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Anti-synth biggots

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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2012 8:17:47 PM PST
That's interesting. It sounds more like "Daily Nightly" than Moody Blues or "Good Vibrations" to me, but I'm no expert on synthesizers or other electronic instruments.


Posted on Nov 11, 2012 1:19:14 PM PST
Chazzzbo says:
Yeah, I was kinda surprised by the whole Buck Owens thing myself. And I had long heard The Monkees were the first of the pop artists, which surprises me since it was NOT the Beatles, Stones or Beach I said, interesting...

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 4:00:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 4:34:27 PM PST
@Chazzzbo: The Monkees' pioneering use of the synth is only surprising if one continues to think of them as a bubblegum outfit. If you look more deeply, it's not surprising at all--by virtue of their being the best-selling act of 1967 (outselling even The Beatles, and this was the year of "Pepper"!), they were able to amass an amount of wealth and insider status in the pop industry which kept them abreast of all current developments. They partied with the hippest of the hip, who didn't mind them at all--The Beatles, Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Stills, Jack Nicholson, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead. They had all the money in the world to spend on studio time and in purchasing fancy new instruments (Moogs cost $20,000 at the time, which put them out of reach of most bands). Also, the "Monkees don't play their own instruments" flap at the beginning of '67 further hardened their resolve to take control of their own destiny and prove they could be a "real", hip band. Wresting control from Kirschner was impressive enough (only in the 60s!), but they were clearly looking for ways to beat the most progressive underground acts at their own game, especially after "Pepper" came out. "Pepper" upped the ante on everything.

From the way I understand it, the Moog synthesizer was introduced to the public at large at the Monterey Pop Festival, which Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz attended. Everyone present was completely wowed by the instrument, and it was from the demonstration that weekend that the first Moog purchases were made by pop musicians--first among them, Micky Dolenz (Roger McGuinn and Simon & Garfunkel were also sufficiently impressed that day to purchase Moogs and use them on their next albums, soon afterwards). Paul Beaver, who had purchased the very first of the production-line Moogs in 1966 and was the only owner of a Moog until Monterey Pop, was instrumental in tutoring Dolenz on the instrument and it is Beaver himself who plays it on "Star Collector". Also, Beaver provided his Moog for the Electric Flag to use on their soundtrack to "The Trip" released in late '67 (I forgot to include this when I was mentioning the earliest synth-albums in my last post). Meanwhile, Buck Owens purchased his Moog right at the same time as Dolenz and recorded "Switched On Buck" with hit, but the record wasn't released until 1971 by which time the synth was much more widely in use.

Oh, I forgot--The Supremes' "Reflections", recorded in March and May of '67 and released that July, features a Moog (I'm not sure where Motown got it from or who played it, however; it's highly probable Paul Beaver had something to do with it) and is thus the first pop song to feature the instrument, before The Doors or The Monkees.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2012 7:12:51 PM PST
@Michael Topper,

Thanks for the mini-history lesson on the moog.
Very Interesting!

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 7:47:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 9:44:06 PM PST
@Cyberian Husky, Chazzzbo: here's a list of the first rock/pop songs and albums to feature the synthesizer, that I am aware of. It's the Moog in every case, with two or three fascinating exceptions where the artists--who couldn't afford a Moog--constructed their own homemade synthesizers (these are noted next to the entry).

5/67: The Zodiac, "Cosmic Sounds" LP
7/24/67: The Supremes, "Reflections" 45
9 or 10/67: The Electric Flag, "The Trip" soundtrack LP
9/25/67: The Doors, "Strange Days" LP (on title track only)
11/6/67: The Monkees, "Pisces Aquarius Capricorn And Jones Ltd" LP (on "Daily Nightly" and "Star Collector")
12/67: Fifty Foot Hose, "Cauldron" LP (using a homemade synthesizer)
1/3/68: The Byrds, "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" LP (on "Natural Harmony" and "Space Odyssey", also "Moog Raga" outtake)
3/6/68: The United States Of America, self-titled LP (using a homemade synthesizer)
4/3/68: Simon And Garfunkel, "Bookends" LP (on "Save The Life Of My Child")
4/68: Lothar And The Hand People, self-titled LP
6/68: Silver Apples, self-titled LP (using the homemade "Simeon" synthesizer)
12/68: The Soft Machine, self-titled LP (on "Joy Of A Toy")
?/69: Lothar And The Hand People, "Space Hymn" LP
mid/69: Silver Apples, "Contact" LP (using the homemade "Simeon" synthesizer)
5/9/69: George Harrison, "Electronic Sound" LP
6/69: Dick Hyman, "The Electric Eclectics Of Dick Hyman" LP (although categorized as jazz, there is a rock/pop sensibility here; a lot of it sounds like later prog-rock and space-rock. "The Minotaur" from this album hit the Billboard top 40.)
9/69: Bread, self-titled LP (on "London Bridge")
9/26/69: The Beatles, "Abbey Road" LP (on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "I Want You", "Here Comes The Sun" and "Because")
11/10/69: The Byrds, "Ballad Of Easy Rider" LP (on "Armstrong, Aldrin And Collins", also "Fiddler A Dram" outtake)
late '69: Dick Hyman, "The Age of Electronicus" LP

Interestingly, although Pink Floyd were pioneers of electronic rock in the late 60s, they didn't use synthesizers until 1972's "Obscured By Clouds".

If anyone knows of any rock song/album featuring synths between 1967-69 that I forgot, speak up!

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 8:39:46 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 9:47:49 PM PST
Hold the presses--in doing research I see someone on an internet forum was adamant that The Zodiac's "Cosmic Sounds" was recorded in April 1967 and released in May--which would give it the honor of first rock/pop release with synths (and would also make it one of the earliest concept albums). After doing some more research by checking Elektra's catalog series of the period, I see they are correct!! It also follows from the fact that Justin Hayward is quoted as saying the album influenced The Moody Blues' development of "Days Of Future Passed"; since The Moodies worked up their song cycle in the spring and summer of '67 and recorded it in October, it all makes sense now. Here's a link to the full Zodiac album--it's a pretty heady psychedelic release from the period:

I am amending my list in the last post accordingly; The Zodiac weren't really a "band", though, so much as a collection of crack studio musicians under the direction of Elektra founder Jac Holzman. The album is spoken word but the music is unquestionably psychedelic rock, so it still applies here. I also just found out about two more albums Beaver & Krause were involved in during 1967--Emil Richards' "Stones" and Hal Blaine's "Psychedelic Percussion". I don't know if these are rock/pop or jazz albums, though, so I'm currently checking them out and will get back to everyone.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 3:03:25 AM PST
Paul says:
in the hands of an expert a drum track recoded by a synth is indecernable from an analog recording

Posted on Nov 12, 2012 3:20:08 AM PST
D. Mok says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 4:03:28 AM PST
Stratocaster says:
Cyberian Husky: FYI - The Beach Boys utilized the Theremin on "Good Vibrations", which was actually invented by Léon Theremin. Robert Moog was one of the first to put the Theremin into regular production, and it was his main inspiration in creating the Moog Synthesizer (utilization of voltage controlled oscillators to produce varying waveform tones).

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 9:35:36 AM PST

I didn't know that. Thanks.
I'm learning a lot on this thread!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 12:29:02 PM PST
Ya oughta try Hugo Montenegro's NEIL'S DIAMONDS moog album. I think he also did a moog Bob Dylan Lp, too.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 12:57:57 PM PST
stevign says:
Neil Diamond and a Moog????? I'm beginning to believe that there really is a Hell.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 4:23:15 PM PST
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Posted on Nov 12, 2012 4:31:44 PM PST
Chazzzbo says:
Michael - I was only surprised because of the way the info has not been passed down through the years. I'm actually a huge Monkees fan/collector, and don't simply think of them as a bubblegum outfit. Thanks for the additional info, too.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 10:43:22 AM PST
Space Oddity by David Bowie is, of course, another synth-heavy 60's song.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 10:48:42 AM PST
I guess there's also Incense And Peppermints by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, .. but that's actually an electric keyboard rather than a synth.

Posted on May 16, 2013 7:25:51 PM PDT
Back in the mid-eighties I bought one of those $50.00 Casio button keyboards and plugged it into a Fender Dual Showman amp in the garage and I cranked that puppy up. The guy from the next house down thought I had bought a pipe organ and set it next to the Volvo and came over to investigate and he was shocked to hear the sounds I could get outta that little keyboard and a decent amp. Synths are indeed fun.

Posted on May 16, 2013 10:34:10 PM PDT
Many times, people don't know when they're listening to synthesized sounds.

Posted on May 17, 2013 6:02:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 17, 2013 6:03:02 AM PDT
Johnny Bee says:
Synths can be just as nasty as guitars.

Check out Suicide's seminal first album - Suicide (First Album)

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2013 6:47:53 AM PDT
onsenkuma says:
@Johnny Bee,
'Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne'...well ahead of its time and a very cool and nasty sound indeed. Rock audiences had already largely morphed in the arch-conservative nostalgia hounds they've been pretty much since '74 or so, so it's probably no surprise that these guys were bottled off stages the way they were ('23 Minutes Over Brussels').

Posted on May 17, 2013 7:27:15 AM PDT
Stratocaster says:
Check out these two snippets. An untrained (or unsuspecting) ear may never figure out that this music is 100% synthesizers (especially the guitars). is done by the keyboard master Jan Hammer. Like any other instrument, in the wrong hands, synths can quickly become a joke.

Too Far
Nothing but Love

Posted on May 17, 2013 8:14:16 AM PDT
Fischman says:
There is a legitimate aesthetic difference between running guitars through effects and simply firing up the synth. While the guitar sound may have been electronically modified, at least the sound started as the vibration of a string rather than an electronic signal. There is an organic purity of acoustic music, even electronically modified acoustic music, that synthetically generated music can never match.

Yes, I was a synth bigot--probably still am to some degree. But my love of fusion and subsequently the aforementioned Jan Hammer helped me appreciate the instrument and its potential. This type of acceptance grew greatly when I encountered Allan Holdsworth and his use of the Synth-Axe, which looks and plays like a guitar, but is really a synthesizer--and he is absolutely brilliant with it!

I've also started to actully like a lot of those 80s songs I ridiculed at the time while I was headbanging. Maybe it's indicative of a broadening of my horizons or maybe it's just nostalgia, but in the end, I try to enjoy whatever comes my way.

Posted on May 17, 2013 9:21:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 17, 2013 9:29:28 AM PDT
Stratocaster says:
"While the guitar sound may have been electronically modified, at least the sound started as the vibration of a string rather than an electronic signal".

I've been hearing that same argument for 30 years (15 of those 30 came from the Bass player I played with!). And it's been said that the same argument has been going on for a thousand years regarding generations of new instruments.
MANY initially said the same regarding the electric guitar!

Ironic as it may sound, believe it or not, Vangelis (of all people) once gave Steve Howe grief for using electric guitars! (Vangelis was once considered as a contender for the replacement of Rick Wakeman in Yes.) Vangelis feels very much that electronic sound generation is truly "organic" as, according to him, nothing comes closer to nature than an electrical charge. Whereas a guitar (and all other instruments) are man made tools. Personally, even I (as a part time keyboard enthusiast) feel his point of view is on the extreme side. But I do feel there is *some* validity to his thought process

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2013 10:56:51 AM PDT
Johnny Bee says:
onsenkuma - Indeed!

The down side is that Springsteen's a fan ;-)

Posted on May 17, 2013 2:49:27 PM PDT
stevign says:
So what's the difference between an anti-synth bigot and one who just doesn't like the sound of 'em most of the time?
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Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  35
Total posts:  121
Initial post:  Nov 3, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 12, 2014

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