Top 20 Greatest Synths - Episode 3

Vangelis, the Mellotron & another Roland      14/03/07

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10:39 mins
Top 20 Greatest Synths - Episode 3


Top 20 Greatest Synths - Episode 3

In this episode, Vangelis demos the CS80, TV magician David Nixon describes the Mellotron as a ‘musical computer’ and there’s a gloriously cheesy Juno106S TV ad from Japan! … Daijobu desu…er… Toire wa doko desu ka?
Plus more unhinged surrealism from Presenter Marc Norris and contributions from Dave Spiers (Gmedia Music), Richard Termini (Cyndi Lauper Band) and Andy Davis (Stackridge, Korgis, Tears For Fears).
Yep, we’re counting down chart positions 14 to 12 in episode 3 of the Top 20 Greatest Synths of all time…Ever!
Episode 1 and 2 can be viewed here
The Story So Far!
For those who have just joined us and missed all the build up to the show, here are the facts:
We’ve based the chart on the votes that have been coming in to our Top 3 Synths page plus a bit of poetic license to include some outsiders, underdogs and a few surprises.
The chart is about hardware, so no softies (we'll be doing a software chart next year), and 'Greatest' means the most inspirational, the most influential, the most iconic and the sexiest - er - basically the one with the most knobs on wins.
We realise not everyone will be happy with the positioning on the chart, but there’s enough in the programmes to keep everyone smiling, and we hope you’ll enjoy them just the same. Oh, and it's mainly about the romance of electronic instruments in a changing World, so bring your irony and sense of humour otherwise you will be hopelessly lost and left behind.
Episodes are about 10 minutes long and are posted at Sonic once a fortnight. There are 8 episodes in all, and the show will be posted as one contiguous show later in the year.
And now, on with the show!

12. Roland Juno 60
The second of Roland’s affordable high quality synth range of the early 80’s was the Juno 60. Its predessessor, the Juno 6 had no memory and was easily outclassed by it’s closest competition, the Korg Polysix. This later release featured 56 memory patches, but still no MIDI. The 24 dB/octave low pass filter and a three-position non-resonant highpass filter gave the Juno 60 distinctive and lush sounding bass and pad sounds that even outdid it’s successor, the be-MIDI’ed 106.

13. The Mellotron
The Mellotron had to be included on the chart if only for its remarkable contribution to the story of keyboard instruments. The tape replay system first appeared in the States on the Chamberlin and was later ‘adopted’ (verb meaning copied or borrowed: ie. Stolen…Well, kind of) by three brothers, Leslie, Frank and Norman Bradley of Streetly Electronics in Birmingham UK for the Mellotron. The Bradley brothers adapted and improved the tape replay design which became popular with British Invasion bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Stones and The Moody Blues. In fact Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues started out testing Mellotrons at Streetley Electronics long before the keyboard was used to create the eerie, seductive string wash on the seminal 60’s track Nights in White Satin.
Despite its success, the Mellotron was notoriously unreliable and the banks of tapes would twist, stretch and snap in live situations. The keyboard found its spiritual home nailed down in the recording studio on records like Strawberry Fields Forever, 2000 Light Years From Home, Stairway to Heaven and Space Oddity.
It’s unique wonky sound enjoys periodic renaissance - more recently with bands like Oasis, The Cardigans, Dinosaur Jnr, Gomez, NIN and Radiohead.
A softie version called the Mtron means that musicians can now enjoy hours of fun without wading through a sea of tagliatelle

14. Yamaha CS-80
In this segment we see Vangelis demonstrating the versatility of the Yamaha CS80. This 8 voice polyphonic beast had 22 presets (you’ll recognise them all), independent hi and lo pass filters and a ribbon controller for extra expression. This huge analogue machine was only really affordable to the rock elite and although tremendously innovative for the mid 70’s, it was quickly superceded by the Prophet V as the synth-to-the-stars. Listen out for its unique sound on Bladerunner and David Lynch’s Dune as well as countless Stevie Wonder and Jean Michelle Jarre records. Oh, and why is Vangelis dressed like he’s just been to a wedding? The Chartgazers in this episode are the Roland SH1000 and the Alesis Andromeda A6. Some of the voters who voted for at least one of the synths in this episode include…humantas, lee_computermusicstore, ynfynytyng, John Lanius, boogie, James, X, Massimo, marcellofazio, scekerap, S.Teller, Eramo, A.Giretti, Faxiomas, amadhaun57, dfgfdgd, Graham Bolger, thm, Scott Metzger3d, Howard Scarr, kontakt, fatjoebear, nadabrahma, Philip Wood, stevepwlmail, the_upper_me, heretik7, acidville, Justin Purcell and many, many more. Episode 4 of the chart rundown will be posted in a fortnight and features the youngest synth on the chart, plus the only Oberheim to be featured in the rundown.
So,like the professor says, "put that down, and click on this..." Thanks for watching!

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7 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Jonathan Hughes    Said...

Wasn't the Prophet 5, and not the Juno 60, the first programmable polyphonic synth? Also, the Juno 106 wasn't digital. It had a Digitally Controlled Oscillator, but DCOs are still analog oscillators.

14-Mar-07 08:53 PM


Simon Power, producer Top 20 Synths    Said...

Thanks for that, Jon. You're right of course. We used the wrong take on that Juno piece and that's now been corrected. Thanks for watching.

16-Mar-07 03:49 AM


Jonathan Hughes    Said...

I got so caught up in my synth geek nitpicking that I forgot to mention how great this countdown is. Nice job! I can't wait until the next episode. I'd love to see you guys do some more in depth features about some synths -- talk to some of the people who used them and show off some of the sounds they used, and stuff like that.

16-Mar-07 09:21 PM


Simon Power, producer Top 20 Synths    Said...

Thanks for that, Jon. Yes there are more synth demos as the chart progresses and chats with Dave Smith, Jim Heintz and even some interview footage with Bob Moog. The format we chose for the show is designed to have a wide appeal and covers more of the nostalgic and passionate feelings that people have towards the instruments as well as the technical aspect. Thanks again for the interest.

17-Mar-07 06:40 AM


Jesper    Said...

The Juno wasnt even Rolands first programmable poly...the jupiter-8 came in 1981 and the Juno-60 in 1982

18-Mar-07 02:26 PM


Jack petrycki    Said...

to my recall,oberhiem was the first to offer a programming option to their 4 voice synth in 1977,which was based on their popular two osillator expander module,first in production in 1974.They also had an additional 4 voice add on,making their 1977 product an 8 voice.In 1979 roland came out with the jupiter 4.Sequential curcuits cameout with their prophet 5 at the end of 1978.

31-Dec-07 09:58 PM


Ryutaro    Said...

The guy talking about Juno 60 made a mistake. It was not Juno 60, it was the JUPITER 4 in 1978 which was Roland's first programmable, polyphonic synthesizer with memories. JUPITER 4 was 4 voice polyphonic with 8 programmable user memory banks. JUPITER 4 was popular in early H uman League, Depeche Mode and synthpop.

22-Feb-13 11:50 PM


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