Switched on, turned on, plugged in! In the late 1960s the invention of the synthesizer was a revolution; it promised to change the way music was made forever. The wild & new sounds created with the Moog synthesizer were in high demand and countless artists issued their own unique vision of what would become “electronic music.”
Here are some of our favorite records from the switched-on craze:
“Switched-On Bach” -Wendy (Walter) Carlos
This is the record that started it all. Wendy Carlos was not only a consummate performer of Bach’s music, but an integral proponent for Robert Moog’s new machine, she even gave Bob many notes on improving early versions of his synthesizer. Switched-On Bach, consisting of brilliant overdubbed arrangements of Bach’s most well known tunes performed on the Moog Modular system, is a milestone in electronic music, and almost certainly inspired every entry on the list below. So popular it could be found in nearly every record collection at the time!
“Switched-On Rock” – The Moog Machine
After the runaway success of Switched-On Bach, the idea to transpose the idea to the realm of rock was a no-brainer. The Moog Machine delivered the hits of the day, including covers from The Beatles, The Band, The Rolling Stones, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Zombies, and The 5th Dimension on this early electronic platter – all fun and interesting arrangements.
“The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music” -Beaver & Krause
Less of a musical album, this two-record set (complete w/ explanatory booklet) served to demonstrate & explain the capabilities of the Moog System III synthesizer. Beaver & Krause were true electronic artists & who (in their later releases on Warner Brothers) used field recordings, experimental sequences, tape loops and more, boldly setting the scene for modern day electronica. Today, the Nonesuch Guide is regarded as an avante-garde electronic masterpiece and rranks among the best selling “classical records” of its time and (for a period) was the most popular release offered by the label. This record serves as an excellent resource for those interested in understanding the roots of synthesis.
“Music To Moog By” – Gershon Kingsley
(Audio Fidelity 1969)
Bob Moog’s synthesizers were so popular that the word “Moog” became synonymous with electronic music itself. Gershon Kingsley’s Music To Moog By is best remembered for “Pop Corn” (youtube), which became a mega-hit when later performed by novelty ensemble, Hot Butter. The peppy, percussive timbre used as the lead melody for this song became so popular, it inspired a new slang description (“popcorn”) among those in search for that magic sound. Other great originals, contemporary covers, and wonderful switched-on production make this an essential record.
“Exotic Moog” – Martin Denny
Famous for his unique brand of South Pacific/Hawaiian/Eastern influenced “Exotica” music, Martin Denny was no stranger to the switched-on fad and in 1969 he delivered one of his finest records. Exotic Moog, which combined Denny’s lounge music with synthesized sound effects and leads, proved the synthesizer could serve as a centerpiece to any orchestra.
“Moog: The Electric Eclectics Of” -Dick Hyman
Dick Hyman is an accomplished jazz musician who has been performing since the 1940s. In addition to scoring Woody Allen films, he has recorded over 100 albums in his lifetime. However, it’s his fantastic switched-on efforts for which he will be remembered. This record features all original compositions including “The Minotaur” which actually hit the US top 20! Also worth mentioning is Hyman’s The Age Of Electronicus release – yet another source for tasteful, inventive Moog pop cover arrangements.
“Moog Indigo” – Jean-Jacques Perrey
Jean-Jacques was one half of the pioneering electronic duo known as Perrey-Kingsley. This, his second solo effort, underwent a recent resurgence thanks to the album’s centerpiece, “E.V.A.” which has reappeared in recent television commercials, as well as through popular music artists sampling his works. The album subtitle really says it all: “Far-Out Electronic Entertainments Created With The Fabulous Moog Synthesizer.” Perrey’s earlier efforts, including The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound of Jean-Jacques Perrey (1968) and the Perrey-Kingsley album The In Sound From Way Out (1966) are also well worth an investigation, and notable for their use of detailed, rhythmic tape editing and early, pre-synthesizer electronic effects.
“Country Moog – Switched On Nashville” - Gil Trythall
Not even country music could escape the clutches of the Moog synthesizer! Gil Trythall’s electronicized versions of country classics like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” and “Orange Blossom Special” introduced the switched-on concept to a whole new audience. Also check out his equally impressive Nashville Gold (1973) album release for more country-synthesizer connections.
There are hundreds (perhaps thousands!) more Moog-sploitation records from this era. Pioneering synthesizer artists from Bruce Haack, Raymond Scott, Mort Garson, Harry Breuer, Franklin Morris, & Walter Sear, through to Herbie Hancock, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Suzanne Ciani, and The Moog Cookbook – all innovated and expanded synthesizer music to new heights.
The artists mentioned here (and many more) have inspired us greatly while designing our latest batch of tones: “Switched-On Ringtones.” We hope you dig this collection – switch it on!