synths in Imagination - "Just an Illusion"

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What kind of synths did Imagination use in their 1982 hit song "Just an Illusion"?

The Startrekman (Startrekman), Tuesday, 11 April 2006 05:48 (fourteen years ago) link

Right then, Startrekman: for once, you're going to get a proper answer. I passed your question on to a freelance musician friend of mine, who played on a number of 1980s UK soul/funk tracks, and this is his reply.

[Please note that J&S = Jolley & Swain, who were the producers of "Just An Illusion".]

I never worked directly with J + S although I did know both
Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and Ashley (Ingrams, 'bass'). Ashley claimed that the reason he mimed with a bass and yet we all heard a synth was that his fretless bass was processed via the filter section of a Roland SH101. This would have been technically possible although it was extraordinarily unlikely to have produced the sounds we all actually heard, which were completely characteristic of the smoothness and consistency of attack normally associated with oscillators, not stringed instruments. I'm not calling him a liar... but....

So, milud, I think it both likely and probable that an SH 101 was
employed in the J&S armoury somewhere. As I recall the SH 101 was a
monophonic synth and most of the Imagination records featured single
note blip lines, Vince Clark stylee (except that he used one finger,
never mind how many notes were available to him). Alternatives would be Prophet 5 or some form of ARP or Oberheim. J and S were quite
conventional in their instrumentation as I recall and used electric and acoustic piano for most of the mid ground with bleeps for rhythm and most prominently the synth bass. So as expert witness, or at least gifted imaginer, I think the Roland SH 101 stands accused. Incidentally this was not an expensive or complicated synth to use, in fact it was rather looked down on, like a good deal of the Roland gear, only coming into its own, like the TB 303 and even the TR 808 and 909 in a later time and for another generation who didn't think that weedy monophonic bleeps were a second best to 'real' instruments. If not the SH 101 I nominate the Prophet 5, which was ubiquitous but dear (about 3k or so) and was a bit of a bugger to programme much beyond the rather cliched presets. The SH 101 had no presets or memory so it was more adaptable.

Er, that's about it.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 11 April 2006 10:41 (fourteen years ago) link

If someone has a YSI of this tune, PLEASE send it. I've wanted it for months.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Tuesday, 11 April 2006 12:34 (fourteen years ago) link

> I think the Roland SH 101 stands accused

I have read otherwise. Just an Illusion is the track that is usually cited as an example of a TB-303 being used as its designer intended, i.e. programmed to play a structured bassline rather than semi-random squawks. (Not, of course, that I've got anything against semi-random squawks.)
The riff at the start sounds like a Rhodes piano to me.

Palomino (Palomino), Tuesday, 11 April 2006 16:28 (fourteen years ago) link

Doesn't Vangelis' "Friends Of Mister Cairo" use a 303 in the same fashion?

Tantrum The Cat (Tantrum The Cat), Tuesday, 11 April 2006 17:54 (fourteen years ago) link

My friend replies:


I think a TB 303 may be an anachronism. I didn't see one till '83. Not conclusive but the SH 101 was definitely available at the time. While out last night my old (keyboard playing) friend Chris played me Just an Illusion from iTunes and he diagnosed the SH 101. He also told me that I was wrong, in that the SH 101 had presets. As he put it, "lovely bass presets" and that was one of them.

And of course it's a Rhodes. Jolley & Swain filled the middle up with pianos and rhodeses. Chris also nominated Jupiter 6 for the stringy sounds. So a fuller picture is perhaps emerging. Bear in mind that in 1982 MIDI had not arrived and the only mechanisation available was through hardware sequencers working on control voltages or the various Roland MicroComposers, as featured on Human League records. The usual way to play synths was with hands, and any piano sounds could not have been sampled and would therefore be the real deal. Having said that the bass does sound very programmed and that was really the only way to play TB 303's because as I recall the keys were tiny. So either way there's probably a sequencer involved and either SH 101 or TB 303 could have been triggered thus. Someone needs to look at the release date of the TB 303.

I have spoken.

But not very conclusively.

My friend then adds:

1982 indeed. Could it bee-ee that...?

I still don't think they would have used this though. I remember it being thought of as a toy and suitable for more repetitious material - Just an Illusion has a good few changes in it and all these pattern based units tended to push people into more cyclical groovy structures - much like drumming after the Linns 1 and 2 and the rest of music once Atari-based software sequencer packages became widely available, say 1987 onwards.

Music history. Phew!

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Wednesday, 12 April 2006 08:39 (fourteen years ago) link

ten years pass...

minimmog and prophet 5

analogsynthmuseum, Monday, 26 September 2016 23:12 (four years ago) link

I have a Roland Jupiter 6 and that didn't come out until 1983. Prophet is a good guess.

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 26 September 2016 23:23 (four years ago) link

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