Monday, January 31, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-10 "The Ultimate Keyboard" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-10 "The Ultimate Keyboard" advertisement from page 10 in Contemporary Keyboard December 1980.

What the...?!?! Ewwww. Not pretty! Not pretty! Mattos - come back!

When I first saw this ad, I thought maybe it was the some ugly duckling from SCI's past. Like, from back in 1978 when this similarly ugly early Prophet-5 advertisement found its way in CK magazine.

But, in fact, it is not. This advertisement appeared in Keyboard in late 1980.

Now, if you recall the time line of other recent Prophet-10 ads in my Mattos artwork blog posts, you will see what I'm all in a tizzy about. The Prophet-10 advert time line looks like this:

Mid 1980--> late 1980 (ACK!) --> Mid 1981

So, why run a really awesome Mattos-based ad, then switch to a boring black and white ad with absolutely NO design, and then wait half a year to run a new Mattos-based ad?

My guess? SCI had needed to get the word out on the specs of this awesome beast of a synth. As great as those previous Mattos ads were, they didn't tell readers *anything* about the instrument itself. Still, replacing that "Theatre" ad with this ugly thing breaks my design heart a little bit. I'm surprised that SCI didn't have any budget money to spice it up at all. Although - they did keep one aspect of the earlier ad - the "Ultimate Keyboard" tag-line (it appeared at the bottom of the "Theatre" ad, and then at the top of this ad).

But as ugly as that ad is, I'm still drawn to it because it contains so much technical info on the Prophet-10 - and as you'll see below, it is also a symbol of SCI's determination to get this beast to market.

As mentioned, the ad is a treasure chest of reference material that readers of CK were most likely waiting a long time to get their hands on. I say that because the only other real info I can find in CK on the Prophet-10 dates back to July 1979 from the Spec Sheet section. And that was probably when SCI anticipated the release of the Rev. 2 Prophet-10, that according to's Prophet-10 page was dropped after the first three prototypes were made. So, CK gear-junkies had been waiting over a year to hear more about the Prophet-10.

That July 1979 Spec Sheet write-up provides some great reference info:
"Sequential Circuits Polyphonic Synthesizer. The Prophet 10 is a dual-manual (5-octaves each manual) ten-voice synthesizer with 32 user-writable programs available on each keyboard. Extra programs can be stored on cassette tapes. An optional five-voice polyphonic sequencer is also available with a built-in cassette interface for storing sequences. It operates on the bottom keyboard and can be retrofitted into units purchased without the sequencer to begin with. Other features include pitch-bed and modulation wheels, octave transposition switches, assignable voice modes (you can set how many notes you play on each keyboard; you can also control two separate tone colors from the same keyboard), voice-assignment LED indicators to let you know which voice is being triggered at any given time, automatic tuning, programmable volume control, a program increment footswitch, three-band programmable equalization on each keyboard, two assignable and programmable control voltage pedals which can act on each keyboard in the same or different ways, depending on how you program them, two oscillators per voice, ADSR envelope generators, polyphonic modulation section, upper and lower keyboard balance control, an A-440 reference tone, stereo unbalanced and balanced outputs (for separate amping of upper and lower keyboards), and a mono unbalanced and balanced output. Sequential Circuits, 1172G, Aster Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94086."
And as the saying goes - when it rain, it pours. This information-packed advertisement ran in October and December 1980, and then just a month later in January 1981, CK published Dominic Milano's Prophet-10 Keyboard Report. That write-up finally provided readers with all the Prophet-10 info they would ever need, and the introduction is especially juicy because it provided readers (and me!) with a lot more history on exactly what happened with the Rev.1 Prophet-10's overheating issue.

You may recall that Rev. 1 Prophet-10s were built into the same single-manual chassis as the Prophet-5. Well... Dominic tells it much better than I ever could in that Keyboard Report introduction:
"In January 1977, Sequential Circuits brought out a polyphonic synthesizer called the Prophet, which was initially available in two models, a 5-voice and a 10-voice. The two models were identical except that one of them let you play up to five notes at once and the other let you play as many as ten. The Prophet's voices were homogenous - that is, only one tone color was available at a time - and each voice consisted of two VCOs, a resonant 24dB/octave lowpass filer with an ADSR envelope generator, and a VCA with another ADSR. These circuits were tied in to a Zilog Z-80 microprocessor which was programmed to remember voltage values and could therefore store complete patches in its computer-type memory. The Prophet-5 became one of the success stories of the synthesizer industry, but the original Prophet-10 was quickly withdrawn from the market. Despite the fact that much of the circuitry was in microchip form, too much electronics had been crammed into too small a space to allow for adequate heat dissipation, so the oscillators weren't very stable. Only a handful of units were shipped before the 10-voice was discontinued."
So, what we have here is a great example Sequential Circuits' drive and determination. After the failure of the Rev. 1 because of heat dissipation, and the drop of the Rev. 2 prototypes when the switch from SSM chips to CEM chips was made, SCI kept at it.

And a good thing too - because otherwise the world would never have had such a wonderful beast. :o)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. advertisements / Mattos artwork round-up

Okay, my John Mattos infatuation is coming to a close.

For now... :o)

But, before I put it to bed, I thought that since he was, in my humble opinion, responsible for some of the most juicy, well-remembered synthesizer ads of the late 70s/early 80s, I would provide a few more yummy nuggets of Mattos info that I came across a while back.

And, who better to relay this info, but SCI themselves, through a
short article that appeared in the February 1982 issue of Sequential Circuit's newsletter/magazine called "The Patch" (Volume 2, Number 1).

The half page write-up appeared at the top of page 12 (the last page) of the newsletter, and gave readers an excellent introduction to John.

In addition, the article contains some wonderful historical reference information and is a must-read for hoarders of SCI promotional material, John Mattos' work, and heck, synthesizer historical information in general.

"Love your artwork..."

"Can I get posters?" "Who does all your stuff? It's terrific!" John Mattos does our "stuff," and we think it's pretty terrific, too. At 28, John is a phenomenal air brush artist whose works have drawn critical acclaim from the Western Art Directors Club and the Art Directors Club of New York.

Born in Modesto, John's first interests included horseback riding and music as well as art. At thirteen, he received his first award for art (a blue ribbon) at the Stanislaus County Fair, where he also won an award for equestrian dressage! Music captured his attention in high school and he played a Vox "Phantom" guitar with a group that performed at every prom from Stockton to Merced. "The band was popular because we knew the long version of 'Sunshine of Your Love,' and the real verses to 'Louise, Louie'!"

After high school, John majored in illustration at the Art Center College in Los Angeles and received his degree in 1975. His first "real" commission came from A&M Records for an insert in Rick Wakeman's album, "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur." John traveled in Europe for the next two years and worked as an illustrator in Paris. "I drew black and white rapidiograph (technical ink pen) pictures of men shaking hands, women in front of refrigerators, platters of food, grinning men with fistfuls of French money; horrible work but it prolonged my stay - two years of no air brush."

In 1978, John returned to California and took up residence in Palo Alto as a free lance artist. The Blank Design Group, then representing SCI, commissioned him to portray a multitude of sounds rising from a new instrument called a Prophet-5. This advertisement was entitled "Beware of False Prophets," which was later combined with gold lettering to become the "Earotic poster". John's next assignment was the Sphinx ad, "A Legend in its Own Time." This piece and all subsequent artwork has been commissioned directly by Sequential Circuits, and has appeared in Contemporary Keyboard, Musician Player and Listener, International Musician and Recording World, Music & Sound Output, Sound Arts, as well as SCI publications in the form of posters, decals, literature folders, and Christmas cards.

John's biggest contribution to SCI has been the personification of the Prophet synthesizers in the form of the Prophet Man. Originally seated on his "throne" ("The Prophet delivers" poster), the Prophet Man has taken off (reflecting the success of the instruments he represents) and has flown a bi-plane, a turbo-jet, and a rocket plane in the "Ear * Force" campaign. In 1982, we'll be launching him into space for some Extra Vehicular Activity with a Remote keyboard!"

Where do I begin? So much historical reference info!

Well, for starters, this article confirmed my research that the "Beware of False Prophets" and Legend In Its Own Time" artwork were among the first ads to be created by John. I initially couldn't find any info on the "The Prophet Delivers" poster also mentioned above, but then remembered the SCI merchandise ad that included a lovely gal wearing "The Prophet Jersey". Look at that image (bottom right corner of the ad) for what is probably the image from the poster.

And, how about that reference to Rick Wakeman's "King Arthur" album.

A quick Google Images search brought up the album page on the Audio Preservation Fund Web site, which includes some high resolution images of the inserts. A quick scan of the images didn't bring up the identifiable Mattos signature that can be found on his SCI artwork, but gatefold 1 and 2 (which make up one larger image) in particular looks fairly Mattos-ish. Especially the clouds. But, I could be totally off-base there. Just thinking out loud.

But, what I'm most interested in is the reference to Mattos artwork that was included in Christmas cards.

Does anyone know anything about these cards? Copies? Scans? Anything?

Seriously. I have never heard of these cards, and would love to see a sample.

One last thing. I thought I would also mention that you can view more of John Mattos' artwork on his Web site. Some great stuff there.

Also, I have created two new labels - one for MATTOS, and one for ARTWORK, so you can see even more great artwork done for SCI, Octave, Korg, and ARP.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-10 "Sequential Circuits Presents The Ultimate Keyboard" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-10 "Sequential Circuits Presents The Ultimate Keyboard" advertisement from page 31 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine, September 1980.

Number three!

That's right. This is the third Sequential Circuits advertisement to feature the artwork of John Mattos, and SCI had to know they were on a role. You could probably hear the high-fives making their way around the SCI offices when this ad first appeared in the February 1980 issue of Contemporary Keyboard, following closely on the heals of the ever-so-popular Prophet-5 "Beware of False Prophets" ad that first appeared in November '79, and the "Legend In Its Own Time" ad in January '80.

This ad has a lot in common with the "Beware of False Prophets ad". For example, this Prophet-10 Mattos ad wasn't the first ad for the Prophet-10 - but definitely a step up. And this ad was also modified slightly during its ad-run.

In the case of the "Beware of False Prophets" ad, an addendum paragraph was added at the end of the ad-copy when the version 3 Prophet-5 was released. In this Prophet-10 ad, the text "NOW SHOWING! See Your Local Dealer!" was added much later in the roughly nine-month ad-run.

So, could the "now showing" text addition possibly correlate to any changes in the Prophet-10? You betcha. Kinda. Well maybe...

Looking back, as far as I can tell the last time the Prophet-10 was featured in a CK ad was way back in 1978 when the first Prophet ad appeared. Back then, the 'version 1' Prophet-10 was just a single keyboard instrument. Then, according to's Prophet-10 page, the double-manual keyboard version of the Prophet-10 was "once again attempted in 1979". That same synthmuseum page tells us that the 'version 3' Prophet-10 was released in 1980.

But, those dates don't exactly line up with this advertisement appearances between February and September 1980. So, I have three theories:

1. This ad started showing up at the beginning of 1980 as a delayed response to the introduction of the version 2 Prophet-10, and then the "now showing" text was added when version 3 came out.

2. This ad started showing up a a teaser for the version 3 Prophet-10, and "now showing" was added to the ad when the new version started showing up at local dealers.

3. There is no correlation. Which I doubt considering SCI's previous strategic marketing efforts.

I also checked's Prophet-10 page, and although it didn't contain any useful version release information, it still had some good general reference material. I also got a chuckle out of one of the Prophet-10 comments left at the bottom of the page in March 2010. Commentor "Mezzo" writes:

"Sick, sick, sick. No one else had the balls to take their flagship synth (p5) and graft two together to make such a beast (imagine a Jupiter 16). One of the most over the top and wonderful analog instruments ever."

Well, maybe the Oberheim Eight-Voice. That was ballsy too - but not technically two Four-Voices grafted together. So, Mezzo is probably right.

End note: This ad also has something else in common with the previous ads that included Mattos' artwork - and it is probably one of my favorite features of this ad. Humor. Look closely in the bottom right hand corner and you will see a poodle doing it's "business" on tux-guy's leg.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 "A Legend In Its Own Time" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 "A Legend In Its Own Time" advertisement from page 41 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine January 1980.

This advertisement first appeared in CK around January 1980 and continued to run in many issues of CK throughout the first half of the 1980.

My last blog post featured the first SCI ad that included artwork by John Mattos, and this ad is the second. Both ads are for the Prophet-5, but that is where the similarities between the two ads end.

That first ad was a two-pager, full of colour, and included more than a mouthful of ad-copy. This second ad is exactly the opposite. Half the size, black and white, and... absolutely NO ad-copy. Taking a page from Moog's marketing strategy, SCI chose to let the Prophet-5's already legendary status pretty much speak for itself through Mattos's artwork.

But, as far as I'm concerned, by this point the Prophet-5 synthesizer pretty much spoke for itself in *any* advertisement. :o)

Actually, there is one other similarity between that first Mattos ad and this one. The address at the bottom changed in later versions. From 3051 Orchard Parkway to 3051 North First Street. I pointed this out in the last blog post, although I have no idea why I'm so infatuated with this small historical detail. Just 'cause, I guess.

But, I can tell you why I'm infatuated with John Mattos. I first became a fan with the Ear*Force ads that included his artwork (see last blog post for a few links). Ads that were turned into a series of posters and other promo material. And he was also mentioned as the artist who airbrushed the updated version of the Sequential logo to create a 3D look with ruby lettering that was used in many other advertisements like this one.

And this earlier artwork doesn't disappoint either. As they say, its all in the details, and two things in particular help make this ad stand out.

The first is the tiny crane and dump truck. Perfect in helping put the size of the Sphinx and Prophet-5 in perspective. It also provides a bit of humor and personality as well.

The second is the shadow of the shoulders and head of a man with the hat and his companion at the bottom (front?) of the ad. Its almost like, suddenly, you the reader, are transported directly into the shoes of an archeologist, looking on as the Prophet-5 is unearthed.

And together, those two pieces help place the whole scene directly into the present time.

How excellent is that!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 "Beware of False Prophets", Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 two-page "Beware of False Prophets" advertisement from page 38 and 39 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine September 1980.

Holidays were great - thanks for asking! Got a good start on another project I'm working on, and also managed to get a great deal of napping in as well. Best of both worlds. But it is great to be back, and I thought I needed to start 2011 with a bang.

And figured this was "a gooder".

Although this ad isn't even close to being one of SCI's first for the Prophet-5, I believe it is another first for SCI - the first ad to include the distinctive artwork of John Mattos. And, even so early on in the Mattos/SCI relationship, the company new they had tapped something powerful.

Great artwork.

SCI even offered the image as a 22" x 28" poster for only two bucks! You can review some of my other SCI blog posts that featured ads with Mattos artwork, including these ads for the Pro-One, Prophet-5 and Prophet-10.

Imagery aside, the title of the ad is also fantastic. With competition biting on the heals of SCI, what a great play on words - false prophets. Hee hee.

This two-page ad actually first appeared once in the November 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard, and promptly disappeared. But then, out of nowhere after a ten month break, it ran again, just once, in the September 1980 issue. Both times, it was placed in the centerfold of the mag, so I would guess SCI wanted to be sure it was noticed both times.

So, why the big break between ad-runs? I mean, two pages in the centerfold are probably gonna cost a fair amount. But SCI was running multiple ads in CK already and obviously had the cash. But, there had to be another reason.

At first glance, there didn't seem to be anything different about the two versions of the ad. But, after closer inspection, two main differences in the layout were identified.

The first difference is a minor one, but still historically relevant on some level or another (at least to me :o). In the 1979 ad, the address for SCI is listed as 3051 Orchard Parkway, San Jose, California 95134. In the 1980 ad, the road has changed to 3051 N. First St., San Jose, California 95134. Same ZIP code, Even same address number... just the road info has changed.

Anyways, the second, and more significant change, provides a bit of insight into why SCI waited 10 months before running the ad again. That change is the addition of the "Addendum" paragraph right at the end of the ad-copy. In the original version of the ad, there is just blank space where the addendum ad-copy sits in this scan. But it's like the art director knew they needed some extra space for a later ad-run.

And if that was the case... kudos to that forward thinking individual.

Why the kudos? Well, turns out that the addendum paragraph was required for the 1980 version of the ad because in the time between the first and second run of the ad, Sequential updated the Prophet-5 from Rev. 2 to Rev. 3.

Which makes sense - that Rev. 3 version included a lot of new features and SCI needed to come out with a bang. By using that original two-page colourful ad again, they saved a good deal of time and cost. It's a win-win for the company *and* the readers.

Plus, they probably had a few extra posters lying around.

I love efficiency, and in this case, it just... made... sense...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On holidays.

On holidays until January 17. But will be back then with more great ads and commentary.

Like Playboy, I assume you all look at this blog for the articles - not the photos. :o)

And no. I'm not on a beach. But in my mind I am.