget the title.

olivetti twist, Monday, 1 August 2005 15:14 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

there's one on here, but i forget which. whatever it's called, it's amazing.

CharlieNo4 (Charlie), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:16 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Yeah, that Tom Tom Club's is great. And thanks Mark E for the Dolby one!

x-post. OMG "Olivetti Twist", that song must be about me!

Gerard (Gerard), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

um, Dark Side of the Moon

Billy Pilgrim (Billy Pilgrim), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:27 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Madonna, "Words"

And there's supposedly a vintage one on that one solo album by that one guy in Mars Volta from last year (he supposedly collects old typewriters!)

xhuxk, Monday, 1 August 2005 15:27 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Dark Side of the Moon is cash registers, not typewriters, no?

Kim (Kim), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:32 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

So (tappety-tap-tap) I've decided to take my work back underground (tappety-tap-tap) to stop it falling into the wrong hands...

ledge (ledge), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:44 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Satie's *Parade* is great. It was a score for a ballet (IIRC). Has to be one of the earliest uses of a typewriter in music, if not the earliest.

scott seward (scott seward), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:49 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Bingo Gazingo and My Robot Friend -- You're Out of the Computer

(an awesome track from those out sounds Chusid comps from a couple years back, Songs In The Key of Z.)

BlastsOfStatic (BlastsofStatic), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:51 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Dark Side *is* cash registers, innit. Tells you how long its been since I've thought about how that album works...

Billy Pilgrim (Billy Pilgrim), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:54 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

echoinggrove (echoinggrove), Monday, 1 August 2005 15:59 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

You need Stereo Total's "Dactylo Rock"! It's hyper meta, with punctuation spelled out in the lyrics and all:

Wenn ich dich sehe KOMMA
Der Junge macht mir Kummer
Dass er mir sagt GÄNSEFÜSSCHEN
Bitte komm mit zu mir
Ja, wann denn FRAGEZEICHEN
Heute um PUNKT vier

Oh oh AUSRUFEZEICHEN, es wäre so schön..."

(And there's a French translation of it as well!)

OleM (OleM), Monday, 1 August 2005 16:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The first thing I thought of was Thomas Dolby, which has been mentioned. The second thing I thought of was Exhuming McCarthy by REM.

Draw Tipsy, ya hack. (dave225.3), Monday, 1 August 2005 16:13 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

i dunno if any recordings exist, but there was lester bangs' onstage typewriter solo w/the j. geils band

Zack Richardson (teenagequiet), Monday, 1 August 2005 16:21 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"Everyday" - Buddy Holly!

walter kranz (walterkranz), Monday, 1 August 2005 16:30 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

i'm not sure if the actual recording is a typewriter or not, but i have a video clip of OMD doing "genetic engineering" for some TV show or other circa 1983, where the "chacka-chacka-chacka" noise is (apparently: it's not live, natch) replicated by martin cooper hitting the keys of an electric typewriter.

hang on, is it GE or is it "telegraph"? it might be the latter, although in that case i've no idea what noise he thinks he's doing. hmmm.

the clip's on the iMac at home: home is somewhere i wish i was, but shan't be for ages. at some point this week, gerard, i shall YSI you the clip (and post the link here too. why not? rock and roll).

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:02 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

'The Typewriter', a novelty orchestral piece by Leroy Anderson.

Tony W-B (cruz_10q), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:06 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

the OMD thing is on "telegraph", but i'm pretty sure it's just that - a telegraph. not sure that counts as a typewriter, but thinking about it now, there's no reason it shouldn't. it's awesome the way that it makes the underlying rhythm track of the song, all the way through

that and REM were the first things I thought of

rentboy (rentboy), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:07 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

actually i'm wrong, it is GE... just listened to both.

rentboy (rentboy), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Louie Rankin "Typewriter"!

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:11 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

despite "dazzle ships" being my favourite album in the world ever, i can't quite place the backing track of telegraph ... there's a "boop-boop-biddly-boop" morse-code noise, but ... come on, mind and memory, stop letting me down!

the way i remember this video clip, MC is definitely rattling away at a typewriter: there's a fairly good shot of it. but i'm becoming more addled and confused by the second (i'm at work, trying to do ten things at once, and i'm still hungover from the weekend).

anyway: yes, whatever it is, it's awesome all the same :)

(x-post: heheheh, having gone to the trouble of typing all that, i'm not deleting it now!)

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:12 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Guster, "Barrel of a Gun"

Joseph McCombs (Joseph McCombs), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:13 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Of course , The Girl At The Typewriter (Raymond Scott) does not have a typewriter in it, just wooden percussion to emulate its sound.

peepee (peepee), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:22 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

yeah Dazzle Ships is my favorite OMD album and one of my favorite albums, period.

shame they stopped short of doing the expanded remastered thingys before Dazzle Ships, I was really looking forward to it. But I have the lovely finyl version with the color coded time zone map inner sleeve picture

grimly, do you know if they're ver going to continue with the remasters? i'm assuming they didn't sell too well which is why they stopped.

rentboy (rentboy), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:25 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

that should be "vinyl" not finyl, obv

rentboy (rentboy), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:27 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

i posted that exact same question on the OMD S/D thread recently, rentboy. sadly, i fear we could be in for a long wait. a few months ago on the same thread, ned and i got all excited and somehow convinced ourselves (my fault, i think) that the remaster was due out any moment, but it seems we were sadly wrong.

i have the original vinyl too. i used to have it on CD (and before that on tape!) but when i was going through my obsessive OMD completist phase in the early nineties i sold all the CDs and picked up the vinyl from record fairs instead. i would love a remastered CD: i've MP3d the vinyl, but a completely crackle-free version would be bliss itself.

it's probably worth hassling andy mcluskey via i haven't looked at the site for ages, but i think he's quite good at answering people's questions etc. and although it didn't sell well at the time, surely it's been reclaimed as a classic; the most experimental pop album of the eighties, etc etc. i'd have thought there'd be a few bob for virgin if they released a remaster.

well: about 18 quid if you and i each buy a copy, at least.

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 1 August 2005 17:35 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

There's a song on Liars's They Threw Us All... that uses a typewriter as the percussion track for the first bit of the song. Not sure what track it is and I don't have the record with me to listen to it.

- (smile), Monday, 1 August 2005 18:03 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

@Grimly Fiendish: that clip would be greatly appreciated!
It's funny, I used to have a tape of Dazzle Ships and haven't heard it in ages, but can't recall that sound being a typewriter. I'll check it out soon. Hopefully I can track down Leroy Anderson's piece as well. That sounds great in theory, which also goes for Satie, My Robot Friend and especially the Staalplaat record (Rehberg!).

Gerard (Gerard), Monday, 1 August 2005 19:25 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

'The Typewriter', a novelty orchestral piece by Leroy Anderson.

Is that the one that has really fast violin playing during each phrase, punctuated by a loud and emphatic "DING!" at the end of each line? I seem to remember Max Miller or Spike Milligan or someone acting this out.

CharlieNo4 (Charlie), Monday, 1 August 2005 19:30 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

that's the one, yes:

willem (willem), Monday, 1 August 2005 20:28 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

"Genetic Engineering" is the track off OMD's _Dazzle Ships_ with the prominent typewriter. "La Lettre D'explication" by Yann Tiersen also features typewriter, as does "Pas Si Simple" off his score to the film "Amelie".

FelixHapper, Monday, 1 August 2005 20:30 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

ok, OMD-loving funsters. you'll find clips of "genetic engineering" and "telegraph" here, from some long-lost eighties TV show. apologies for the quality/.wmv-ness/etc. i can't remember where i found them, but i imagine it was pat's world of OMD.

the typewriter action is in "genetic engineering" and is indeed the chucka-chucka-chucka sound i thought (although paul does, er, "play" a telegraph switch in "telegraph" too). for most of the song, martin (stage right, green shirt) plays a keyboard; right at the end (after the slightly embarrassing bit with the notepads), he turns to his left and plays a typewriter. there's a close-up in the last few seconds if you want to zoom there straight away.

i just spent five minutes hunting through some of my vinyl for "dazzle ships" so i can check the instrument list to see if it mentions a typewriter: i can't find it (seriously: it would take me the best part of an hour to search all the records) so if anyone else can check, that'd be appreciated. IIRC they listed *everything* they used on the record, so i'd have thought a typewriter would be on there if they'd used it.

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 1 August 2005 20:59 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Thanks Willem, you rock! That Anderson piece makes me all ticklish and feeling giddy :-)
I'll hunt down the Tiersen songs soon, it looks promising.

Grimly, the typewriter is indeed listed on the instrumentlist on Dazzle Ships! I've found several sites who mention this in their review, in such similar words that it's probably out of a bio ( "Any album that lists among the instruments used on it a Sanyo short wave radio,a typewriter and a Texas Instruments "Speak and Spell" machine has to be something different").
Unfortunately, I can't seem to save the video-files you linked to ("forbidden"), but found the album on slsk, which in itself made my home a happier place tonight, hearing after such a long time.

Gerard (Gerard), Monday, 1 August 2005 21:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink


fuck. two minutes.

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 1 August 2005 21:25 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

right. fixed. [blushes.] apologies!

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Monday, 1 August 2005 21:27 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

No apologies necessary, they're already rolling in :-)
I sense a great 'typewriter compilation' ahead...

Gerard (Gerard), Monday, 1 August 2005 21:39 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

looper, impossible things #2

scott pl. (scott pl.), Monday, 1 August 2005 21:40 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Typing Music (Genesis XVI) is the opening track on Steve Reich's 'The Cave' and there's a short reprise later on .

avery keen-gardner (avery keen-gardner), Monday, 1 August 2005 23:20 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Typewriters figure in several pieces by John Cage. For instance, while it's not a fixed element of the piece, in some performances of 0' 00", Cage typed letters to his friends on a greatly amplified typewriter. And a typewriter can be heard prominently in the Atelier Schola Cantorum recording of his Song Books.

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Monday, 1 August 2005 23:37 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

One of the tracks on the Tom Zé compilation David Byrne put out on Luaka Bop in the late eighties (Brazil Classics no. 4) had a typewriter - it was an instrumental with a lot of other found sounds on it. I think the track was called 'Toc'.

scriblerus (mike lynch), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 02:50 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I believe there's a Calexico song that uses the typewriter for percussion...can't remember which one, now.

Sean Carruthers (SeanC), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 03:05 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

You should get Moreno Veloso's "Music Typewriter"

sibsi (sibsi), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 09:49 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Paul, are some of those performances of Cage's 0'00" recorded? I read about it once but never did hear it. The typewriter not being a fixed element in Cage's piece almost sounds like an advantage. The 'instrument' seems very appropriate for improvisation. The rhythm when writing a letter can mix wonderfully with music.

Sibsi, I most definately should, but it looks like a real hard one to find on the net, let alone a copy of the cd. I don't suppose you can help me out? :-)

Gerard (Gerard), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 10:05 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The Monkees, P.O. Box 9847

Dadaismus (Dada), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 10:06 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

(Gerard, if you want the Stereo Total track mentioned above, just say so – is that gmail address real?)

OleM (OleM), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 10:22 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Yeah it's real, OleM, that'd be great!!

Gerard (Gerard), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 12:21 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I remember seeing a documentary on Ennio Morricone in the mid-90s in which he demonstrated the use of a typewriter in one of his compositions (think it was a mid-60s number). Anyone any idea what that composition might have been? It was ruddy marvellous.

harvey.w (harvey.w), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 13:20 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

There's a really good Paperchase song on one of their earlier albums with a typewriter intro.

n/a (Nick A.), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 13:26 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Janis Joplin, The Typewriter Tapes

t. fiend (t. fiend), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 14:36 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Gerard, send me an email w/ your address and if I have time I can send you a copy.

sibsi (sibsi), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 14:50 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Harvey, I believe that was improvisation after the interviewer asked Morricone to demonstrate his use of odd instruments. If it ended up on one of his gazillion albums, I do not know about it, but it could very well be true.

Sibsi: Done!

Gerard (Gerard), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 16:23 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

The Blue Nile's "O Lolita" b-side has quite an extensive typewriter break.

blue, Tuesday, 2 August 2005 17:29 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Gerard, unfortunately I really don't what any recordings of 0' 00" are like (assuming they exist). The complete score of the piece is basically just a verbal instruction to perform an unspecified action, in an unselfconscious manner and allowing for any interruptions or unintentional sounds that may occur. Cage's 1965 amplified-typerwriter performance at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University has been discussed a lot and is the one I was thinking of. (The other sounds, also greatly amplified, that were heard at this performance: Cage drinking from a glass of water, squeaks from his chair.) As far as I know there's no recording documenting it.

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 17:42 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Dolly Parton -"9 to 5"

Really though I usually loathe the sound of typewriters in songs

Uncledoj, Tuesday, 2 August 2005 18:39 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

"Gonna Type A Letter" - Billy Fury

CarlosDP, Monday, 10 November 2008 01:29 (ten years ago) Permalink

Cornelius - Typerite Lesson

WE ARE ALL GEETIKA (PappaWheelie V), Monday, 10 November 2008 02:09 (ten years ago) Permalink

Brutum Fulmen has a lot of recordings which use typewriters as the sound source. Search the "Flesh of the Moon" album.

ian, Monday, 10 November 2008 03:00 (ten years ago) Permalink

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