Recently a discussion grew on Facebook about the usage of (Moog) synthesizers by the Beatles.
It was Amyr Cantusio Von Bathel II starting the discussion: “Harrison was one of first to play the Moog Synth….Electronic Sounds 2 years before Tangerine Dream issue Electronic Meditation.Of course in anexous we have another musicians before too.”
Among the responses we can read: “He didn’t have a clue …” … “Also many accept that it was Paul Beaver demoing the Moog on one side of the Harrison album.” and “In my mind David Borden’s group Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company is a comparable predecessor of TD in terms of several musicians playing electronic instruments and sequencing” and “yes of course…Harrison did experiments only. Together with Beaver. Walter Carlos did Bach on Moog…etc…the history its full of variants!!” and “George Harrison was the first person in the UK to buy a mellotron,and to record with it on commercial music.” …. “George also did the big inovation with sitar and tablas(hindu music)into the Beatles, for all rock, in special the psycho bands 60’s and kraut rock!!I think was a musical visionary” … ” Yes, a moog was used in some parts of Abbey Road“.
Yes indeed the Beatles did use a Moog synthesizer in some of their recordings, but it was George Harrison that put out an Electronic Album himself. I remembered the anecdote about this album ‘Electronic Sounds’, written down in the book ‘Analog Days‘ by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco.
I’ll repeat some passages from the book literally, below:
“One person who wanted a Moog synthesizer was George Harrison. Bernie Krause is still angry about what happened. The story begins in November 1968 with a late night session in an LA recording studio. The famous Beatle was working with a musician he was promoting, Jackie Lomax, and Bernie was doing his usual thing – adding some groovy synthesizer sounds. After the session finished (at 3 a.m.) George asked Bernie to stay behind and show him how to play synthesizer. Krause “And I set up the instrument and was beginning to demonstrate things that Paul (Baever, ed)and I were considering for a new album … some patches that we were thinking of. And when set these up I didn’t realize …. that he had asked the engineer to keep the recorder going … Harrison didn’t ask my permission to do this, just dit is, assumed that it was okay to do.”
George ordered his own synthesizer, and eventually Bernie was flown over to London to show George how to play the instrument. Imagine his surprise when, on arriving at the Beatle’s mansion, he found George had already composed a piece of music with the Moog.
“He had a tape recorder there … and I’m listening to this thing and I’m listening and I’m beginning to recognize parts of it as being the stuff I had done for the Jackie Lomax session. I said -Harrison this is my stuff- I said -what is it doing here and why are you playing it for me?-. He said -because I’m putting out an album of electronic music-. I said – George this is my stuff, we need to talk about how we’re going to split this, how we’re going to share this -if you want to put this out, I don’t like it very much, bue if you want to put it out, we’ve got to work something out. -When Ravi Shankar comes to my house he’s humble- says George. He said – I’ll tell you what, if it makes any money I’ll give you a couple of quid. Trust me I’m a Beatle –
In the end, George Harrison’s embarrassingly bad album, Electronic Sounds (1969), was released under his name on Apple’s more experimental lable, Zapple. A close inspection of the front cover (the best thing about the album) – a beautiful child portrayal of a Moog synthesizer – reveals a silver line across the bottom under George Harrison’s name. In cdrtain lights you can read -Bernie Krause- under that silvered-out streak. On the inner sleeve, one side of the record is credited as being made -with the assistance of Bernie Krause-“