Monday, September 26, 2011

Akai ME10D, ME20A and MM99 MIDI controlled effects, Sound on Sound 1985

Akai ME10D MIDI delay, ME20A MIDI arpeggiator and MM99 sound controller MIDI controlled effects 2-page advertisement from page 40 and 41 in Sound on Sound Magazine November 1985.

Akai had already been pushing musical gear for a while, especially the AX80. But those ads have nothing on this centrefold that appeared in the first ever issue of Sound On Sound magazine. Akai is obviously having fun with this ad - like they told the designer to just go nuts. And It all adds up to a stellar piece of work that keeps me chuckling.

I mean, this thing is really wacked-out. The retro design, acrobats in leopard skin with Akai module racks for heads and those crazy hands playing the AX80 in the bottom right corner. And, to put icing on the cake, I'm not even sure the hard-to-read squiggly ad-copy is even grammatically correct. At all.

Side note: I've been rather tired lately, and to give you an idea just how tired, I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out what Akai meant by what I read as "Tomorrow's S.O.U and N.D.S Today" in the top right corner of the ad-copy. I had literally pulled up Google to do a search on SOU and NDS to figure out what these odd UK terms meant. Gah.

The actual Akai MIDI gear doesn't really interest me, but as I was flipping through this first issue of Sound On Sound, I really started to respect the direction the creators of the magazine were taking. "RECORDING - MIDI - SYNTHESIZERS" is written at the bottom of the cover, and SOS made sure to start the magazine with a bang by putting Midge Ure, fresh off a world tour with Ultravox and appearances at Live Aid, on the cover.

And, if that doesn't set the magazine's agenda, then that first article starting on page 5 will. Called "The Programming People", it has this introductory paragraph:
"The recording industry has recently embraced a new breed - the programmer. These skilled individuals, specialized in the operation of top-flight computer musical instruments like the Fairlight and Synclavier, find themselves in great demand by studios and recording producers. Recognising this need, Karin Clayton has created a specialist agency - The Programming People - which offers clients the services of various expert programmers. Paul Gilby sampled her story and discovered how it all started". 
More articles follow covering MIDI, an intro to SMPTE and of course, gear reviews.

Being Canadian, reading UK magazines is a treat because I just didn't have the level of access to many of the UK musicians of the time period that my UK snail-mail penpals/music traders took for granted. For example, in the article on MIDI, the opening paragraph includes a quote by Rupert Hine about his first use of MIDI while recording Howard Jone's first album:
"There are certain very rare moments in the recording studio when you realise that a series of barriers you've been used to living with have just dropped."
You have no idea how happy it makes me when I come across quotes like that. Howard Jones still rocks.

Another article features the UMI-2B computer MIDI sequencing system that ran on the BBC B Micro computer. Again - you have no idea how many times I've read articles on Vince Clarke that mention this machine and sequencer. And to finally be able to read about it in detail seriously rocked. And, of course, the article included that soon-to-become classic photo of Vince Clarke and Eric Radcliffe posing with the computer and a rack of CZ101s.

Under the photo is a small quote by Vince, that includes:
"If you are looking for something to sequence, say, a bank of eight Casio CZ101s, then UMI-2B is the answer."
Bank of CZ101s - Drool.

Speaking of CZ101s, I had forgotten just how much coverage that little multi-timbral beast was actually getting when it first launched - and this magazine was no exception. The 101 also gets mentioned in a Casio SZ-1 review as "a leap forward in music technology" and the Midge Ure article mentions it was used to record three instrumental tracks on "The Gift".

After finding this Akai ad, I really did end up reading this issue cover to cover again after all these years, and Sound On Sound obviously wanted to make sure it was written for serious musicians (and technicians). But, in case you thought the magazine was taking itself too seriously, flip to the second last page and you find this:

It was so out of place that it took me a few seconds to process it. The Pee-wee Herman Wikipage tells me that the movie Pee-wee's Big Adventure came out in 1985, so I guess it makes sense that if you were going to be pushing underpants, now was the time.

You can view a list of all the articles found in that issue... where else?... on the Sound On Sound Web site.

Another reason it is such a great mag. :D

End note: Nope. Didn't get paid to promote SOS. Never gotten paid for anything written in this blog (unless you count my Google ads that bring in enough for about two Slurpees* a month). Probably never will get paid (or at least not until my grammar and spelling get *a lot* better).

* Nope. Didn't get paid for mentioning Slurpees either. And, BTW, we are talking Canadian Slurpees, not those ones found in other countries that are foamy and stuff - although I do enjoy those too).


zenbecca said...

I can't get past the unfortunate (and unintentionally dirty) positioning of the ad copy. So. Very. Strange.

Mike McRoberts said...

In the US, we ended blowing out those Akai effects for $29.95. We probably had around 2000 left and they were gone in a couple of days at that price.

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