Wednesday, November 09, 2016


"Hey Moog! Hey Perrey!" Remember the late 60's, when electronic music went wacky? 

At first the Moog synthesizer was going to be used for SERIOUS classical music. You know, "Silver Apples of the Sun" stuff. But just as the sax was better suited to sexy, raunchy rock (even if its inventor thought it would be welcomed in symphony orchestras),  many felt that the blips and burps of Moog music were HILARIOUS and suited to novelty pop.

While the Musitron did get used in one serious rock single (Del Shannon's "Runaway,") the moog was best served in Top 40 via the hot buttered hit "Popcorn." That single would not have popped into the ears of a grateful public were it not for the team of Perrey and Kingsley and their pioneering "In Sound from Way Out" album. 

Jean-Jacques Perrey (January 20, 1929 – November 4, 2016)  actually worked with the man himself, Robert Moog. He had previously worked with Georges Jenny, who invented the Ondioline, which nobody seems to remember. Perrey also took note of other techniques in "modern" music, including the manufactured soundtrack of "tonalities" that could be heard in the film "Forbidden Planet." 

Perrey ended up partnered with Gershon Kingsley, a Zionist musician (born Götz Gustav Ksinski ) who had studied with the ultra-serious John Cage. Veering away from classical electronic music, the duo were at the vanguard of blip-pop thanks to the Vanguard Records release of “The In Sound from Way Out.” The second and last album on their contract was "Kaleidoscopic Vibrations.” By that time, they had plenty of competition from other electronic novelty-makers and the fad was dying out. 

Perrey-Kingsley’s most enduring works were “Baroque Hoedown,” used by Walt Disney in their theme parks, and “The Savers,” which was adapted as the theme for the quiz show “The Joker’s Wild.” Another track, "Visa to the Stars," recalls Joe "Telstar" Meek, and is more of a dreamy piece of music. But soon enough the "Telstar" sound, reflecting sleek space travel, had given way to silliness (like "The Martian Hop").  The best selling electronic pop album was "Switched on Bach" by Walter Carlos, and it was pretty light-hearted. Carlos went on to more frivolous albums that made odd noises out of Bacharach and Beatles tracks, and others joined in, blipping everything from Scott Joplin to Erik Satie. The big hit of course was "Popcorn," a Gershon Kingsley solo composition on his album "Music to Moog By." 

Perrey, not to be outdone in ridiculousness, tried to rival Gershon with his own single "Gossipo Perpetuo," which was a mash of moog and cut-up collages of sound and repetition. 

Kingsley tried to create a classical gas with the wonderful  “Concerto for Moog,” which I saw performed by Gershon's "First Moog Quartet" in concert with the Boston Pops. Sadly the piece doesn’t seem to have been immortalized on vinyl. It isn’t on the 1970 “First Moog Quartet” album. Attempts to pull electronic music back into classical, or into "heavy" rock, didn't really work. Oh, there was "Emerson Lake and Palmer," and others adding synth, but it was pretty synthetic, and soon a cliche. 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried to adapt repetition and collage into a new, modern electronic type of music on their “Two Virgins” album, which was better seen than heard (and that’s pretty damning, isn’t it?) Anyone out there have George Harrison’s “Electronic Music” album, and can admit to playing it twice?  

Eventually Perrey left the frivolity of pop behind, returned to France, and worked on serious ballet scores and music based on the “medical research into therapeutic sounds.” We've had "environmental" CDs that have tried to synthesize "soothing" sounds along with sampled noises from nature, and we've had more than enough "new age" albums that have tried to hypnotize the brain into floating in its own juices. Yum. 

For many, the best Moog and electronic stuff remains the novelty discs from the likes of Kingsley and Perrey. You'll like the samples below. 




Brian Prebble said...

Those Vanguard albums were good fun and highly prized on vinyl in the UK and I had both of them. It was "EVA" on the second album that was the coveted track as it was rather groovy so ended up being sampled a lot. There was a reckless tongue in cheek nature exploring the Moog's capabilities and if memory serves me right there was a comical version of "Strangers In The Night" on one of those albums that I'd put on to amuse and baffle visiting pals. Also the era when stereo was becoming popular so widescreen stereo and panning effects were the order of the day which worked well on these Moog experiments.

Nice to see the mention of the Musitron and "Runaway" - Max Crook has never really been given the due he's deserved for inventing and playing that strange device which predated "Telstar" by over a year.

sbh said...

Somewhere in storage I have a reel-to-reel tape copy of Gershon Kingsley's Concerto Moogo as performed by the Moog Quartet with the Boston Pops. As an encore they played an orchestral version of "Popcorn". It came from a 1970 (I think) episode of Evening at Pops. It's a favorite of mine, though it has now been some years since I've been able to hear it.

I've looked for it for years on LP or CD without success; as far as I can tell it was never issued. Sic transit or whatever.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, sbh. Yes, yes, I remember the announcer calling it "Concerto Moogo." Funny, I remember taping it, too. What happened to that tape I have no idea. Strange that the TV show hasn't turned up on DVD. It was one of Fiedler's finest moments.