Monday, March 5, 2012

Oberheim FourVoice and OB-1 ad, International Musician and Recording World 1978

Oberheim FourVoice and OB-1 1/2-page advertisement from page 197 in International Musician and Recording World  June (UK)/July (USA) 1978.

Um... this is sad. I seriously never made the connection between Rod Argent - keyboardist for the band The Zombies, and Rod Argent Keyboards - the store in the UK that printed a wack of ads in International Musician and Recording World in the late 70s.

In my defense, I hadn't been born yet when The Zombies were around. But my brother had rightfully introduced me to the band at an early age, and they had a large influence in my early music experiences.

After The Zombies, Argent went on to form the highly descriptively named band Argent, which was active until around 1976. And then he continued on to do a number of other projects.

When I started Googling his name as part of the research for this ad, search results had pretty much convinced me that the band member and the shop owner were one in the same, but it took a bit to find some kind of evidence of this fact. The Zombies page on Wikipedia didn't including any reference to a keyboard store. And neither did Rod Argent's own Wikipedia page. But I finally found one small sentence on the Argent (The band) page that backed up this theory - and this sentence also included a bit of history on another one of my early favs - The Kinks!

That page states that when the band stopped performing in 1976, other members "briefly continued together under the name Phoenix before going their separate ways, with first Rodford and then Henrit becoming members of The Kinks. Meanwhile, Rod Argent went on to work with Andrew Lloyd-Webber, and to produce a couple of solo albums. He also opened a keyboard shop in the West End of London".

Bolding is mine - interesting stuff. And, leads me to believe this is Rod Argent of The Zombies' keyboard shop.

So, back to that ad...

Now, one might get excited to know that Rod Argent himself declared June "OBERHEIM month" at his store - the line in the ad is in quotations, so I'm assuming Rod himself declared this. But then, two months later, you may not get so excited to know that International Musician included the exact same advertisement with only one change - "June" was changed to "August". Yup - Rod had once again announced that the month of August had also been selected as another "OBERHEIM month".

Don't get me wrong. Oberheim deserves as many months as possible in a given year dedicated to it. And I dig the fact that Rod Argent was also digging Oberheim synthesizers enough to import and promote them on their own in an ad.

And, it turns out that Rod and I aren't the only ones digging Oberheim synthesizers. Reviewer Dave Simmons also took a bit of a liking to the OB-1 in his August 1978 "Simmons' SynthCheck" review in International Musician.

The opening few sentences really gives today's readers a good indication of where the synth industry was at the time - and something we take for granted:
"The OB 1 is made in America by Oberheim Electronics Inc. and is one of the "new breed" of synthesizers which have memories i.e. a particular sound can be stored away, to be recalled instantly at the press of a button. this, to my mind, is the ideal type of synthesizer - fully variable but with a number of pre set sounds, each of which can be set up to the player's own taste (You're not lumbered with someone else's idea of what a trumpet should sound like.)"
The rest of the article  is logically organized by standard synth programming sections - a few paragraphs on the VCOs, VCF, EG and VCA, as well as small sections on programming, manual controls, and the general layout of the machine.  And of course, also included in a call-out box and one of my favorite bits of reference information - price! 1,240 pounds or 2,500 US dollars in 1978 dollars.

As Dave Simmon's notes at the end of the article:
"It does all that you would expect from a single voice, lead-line synthesizer and is not much more expensive than one without the memory".
So, good on Dave Simmons! And good on Rod Argent!

BTW - Rod's official Web site tells me he is currently touring. I apparently missed the Canadian leg of his tour, but would really try and catch him if he ever came close again. He is also twittering under the handled @zombierodargent.

I just started following him  :)

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