Synth recordings in "rock" music from the 60s

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"Rock" taken in rather general terms here, although Walter Carlos doesn't count.

Monkees: Daily Nightly
The Byrds: Space Odyssey
Simon & Garfunkel: Save The Life Of a Child, The Boxer
The Beatles: Because, Here Comes The Sun, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Octopus' Garden

Is there a synth being played in several of the tracks on "Music From Big Pink", or was it just some different sounding organ? Anybody knows?

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:20 (fifteen years ago) link

Ahem.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:46 (fifteen years ago) link

the less known but usual mentions regarding early use of synth:

Lothar and the Hand People
The United States of America
50 Foot Hose
Silver Apples

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:48 (fifteen years ago) link

It says here that Music from Big Pink has Lowery organ and "Clavinette" (sic) all over it.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:55 (fifteen years ago) link

My understanding is the instruments 50 Foot Hose and the Silver Apples played weren't synthesizers per se so much as very loose cocatenations of all sorts of electronic sound-makers, such as oscillators and the like. Lothar definitely used a Moog and USA used a Durrett.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 16:11 (fifteen years ago) link

I think if you play an oscillator in a band, it's essentially a synthesizer, especially if like the Silver Apples, you play it melodically. I haven't heard 50 Foot Hose in some time so maybe they used it in a more Eno/Pere Ubu sound sense then melodically, but I'd still say that's valid. After all, all a synthesizer is is an oscillator...

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 19 February 2006 16:42 (fifteen years ago) link

I've heard it said a few times that the Monkees' "Daily Nightly" (mentioned above) and "Star Collector" (not mentioned yet), from the same album (in November 1967), were the first examples of Moog synth appearing on rock records. Can anyone confirm/deny?

Joseph McCombs (Joseph McCombs), Sunday, 19 February 2006 18:45 (fifteen years ago) link

Rolling Stones' "2,000 Light Years From Home"

D. Bachyrycz, Sunday, 19 February 2006 19:11 (fifteen years ago) link

I've heard it said a few times that the Monkees' "Daily Nightly" (mentioned above) and "Star Collector" (not mentioned yet), from the same album (in November 1967), were the first examples of Moog synth appearing on rock records. Can anyone confirm/deny?

Ha ha ha, I think I know why you ask.

The liner notes to my copy of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. say it was released on November 14, 1967, and that Paul Beaver and Micky Dolenz plays the Moog on it. But it looks like the Doors beat them by at least a couple weeks: multiple online sources say the Doors' Strange Days was released on October 1967, and like PAC&JL, it's got Paul Beaver and his Moog. The book Analog Days says: "On the title track "Strange Days" Jim Morrison's vocal is created by the filter and envelope, triggered by Jim himself hitting the keyboard on the vocal..." And it's also detectable in the white noise of "Horse Latitudes." But but but give the Monkees this: they beat the Beatles on Moog-use bragging rights by nearly two years (nearly a year and a half if you count George Harrison's Electronic Sound), and the synth bit in "Star Collector" is easily much weirder than the synth bits on Strange Days. Mickey actually bought, too, I think.

There are a few others that may have beat the Doors, but we get into less verifiable territory here. There's the Electric Flag (with Paul Beaver) and their soundtrack to Roger Corman's The Trip, can't say I know when the accompanying album was released, but imdb.com says the movie premiered August 23, 1967. The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds LP (with Paul Beaver) is often cited as the THE first album with a Moog, rock or otherwise, but I'm seeing contradictory release dates online, either May or November 1967. Emil Richards, who played on that, claims his New Sound Element: Stones (with Paul Beaver, probably) MAY have been before that, but I can't verify. And then there some uses in commercials and other kinds of "ephemeral music" prior to THAT, but whether they made it wax is anybody's guess.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:12 (fifteen years ago) link

After all, all a synthesizer is is an oscillator...

I think that's a bit reductive. I think what makes a synthesizer a synthesizer isn't that it has an oscillator so much as that an oscillator's output goes through a number of other different modules -- amplifiers, envelopes, filters, sequencers -- which shape and control it.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:48 (fifteen years ago) link

Did any '60's rock artists use the Hammond Novachord on their recordings?

Pashmina (Pashmina), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:52 (fifteen years ago) link

..the Novachord being yer actual synthesiser in a lot of respects - IE keyboard controlled analogue (valve powered, too) oscillators run through filters, & with independent envelope generators per note, also fully polyphonic. Really a remarkable instrument, designed & sold 1939-1942. Any rock band who used one prior to the monkees album cited uphread could just about lay claim to the "1st use of synthesiser" thing.

To save you googling, here's a page with information about it and some(fuckign AWESOME) mp3s:

http://discretesynthesizers.com/nova/intro.htm

Also, the Moog is the instrument that gets used on all these early "1st synthesiser2 recordings, what about the buchla syntheisier? Best-known, I guess from Morton Subotnick's recordings, did that appear on any rock rekkids in the '60's?

Pashmina (Pashmina), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:03 (fifteen years ago) link

http://www.dustygroove.com/images/products/w/whitenoise~_electrics_101b.jpg

More of a head record than anything with dated "trippiness" well intact. This one is often compared to the United States of America album, but the United States of America album is way better.

Flour of my secret, Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:24 (fifteen years ago) link

Ha! Didn't even know about the Novachord. This site says only 1,069 were produced, with the last made in 1942, and given the shaky electronics involved, I'd almost think that few if any would've survived into the sixties, but this site has TV show sightings up to 1967 as well as in Gone With the Wind (?!?!) and Red River (?!?!). Googling shows uses in records by Lawrence Welk, the Sons of the Pioneers, and maybe something called "Novachord Boogie" by Slim Gaillard (?!?!?).

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:29 (fifteen years ago) link

I always want to prop that White Noise album, because I saw White Noise (aka David Vorhaus) live in the '80's and it was was really, really great - this weirdly beautiful-looking guy, standing on stage playing this home-built instrument that looked like a cross between a drainpipe and a cello, making this fucked up martial electronic music. But, it's not that good. None of his albums are, sadly.

(x-post, yeah, the appearance of the thing in 1960's TV soundtracks is what makes me imagine that one of them might have turned up on some rock record - did you listen to p cirocco's improv pieces? Incredible - it sounds like Vangelis' CS80!)

Pashmina (Pashmina), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:33 (fifteen years ago) link

As for the Buchla, after years of this subject bouncing in my head, I still haven't been able to confirm a single use in any sixties pop or rock record, though Analog Days details Buchla's performances at psychedelic events starting in 1966.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:36 (fifteen years ago) link

I think the USA album is...not that great. Fascinating, yes, but its application of highbrow ideas is kind of superficial and even more embarrassingly dated than many a trashier LSD exploitation. (Colin Meeder once told me that he shot milk through his nose when he first heard "Where Is Yesterday.") Though when it rocks on out in its own uniquely frigid way, it's awesome. Still haven't heard White Noise, btw.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:52 (fifteen years ago) link

a trashier LSD exploitation

I'm not implying the USA was one of these, just that often the trashier, crasser stuff of the sixties beats the USA's well-intentioned and well-informed avant-dabblings, by and large.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:56 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm very fond of the the USA album but will also willingly admit that the lyrics and vocals are gruellingly painful/dated/trite (just plain god awful) with their fixation on "mind expansion" and suburban conformity. However, many of the tracks more than make up for this deficit of judgement with their sonic invention (use of ring modulators, tape cut-ups, calliope, etc.). That said, "I Wouldn't Leave My Wooden Wife for You, Sugar" has to be hands-down one of the worst moments to ever emerge from late-60s pop music.

William Selman (William Selman), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:01 (fifteen years ago) link

Years ago, I got an aggrieved e-mail from Dorothy Moskowitz over an admittedly snotty and D-U-M thing I wrote about USA for Freaky Trigger. I have no complaint about her vocals, though: she was one of the smartest things about USA, and what a pity the lyrics didn't really match her airy cynicism.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:24 (fifteen years ago) link

"...something called "Novachord Boogie" by Slim Gaillard "

Jesus, I would kill to hear this.

(Also agree about "Wooden Wife"--though its awfulness has nothing to do with synthesizer use.)

Marcel Post (Marcel Post), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:42 (fifteen years ago) link

I think that's a bit reductive. I think what makes a synthesizer a synthesizer isn't that it has an oscillator so much as that an oscillator's output goes through a number of other different modules -- amplifiers, envelopes, filters, sequencers -- which shape and control it.

I know it's reductive...but it's true. There's subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis and about a thousand other kinds, no need for a filter necessarily, an oscilator, played melodically, is a synthesizer.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:54 (fifteen years ago) link

There's a sound sample of "Novachord Boogie" on bn.com (disc three, track 12).

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:55 (fifteen years ago) link

Several posters here mention United States Of America, but did they ever use a Moog? I thought they used more the same kind of electronic effects that were used earlier by people such as Stockhausen.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:58 (fifteen years ago) link

It was a Durrett synthesizer. I'm hurt and offended that you didn't read my article, Geir.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 23:06 (fifteen years ago) link

USA did not use a Moog. Robert Moog didn't present his synthesizer until 1965 and while it was commercially available the following year, it was prohibitively expensive so that only a few institutions and commercially viable artists were able to use them until the price dropped somewhat in following years. (The book Analog Days published by Harvard UP covers all of this in detail and is a completely riveting read.)

Rather, USA used ring modulators and oscilators; the latter are the primary signal generator in synthesizers and were readily available. They supposedly had a primitive synthesizer built for them by Richard(?) Durrett. I have never seen much info on the Durrett though.

Stockhausen (at least his classic 50s and 60s recordings) used oscilators as a sound source that he recorded to tape and then manipulated by editing, pitching up and down and layering.

William Selman (William Selman), Sunday, 19 February 2006 23:10 (fifteen years ago) link

she was one of the smartest things about USA

I think this is true also. The vocals for example on "Love Song for the Dead Che" are really lovely. This is helped by the fact though that lyrics are for the most part the only passable ones on the record...

William Selman (William Selman), Sunday, 19 February 2006 23:14 (fifteen years ago) link

an oscilator, played melodically, is a synthesizer.

I'm not understanding the emphasis on "melodically."

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Sunday, 19 February 2006 23:19 (fifteen years ago) link

much of the "Satanic Majesties Request" album involves synthesizers. mick jagger even did a terrible synth score to a kenneth anger film, available at http://www.ubu.com/sound/jagger.html

trees (treesessplode), Monday, 20 February 2006 00:29 (fifteen years ago) link

IIRC, the ooky sounds on Their Satanic are mellotron but Jagger did in fact buy a Moog in '68, apparently with an eye towards possibly making it *his* instrumental contribution to the Stones.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Monday, 20 February 2006 00:58 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm not understanding the emphasis on "melodically."

I guess that is why you define the electronic tools USA used as synthesizers then.

The Moog was the first ever synthetic instrument that was able to play melodies.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 20 February 2006 01:07 (fifteen years ago) link

Geir, did you even try to look at Pashmina's links about the Novochord?

Never mind the fact that the RCA could damned well play melodies too, if you're gonna go with that really rather partial definition.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Monday, 20 February 2006 01:26 (fifteen years ago) link

even the telharmonium had a keyboard, functional 1906

geir doesn't really read

miltonloggedout, Monday, 20 February 2006 01:29 (fifteen years ago) link

hey wow thanks for linking those RCA mp3's

miltonloggedout, Monday, 20 February 2006 01:31 (fifteen years ago) link

Ha ha ha, I think I know why you ask.

-- Michael Daddino, February 19th, 2006.

And indeed, you'd be right. :) Thanks for the info; at the very least I owe you a drink in Seattle if you'll be up there for the EMP.

Joseph McCombs (Joseph McCombs), Monday, 20 February 2006 03:52 (fifteen years ago) link

Jefferson Airplane used a moog on After Bathing at Baxters, about the same time as the Monkees (probably the same one, since both were recorded at RCA in LA)

moriarty (moriarty), Monday, 20 February 2006 04:33 (fifteen years ago) link

I only defined it as melodically because you were implying that the way Silver Apples, 50 Foot Hose, USA etc used electronics was not technically the use of a synthesizer. So what is a synthesizer? 2 oscillators with no filter and no amp control is still additive synthesis.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Monday, 20 February 2006 05:04 (fifteen years ago) link

"IIRC, the ooky sounds on Their Satanic are mellotron but Jagger did in fact buy a Moog in '68"s

Definitely sounds like Moog at the end of "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)" (actually sequenced as the beginning of "She's a Rainbow" on the CD). Someone mentioned "2,000 Light Years from Home" upthread, too - main keyboard part is Mellotron, but there's Moog in the instrumental section.

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Monday, 20 February 2006 05:42 (fifteen years ago) link

someone beat me to the synth punch...( Well my area of synth-questions range from 1970's-1990's anyway )

Weren't snthesizers big old room sized thingies back in the 1960's

startrekman, Monday, 20 February 2006 05:44 (fifteen years ago) link

Which Baxter's tracks used synth, Moriarty?

Myonga Von Bontee (Myonga Von Bontee), Monday, 20 February 2006 07:30 (fifteen years ago) link

I only defined it as melodically because you were implying that the way Silver Apples, 50 Foot Hose, USA etc used electronics was not technically the use of a synthesizer. So what is a synthesizer? 2 oscillators with no filter and no amp control is still additive synthesis.

??? I thought you said above "a synthesizer is is an oscillator", oscillator being singular rather than plural. I'm also not sure the above clarifies anything regarding your use of "melodically" to define a synthesizer, as opposed to, say, rhythmically. And uh I said USA used a Durrett.

Shamefully, I've never listened to a whole Jefferson Airplane record, but based on an admittedly sketchy listening of the After Bathing at Baxter's (via er iTunes snippets) I hear maybe a clavinet on "Two Heads" and possibly "A Small Package" unless that's a real harpsichord.

After doing some Slsk research I also hear possible Moog action on "2,000 Light Years from Home" and would love to get some independent confirmation via liner notes or what have you.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Monday, 20 February 2006 14:03 (fifteen years ago) link

i'm just taking the question as the use of electronic sound generating devices in rock music in the 60s. I don't see a big difference between how the silver apples used oscillators in their music and how the byrds used a moog.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Monday, 20 February 2006 14:10 (fifteen years ago) link

Tangenting a bit: you've heard the Byrds' not-released-in-its-time "Moog Raga," right? The synth sounds are less texture-y and more "shaped" than on The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Monday, 20 February 2006 14:25 (fifteen years ago) link

A more complete tangent: I remember reading a stray reference a few years ago to a mid-sixties band called Dirty Filthy Mud who supposedly used electronics in their psyche attack. Anybody know anything about them?

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Monday, 20 February 2006 14:39 (fifteen years ago) link

Yeah, Moog Raga is on the CD to Notorious Byrd Brothers...love it.

also not sure where Mother Mallard fits in, later? But always mentioned in this context, perhaps as much because they were a rock band who came out of arty synthesizer backgrounds and not the opposite?

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Monday, 20 February 2006 15:11 (fifteen years ago) link

Os Mutantes' "Balada de Louco" sounds like it has a synthesizer on it, though it could also be a weird-sounding organ. Now that I think about it, that song might be from the '70s anyway.

exploder, Monday, 20 February 2006 16:42 (fifteen years ago) link

Tangenting a bit: you've heard the Byrds' not-released-in-its-time "Moog Raga," right?

Sure. But to be pedantic, that tune wasn't really released until the 90s, even though it was recorded in 1967.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 20 February 2006 17:08 (fifteen years ago) link

it came out in 1970, but if you have never heard Don Fardon's original version of "Belfast Boy" you gotta hear it. total acid-house synth intro.

scott seward (scott seward), Monday, 20 February 2006 17:15 (fifteen years ago) link

Me: Tangenting a bit: you've heard the Byrds' not-released-in-its-time "Moog Raga," right?

Geir: Sure. But to be pedantic, that tune wasn't really released until the 90s, even though it was recorded in 1967.

Geir, what part of "not-released-in-its-time" do you not understand?

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Monday, 20 February 2006 17:32 (fifteen years ago) link

I did see that you wrote "not-released-in-its-time".

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 20 February 2006 19:08 (fifteen years ago) link

The Moog was the first ever synthetic instrument that was able to play melodies.

-- Geir Hongro (geirhon...), Today. (later) (link) (admin) (userip)

Oh come on Geir, I'm sure I saw a pic of you on your site playing a synthesiser, so there's no excuse for this! Surely you have heard of the Ondes Martenot, aptented 1928?

http://www.obsolete.com/120_years/machines/martenot/

It's not that obscure! Orchestral works by Messiaen, Hohenegger, maurice jarre. It had an equal-tempered keyboard, so you could, if you wanted to, play melodies on it. Beautiful, haunting "singing" tone as well.

Pashmina (Pashmina), Monday, 20 February 2006 19:16 (fifteen years ago) link

fifteen years pass...

Not rock or "rock" of course but, since this seems to be the main thread the Novachord is mentioned on, came here to note its use on Vera Lynn's 1939 recording of "We'll Meet Again." I think the one used in Dr. Strangelove is later, maybe the one from the film of the same name.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1xrofiEa4w

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 17:31 (one week ago) link


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