Dr Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesiser, one of the first widely-used electronic musical instruments, passed away on this day in 2005 – aged 71.
He started off in his early teens by making his own Theremin, but it would be his range of synthesisers which would make him such a pioneering and legendary figure: he would go on to win Sweden’s Polar prize in 2001 and there is an annual Moogfest held in his honour. Certainly, some of the biggest names in music owe him an enormous debt for creating such remarkable equipment to play around with.
With the introduction of the portable Mini Moog in 1970, a very expensive piece of kit was put in reach to many and could be taken on the road (the 1964 original filled a room with a price to match, see Wendy Carlos’ gallery for proof of this).
It was Wendy Carlos and her 1968 triple Grammy award-winning album, Switched-On Bach, an album of electronic versions of the composer’s most famed pieces, that brought the Moog to prominence. The Well-Tempered Synthesizer followed a year later, and who can forget the eerie soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1971 movie, A Clockwork Orange, with classical pieces electronically altered?
There then, somewhat inevitably, followed myriad Moog re-interpretations of the hits of the day, covering all genres of music – such as this version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’, by Mike Melvoin. (For a selection of alternative rock covers performed using Moogs and other analogue synthesisers, check out the debut album from The Moog Cookbook. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is my favourite.)
The Monkees used a Moog on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd (listen to the track ‘Daily Nightly’); the Beatles, likewise, on Abbey Road, particularly on ‘Because’. George Harrison couldn’t not on his 1969 Electronic Sound album.
Stevie Wonder would bag loads of awards, including Grammys, in 1973 and 1974 for Talking Book and Innervisions. Just listen to the sounds he achieved, courtesy of Dr Moog, on the funky ‘Living for the City’ and the even funkier ‘Superstition’.
Other notable Moog-users include Genesis (The Battle of Epping Forest’), Devo (Mongoloid’), ELO (Turn to Stone’), Kraftwerk (Autobahn’) and Yes (Close to the Edge’), although it’s been used by acts as diverse as Abba (S.O.S.’), Donna Summer (I Feel Love’), Dream Theater (Octavarium’), Air (La Femme d’Argent’) and Coldplay (Life in Technicolour’) – and too many ’80s New Wave bands to mention or, indeed, stomach (New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ springs to mind).
Perhaps the most well-known of all is Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s ‘Lucky Man’.
The Doors’ ‘Strange Days’ was one of the first, Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Jungle Line’ one of the most innovative, Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ one of the most enduring…
Can you think of any more, either from film scores or your favourite artists? (Not least from Pink Floyd; I’m thinking ‘Welcome to the Machine’…)
Lastly, as a duty of respect to perhaps the most mispronounced man in music history, if, like me, you always thought that ‘Moog’ sounded like the noise a cow makes, you should actually be pronouncing it so that it rhymes with ‘rogue’.