Monday, September 19, 2011

The ARP Family of Synthesizer Demo Record, 1973

The ARP Family of Synthesizer Demo Record from 1973.

 Ever since I first used my USB record player to record that ARP Proportional Pitch Control sound sheet, I've been recording my old records. And now I've finally gotten around to using it again to record another older ARP demo record.

The first side of the record is all about demo'ing a few different  excerpts of music created by synth owners - with a voice over introducing each piece. The second side includes four discreet songs created with ARP synths. No voice-over here.

The ARP Family of Synthesizers - Side 1 - 1973 by Retro Synth Ads

The ARP Family of Synthesizers - Side 2 - 1973 by Retro Synth Ads
It is that first side of the record that interests me most as a marketing person. Although the music created by ARP synths do the final sell-job, it is the voice-over that steers the listener with that one-sided conversation.

And ARP is in fine form - really pushing their synthesizers in every industry - TV, film, education, on stage, on tour, and in recording studios. And they also give a big nod to all the amateur musicians across the country that were starting to buy synthesizers as prices started to drop (or at least ARP figured they would be).

ARP is also in fine form on the name-dropping. Just a tad over a minute in to side one, the announcer drops Pete Townsend's name. Bam! And the next thing you know, you are listening to a bit of Teenage Wasteland - I bet you can guess which part. :)

But it is about three and a half minutes in that really starts me smiling. ARP makes a good effort to get it's synthesizers in the schools by suggesting that their synthesizers possess "tonal resources beyond that of even a symphony orchestra". Good work.

ARP includes two musical excerpts to promote the use of synths in educational facilities. The first is a short "interesting interpretation" of a romanian folk dance by a student on an ARP Odyssey. Meh. And the second is a very short example of students creating their own compositions "using sounds of their own invention". Starts around the 5:00 minute mark. Not long enough. :D

Side two is made up of four songs by two musicians.

Roger Powell has been creating "retro-future music since 1973". He was the keyboardist for Utopia back in the day. Check out his Web site and MySpace page for his latest work.

I'm not as familiar with Dave Fredricks, and am assuming this is his Web page. Definitely got some chops  :)

My short summary of each song:
  • Song 1: Dave Fredericks doing his thing. Ends strongly.
  • Song 2 (starts at 2:23): Roger Powell piano-like piece. A nice long ending with a few odd things going on.
  • Song 3 (starts at 3:57): Roger Powell is outta control! I kid!  Obviously a lot of effort went into this - just not my thing.
  • Song 4 (starts at 5:27): Great song to end on. Dave Fredricks sounds like a new-wave Lawrence Welk. 
One of my big peeves when documenting ads and promotions is when there is no date printed anywhere - and that includes records. Unfortunately there was no date printed or etched anywhere on this record, so I decided to do a bit of search.

Obviously, one of the first places I looked for clues was in the recording. Side one contains all the jibber-jabber, so I focused my attention there and came up with these clues.

Clue 1: Four synthesizers are mentioned:
  • Soloist
  • 2500 - "the elegant concert grand of synthesizers"
  • 2600
  • Odyssey  
Wikipedia's ARP page includes a sequential listing of the introduction dates for all their synthesizers - and since no other synths are mentioned, I thought there was a good chance that it must have come out sometime between 1972 (after the Odyssey came out) and 1974 (before the String Ensemble made it's debute).

Clue 2. The first excerpt of music on side one is Pete Townsend's recognizable use of his "three ARP synthesizers" on the album "Who's Next".  The voice-over mentions that it had just been recently released - which was 1971. So, that help narrowed it down to roughly the same time period.

Scanning through the ARP ads that I've posted using my very own handy-dandy Advertising Timeline Tool (shameless plug), I quickly came across this ARP dealer ad-sheet, which includes all four of the synths mentioned on the record. This dealer sheet, like the record, is also pushing that education-angle, especially for the Odyssey. In my blog post I speculated that ad-sheet came out around 1973 or 1974.

So then I started looking at older ARP ads that I haven't posted yet - as well as started a Google Images search. I decided to contentrate on that classic Pete Townsend image of him leaning against his ARP, since I knew he was being heavily promoted by ARP at the time. The images that popped up quickly lead me to the "Thats Alright Mama blog - a blog dedicated to "custom records pressed by Rite Records of Cincinnati". And before you know it, I come screen-to-face with this.Yup. And cool - this record was pressed in Cincinnati. And best of all, the blogger includes a recording date - 1973!

Shortly thereafter I also came across this page. And this. . Doh!

Mystery solved!

The Internet is my friend.    :)


Howard said...

Fascinating. The music on the disc is pretty cheesy but it is great fun to hear.

tee said...

That link for Dave Frederick's web site says "and David's father is an award-winning keyboardist and former pioneer at ARP synthesizers." so I guess this is the son of the man on the ARp demos. I am confused as to why the last name ends with an "s" (Fredericks) but this man is clearly named as Dave Frederick (no "s").

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