Monday, December 31, 2012

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" ad (1-page version), Keyboard 1983

Korg Poly-61 synthesizer "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" full-page colour advertisement from the front inside cover of the August 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Well, it will be New Year's Eve and a reminder of another year gone by. As I get older I'm not sure exactly how I feel about being reminded that I'm getting on in years. And blogging about ever-increasingly older advertisements probably doesn't help the situation.

But then an ad like this one comes along and all that nostalgia fills my little aging belly with joy. In this case, it's not so much the ad itself but when it first appeared that got me thinking of the good 'ol days.

When I pull this issue of Keyboard off the shelf the first thing I see is one of my favorite all time old-skool covers featuring Thomas Dolby. That cover photo pretty much summarizes what was going on in my mind when I bought my first synthesizer... and second... and third... and forth... And there was a drum machine purchase somewhere early on too. As I flip through the mag, I re-read the article on Dolby, as well as the one on Lee Curreri (you might remember him as Bruno from Fame). And I also see familiar ads for the Prophet 600, Memorymoog, LinnDrum, and of course, the Poly-61. Aaaah... memories.

Does today's advertisement look familiar? It should.  This is the one-page version of the two-page introductory advertisement for the Poly-61 that I posted last Thursday.

I've probably mentioned it a half-dozen times, but I'm gonna say it again - resizing advertisements is an art form. Pure and simple. This looks like it was Korg's first attempt at it in Keyboard Magazine. And they did a pretty good job of it, even if they had to cut off the top of the "G" in "Korg" to do it.

When resizing ads, many green designers I've worked with first try to shrink everything down except the product itself. But Korg did the right thing to focus this ad redesign around the reduction in the size of the photo of the synth.

Even at the reduced size, many of the front panel labels, including the name of the synth, are still readable. The smaller photo allowed the designer to keep that awesome "Korg Poly-61" design treatment and ad-title at near the same size as in the two-page version (with all that glowing and lens flare effects, it's hard to believe that the first version of Photoshop wasn't released for another five years). And best of all, the ad-copy was kept at  *exactly* the same in font size and column placement. Korg was on fire!  :)

If fact, Korg was on fire with the whole promotional machine surrounding the Poly-61 advertising campaign. Everything was syncing up very well.

For example, Korg included their 1983 General Catalog attached between the two ad pages the first time the two-page version of the ad appeared in the February 1983 issue of Keyboard. Readers picking up the magazine would feel this little extra bulk and flip directly to the ad and the catalog. Perfect.

Then, while the two-page ad-run was still in full swing, Keyboard ran the Spec Sheet promo for the Poly-61 in April 1983, focusing on the digital aspects of the machine and the arpeggiator. This could almost be called the "perfect" Spec Sheet:
"The Korg Poly-61 is a six-voice programmable synthesizer. It has two digitally-controlled oscillators per voice. Each pair of oscillators can be detuned for chorusing effects or tuned to intervals. The 64-program memory has full edit and program move capabilities, with a digital access control system for full control over all program parameters.  A six-digit display indicates each active program. Polyphonic, chord memory/unison, and hold key assign modes allow for monophonic bass and solo sounds as well as full six-note polyphonic playing. The arpeggiator, which automatically memorizes and plays back note and chord sequences in three different patterns and ranges, has a latch mode and can be synched to external sequencers, footswitches, and other synthesizers. Other features include a four-way joystick with separate LFO for pitch-bend, vibrato, and filter tromolo effects, and jacks for foot-switch-controlled sustain and program change. The unit weighs 24 lbs. Price is $1,495.00. Unicord, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590."
The promotion machine continued the following month when the Poly-61 was featured twice. First, in Part 1 of the NAMM Winter Trade show article, it received the top honors as the first keyboard described under the "Synthesizers" section, before the MIDI'd Prophet-600 and even Roland's long list of products including the Juno-60, as well as prototypes for the Jupiter-6, JX-3P and MC-202.

But that NAMM article didn't spend much time talking about the features of the synth because it simply pointed readers to the Keyboard Report for the Poly-61 written by the always fair Jim Aikin that appeared in the same May 1983 issue.

The introduction naturally focused on the rather low $1,495 retail price tag and a few of its more predominant features such as the clean front panel, arpeggiator and joystick pitchbend. A good portion of the body of the article is spent on the push-button programming and the parameters themselves, and some of the issues that arise:
"The parameter controls are digitized - that is, they can be set only to whole number values. And for many of them, only a few values are available. Ranges such as 0-3 (for vibrato delay), 0-7 (for filter resonance), and 0-15 (ADSR settings) are the norm. This does frankly limit the amount of control you have over the sound. There were times when we wished we could get an envelope decay setting halfway between two of the available setting, for example. But it's usually possible to find an compromise value that sounds quite good, even if it wasn't precisely what you first had in mind."
The conclusion reinforced the nice low price tag for all the features the Poly-61 has, but pointed out the lack of a second envelope generator, and that the "tone seemed a bit thin" -  recommending it for new wave over symphonic rock!

Put all those promotional activities together with a good year-long gorgeous advertising campaign, and Korg did pretty much all they could do to get the Poly-61 into the hands of musicians.

Korg probably enjoyed that New Year's Eve. And time to enjoy mine.

Have a great new year, everyone.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" 2-page ad, Keyboard 1983

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" two-page full colour advertisement from the February 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

After posting the lovely Mono/Poly & Polysix brochure last Monday, I started reintroducing myself to Korg's synthesizer family.

Looking back at my gaps in the Korg advertising timeline for Korg, I realized that up until this advertisement, Korg had frequently acquired the back-inside cover spot in Keyboard Magazine (among other placements), but only once had taken up residence on the front-inside cover back in June 1982 with a three-page foldout that included this Mono/Poly ad and a two-page "We put it all together" family ad.

The Korg Poly-61 ad campaign would change all that, and put Korg in that front inside-cover position for the foreseeable future, later placing there many of their notable introductory ads including the Poly-800 and Wavestation.

This two-page introductory advertisement for the Poly-61 appeared consistently from February to July 1983 until a one-page version took over in August for the rest of the year, running all the way to January 1984 when it was replaced by that Poly-800 ad I mentioned above. That's a year-long run - not too shabby.

The two-page version, gorgeous as it is, doesn't stand the test of time too well. The first half of the ad stays bright because of the paper used for the cover of the magazine, but the second half of the ad appears on normal magazine paper, which tends to fade a lot faster over time. The result is an ad that looks distinctly different between the two halves.

A two-pager that is not a centerfold can also be a lot more of a pain in the @ss to scan because it never lies flat enough for the scan. Unless you take the magazine apart to scan the two pages totally separately (um... no...) the middle crease is going to get a little blurry. Boo!

According to sources like Wikipedia, the Poly-61 was the "digitally controlled successor" to the Poly-6 (see ad to the right  -->  ) although some may argue that "successor" may be a bit of a stretch. You see, the Poly-61 has the distinction of being the first Korg synthesizer to use a push-button interface, and that kinda changes the game when it comes to parameter adjustments.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love cool new technology as much as the next geek, but I will always miss the multitude of analogue knobs and switches that allowed a synthesist to quickly and easily change all the different synth parameters such as Envelope Generator Attack or VCF Resonance.

Need an example? Say you are on stage trying to impress the cool chick in the short skirt by quickly making your Poly-61 scream with resonance. But now you can't just instinctively reach for the resonance knob and twist. No. Now you have to look down at the front panel, hit the "parameter" button, then punch in the two-digit program number for VCF resonance, then hit the up value button two or three times to turn the resonance up. Sure, not having a dial or switch for each parameter cleans up that front panel nicely, but to many, this was NOT an innovative move forward. And it was definitely not helping the synth guy get laid. In fact, I will put forward the theory that this may have actually helped the drummer.

To make matters worse,  many of the parameters of the Poly-61 were programmed with limited resolution. VCF resonance only had eight steps (0-7), EG attack,decay, sustain and release parameters only had 16 steps (0-15). Now compare this to the apparent 256 steps of the Polysix.  Again, not exactly seen as a step forward by many.

And to put icing on the cake, apparently the engineers removed the analog effects board that was available on the Polysix. That just blows.

But all is not lost - the Poly-61 does contain a few upgrades. For example, the beast has two oscillators compared to the Polysix's one. And twice the patch memory at 64. And personally, I really liked that Korg decided to replace the pitch and modulation wheels with their lovely joystick controller. I love that thing - the only problem being that it was only a matter of time before one of your friends broke it off while transporting it to the next recording session or stage gig.

And last but not least, when MIDI reared its ugly head, Korg man-up'd pretty quickly to slap it in to the Poly-61M.

I had a broken Poly-61 dropped off at my place when a friend dumped a bunch of synths before moving out of province last year or so. Maybe I'll dig it up and get it repaired one day. Maybe. Need to do more research first.

I'm not convince yet.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix "Sounds to shape the future" brochure, 1981

Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix synthesizers "Sounds to shape the future" brochure from December 1981.

"Sounds to shape the future"... how f*%king awesomely futuristic is this?!?!?  

Tell me what is better than synthesizers in transparent pill capsules! No. Really. Tell me. I'm waiting.

Okay, maybe adorable kittens on synthesizers. Maybe. But besides that.

You can't. I knew it.

And that is exactly why I'm posting this brochure on Christmas Eve. 'Cause that front cover is one of my favorites. And, I'll admit, to help deflect any suggestion that I may not be blogging that much this week or next. I'm enjoying my rum and eggnogs just a little too much to be typing too much right now.  :)

Almost as cool as that front cover photo -  this brochure was printed in December 1981 - exactly 31 years ago. And that front cover photo would probably fit into many of today's synthesizer marketing campaigns (and various electronic music cultures) just as well it fits into the early 80's fascination with the future. Spectacular!

And... it... just... gets... better... Truly.

Just flip open the brochure and not only are you greeted by the front panels of both the Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix, but also with really well done "panel function by section" images with reference numbers. And it doesn't end there, for the Korg Polysix, the designer included a little "Sound Sampler" reference chart on the bottom right side, that gives readers a good preview of the programming and sound capabilities. It provides a nice little window back to 1981 and what was probably the most popular sounds of the day - electronic piano, organ, string and sound effects.

The back page also provides a nice close-up of the back of each machine, along with two really

That front photo is so great I immediately saw a "Keep calm..." image of some sort in my mind. Too good to pass up:

Now time to pour myself another 'nog. 

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ARP 2600 "The ARP for the studio. The ARP for the stage." ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

ARP 2600 synthesizer "The ARP for the studio. The ARP for the stage." full page colour advertisement from the September 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

People around me are starting to make their New Year resolutions.  Or is that "New Year's"? Or "New Years"? My resolution should really be along the lines of learning grammar. But instead, the only resolution that I can come up with that my lazy ass could even come remotely close to actually fulfilling is to try and get the blog's Advertising Timelines updated. But even that sounds tiring and makes me more anxious about the whole thing.

And posting this ARP 2600 ad only piles more anxiety onto that growing mountain of what-the-f**k-am-I-thinking.  :)    But yet I can't help but adding onto the ARP timeline work-load with this juicy number.

The ad is just too dang good to appear only twice - in the September and November 1979 issues of Contemporary Keyboard. Everything about this ad makes it deserve at least a six month run.  The dual-theme concept (around here we call it a "Betty and Veronica" sell) is a great way to showcase the 2600's abilities and the two gorgeous photos play off these two themes nicely. With the studio perspective photo, the reader sees the front panel of the 2600, riddled with cables - obviously the result of a musician's hard at work coming up with that perfect string sound. With the stage perspective, the reader sees the opposite side of the 2600 with the left-side control panel on proud display. Definitely works.

The ad-copy only builds upon the photo for each perspective. On the studio side, ARP reinforces the sound recording capabilities of the 2600. Lead lines, string sounds, electronic effects. On the stage side, ARP drops the names of a number of musicians and bands - from Chicago to Weather Report. ARP is pulling out all the stops.

If I'm not mistaken, this is only the second ARP 2600 solo advertisement to appear in CK, appearing roughly three years after the first 2600 two-page extravaganza ad appeared in the December 1976 issue.

That first ad featured an awesome 1+1/3 page-sized photo of Joe Zawinul surround by two ARP 2600s. And almost two full columns of ad copy.

I also posted a 1971 - yes, 71 - ARP 2600 reference sheet back in 2010.

Yup - this thing has been around a long time. According to Vintage Synth Explorer's ARP 2600 page, from 1971-1980. It's Wikipedia page clocks it's lifespan lasting until 1981.

Either way... a looooong time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wersi Alpha DX 300 "After all confusion the digital conclusion" ad, Keyboard 1984

Wersi Alpha DX 300 organ/synthesizer/delay/drums/sequencer/special effects keyboard "After all confusion the digital conclusion" full page colour advertisement from page 57 in the February 1984 issue of Keyboard.

I blogged a bit about the Wersi Bassie back in 2010, but something happened that recently raised my curiosity about the company again.

You see, holidays are approaching, and no matter how much of a Grinch I become during this anxiety-inducing season, very few things make me smile more than hearing some classic pop organ riff when out and about.  Every so often during the holidays you will catch a song or two in stores or flipping randomly through the radio. Stuff like Klaus Wunderlich. Always makes me giggle a little.

And exactly that happened recently. And after hearing the song, I started surfing around Klaus' Wikipedia page. It got me thinking about Wersi again, and so I started digging through old Keyboard mags for their organ ads, and this one got my attention.

Looking back, there wasn't much Alpha DX 300 info for interested Keyboard readers. The ad itself appeared only three or four times during the first half of 1984 and reads a bit like a translation straight from Germany with awesomely awkward sentences like:
"400 miles of written software and many patents finally led to an important breakthrough in the field of music". 
"It's just the sound you like... having a quality that seems almost impossible."
 Even the "Digital conclusion" theme is a little uncomfortable to process. Let's face it, there's a lot of fluff going on in this ad, but there isn't a lot of technical information Keyboard readers would find useful - things like sequencer memory or number of voices.

You would think the Spec Sheet promo for the DX 300 that appeared in June 1984 would be a little bit more forthcoming about the tech side of things, but I'm afraid not:
"Wersi Keyboard. The Wersi Alpha DX 300 features two 44-note, F-to-F keyboards and digital sound generating circuitry. The unit as organ, synthesizer, drum machine, and sequencer capability. A computer interface is built in for connecting it to a personal computer. Weight is 55 lbs, including built-in speakers and amplifiers. Wersi, Box 5318, Lancaster, PA 17601."

Then again, I'm going to assume that maybe Keyboard wasn't the first place organ players really looked for a lot of their tech info. Maybe there was a magazine called "Organ", which hopefully didn't get mixed up in the magazine rack with some medical journal of the same name. Or even worse, a hip 80's p0rn mag. The purpose of ads in peripheral markets aren't to hard-sell a product, but to get people interested just enough that they walk into their local organ store the next time they are passing by. 

So, I'm not knocking Wersi. The company was definitely doing the right things to promote this beast. According to the ad, there was a brochure and sound sheet available for the Alpha DX 300. And thanks in no small part to Chrome's Web page translation abilities, I was also able to find MP3s for a Wersi Alpha DX 300 "The Magic of a Digital-Organ - Alpha DX 300 in concert" record from the early 80s in this RKCA (Recreational Keyboard Club Antwerp) forum, posted by one of the administrators, Roppeke.

But if you want something to blare on your sound system today, I recommend this apparent Klaus Wunderlich promo for Wersi from the early 70s that I found on YouTube this morning. No DX 300, but who gives a crap when you can dance alone in your living room while hanging wet laundry.

*That* is what cheers me up on a miserable day like today.     :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yamaha CS-5 and CS-15 "Turn yourself loose on a Yamaha synthesizer" brochure, 1979

Yamaha CS-5 and CS-15 "Turn yourself loose on a Yamaha synthesizer" brochure from approximately 1979.

Work is crazy busy. So, as usual, I'm putting into effect "protocol: dodge the blog". AKA post something really awesome so I don't have to write so much.

And I'm sure you will agree...


I'm serious.

The only thing more awesome than this CS-15 brochure is the CS-15 itself. Mine sits next to my Korg MS-20, and I have to say that the Yamaha CS-15 sees a lot more action in music production work than the MS-20. I know... hard to believe... but its true. My CS-15 tuning is a lot more stable, and the control on the front panel just seem a lot more logical to me. The sections are well laid out, and that little splash or orange in the section labels really do help a lot in finding controls quickly, especially after its been ignore for a month or four.

Enough gushing... have to think of something not so good...

Well, the only disappointing thing about this brochure is there is no print date on it. So, I've taken the liberty of giving it a date of 1979 for one simple reason - it says "New" on the front cover. In a totally different font and shade of grey. You know they mean it when its in a different font *and* shade of grey.  :)

So, to triangulate a print date to go along with "new", I decided to dig into old issues of Keyboard Magazine and find any initial appearances these two synths might have made.

Looking back at advertising, the first Contemporary Keyboard issue that included an ad for the CS-5 and CS-15 synthesizers were, in fact, December 1979. It was actually a Yamaha "How serious are you about..." series advertisement that include those synths along with the CS40m and CS20m.

But, as you can see from the photo, they were kinda pushed into the background to make room for their programmable cousins. Definitely got the short end of the stick in that ad.

Sure, I know what you are thinking. The advertising may have started in 1979, but that doesn't mean the synths were available in 1979. What other evidence do I have?

Well, turns out that the Spec Sheet section of the same issue of CK - December 1979 - also included promos for the CS-5 and CS-15. And, considering the brochure seems to be quite rare, I'm going to assume most readers got the majority of their tech specs from either this Spec Sheet promo, or someone that read this Spec Sheet. Its detailed and provides a reader with a lot of condensed information... but not as much as this brochure :)
"The CS-5 and CS-15 monophonic synths from Yamaha both feature 37-note keyboard (C to C). The CS-5 has a single oscillator with a 6-position octave selector, variable pulse width, portamento control, and an LFO amount control. The unit also feautures a mixer section, state-variable lowpass, highpass, or bandpass filter, an FLO with either sine, negative-going sawtooth, or sample-and-hold output, and ADSR envelope generator, and a VCA. Pitch-bending control is done with a slider pot. The CS-15 includes two VCOs, two VCFs, two VCAs, two envelope generators, and one LFO. The amount of portomento on each oscillator is independently variable, and LFO modulation amount is also variable independently for the oscillators, filters, and VCAs. The output of the two envelope generators can be applied to either of the two VCFs and/or to the VCAs. The envelope generators' outputs can also be reversed or multiplied by a factor of 5 times the normal voltage output. Both filters are state-variable lowpass, highpass, or bandpass. Yamaha. Box 6600. Bueno Park. CA 90622."
Okay, it may be coincidence, but with both the ad and the spec sheet promos appearing in 1979, I'm going to confidently give this a stamp of 1979. 

So there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Casio CZ-3000 "Musical Creativity Unlimited" brochure, 1985


Casio CZ-3000 synthesizer "Musical Creativity Unlimited" four page brochure from 1985.

Out of all the CZ-series synthesizers, the 3000 always seemed to be the odd one out. All the other CZs had ones and zeros, except the grand-pappy of 'em all, the 5000. And "5000" just sounds cool, so in my brain it works well with the series.

Maybe it was that I've never actually played (or seen) a 3000 in person, so there's been no bonding experiences to make me love 'em like I love the others.

I can't even figure out why they named it the 3000.

According to the CZ Wikipedia page, it "used the same phase distortion engine as the CZ-101 and the CZ-1000". But it had double the voices, double the patch memory,  and you could split the keyboard. Plus a few other things like chorus and I think an extra octave of keys.

So, wouldn't it have made more sense to call it a "2000". Two. Double. Get it?  Meh.  Whatever.

And while I'm on the topic of naming things, I'd like to finally address what I believe is the elephant in the room when it comes to CZs.

Sure, maybe its just me. Maybe everyone else is totally fine with it.

I'm talking about *that* word. 


(I instinctively rolled my eyes even when I typed it).

It just sounds cheesy to me. And honestly, I've NEVER said the word out loud. Ever. I LOVE my CZ-5000 to death, and back in the day I would mention the awesomeness that is phase distortion any chance I could get. But I *never* referred to it as a Casio "Cosmosynthesizer".


Just to dang embarrassing.

A similar word that others may relate to is "Robocop". As in the movie.

When that movie came out, I thought the title was the worst cheesy name for a movie ever. I refused to lend any legitimacy to the movie by saying that title name out load, instead generally referring to it by what I considered to be a much better title:

"That movie with the robot cop".

When my friends actually convinced me to go see it at the movie theatre, I remember looking around that big, full-to-capacity space and asking myself if anyone else in here is secretly pooping themselves with embarrassment. Anyone?

And looking at the Wikipedia page for Robocop kinda lends legitimacy to my feelings about the movie. Some fun facts:
  • The film was produced for a relatively modest $13 million.
  • The 1986 Ford Taurus was used as the police cruiser in the movie, due to its then-futuristic design.
  • The movie was given an X rating by the MPAA in 1987 due to its graphic violence.So they toned it down for the release.
I'm not making any of that up. I don't know which of those three facts is most unbelievable.  :)

Okay, enough pooping on "Robocop" and "Cosmosynthesizer".

Besides having to look at *that* word on the front cover of this brochure, the cover of this thing really is a little piece of awesomeness. The fonts, the glowing pyramid, the title - Musical Creativity Unlimited (BTW, a great name for an electronic band). All of it knocks my socks off.

And flipping the page rewards you with a big yummy photo of the CZ-3000. One thing I've never really paid attention to is that extra room at the end of front panel. Casio has used the space to include a whole extra table of Parameter/Variable Range information that I don't think is found on other CZ front panels. Awesome!

The descriptive brochure copy on the inside pages flip back and forth between the promotional and technical and in the end, I think, leaving the reader feeling a little awkward. But if all the person is looking for is information, they will find it in there, as well as on the back page's "Specifications" section.

That back page also gives us a print date: 10-1985. Which I assume is October 1985.

Most sites reference the CZ-3000 production start date as 1986, but this document date does provide some evidence that it may have actually been 1985 when it first appeared. Alternatively, there is also the possibility that this was just printed in advance of its release in 1986.

Either way, a cool little piece.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Casio CZ-1 "When you perform, it performs" ad, Keyboard 1987

Casio CZ-1 synthesizer "When you perform, it performs" full page colour advertisement from page 144 in the July 1987 issue of Keyboard.


Nope - not talking about hipster lingo used to describe something that they think is awesome, although that applies too - "that CZ-1 synthesizer you are playing on stage is choice".

I'm talking about options.

And Casio gave users a lot of choice. I listed out the wall of keyboard choices available by Casio near the end of the RZ-1 reference sheet blog post to prove some point or another.

Yup. A lot of choice there.

Guess what - I've come to hate choice.

It can really stress me out. Make me stop in my tracks, immovable. But thinking about it, its not the idea of choice that bothers me. Its the idea that having to make one choice will then affect some other choice I will have to make the future. For example, making the choice to purchase a Casio keyboard now could affect my ability to pay for a better Casio sometime in the future.

But I'm getting a bit off topic a bit.

Point is, in my head, I look back thinking I could walk into a store on day-one and choose between the 1, 101, 1000, 3000 and 5000. My brain wants me to believe that all these xZ products hit the market pretty much at the same time. But that was clearly not the case. Looking at the date this ad appeared, its now clear just how long the roll-out of the different CZs lasted. But I have to admit, there is a definite disconnect between how it went down in my head and how it really happened.

My brain just wants to rearrange history to how I would have wanted it to be. All my choices, ready to choose, all at once. No more choices to be made after that.

I hate that. 

I also hate that Casio has officially left the human element behind with this CZ-1 ad. Some of you will cheer, while others like me feel its the end of an era. That era included the first round of CZ advertising for the CZ5000, CZ-101 and CZ-230s.

Let's be clear. These weren't famous musicians appearing in these ads - as found in ARP and Moog endorsement ads from the 70s and early 80s. These were honest-to-goodness models dressed as musicians, used by Casio to bring a sense of humanity into what was at the time, a sterile gear-only landscape of hardware ads. No doubt a theme Casio brought over from its consumer marketing side.

But by 1986, when the second round of Casio xZ ads started to appear, the company dropped the bipeds and decided Keyboard readers needed to focus strictly on the gear. Such as in this 1986 family photo advertisement that the CZ-1 first appeared in.

Even though most of the ads in this new round of CZ advertising only appeared once or twice (this solo CZ-1 ad only appeared twice in the July 1987 and January 1988 issue of Keyboard) the campaign did seem to have the desired affect and phase distortion synthesis made a bit of a come-back.

Round two.

And the reality-distortion effect this marketing campaign caused wasn't just localized around me and my few synth friends... everyone seemed to be affected. It was like phase distortion was new again. For example, in July 1988 (bolded for good measure), Keyboard published an article title Introducing the Casio CZ.

Introducing?  We've seen CZ instruments in Keyboard since 1985. WTF?

The article is actually positioned as part of the "Technology" section, sub-titled "Synth and MIDI basics", but  as the introduction points out, the love affair with the CZ goes beyond one article.
"Plenty of keyboard players got (and still get) their first taste of synthesizer programming through the CZ-101. If you've got a CZ and would like to know more about how to program it, then get it out and blow the dust off of it. For the next couple of months we'll be talking about CZ features, and in particular about the phase distortion (PD) process that Casio uses to generate complex waves."
Dust it off? Just a few years later and it looks to me like CZ is being put into the vintage bucket?

Poor thing.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Casio CZ-230S "...designed so a musician doesn't have to be a technician" ad, Keyboard 1986

Casio CZ-230S synthesizer "...designed so a musician doesn't have to be a technician" full page colour advertisement from page 113 in the June 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Oh, what a confusing and frustrating beast you are, Mr. CZ-230S. So confusing that they must have realized it and decided to only push this ad twice in Keyboard - June and December 1986.

In Casio's own product catalog from 1986, this beast isn't even listed in with the other processional CZ-series synths (CZ-1, CZ-5000 and CZ-2000S [and FZ-1]). Nope. It was demoted and listed under the "High Quality Sound" group, along with the HT-700 and HT-3000. And when you look at that page in the catalog, the facing "Drum Solo Keyboards" page includes this image:

Yeah... that association makes me a little nervous. And this perception of Casio consumer/prosumer keyboards probably had the same effect on other musicians who Casio were trying to convince to buy their professional products at the time. Now, I'm not saying Casio never managed to get over that hurdle (I bought a CZ-5000 and it still rawks!), I'm just saying that it was probably an up-hill battle.

Even CZ's Wikipedia page questions the 230S's abilities as a professional keyboard:
"The CZ-230S was released in 1986. Despite the CZ-230Ss model numbering, it was not really a programmable synthesizer; the specifications of this model more closely resembled that of one of Casio's home keyboard models. It used the synthesizer technology of the CZ-101 in a 100 tone preset sound bank, had a mini keyboard of 49 keys, incorporated the RZ-1 drum computer technology and had a built-in speaker. Only four of the sounds in the sound bank could be programmed by linking the synthesizer to a computer via its MIDI port."
Now, I admit that I get concerned whenever I see any Casio keyboard with a built-in speaker. And normally this is a major sticking point in my head when trying to convince myself this is a professional machine. I actually turned down a great deal on a Roland HS-60 for the same reason. Even a Juno-106 with speakers screams "consumer".

But in this ad, Casio tries to convince readers that the built-in speaker is a positive:
"And an on-board speaker (almost unheard of in a synthesizer)".
Yeah - unheard of for a reason.

Even better, if you look closely in the photo, it looks like Casio is comparing the 230S to a... wait.. what?  Is that aRoland JUNO-106?!?!?  Alongside a dude who's obviously not capable of connecting a patch cord.

So wrong.

On so many levels.

And yet I love that Casio had the balls to do this, especially if that is a Juno-106!!!! Makes me **smile**.  

And Casio was serious about marketing this keyboard to professionals. They slapped MIDI into this thing. And made it look semi-professional looking.

But I wonder  - was Casio strategically trying to blur the line between professional and semi-professional gear?

Or were they blindly trying different things on different keyboards to see what would stick?

Don't think that is a legitimate question? Let's just remember this is the company that slapped MUPPETS on to two of their instruments. But that's not the surprising part. Apparently May 1987 was a slow month at Keyboard Magazine, because they had the room (and even bigger balls) to include it in the Spec Sheet section of their professional magazine. No kidding.
from Toys of the 80s blog
"Casio Muppet Keyboards. Two new Casio mini-keyboards feature portraits of two mini-Muppets. The EP-10 has a portrait of Kermit the Frog, as well as four preset sounds, ten preset rhythms, and 29 monophonic keys, each one identified by colored tabs, which allow beginners to play along with Casio's color-coded songbooks. The EP-20, which Miss Piggy adorns, has eight sounds, 12 rhythms, 32 keys, and built-in speaker and tempo control. Users are guide through simple tunes by following a pattern of lights that blink above the keys. The EP-20 also comes with a songbook. The EP-10 retails for 69.95, the EP-20 for $119.50."
Now, someone will no doubt write me to say that educational professionals probably also read the magazine, and this was a good teaching tool. So, there is that.

And now I've acknowledged it. And saved someone the time.  :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Casio RZ-1 Digital Sampling Rhythm Composer reference sheet, 1986

Casio RZ-1 Digital Sampling Rhythm Composer reference sheet from 1986.

Here we have Casio doing what it does best.

1. Take something that's professional and costs a lot.
2. Keep it professional and make it affordable.

Sure, there was a drum machine or two on the market that could sample their own drum sounds, but I don't think they were in this price range.

Casio first did a great job of this strategy with their CZ synthesizer series, especially with that $499.00 CZ-101. And now they are doing it with drum machines. And - spoiler alert - a professional sampling keyboard isn't far behind.

The RZ-1 may have only started to appear in Casio ads alongside other "x"Z instruments in September 1986, but the buzz around the instrument started months before. One of those early appearances was a one-pager Keyboard Report in the May 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Reviewer Dave Frederick gets right to the point in the introduction, explaining what makes the $599 RZ-1 drum machine unique:
"The first thing you notice about the RZ-1 is that it has a lot of features not usually associated with drum machines in this price range. For instance, separate audio outs for the instruments, slider-controlled levels, a lighted display, and user sampling."
And eyes must have gone wide when reading this review in 1986 when realizing this thing has 10 audio outs, individual slider volume controls and user sampling! Jack pot. Especially that last bit - user sampling. Dave Fredrick agrees...
"The sampling is very clean and the sampling process couldn't be easier. The .2-second sampling time is adequate for percussive sounds. We were able to create great new percussion instruments by taking random samples from the radio. Or use the four notes of your favorite bass sound and sequence your bass parts along with the drums. If you need longer recording times, it's possible to combine the sample times to create two .4-second samples, or one .8-second sample."
I bought my RZ-1 years after it was released, used, and at a bargain basement price. I just had to know what it sounded like next to my other 80s drum machines from Sequential, Roland and Oberheim (yes, my 80s drum machine collection became a bit of a fetish, not surprisingly around the time eBay came into my life). And even if I wasn't as happy with the sounds of the machine itself, the fact that I could sample from those drum machines into the Casio made it rock. A 909 sample, even at 8-bit, sounded delish.

I also tried the bass trick from the Keyboard Review too, but didn't find I liked the results as much as I liked the general idea of a pulsing bass coming out of my drum machine. Maybe it was the 20kHz sample rate/10kHz frequency ceiling that I ran into. Even bass sounds need some high-end.  :)  

A month before that Keyboard Review showed up, it appeared in a rather unassuming April 1986 Spec Sheet promo bundled in with a few consumer products - the SK-1 and MT-500. I've just included the RZ-1 content for this blog post.
"Casio announces the RZ-1, a programmable drum machine with 12 PCM-encoded sounds. User sampling is included.  Sampling time varies between .2 and .8 seconds. The unit's memory holds 100 patterns and 20 songs. Individual line outputs and MIDI connections are provided. $599.00."
Remember how I said Casio's marketing around the xZ instruments during this time period was a little scattered? I ventured a guess that this was at least partly due to all the other professional, semi-professional and consumer keyboards Casio was also trying to hawk at the time, and the lack of planning around a strategic, consolidated, marketing campaign.

This Spec Sheet  is a good example of how those other non-professional products, although cool (the SK-1 was a crazy little consumer keyboard and consumers and bedroom musicians everywhere ate it up), were getting in the way when trying to get good info about the RZ-1 out to the professional readers of Keyboard Magazine. The RZ-1 description, if promoted by Casio on its own, could probably have been a lot larger, but instead its just one of three products on an already crowded page.

To make the point, I've listed below all the keyboards Casio promoted in their catalog from this time period that includes their whole line of consumer, semi-professional and professional keyboards.

They included, using Casio's own groupings...

 *ahem* - had to clear my throat before listing them...

Digital Sampling Keyboards: SK-1, SK-5, SK-8, SK-100, SK-200, and SK-2100
Casio Piano Sound: CPS-2000, CPS-101, CPS-102
Spinet Type Keyboard: CST-2000
Popular Tone Keyboards: PT-1, PT-31, PT-82
Mini Keyboards: MT-20, MT-25. MT-55, MT-110, MT-210
Standard Keyboards: CT-360, CT-605, CT-620, CT-630, CT-6000, CT-6500
Melody and Chord Guide Keyboards: MT-88, MT-820, CT-805, MT-28
Arabic Keyboards: SK-8A, AT-400
Drum Solo Keyboards: MT-205, MT-520, CT-450, TC-510
High Quality Sound: HT-700. HT-3000, CZ-203S
Cosmo Synthesizer: FZ-1, CZ-1, CZ-5000, CZ-2000S, AZ-1, RZ-1, SZ-1, TB-1

Good lord.  Just looking at that list makes me tired.

And, like I said above, could be a reason that musicians reading Keyboard at the time may have had a bit of a problem distinguishing the kid's toys from the big boy's toys.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Casio CZ-1, AZ-1, RZ-1, and TB-1 "Note worthy" ad, Keyboard 1986

Casio CZ-1 synthesizer, AZ-1 controller, RZ-1 drum machine, and TB-1 MIDI switching thru box "Note worthy" two-page colour advertisement from page 82 and 83 in the September 1986 issue of Keyboard.

Normally I call these types of group advertisements "family photos". But even though these instruments have been nicely arranged for the photo, it still just looks like they are milling about not really aware that a photo is being taken. Like a family standing around a BBQ waiting for their steaks to be done unaware their neighbour is photographing them (and the TB-1 is probably having a veggie burger because he swore off meat at the age of 16 while going through his teen vegan phase).

And this ad is about as rare as finding a photo of my own family standing around the BBQ too.  It looks like it only appeared three times - September and November 1986, and February 1987. I never liked the family photo growing up... (probably again much like the TB-1 in this ad, I'd be sitting over in the far corner pouting).

Hey, if this blog can't be therapy, what can it be for?!?!   :)

Side note: Speaking of the TB-1 - I love that thing. It has two MIDI-INs (A and B) and eight MIDI-THRUs that are each individually switchable between the two INs. I have two of them strategically arranged in my studio so that I can easily flip the control of my synth stacks quickly between my computer and stand alone controller keyboards.

If I recall correctly, all the gear in this ad are making their first photographic appearances in Keyboard in this September 1986 ad. The CZ-1 didn't get any early advertising dollars. All that went first to the CZ-101 and then the CZ-5000.  And oddly, the CZ-1 won't make an appearance in a solo advertisement for another ten months or so. No kidding.

Even weirder, the RZ-1 actually did make appearances in the Spec Sheet section five months EARLIER in April 1986, and the Keyboard Report for the RZ-1 appeared four months EARLIER in May 1986 (more on those  in a near-future RZ-1 brochure post - weeee!). 

As for the TB-1 MIDI through box... I wouldn't expect any other advertising, but the AZ-1 MIDI controller is awesome. There should be some solo advertising around that, but I haven't found anything else in terms of ads yet. Although, during my Keytar-fetish-blogging period, I did post this AZ-1 brochure with a slick-looking dude I affectionately named Blane in reference to the dude from Pretty in Pink. 

My point being... er... what is my point?!?!? Oh yeah...

My point being that Casio didn't seem to have a solid marketing plan when they started releasing their professional gear. Marketing around all of Casio's new gear so far just seems to be scattered throughout a two year period between February 1985 and February1987.

I'm starting to think the real problem is that Casio's semi-pro line of keyboards are just getting in the way. I've been ignoring those ads in Keyboard Magazine, wanting to pretend for as long as possible that they just don't exist. Casio has been pumping out so many keyboards lately that it would be hard to actually come up with a campaign that could involve everything. So, instead, you get a sprinkle of CZ-101 ads over here, a couple of CZ-5000 ads over there, and a few CZ-1 ads waaaaaaay over that way.

But, these family ads are a step in the right direction towards corralling in all these instruments into a campaign. And to be honest, I have to admit that gear-porn ads like this turn my crank more than a little bit.

The ad-title is actually really good, although a little predictable - "Note worthy". But its the way its laid out in the centerfold that bugs me.  Because each word was given the same amount of space from the left-side margin of their own pages, the words are too separated. Maybe it was a gimmick. But there's no need for it.  And the other thing that disappoints me is that Casio's ad designers have taken out that human element I was digging so much in those early xZ advertisements. Boo. Much cooler would have been all this gear in a rack and a dude rocking out with it. We've already seen Casio use a Bruce Springsteen/Lover Boy stereotype (CZ-101) and a Miami-Vice stereotype (CZ-5000), and even Blane from Pretty in Pink (in that AZ-1 brochure) so how about a New Wave-decked-out dude a la Devo or Flock of Seagulls kicking it on all this gear. Okay, maybe that would only get my attention.  :) 

Also, you have to give Casio credit for at least trying to keep within a single naming convention ("x"Z-1). That goes a long way in keeping all these different products straight, recognizable, and memorable in a readers mind.

Plus, we also have the luxury of looking into the future, and so we know Casio does get a little better at all this.

A little.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Casio CZ-101 "We engineered this synthesizer so..." ad, Keyboard 1985

Casio CZ-101 synthesizer "We engineered this synthesizer so you don't have to be an engineer to play it" full page colour advertisement from page 7 in the February 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Oh, you cute little CZ-101!

Although, from the photo, you can't really tell just how little the thing really is.

I actually posted this ad waaaaaay back in January 2009, the first month the blog technically went live. But back then it was more scan posting than actual blogging. So, figured I could post again since I seem to have started on a bit of a Casio stream.

When I look at this ad (or a CZ-101 for that matter),  two words come to mind:

Vince Clarke (@thecabinstudio on Twitter).

I've posted this classic photo of Vince Clarke and Eric Radcliffe posing with a rack of 101's before. But its always worth posting again. Under this Sound on Sound article's photo is a small quote by Vince, that includes this little gem:
"If you are looking for something to sequence, say, a bank of eight Casio CZ101s, then UMI-2B is the answer."
Literally, a bank synthesizers. And a bank of synthesizers that won't break the bank at the advertised retail price of $499.00.

I also like to post this image because it gives readers a good idea to just how teeny-weeny the CZ-101 actually is. Mine has literally gotten lost in my studio. Couldn't find it for months.

This ad was the start of the CZ revolution: February 1985. Tatoo the date under your tatoo of the CZ-101. Go ahead. The blog post will be here when you get back. And don't worry, you aren't the only one with puppy love for this machine. It wasn't long after it's launch that musicians, geeks and the media also fell for it. It seemed that everyone dug this thing.

Don't believe me? Just start digging through the 1985 and 1986 issues of Keyboard to get a load of its popularity. And not just ads... the "Patches of the Month" section often included CZ patches (steel drum patches  seemed especially tasty, probably due to the CZ's lovely synthesized frequencies).

There were also articles dedicated to this new type of synthesis.

In March 1986, Jerry Kovarsky & Jim Aikin wrote a four page in-depth Keyboard Clinic called "How to program the CZ-101". The article burned through many aspects of programming the machine, including envelopes, waveforms, key follow, and the magic of detuning and ring modulation (my words, not theirs  :)

And to make sure you didn't think they took all the fun out of programming the CZ-101, the article ends with this little ditty.
"Of course, many is the time I set out to create a cello and ended up with a moose in heat, but it was a good moose so I took full credit for it. That's what makes programming fun!"
Oh.... synthesis humour. Zing!

But one of the most surprising articles I came across in my research was an April 1986 article called "Unexplored resources of the Casio CZ-101". Written by...


Even cooler is that Bob points out this is his first Keyboard column in which he discusses a specific synthesizer. Throughout the introduction he ensure his readers that he is not "playing favorites" and insists that the article is only the result of a recent flood of a "number of innovative instruments offering unexplored musical resources".  And he also adds:

"...if you're a more casual user of electronic music equipment, you shouldn't think of my devoting a column or two to a particular instrument as an endorsement or recommendation of that instrument. Many devices are interesting not because they have unique capabilities, but because their features are similar to and stimulate new perspectives regarding other, more widely known, instruments."

Bob Moog has a legendary reputation as a stand-up guy with a love of technology. I could see how he would get a kick out of new synthesis techniques when they present themselves. Anyone who thinks differently about Mr. Moog can stand in the line to my right for a punch in the neck. Thank you very much.

Anyways, Bob does a great job of comparing the CZ's digital programming parameters to those of a subtractive analog synthesizer. A good little one-pager. A definite read.

But back to the ad for a second.

In my last blog post for the CZ-5000, I pointed out Casio's marketing strategy of connecting the musician to the technology. Most other synthesizer ads of the time period just included big photos of the featured gear. Few actually included a human. Not even a hand touching the keyboard.

But Casio made sure to include that human element in their ads. In the case of the CZ-5000, it was the Miami-Vice dude. And in the case of this CZ-101 ad, its a Mike Reno (Loverboy) / Bruce Springsteen look-alike.

And to make sure to hit readers over the head with the whole technology-musician connection, they also included a visual of a dude in a lab coat next to Mr. Loverboy. They kind of look like a local TV news team doing a promo for the 10-o'clock update, turning in slo-mo towards the camera.

Nothing like including a stereotypical engineer figure in your ad to make your musician look more... er... musician-y. 

But alas... they forgot one classic piece of geek paraphernalia.

No pocket protector. Boo!   #fail.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Casio CZ-5000 "If you've got your eyes on the charts..." ad, Keyboard 1985

Casio CZ-5000 synthesizer "If you've got your eyes on the charts..." full page colour advertisement from page 132 in the October 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

It's Sunday night now, and usually I've wrapped up my blogging by noon - or at least have Monday's post in the bin, and Thursday's on deck. But today was different. I woke up in one big procrastination mood.

The first thing I did, as I usually do when I wake up, was immediately reach for my tablet and check my email. I was quickly reminded by FutureShop that the WiiU went on sale this morning.  Well, I'll be darned. So much for blogging.

Historically, I'm not known for falling into the marketing hype of new products. I usually wait a year and then buy used for a fraction of the price. Computers. Synths. Everything. But recently I've gained a bit more financial freedom to make spontaneous purchases. So, recently I have made a few purchases on opening day. The Google Nexus Tablet was one of those recent purchases. And now the WiiU.

It wasn't that I was overly excited to buy one and plug it in. Sure, in the deep crevasses of my belly I could feel the beginnings of that "ooh-I'm-about-to-buy-a-new-product-and-unbox-it" tingly feeling, but honestly I think I was actually just more curious as to what kind of line-up there might be at the store.

Would it be mayhem?

Two dudes dressed as Star Wars characters?

Wait... wrong line.

I got there about five minutes after the store opened, and there wasn't a line in sight outside, and I just waited in a small queue at the checkout where they were hoarding them. When it was my turn I just paid and left. I asked the guy if there had been a line, and he said a few people came an hour and half before the store opened. But it was quite tame.

So what was my point - oh yeah - procrastination. Expensive procrastinating. For a new product that normally I would never pay top dollar for.

Thinking back while waiting in line (and stressing a little bit about what I was going to blog about), I realized that this is my purchasing model for synthesizers as well.


Buy used.

Pay less.

But there were a few synthesizers that I have bought new. My CZ-5000 synthesizer was probably the first and holds a special place in my heart. I had heard good things about the CZ-series when they first came out - all of it through Keyboard Magazine. I saved up a long time (and probably so did my parents  :) for this baby.

Opening up the old issues of Keyboard now immediately brings me back to this purchasing decision and the logic I used on my parents to borrow some cash. In the September issue of Keyboard, a month before this ad began to sporadically appear, there is a killer page-long Keyboard Report on the CZ-5000 by Jim Aikin. And reading it today, I'm reminded about Casio's jump into the professional synth market.
"Long known as an industry leader in the field of fun keyboards that you buy in the department store, Casio is attempting with their new CZ series to move into the pro musician market. They've got the marketing clout, no doubt about it, and their synthesizers have a great sound, with distinctive digital waveforms and extensive envelope shaping. But their engineering staff still suffers now and again from odd lapses of judgement that reflect their greater familiarity with the home amusement area."
The diminutive CZ-101 and it's bigger brother, the CZ-1 were part of the initial marketing launch at the beginning of 1985, but it was the later marketing push of the CZ-5000 and it's multi-timbral sequencer that finally got me hooked. Especially that endless repeat function that allowed me to have a number of different sequences with different sounds looping continuously at the same time (sound familiar?  :)

But it wasn't just this article that convinced me to buy the synthesizer new. It was actually this ad. Or, I should say, it was Casio's marketing technique used in these ads.The easiest way to explain it is to compare it to other ads in the October 1985 issue.
  • On the inside front cover of the issue is a two-page ad for the Korg DW-6000 that features a giant photo of the DW-6000.
    On the back outside cover is an ad for the Yamaha DX-7 and KX-5 that features a giant photo of both of those instruments.
  • On the inside back cover is an ad for the Oberheim Matrix-12 that features a giant photo of the synth. 
  • Linn-9000 drum machine ad - big photo of a Linn. 
  • Akai AX80 synth ad - big photo of an AX-80.
  • Roland 2-page centerfold ad for all of their current products - giant photo of the instruments.
  • Ensoniq Mirage ad - giant photo of the Mirage. 
  • Sequential Circuits MAX synth ad - giant photo of the MAX.
This list goes on and on. But do you catch it? What makes the Casio ads different.


None. There is no visual connection between the technology and the musician.

Casio knows phase-distortion synthesis is new. And they also know it can be complicated. Their marketing team knew they had to make a visual connection to a musician to push these synths into a new product category dominated by Roland, Yamaha, Sequential Circuits and Korg. A connection between the technology and a working musician. In a studio. Making music. And it doesn't hurt that the musician looks like he is right out of Miami Vice (ahem - the 80s television version).

Casio would use this visual theme and the ad-copy cues that go with it with other CZ ads

And it worked. On me anyways.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ARP Odyssey "...and a summer full of music" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

ARP Odyssey "...and a summer full of music" full page colour advertisement from page 5 in the August 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

Aaaaah... the ART of recycling ads. And ARP has it down to a science.

Take an musician name-dropping advertisement from six months previous and turn it into a promotional free-gift ad. Magic! Same layout, fonts and logo placement.

Why mess with a good thing?

Even the first sentence is the same.
"When you play an ARP Odyssey your solos sizzle"
It's a nice catch phrase. And one that works especially well for the ARP Odyssey - mostly because it's true. NOTHING beats the truth.

The ARP Odyssey has had a good run, and although the synthesizer would be around for a bit longer, this was one of the last ARP Odyssey solo ads you we see in the pages of CK. A damn shame too. Because for the most part, ARP has consistently churned out quality solo Odyssey ads.   They are surprisingly rare for such a great selling synthesizer... but consistently good.

In fact, ARP is epic for the consistency that can be found in most of their ad series - design, terminology - everything. These two ads are a good example. And so are those "Halloween-themed" ads I blogged about recently.

ARP has also been pretty damn consistent in how they approach their name - "ARP". Always capitalized. even the press and publications such as CK always used "ARP" in all caps.

Recently I got into a rather heated discussion about the capitalization of ARP. And even better, I got to play devil's advocate. I often do this when I don't know much about a subject... such as the technicalities of the English language.  :)

Technically, the name ARP was created by using the acronym of it's founder's name, Alan Robert Pearlman. And I like names that are acronyms. For example, I couldn't think of calling IBM "International Business Machines". It would just sound weird.

 "Hey, is that an International Business Machines' laptop?"

See - awkward.

But, the actual name of the company was ARP Instruments Inc.  As far as I know it was never Alan Robert Pearlman Instruments Inc. So, shouldn't the actual acronym for the company be A.I.I.?

Trying to argue this point to an ARP enthusiast is quite entertaining until you realize just how angry you are making him. Then its just becomes as awkward as saying "International Business Machines".

Again, I admit I don't know much about the technicalities of the English language. Anything more complicated than picking out a noun or an adjective in a sentence is beyond me. So, it baffles me that "ARP", consistently capitalized in the past, is sometimes in camel-case, mostly in the quotes, of the following ads.

In the first ad above, in the third set of quotes (last sentence) it says "... like all of my Arp equipment."

It's also in camel-case all of the second ad - whether in reference to a specific ARP synthesizer ( "Arp Pro/DGX synthesizer") or the name of the company ("Naturally, the sound is always first, and Arp delivers clean, clear sound..."). And you will find this camel-case in the third ad as well.

Am I missing something? Is there some kind of grammatical thing-a-ma-jiggy that I'm just not aware of?

Or did the Logo-and-Style police (as I affectionately call them at my company) take a vacation?

Mmmmmm... vacation. I've been day-dreaming about jumping on a plane and taking a quick hop to a city near by. What is Chicago like around Christmas? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

ARP Odyssey "Your keyboard solo has to be hot" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

ARP Odyssey "Your keyboard solo has to be hot" full page colour advertisement from page 61 in the February 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

If you've been reading the blog lately, you know I've been kinda on a bit of an ARP binge recently. And although my interest in all things ARP has been slowly decreasing, two things keep me from stopping.

1. We are starting to reach the final stages of ARP's lifespan. As a collector of synths and synth magazines, there is something satisfying about covering, from beginning to end, all of ARP's ads. Well - from Contemporary Keyboard anyways. There are lots of other magazines with ARP ads. But still... satisfying.

2. I've been discovering lots of new music and bands that I would normally not venture out and listen to on my own when researching all the ARP musician endorsements. Honestly, I'm very close-minded about music. 80/90s new wave, industrial and techno - in the recent past, that's been 90% of my MP3 playlist. And I think that's why I love all these new bands I've been discovering on streaming stations like SomaFM's PopTron (no affiliation, but I do donate monthly and you should too!) that have taken all that's good about 80s music and made it there own in the 10's. ARP endorsements and SomaFM are my two favorite music-finding machines. My third is a guy named Ken who posts on my wall with a lot of new music.  :)

And so, the ARP blog posts continue with another increasingly rare Odyssey ad.  The last Odyssey ad to run in CK was the Halloween/Tom Coster ad that ended four months earlier in October 1978. And the next Odyssey ad to run after this one doesn't start for a full six months in August 1979. And in between, we have this February 1979 one-time-only advertisement featuring Peter Robinson of Brand X.

Although, unless you could actually recognize Peter Robinson in the photo, or have really good eye sight, you may not know who exactly that is a picture of. Sure, they name-bomb a lot of artists in the ad-copy, including Sea Level (another band to discover), Boz Scaggs, Chick Corea, the Starship (really - "the"?) Kansas, Brand X and others. But the only time ARP gives us the name of the musician in the photo is in very small type used in the photo credit. That could be someone from "the Starship" for all I know.

Like I had said earlier, my music tastes are rather limited (or as some people call them, down right ignorant). Sure, I know the band "Brand X", but other than listening to a few songs in my shady past, I really know very little. For the record, I did know that Robin Lumley was a keyboardist in the band but that was only because I blogged about a Prophet-5 synth review he did for International Musician and Recording World.

But apparently Peter and Brand X need little introduction in this ad with such a big photo and such small type for his name. So I'm just going to jump over to Google for a second and check 'em out....


Wait... what?

Well... Um... That's embarrassing, isn't it.

 Is everyone in on the joke but me?

Apparently Phil Collins is a member of Brand X. Yeah. *That* Phil Collins. I believe he's had a hit or twenty.

Seems I'm more musically ignorant than even I thought I was. It's laughable.

Even more funny, I didn't even recognize Phil Collins when I popped over to this Youtube video of Brand X on OGWT in 1979 and impatiently started moving the timeline around. Then when I just happened to fall on a point in the video with the singer behind the drums, it suddenly dawned on me. I then went back to the beginning of the video to watch Grizzly Adams... er... Phil Collins in the interview.

So, after writing this blog post I'm sure of two things.

1. Yup - definitely musically ignorant.

2. Yup - the Odyssey had a good run, but it is soon to end as ARP would push it aside to make room for ads featuring the the ARP family - Quadra, Quartet and electronic piano.

But its not over yet!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

ARP Arpeggio newsletter, June 1980


ARP Arpeggio newsletter from June 1980.

I've been posting ARP's newsletters a little too infrequently since late 2009. This is only my forth one after these three (click to go to the blog posts and see all the pages).

Usually I scan them over time, and then save them for when I don't have time to really blog. Figure all those pages make up for a small word count.  And that is exactly the case this time too.

But, before I sign off I just wanted to point out a few interesting things.

First, I gotta say - dang I love that Arpeggio logo. In black and white and in colour.  Both are gorgeous. Almost as good as the ARP logo itself.

The second thing is the fact that there is no Volume/# label like on the others earlier newsletters I've posted. This is only distinguished as "June 1980".  That's it.  This leads me to believe that over time these newsletters became less and less frequent. Although my Arpeggio newsletter collection isn't complete, so I can't say for sure.

Another interesting thing is the page on the Chroma. According to Wikipedia and other sources, the Chroma was developed by ARP just before the company tanked in 1981. So, its cool from a historical perspective to see the machine promoted back in mid-1980 by ARP itself. Yeah. Totally cool.

Finally - on that last page is something most awesome. Sure, ARP at NAMM '80 is some kind of awesome, but the one thing in particular on this page that raises this whole newsletter to a totally new level of awesomeness...

Yup. At NAMM '80, Mike Post and Pete Carpenter played the Theme from the Rockford Files.