Monday, March 8, 2010

ARP Avatar Brochure and Sound Sheet , 1977

ARP Avatar Brochure from approximately 1977.

Oh, come now - calling me predictable? Okay, I admit it. I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon and can you guess which movie I hope cleans up at the Academy Awards?

But, back to the blog post...

What you see here is an apparently rare four-page ARP Avatar brochure with a sound sheet attached to the third page. Bits of the imagery, photo and text from this brochure appeared in magazine ads around the same time period.

You will notice that I've gently bent back the sound sheet on page three (looks like a black bar in the scan above) so that you could get a good look at the full text and, even better, the 'rock god' image with 'play like a god' written below it. And what an image it is.

In fact, what a brochure it is. Looking at the imagery really gives you an idea of what ARP was thinking when they launched this guitar synthesizer. The pseudo-biblical imagery and text throughout the ad-copy tells us that ARP really thought this was the big ticket. The next big thing. Or they were at least hoping guitar players would.

David Friend, a bigwig at ARP, is quoted in the book 'Vintage Synthesizers' as saying:
"Everybody thought it was going to be the hottest thing since the wheel."
ARP risked millions developing the Avatar and in the end it was "imperfections of the pitch-voltage converters" (the mechanism that converts the vibrations in the strings into signals for the synthesizer) that brought the instrument, and according to many, the company, to its knees.

Maybe, like the imagery in the brochure, they were looking to God to provide a little divine intervention for the company's bottom line at this point in time. :o)

Sure, the high price tag put the instrument out of the hands of many guitarists, but I'm wondering if it was also ARP's marketing department's perception of guitarists too. Take the first line of text on the third page:
"And so it came to pass that guitar players would have the same performance potential as keyboard players, for the new ARP Avatar would provide it."
Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure most ego-centric guitarists, at a time when synthesizers were just starting to take away some of the spotlight, may have thought they had much more 'performance potential' with their axe, jumping around the stage and such, than a synthesizer could provide. To me, it is not an in-your-face diss, but it is a subconscious (albeit not intentional) one. Maybe even a touch condescending (again, not intentional) on the part of ARP.

Don't get me wrong, I still think the idea of a guitar synthesizer is a good one. But whether the Avatar should have been the one to bring it to the studio is the question - so judge for yourself. Joseph Rivers from the Audio Playground/Synthesizer Museum has ripped the same sound sheet that is attached to this brochure on the Web site.

Also questionable about the brochure is the fact that there isn't an ARP logo to be seen on the front page and the 'ARP AVATAR' text on the back of the instrument in the image is pretty dang small. Maybe they thought 'ARP' wouldn't be recognizable to guitar players, but then it would probably be even more important from a branding perspective to get your logo out in front of your new audience. One other thing - if you look closely at the audience on the front page, you will notice five or six guitars comp'd in there. Pre-Photoshop even.

Incidentally, the first two songs on the song sheet are credited to Ned Liben at Sundragon Studios in New York. Ned Liben was one half of the band 'Ebn Ozn' - I was just listening to their hit song 'AEIOU' on my MP3 player at the gym!

According to Wikipedia, Ebn Ozn's claim to fame was that they created 'the first American album ever recorded in its entirety on a computer - a Fairlight CMI - and the only band to have written and produced their own videos in their time'. Huh.

End note: Yup - it wouldn't be a blog post without me mentioning that it wouldn't be an ARP brochure without the term 'Human Engineering' showing up. :o)

Now, time to watch the Oscar red carpet.


Unknown said...

Ok, it's been killing me. Page 3. It's Peter Frampton.


Brandy Finegirl said...

I would think that the 48-page manual and the 35-minute cassette tape would be enough to put a time-squeezed guitarist off this product. Human Engineering, notwithstanding. I'm just saying.


simplyanalogue said...

Give me a manual and I could maybe sort out if the pitchtracker in my Avatar is broken or just as crappy as the rumour says. ;)

Unknown said...

I have the horse ad as a large poster! I had it framed a long time ago.

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