Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

(Also available as a blog.)

Legal Blah: This blog is for historical research only, and is strictly non-commercial. All visual and audio material remains the property of the respective copyright owner, and no implication of ownership by me is intended or should be inferred. Any copyright owner who wants something removed should contact me and I will do so immediately. Alternatively, I would be delighted to provide a credit. The writing is by me, such as it is, unless otherwise stated, and this is the only Beatles related blog I am responsible for.

Comments Blah: Comments are moderated. Any genuine comments are welcome. Offensive comments/advertising/trolling/other moronicisms are not, and will be rejected. Due to the aforementioned, anonymous comments are no longer enabled. Comments are the responsibility of the individual commenter, and commenters' opinions do not necessarily reflect my own. (NB: This blog revels in flagrant trivia. If that's not yer "thing", this won't be yer "thang".)

Correspond via: kenwoodlennon@googlemail.com

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Kenwood: Mellotron action.


John's Mellotron, acquired in 1965, and which originally sat on the half-landing leading up to the attic (see Joe Baiardi's Kenwood video, where he passes the very spot at 5:48), is familiar from his home demos (Pedro the Fisherman et al). The amusing film on the left features a Mark II model, of the type that John had, and similar to the one used on Strawberry Fields. (That wasn't John's Kenwood Mellotron, however, but another hired Mark II; EMI eventually bought their own in 1968, the slightly different "FX" model.) Only around 2-300 of the Mark IIs were ever manufactured, mainly because of the huge cost - in modern money, roughly £13,000 each. Anyone who has wasted half an hour listening to John's attic noodlings will instantly recognise the Mellotron stylings of the two gents in this film (and if it doesn't, at least, raise a smile, then seek medical attention).
Finally, here is a page from the Mark II operating manual, explaining just what all those knobs and switches do:


From this, we can deduce that in the first pic above, John was captured varying the pitch up (or down), meaning that he could "strike the same notes and play in a different key!"
Enthralling stuff.
(By the way, notice that one of John's Rhythm Fill knobs seems to have fallen off...what is it with John and his knobs? As anyone familiar with Andy Babiuk's rather wonderful Beatles' Gear book will know, John also had a problem keeping the knobs on his Rickenbacker 325.) (That's enough about John's knobs - ed.)

18 comments:

  1. Interesting stuff. Do you know of any Mellotron recordings dating from 1965? One doesn't immediately associate the Mellotron sound with that year's Beatle music. I wonder if he got it before or after the malarky with the wicked dentist?

    ReplyDelete
  2. John's Mellotron was delivered to Kenwood on August 16, 1965 (also note the colour of it in the above pic - a custom black job, unlike the standard, natural wood Mark II). The date of the dental experience wsa probably early April, 1965; so the Mellotron came after.
    I think SFF was its first use on a Beatles record, though John's attic demos date from late '65 into '66, and his Mellotron is all over those. (Mind you, I don't think he did much writing on it, viewing it more as a medium for dicking about.) EMI's own Mellotron, purchased in 1968, and used on the White Album, was, unbelievably, sold for a relative pittance along with much other classic gear at the Abbey Road "Sale Of The Century" in 1980, a mark of how comparitively low the Beatles' stock was at that particular point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for that. Interesting too. Presumably the Abbey Road sale took place pre-December that year? Either way, shame on them (and shame it's not now in my house). Paul demonstrates one in 'Anthology' at some point as I recall. Cheerio.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Paul, so I've read, now owns both Mellotrons used at EMI - and I think the one that he demonstrates the intro to SFF on in Anthology is the actual one used on the rekkid.

    ReplyDelete
  5. By the way, the Sale Of The Century wasn't the half of it. Sometime in the 1970s, the big Tg12345 Mark I desk, upon which Abbey Road (amongst other things) was recorded and mixed, was given to a school, before being dumped in a skip! A lucky pedestrian spotted it and fished most of it out, and the remains are now in private hands.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I believe the 'dental experience' has been pinned to March 27th 1965.
    And I also know Paul has claimed he worked out the melody to 'In My Life' on John's Mellotron which was probably around Sept 65. (It was recorded on Oct 18, 65.) From his '84 Playboy interview: "I recall going off for half an hour and sitting with a Mellotron he had, writing the tune which was Miracles inspired as I remember." So it was new at that time, but not used on the recording.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Here's a story about the EMI Mellotron (I was there at the auction - only wish I had had the money to bid for it...):
    http://egrefin.free.fr/eng/mellotron/fxconsoleE.php

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interesting stuff - but I think that story is not quite right...it was a standard Mark II that was used on SFF - hired in from the Mellotron office (amazing that there once was such a thing). The one in the story is the EMI owned Mellotron, as used on the White Album. Rather than being loaded with just the effects, this one had all the "usual" instruments - so it was a kind of hybrid...I fink.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Funnily enough (or not), I just had a quick look at the bit of Anthology where (90s era) Paul demonstrates the intro to SFF; and as it turns out, there he uses neither a Mark II or an FX - but rather what looks like a Mark V, which dates mid-late 70s. Mind you, I'd have a Mellotron mountain if I had his money too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. As I remember the auction, it went for 5 grand. And it included loops made by the Beatles. Ouch, I just kicked myself!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great stuff. Would love to learn as much as possible about the Abbey Road auction...can anyone recommend any further sources?

    ReplyDelete
  12. There's a bit about it in the Recording The Beatles book - but not much.
    I don't know if there was an auction catalogue, or something similar.
    Maybe Lonedrone knows...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't remember if there was a catalogue. It was basically old studio gear, but no goodies like valve microphones or other cool valve equipment. And there was no reference to whether the Beatles had used the gear or not apart from the Mellotron. I bought a talkback mike.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Did you buy one of the Vitavox B50s? Or was it the STC 4021e? Or something else? If it was the Vitavox, and you want to, send me a photo and I'll do a post about it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It is a Reslo mic, mounted on a tabletop stand with a talkback switch. I can't provide a pic because I am away on holiday at the moment but it is similar to the mic in the lower left corner, but mine has a matt finish.
    http://vintagewirelesslondon.co.uk/Reslo.html

    ReplyDelete
  16. Im pretty sure Sir Paul has the 68' white tron as well as the MKII used on SFF.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Lonedrone - if you like (and if not, no worries) send me a pic when you get back, and I'll maybe do something with it...I'd be interested to see it, anyway.

    ReplyDelete