THE SOUND OF THE FUTURE - Incidental Synthetic Retro-Futurism


I can’t say that I don’t come from a family that influenced my music taste as it exists today, not in the true sense of the phrase.  My father had a taste for jazz that did not come out in my genes in any form until the last 10 years , my mother was slightly more pop, through Sinatra to Roxy Music.

I was bought up listening to a cross of Radio 1 throughout the week and at the weekend with my Grandparents, Radio 2 was the easy listening choice.  Ironically, it’s here that I think I may have had my first electronic awakening.  Ofcourse, on tinny transistor radios, all I was hearing was the poppy little melody of Hot Butter’s Popcorn, but that was enough to get me hooked.  So when my grandparents bought me the Hot Butter album for Christmas in  1972.

 I was allowed to play it on their mahogany stereogram.  My recollection of this thing was that despite an incredibly deep veneer wood surround (which I wasn’t allowed to get any finger prints on), it had a very dull old peoples material which was blue and brown over the speaker grills and an impressive amount of knobs and an illuminated glass face over a radio that could pick up anything on the whole planet.

Now, this is the important bit…..I don’t recall the stylus being removable, infact it looked like a hypodermic needle on a lead arm that weighed more than saturn, but somehow my Hot Butter album still plays well to this very day.  This was my first experience of Bass that you could feel.  This thing could probably shake a sink hole in the street, so when that sequenced 16 step bass on the Moog came in on the intro of Popcorn, I was blown away…I even turned the bass up more.

This was the dawn of it all….two and a half minutes of sheer electronic pop.

Bowies Space Oddity had a massive effect on me, but also getting my Stylophone was a brilliant life changing event,  being a greedy little spoilt brat, I wanted more……I wanted a Stylophone 350S…..where the hell was anyone going to get one of them…I just had to dream on … the planet earth was blue and there was nothing I could do……apart from take the back off mine and touch every little transistor with the stylus and make my first dirty little synth noises…Rolf Harris???  go and play with your own wooden leg.


Ofcourse, there were other tracks being played on the radio, but being that young, they were only having sub concious effects at the time.  I was taken by the sound of Glam Rock and spent my pocket money on buying singles by The Sweet and Gary Glitter.  At the time Chicory Tip’s, Son of my Father was a niggle in my head that I only know now was a case of childhood Moog programming.

If you're taking the Minimoog down the beach, make sure you don't get it wet..Sonny


At around the same time as being programmed by paedophilic BBC Radio DJ’s and buying equally as dubious artist's albums, I bought another catchy little single called Loop Di Love by Shag.  Shag was one of many pseudonyms of the notorius pervert Jonathan King.  Regardless of his reputation, he was a pretty good pop composer/musician. 

To this very day, I’m still convinced that the build up in the bass line is re-enforced with a synth…….but maybe tht was because my brain was being rotted by flares, stack heels and tank tops…my rhythmic sense was being double flanged by the beats of the Glitter Band…but at least I still had an angel face.


No, I really do regret not being able to appreciate Eno’s VCS on Virginia Plain until much later on in life, shame really

……and The Osmonds Crazy Horses was great…I knew I didn’t want to ride a white horse or end up with a little pony……but this was on par with that little synth solo on Ike & Tina’s Nut bush City Limit’s.


Let’s move on a couple of years, don’t worry…73 to 75 there wasn’t much going on musically that I remember…..inbetween doing The Bump at school discos (come on everybody) and having Bryan Ferry forced on me by my mother (not to be misread or recreated)…I was a bit lost like most 8 to 10 year olds.  I didn’t appreciate Peter (not Jimmy) Saville and Anthony Prices input into Roxy/Ferry design.  But I did have a soft spot for `Love is The Drug” and recall being taken into town by my mother to buy Siren…for her pleasure!!

But Roxy rip offs Sailor really got me…..Glass Of Champagne and Girls Girls girls made me go out and buy their album Trouble.   

Let's get together......never trust a bunch of rough sailors.......

But I was confused, liner notes stated Bass Nickelodion and all I could hear was a synth…but I needed proof…my inner synth conciousness was awakening.  Ofcourse, Sailor kept it all secret, but an excerpt from their website proves my chidhood theories…brilliant stuff and no, I won’t have anyone knock Sailor, no matter how tacky, it was and still is pure pop.

You’ve got to remember, I was a normal kid (well sort of) who was and still is exploring music.  Mike Oldfield Incantations was bought the same year and I always remember looking forward to hearing Tubular Bells on the radio……I never bought the album and I have no idea why…I still don’t possess it.

Fender Tron

10cc’s I’m not in Love was never appreciated on the radio, but the richness of their Mellotron****(see comments) had only attracted my immature ear previously on The Beatles Strawberry Fields, that’s not a flute, it’s doubled up, it’s something else…and I want to know what it is……..

the constant listening to the activity of the radio, a fake Beach Boys car journey….what the hell was an Autobahn?

I recall my father buying me the first Synergy album in 75, this was a classic moment.  Rock Orientated Electronics, which had me Air Synthing…I knew every little part and was in awe of the list of instruments on the back of the cover…what the hell was a Galvanic Skin Response Keyboard to a ten year old…

there was a bit of prog intervention….Emerson Lake and Palmer's, Fanfare for the common man..I knew there was something, but something else was putting me off…was it that it was too rock??

After warming it up for two hours, don't let your oscillators get too cold kids...

Ofcourse, I liked my pop element, but I was also into classical music (a taste that was temporarily destroyed by two music teachers at my comprehensive who were Benjamin Britten facists)….and this is where Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra really was something I could immerse myself in, the array of ARP’s, Moogs, Mellotrons and Vocoders all mixed with real instrumentation. 

Ofcourse, my first introduction to a Vocoder or a Sonovox to be correct was Sparky’s Magic Piano which was contantly played on Ed (Stewpot) Stewarts Junior Choice program on Radio One Saturday and Sunday Mornings throughout the 70’s.


Ofcourse, 77 witnessed the birth of Electro-Disco…I Feel Love changed history for me and many others … see  and the use of synth’s in Disco music became the norm in 78.

It should have been time to move on from Glam, but Rod Stewart couldn't shake what was a now preposterous look, but that funky bassline, that synth riff......

No, I don't think ya look sexy Rod


Around 77 punk evolved and New Wave followed, new wave bands utilised synths heavily….Numan drove into popularity…Bowie got down low and german and  utilised electronics within the Berlin Trilogy and Blondie became Morodered….synthetic commonality was emerging and when 1980 hit….I’ll say no more....the future had arrived....for now.