Tag: Moog

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 83: The Rise And Fall And Rise Of The Moog

Today, in a roundabout way, we will be discussing the man who invented the 1980s.

The 80s were the decade of synthesizers. The handful of pop songs which allowed clanging guitars to step out front were eclipsed by a deluge of synthesized modernity, providing an identifiable date-stamp on the sound of the era. As a kid, I loved the synth. As an adult, I probably still love the synth, but I won’t admit it.

Before the Thompson Twins splattered synth like ketchup all over their songs, before Stevie Wonder turned synthesizers into a band, we have to go back to where it all began: the Moog.

Robert Moog started out selling theremins when he was a student (probably not door-to-door; the article doesn’t say). He started to tinker with sound-making devices. Up to this point, any kind of sound synthesizer had to be custom-made, using a number of filters and oscillators that could bend and warp sounds. This video features a 1952 composition by Otto Luenig, an electronic music pioneer. It’s trippy, like someone playing the wine glasses with a major echo effect. Listening to it, I feel as though I should burn some incense, maybe get a foot massage.

But it ain’t no “Final Countdown.”

The time was right for Moog. The advent of the transistor meant that a synthesizer could be built without vacuum tubes – it could be smaller, cheaper, and maybe someday turn into this:

In the 60s, we dreamed we'd all be flying around in our Aero Skyblazers, playing our keytars by 1986.

An analog synthesizer doesn’t come equipped with presets, like “strings”, “oboe”, or “cowbell”; you’d alter the noise by tweaking knobs and stringing patch cables. Cowbells would have to be bolted onto the sides and struck manually. It was a primitive time. Read more…