I just got back from Ohio where I was visiting my friend Jon, hanging out in his studio, hunting for Wurlitzer pianos at the thrift stores and trying to bargain at the antique store for a bag full of old Maxell high-bias XLII tapes. Good times all around.
I had also brought my Arp Quadra project down to show Jon. I bought this synth about a year ago from a friend of a friend in Chicago. It needed some TLC. Instead, I opened it up, tore it apart, and then neglected it for about nine months. Note: that’s an extremely effective way to lose lots of little synth parts. Anyway, I managed to replace a couple faulty parts and successfully put it all back together for the trip. I’d been telling Jon about it for a while and was excited to show the work-in-progress.
Unfortunately, my repair job fixed one thing but appears to have messed up the CV control on the keyboard. So we didn’t really get to try it out very much. While we were carrying it back upstairs, we paused next to Jon’s Jupiter 8 and I realized how many physical similarities these two synths share. Ok, I guess it’s just color and size.
Aside from that, they couldn’t be more unlike one another. The Quadra is an American synth made shortly before Arp’s downfall. The Jupiter is, of course, from Japan. And although Roland had been around for a few years, the era of the Jupiter 8 is when Roland was really beginning to hit their stride. Arp was going down, and Roland was shooting up. The Quadra was a massive flop, the Jupiter 8 became a legend used by every respectable band.
I’m in Ohio this week hanging out with my friend Jon. We stopped at a thrift store up the road from his house. I’ve been there before and it’s usually a reliable source for one or two good items. This time it was Vangelis’ “Heaven and Hell” album, from about 1975.
I like some of Vangelis’ stuff. For some reason I always lump it together with Jean Michel Jarre. It’s probably not fair, but it’s what happens when you’re American and they’re both two European electronic musicians with funny names from the 70s. Sorry guys. Anyway, I’ve never heard this album before it seemed like a good opportunity to pick up a little early Vangelis.
My friend Peter just painted and gave this to me. It’s the cover of one of my favorite albums, David Bowie’s “Heroes”:
I started listening to David Bowie very much by accident. In fact, I think he may have been the first musician I really started listening to. It all came about when we got a new family computer for Christmas. We didn’t have the internet, but it came with Microsoft Encarta. Randomly browsing Encarta during the evenings took the place (poorly) of surfing the internet back in those days. One night I was reading about the history of rock and roll, and they included a 10-second clip of Bowie’s “Changes”. I was intrigued by the music and decided that when I got older, I was definitely going to learn more about him and perhaps buy some of his music.
I did, in fact, buy some of his music. In 11th grade I bought a tape of “Lodger” from the giant grocery store near my house. They had a bin full of tapes going for cheap. I think it was fifty cents or a dollar.
The album cover that Peter painted is special for a number of reasons. To start with, I think “Hereos” is a very strong album in its own right. It was the second album that Bowie and Brian Eno had teamed up to make. As a little preview, “Joe the Lion” (an old favorite of mine) bristles with Robert Fripp’s guitar:
Whereas “Low” delved into slightly more proto-electronic territory, Bowie and Eno channeled those textures into a more conventional guitar-based album on “Hereos”.
Although I think I introduced the album to Peter years ago, he helped me understand the album cover. Bowie’s pose was an assimilation of some of Austrian painter Egon Schiele’s concepts. Peter had already been interested in Schiele’s paintings, and here on this cover the two artists merged.
Peter is in New York right now honing his painting craft. It’s been exciting to watch him continue to advance and sharpen his skills. Anyway, I thought this was a really nice gift, and I’m looking forward to hanging it above all my synthesizers. Perhaps I can channel “Hereos” a bit like Bowie channeled Schiele.