Monday, June 20, 2011

Mellotron "Make you a much better musician" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1975

Mellotron "Make you a much better musician?" 1-page advertisement from page 38 in Contemporary Keyboard magazine September/October 1975.

It's not so much about the ad. Although it has quite a few good qualities - like the classic Mellotron photo and all those juicy quotes pulled directly from such large magazines as Downbeat, Billboard, Rolling Stone, and even Time. And the cool thing is, most of those excerpts are also doing the job of name-dropping for Mellotron - referencing people like Peter Gabriel, Isao Tomita, and Larry Fast.

But like I said - its not so much about the ad. For me, this ad is about being in the right place at the right time. Notice the issue date - September/October 1975.

This just happens to be the very first issue of Contemporary Keyboard. The cover has a close-up, moody photo featuring... you guessed it... Chick Corea, with a few hints to the secrets readers will find inside including columns by Bob Moog, Bill Irwin, Chick Corea, and Art Van Damme.

Inside the magazine, readers find only a few proper "synthesizer" ads. Instead, the slowly growing population of soon-to-be-synth-addicts have to turn to the articles to get what for many is probably their first fix of gear lust. The "N.A.M.M 1975 Keyboard Equipment Review" includes mouth-watering photos of the Orchestron, Polymoog, and Four-Voice, and the "Bob Moog, from theremin to synthesizers" article included images of Bob and his modulars posing with the likes of Keith Emerson and Roger Power. Drool.

The lack of synth ads isn't surprising. It's a gamble for any company to advertisement in a new magazine. It take brass balls to shell out cash - even when the magazine has the clout of Guitar Player behind it. Many synthesizer companies at the time were still young, small, and probably a little cash-strapped, so its probably easy to understand that CK got their initial support from the likes of Yamaha pianos, Hohner keyboards, and Musitronic effects ads.

Oh. And Mellotron. :)

In fact, the distributor for Mellotron, Dallas Music Industries |USA|Ltd., really stepped up to the task of supporting the cause by being the first to provide gear for CK Giveaway #1 - a free Mellotron. All of you filled out that contest form... right?

We can't actually give Dallas Music Industries all the credit. The Mellotron/CK contest page, which just happened to be directly opposite the Mellotron ad on page 39, does extend its thanks not only to the distributor, but also to ARP Instruments and Systems & Technology in Music - so, props to them as well for steppin' up.

The contest description of the Mellotron may have been many keyboard enthusiasts first glimpse at the specs for the instrument, written suspiciously like a Spec Sheet promo:
"The Mellotron is best described as a series of tape machines manipulated by a keyboard. Armed with the basic set of tapes, the musician can effectively reproduce the sounds of a flute, 'cello, or violins, across the instrument's 35 note range. Tapes are 3/8" / three track, and are mounted on a removable frame for ease of interchanging with other sets of tapes.

The Mellotron provides the performer with a number of effects and features: Pitch control with a variable of plus or minus 20%, tone control of a 10db cut at 10Khz, and a gain control. Normal tape velocity is 7 1/2 ips, with a reproduction range of 50Hz to 12Khz, plus or minus 3db. The height is 34", width 34", depth 22", and weight 122lbs. Power consumption is 75VA with a transformer tapped at 115V, 220V, and 240V, at 50 or 60cps; single phase.

This unique instrument is used by many major keyboardists to recreate sounds ranging from orchestras to vibes. it comes protected by a padded cover and a year's warranty against imperfect workmanship and labor. "
I love how, in many ways, it reads more like tape machine specs than keyboard specs :)

So, as the ad questions... can a $2000 instrument make someone a "much better" musician?

Well, I can't count the number of times in my early years that I shelled out a lot of dough for a new piece of gear, thinking *this* would be it. *This* will make my music hip and cool (okay, I probably didn't use those exact words). And Dallas Music Industries was betting that I wasn't the only one who thought that way. It's a strong "pull" for potential buyers.

But, as I've learned over many years (and many purchases - new and used), fame and fortune is rarely one piece of gear away*.
* does not include Fairlight or Synclavier buyers between 1982-1984. :D

1 comment:

Exoatmospheric Studio - Epic Conversation said...

In 1975, I filled out the form hoping to win a Mellotron...I sized up that I would put it right beside my parent's Wurlitzer organ....I was 16 and into all that prog stuff...Yes, Moody Blues, King Crimson, etc....still am, too...(I just saw Wakeman a month ago)...Melletrons along with early analog synths made a mark on creative music...

Post a Comment