Monday, September 28, 2009

Octave Electronics CAT ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Octave Electronics Inc. CAT synthesizer ad from page 7 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine April 1977.

This is the second in a series of Octave Electronics' CAT ads featuring distinctive artwork that appeared in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine when the synthesizer was first introduced.You can read about the first ad here.

Looking at this ad, it got me thinking about the whole cat&synth meme that currently exists on the Web. As far back as I can remember, discussions about cats and synth gear have existed both on- and off-line. Members of forums and e-mail lists such as Analogue Heaven have exchanged stories at least as far back as 1999.

When matrix, owner of the popular synthesizer blog MATRIXSYNTH, was asked about the phenomenon in an e-mail earlier this month, he replied "I noticed that of all animals, cats seemed to be the most predominant in synth shots". He started posting cat&synth photos on his blog with a cat label (now synth cats) back in December 2005, and it became such a popular MATRIXSYNTH theme that readers began sending in their own videos and images featuring cats and other animals. Dogs run a close second along with birds and reptiles.

Amar, creator of the CatSynth blog, started blogging about cats and synths in mid-2006, virtually unaware of the large number of others sharing the same two interests. "I started searching online for 'cats and synthesizers' and found Matrixsynth and some past articles at CDM, and it was only then I really found out the phenomenon of cat and synth pictures". Amar adds that it is not surprising to see cats with music gear. "They do like to get around and explore things and they like warm surfaces. I think a lot of musicians with cats enjoy having them as a presence in their creative spaces".

Many, says Amar, refer back to the popular 'cat on a keyboard in space' image as a possible unofficial beginning to the meme - but I've yet to track down the date this image first appeared online.

Regardless of when the phenomenon took off, it didn't take long for photos, videos, and everything else cat&synth to start showing up all over the Web. There is even a VSTi called the meowSynth.

On a side note, another cat&keyboard meme has caught on recently - and the original VHS videotape recording apparently dates back to 1986. The 'Keyboard Cat' video meme has been described by Rocketboom's History of Keyboard Cat as the "mercy kill of the Internet". Great stuff - definitely check it out.

Don't be a stranger - if you have any history to add, please comment.

And on that note, I'll let Fatso play me off...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Moog Minimoog, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Moog Minimoog synthesizer ad from page 18 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine July 1979.

Moog took some time off from promoting their Polymoog, Multimoog and effects gear to pay proper tribute to their golden child. Believe it or not, this is the first Minimoog ad that I've put up on the blog. And before you ask - no, the scanner didn't miss anything. This is Moog's most minimalist ad ever.

No logo.

No contact info.

No famous people or free stuff.


The ad copy is simple and effect and the outline of a Minimoog is still synonymous with synthesizers. Could you imagine any company BESIDES Moog trying to pull this off today?

Seriously, anyone even remotely familiar with vintage synthesizers can immediately pick out the back-lit Minimoog your favourite musician from the 70's, 80's, 90's, or 00's is playing onstage as soon as the curtain goes up.

This ad is like one of those 3-D puzzles found in the comics section of a newspaper. When I stare at it long enough, my vision gets blurry and I see Devo pop out at me.

I'm going to stop typing now and stare some more. Oh! hello Mr. Mothersbaugh!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 synthesizer ad from page 39 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine May 1981.

This ad was part of a series of 'Ear-Force' ads that Sequential Circuits Inc. was running throughout 1981.

The Ear-Force series included full-page ads for the Prophet-5, Prophet-10 (view it here), and Pro-One (coming soon!) . The fabulous artwork for each ad revolved around the theme of the air-force and a pilot flying a plane, and all three were later made into a series of posters that were promoted in Keyboard Magazine during the 1982 Christmas season along with other mouth-watering merchandise including this SCI belt buckle.

These three ads were not the only ones that the artist, Mattos, created for SCI. The business relationship goes back as far as 1979 when he created the artwork for a two-page Prophet-5 advert 'Beware the False Prophet'. More on that ad, and hopefully Mattos, in the near future.

There is a lot of reference material available online for the Prophet-5, including these top three Google results: Vintage Synth Explorer, Synth Museum, and Wikipedia. Also check out the discussion board for information on some old and new Prophet gear.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sound Sales Inc. Powerhouse 8-Track Rhythm Unit, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Sound Sales Inc. Powerhouse 8 Track Rhythm Unit ad from page 13 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine June 1977.

I first became intrigued by this ad because I had not heard of what is essentially an 8-track drum machine. For those of you too young to know what an 8-track is, I recommend you read this Wikipedia page.

As I did more research, I became even more intrigued with the parent company, Sound Sales Inc., and got caught up in the rather sad story involving what has been described as 'the accidental loss' of the well-known Mellotron name by the original manufacturer, Mellotronics.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Lets start at the beginning...

While scanning old issues of Contemporary Keyboard magazine the other day, I noticed that Powerhouse 8-Track Rhythm Unit ads had been showing up quite regularly as far back as December 1976. Then, as illustrated in this full page ad, the new disco and hustle tapes apparently became available. Nice. I really had no choice but to blog about this. :o)

As I looked through later issues of CK for more research material, I noticed that Sound Sales Inc. seemed to suddenly stop advertising the Powerhouse in early 1978, only to pop up again around May 1978 with a 1/3 page ad that exclaimed 'Mellotron - now made in the USA! A division of Sound Sales Inc'.

Turns out that Sound Sales Inc. was a company that serviced Mellotrons in the US, and they essentially ended up with the Mellotron inventory and the rights to the Mellotron name after the complicated collapse of the original makers of the Mellotron and the resulting 'liquidation blunder'.

You can check out the full history of the Mellotron at

Although the ad does a fair bit to explain how the Powerhouse functions, there is unfortunately not much information available online.

The Audio Playground Synthesizer Museum is looking for one for their collection, and most of the other references are in relation to IK Multimedia's SampleTron virtual instrument which includes samples of the unit in it's collection. The site also has a grainy color photo of the Powerhouse, along with pictures of all the instruments from the *tron family. There is also some audio samples from the software - maybe some of the drum sounds are from the Powerhouse. And no, I didn't get paid to include those links. :o)

If anyone knows more about the Powerhouse, don't be a stranger - please comment!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Octave Electronics Inc CAT, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Octave Electronics CAT synthesizer ad from page 7 in Contemporary Keyboard magazine February 1977.

This was apparently the first CAT ad created by Octave Electronics after the synthesizer was announced in the Spec Sheet section of Contemporary Keyboard in December 1976.

Most other synthesizer ads at the time drifted somewhere between text-heavy technical ads like this Moog ad and photo-heavy ads like this ARP ad. To introduce the world to the Cat, Octave Electronics kept the text-heavy technical aspect, but replaced the standard photo-op of the synthesizer with a cartoon image that took the reader out of the studio and, in this case, into the jungle. Octave continued to use this cartoon theme in a small string of ads (to be seen in future blog posts).

Its not to say Octave Electronics were the only company to enlist artists. Around the same time, ARP was promoting their sequencer with an artist drawn (and I think creepy looking) hand image, and three or four years later, Sequential Circuits became well-known for their use of cartoon images in the Ear-Force ads and the continued use of the wizard-like image in a variety of ads for different synthesizers.

You can find lots of basic information online about the CAT , including Vintage Synth Explorer and but Music Machines' spec sheet on the CAT written by Mike Dvorkin is by far one of the best resources I've found. Alas, there doesn't seem to be an Octave Electronics or CAT synthesizer page on Wikipedia.

But, if you are going to check out just one link from this blog post, check out Gordon Reid's interwoven history of the Octave Electronics CAT and the ARP Odyssey published in May 1999 for Sound on Sound magazine.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oberheim 1976 family of products, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

Oberheim advertisement of its family of products including Oberheim Eight Voice, Four Voice, Two Voice and Expander Module synthesizers, and Mini-Sequencer and 144 Note Digital Sequencer from page 9 of Contemporary Keyboard magazine August 1976.

Oh, hello. Did I just walk in on an Oberheim family photo shoot? I think I'm dreaming.

This Oberheim advertisement is fabulous for a number of reasons.
  1. It contains photos of numerous Oberheim gear from 1976.
  2. It has historical value because it tells us when Oberheim started shipping gear - November 1975.
  3. It name drops more famous musicians than your average ARP ad (although a future ARP blog post will show that Alan R. Pearlman is still the king...)
  4. Did I mention all the gear?
Oberheim did another family photo a decade later - I still like to flip back and forth between the two ads to see just how far things have come in ten years. And I think it even beats Roland's family photo ad from 1978.

While doing some research for this post, I Googled 'oberheim history' and came across this 2008 Tom Oberheim interview on Synthopia that is over two and a half hours long. I'm afraid I never got any further in my research. :o)

Monday, September 7, 2009

ARP Axxe, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

ARP Axxe synthesizer ad from inside back cover of Contemporary Keyboard magazine October 1976.

Keeping with my promise to play catch-up with ARP ads, here is another ad that featured a free ANVIL road case, this time with every ARP Axxe purchase.

The one thing I like about this ad is that it is in colour, something not that common for ARP ads in the very early years of Contemporary Keyboard. And I wouldn't be surprised if ARP decided to run this ad in colour just to showcase those multi-coloured slider caps in all their rainbow glory.

The slider caps, found on many early ARP synthesizers (and often lost during or shortly after your first gig), provided a splash of warmth and humour within an industry that at the time was still gravitating towards very scientific styles and designs.

I bought my Odyssey with over half the slider caps missing, and while doing research on picking up new caps, came upon Mark Smart's slider cap Web page. He also has another page devoted to Axxe mods (and as Mark states - he's not responsible if you mess up your synth :o)

Online references of the ARP Axxe could use some updating from Axxe enthusiasts - but the basics can be found on the usual sites. Explore Google for more.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ARP musician endorsement ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

ARP musician endorsement ad from inside back cover of Contemporary Keyboard magazine February 1977.

As mentioned in my last post, I'm kind of playing ARP catch-up. Also, as I mentioned in my last post, ARP was (in)famous for name-dropping. And, while doing research for an ARP 2600 ad to be posted in the near future, I found out why. It seems Alan R. Pearlman gave at least a few well-known musicians ARP gear in exchange for their professional endorsement. I'm sure they weren't the only company to do it, but ARP sure did get some good mileage out of the deal.

Take this fabulous ad, for example. I'm not going to pretend I know all the musicians, but one does stand out for me - The Who's Pete Townshend. And, according to, the photo of him featured in the ad above was used as far back as 1972, including this ARP ad from Rolling Stone magazine. Another great 1975 ARP ad is also featured on this site.

I'm sure there are interesting stories behind each musician's photo included in the ad - but I'll leave that to others with much more knowledge than myself. Feel free to comment...