In the fall of 1969, there were still a great many people who’d never heard a synthesizer. And even among those who had, few would have known how its unfamiliar sounds were actually made. Hence the importance of the segment from the BBC program Tomorrow’s World above, which introduced the Moog synthesizer (originally created by Robert Moog) to viewers across Britain. Having come on the market four years earlier, it would go on to change the sound of music — a project, in fact, on which it had already made serious inroads, with such Moog showcases as the Doors’ “Strange Days” and Wendy Carlos’ Switched-on Bach having already become cultural phenomena unto themselves.
Manfred Mann would also do his part to make an impact with the Moog. Calling him “the Moog pioneer of rock music,” Fidelity magazine’s Hans-Jürgen Schaal writes that “Mann lent his instrument out to be used to produce the first Moog solo on a record by Emerson Lake & Palmer. He even did the keyboard work himself on the first Moog solo by Uriah Heep.”
It is Michael Vickers, a multi-instrumentalist veteran of Mann’s eponymous band, who demonstrates the Moog for Tomorrow’s World by playing a variety of melodies through it on a keyboard — though not before plugging in a series of patch cords to create just the right electronic sound.
Whether or not the BBC viewers of 1969 had ever heard anything like the Moog before, they almost certainly hadn’t seen anything like it before. Despite looking less like a musical instrument than like a piece of military hardware, it actually represented, like most technological advancements, a step forward in ease of use. As presenter Derek Cooper puts it, the Moog “produces sounds in a matter of minutes which would normally take radiophonic experts with their complicated equipment,” like the BBC’s own Daphne Oram or Delia Derbyshire, “days of work and multiple re-recordings to achieve.” Not that the average hobbyist could afford the Moog seen in this broadcast back then — nor, for that matter, can the average hobbyist afford the $35,000 a faithful re-creation of it costs now.
via Laughing Squid
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.