Discovering Moog In Pop & Rock: The First Decade

Popular Favorites and Hidden Gems from 1967 to 1976

By Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum

The Zodiac, Cosmic Sounds, 1967 album coverBob Moog Foundation / Moogseum

As music became one of the most important forms of expression for a new generation, through the synthesizer, musicians now had access to an instrument that allowed a seemingly infinite number of musical combinations of sound. Initially utilized by current 60s pop superstars, synthesizers also became an important aspect to the development of experimental and progressive music.

The Doors

Formed in 1965, the Doors were one of the biggest of the early American rock bands. They were considered both controversial and influential, mostly due to vocalist Jim Morrison’s lyrics and his mercurial persona on stage.

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek was an integral part of their unique sound, playing keyboard bass in addition to his many iconic organ and electric piano parts. Drummer John Densmore’s jazz background and guitarist Robby Krieger’s experience with flamenco music further added to a sound that was unlike any other on the airwaves at the time.

The Doors - Strange Days, 1967, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Strange Days"

Released September 1967 by Elektra Records

Album reached #3 on Billboard LP's Chart

Writer: Jim Morrison
Producer: Paul A. Rothchild

Arguably the first appearance of a Moog modular synthesizer on a recording by a major artist.

Synthesizer artist and Moog sales rep Paul Beaver programmed an effect for Morrison’s voice on the synth, and Morrison triggered the effect with the keyboard as he sang on the album's title cut (0:15)

The Monkees

The Monkees were unique in that they were a fictional band created for a television series. Active between 1966 and 1971, the group was comprised of four actor/musicians: Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones.

Initially the band members were minimally involved with the show’s music, due to the time required to film the series. Eventually they earned the right to supervise all the musical output under the band’s name, adding credits as musicians, singers, writers, and producers.

The Monkees - Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., 1972, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Daily Nightly"

Released November 1967 by Colgems Records

Album reached #1 on Billboard LP's Chart

Writer: Mike Nesmith
Producer: Chip Douglas

Mickey Dolenz is on record as having the purchased the 19th Moog modular synthesizer ever sold

The mono and stereo versions of the song had different Moog performances

Paul Beaver, Moog's representative in California, programmed the “spacey UFO noises” (0:09), which were played by Dolenz

The Byrds

As the progenitors of the folk rock movement, one would not typically associate The Byrds with cutting edge electronic technology. However, that would belie the visionary status of founder Roger McGuinn, who, in 1964, formed the band with Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. After the original lineup dissolved, The Byrds would branch out, leading the way in the disparate genres of psychedelic rock and country rock.

The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers, 1968, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Space Odyssey"

Released January 1968 by Columbia Records

Album reached #47 on Billboard LP's Chart

Writers: Roger McGuinn and R. J. Hippard
Producer: Gary Usher

An early Moog modular synthesizer sets the futuristic mood from the outset with burbling, spaceship-like sounds and wind-like noises that have become staples in the synthesizer sound design vernacular

McGuinn is credited with the Moog synthesizer performances on the album, which included vocal processing effects programmed by Beaver & Krause

Simon & Garfunkel


As with The Byrds, one would not normally associate a vocal duo such as Simon & Garfunkel with electronic innovation. Having met in elementary school, the singer/songwriters started out in the recording business in 1957 as Tom & Jerry, with “Hey Schoolgirl”, an homage to their favorites, The Everly Brothers.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel would go on to carve out a noteworthy career over the years they worked together, highlighted by their 1981 reunion concert in Central Park, where they performed for a crowd of over 500,000.

Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends, 1968, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Save The Life Of My Child"

Released April 1968 by Columbia Records

Album reached #1 on Billboard LP's Chart

Writer: Paul Simon
Producers: Simon, Art Garfunkel, John Simon

John Simon is credited with creating the bass line on an early Moog modular synthesizer, and he was assisted by none other than Bob Moog himself

The song opens with what is perhaps the first recorded evidence in popular music of what would become the defining Moog characteristic: sounds with "fat" bass content

The Beatles

It should be no surprise that a band such as The Beatles, along with producer George Martin, would embrace synthesizer technology in its earliest days. And it’s also no surprise they would find ways to organically incorporate new sounds into their palette as compared to the more blatant examples found in the works of their contemporaries.

Over the course of the band’s history and their subsequent solo careers, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr would all wind up employing a variety of electronic textures in support of their music.

The Beatles - Abbey Road, 1969, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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                                                    The Beatles - Abbey Road                                                

"Here Comes The Sun"

Released September 1969 by Apple Records

Album reached #1 on Billboard LP's Chart

Writer: George Harrison
Producer: George Martin

Harrison purchased a large Moog modular synthesizer specially made for him, with a dual keyboard

The Moog first appears in the most downloaded song in The Beatles'
catalog (0:12), using a hollow sound to play the melody

Restated with a brighter version of the sound, hotter in the mix (1:03)

Doubles the arpeggios played by the string section (1:18)

More doubling the strings, this time with a more nasal sound (1:45), including a change of octave settings on the Moog’s Voltage-Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) (1:51)

Counter melody reminiscent of the first appearance (2:15)

Check out this isolated recording. You’ll hear all the Moog parts in greater detail, and it’s an outstanding insight into George Martin’s arranging skills

The Moog makes three appearances on Abbey Road in addition to this track:

"Maxwell’s Silver Hammer"
"I Want You (She’s So Heavy)"
"Because"

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Considered by many as the first supergroup, Keith Emerson (The Nice), Greg Lake (King Crimson), and Carl Palmer (Atomic Rooster), pooled their talents to produce a sound that remains a cornerstone of the progressive rock genre. The trio artfully combined virtuosic technique, rich baritone vocals, and the most famous Moog synthesizer in history to create unique, sonically diverse material that relied heavily on numerous classical influences.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus, 1971, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Tarkus"

Released August 1971 by Island

Album reached #9 on Billboard LP's Chart

Writers: Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer
Producer: Lake

Emerson’s Moog modular synthesizer, arguably the most famous in existence, makes numerous appearances in the 20:35 epic album version

The modular makes its first appearance doubling Greg Lake's bass line before the entrance of a bold, klaxon-like sound (1:11)

A hollower version of the sound slides into pitch (1:59), employing a function Bob Moog initially called “glide”. The term "portamento" is now used when discussing what became a standard synthesizer feature

A more nasal sound with a harder attack characteristic (7:49) has the Moog’s Voltage-Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) tuned in intervals of a fifth

Portamento applied for effect (8:34)

A more open sound (9:42), still tuned in fifths, for a power chord feel

A more strident sound (10:05), in an aggressive call-and-response with Lake’s electric guitar

A more muted application (12:56), again with the oscillators stacked in fifths

Major theme stated (15:53) with yet another application of oscillators in stacked intervals

Theme restated with two tracks of modular (16:56), using different approaches to the oscillator tunings and Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF) settings to achieve sounds with considerable contrast

Theme returns, with the modular producing a droning synthesizer bass tone (19:18), followed by a return of the klaxon sound (19:32)

Song ends with numerous layered tracks of Emerson's modular, producing brass layers (20:16), a low-end bass sweep (20:24), and the ending cadenza (20:30)

Yes

Co-founders Jon Anderson (vocals) and Chris Squire (bass, vocals) were initially drawn to each other by their common love for Simon & Garfunkel. The band launched in 1968, and their early catalog contained several reworks of folk standards, adding both rock and orchestral textures to the proceedings. Over the years, Yes, which is still active today, has boasted perhaps the greatest number of lineup changes in all of popular music, including seven different keyboard players.

The lineup on the video featured in this exhibit is considered the “classic” version of the band, with Rick Wakeman on keyboards, Bill Bruford on drums, and Steve Howe on guitar and vocals, in addition to Anderson and Squire.

Yes - Close To The Edge, 1972, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"And You And I"

Released September 1972 by Atlantic Records

Album reached #3 on Billboard LPs and Tapes Chart

Writers: Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe, Chris Squire
Producers: Yes, Eddie Offord

While Keith Emerson was known for his use of his Moog modular, Yes' first keyboard wizard, Rick Wakeman, was a huge Minimoog fan, owning numerous models at a time, and typically touring with two of them in his keyboard rig

The Minimoog appears in all its glory (1:25), with one of Wakeman's trademark sounds. It's sonically sustaining and highly emotive, with the Minimoog's Voltage-Controlled Oscillators set octaves apart from each other, and with a healthy dose of portamento for effect

The Minimoog reappears (3:47) , this time played in unison with orchestral string sounds from Wakeman's Mellotron

The Minimoog with a more brass-like texture (5:22), again in unison with strings from the Mellotron

Wakeman's initial Minimoog sound reappears after a brief reprise from the song's opening (6:22)

The Minimoog on an extended, improvisational ride (7:45), using an echo effect in the studio to create a stereo image

Main theme is restated (8:34), again with the Minimoog layered with Mellotron strings

The Bee Gees

While primarily known for the iconic songs and soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees have a long and storied career as one of the biggest of all the pop/rock bands. Originally from England, brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb started out in 1955 in The Rattlesnakes, a skiffle band.

Their parents would relocate to Australia, and that is where the brothers first achieved chart success (with their 12th single) as the Bee Gees. They returned to the UK in 1967 after achieving international renown, and they would go on to sell over 120 million albums.

The Bee Gees_To Whom It May Concern, 1972, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Sweet Song of Summer"

Released October 1972 by Atco Records

Album reached #35 on Billboard LPs and Tapes Chart

Writers: Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Producers: Robert Stigwood, The Bee Gees

An early Moog modular synthesizer arrives early and upfront, with a searing tone playing an Eastern-sounding melody (0:07). Panning the sound between the left and right audio channels enhances the impact

The Brothers Gibb enter the mix (0:43), creating an acoustic/electronic texture that would still grab ears even today

The Moog modular is also used for bass drones throughout (0:28)

Hot Butter

Hot Butter serve as a shining example of the phrase, “the third time’s the charm”. Their international hit had already graced the airwaves twice, starting with the original version by Moog pioneer Gershon Kingsley. As with any great piece of music, it would stand up well to revisits, first by its writer, and later by Kingsley alumnus Stan Free, along with Hot Butter bandmates Dave Mullaney, John Abbott, Bill Jerome, Steve Jerome, and Danny Jordan.

Hot Butter - Popcorn, 1972, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Popcorn"

Released 1972 by Musicor Records

#9 Billboard Hot 100, #4 Billboard Easy Listening

Album reached #137 on Billboard LP's and Tapes Chart

Writer: Gershon Kingsley
Producers: Bill Jerome, Steve Jerome

1969: Original version written/recorded by Kingsley

1971: Kingsley released a second version with his first band, the First Moog Quartet

Stan Free, a member of First Moog Quartet, re-recorded the song with his band Hot Butter, creating the most successful version

• The stark, whistling tone at the onset immediately grabs the listener's attention, with a Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO) imparting vibrato to the sound (0:03), mimicking the form of expression used by string and horn players

• The main theme displays a keen orchestration sense, with the tight, hollow sound of the melody contrasting with the more fluid character and tone of the synthesizer bass (0:10)

Paul McCartney & Wings

As one of the earliest synthesizer users in pop/rock, Paul McCartney would wind up employing electronic music throughout his deep catalog. Arguably, his band Wings would be the most successful and durable of his post-Beatles projects, and tasteful synthesizer applications can be found throughout the band’s recordings.

Originally a five-piece, members Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough would depart in 1973, leaving McCartney, his wife Linda, and original member Denny Laine as the trio responsible for the band’s biggest recordings.

Paul McCartney & Wings - Band On The Run, 1973, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Jet"

Released January 1974 by Apple Records

#7 Billboard Hot 100

Album reached #1 on Billboard LP's and Tapes Chart

Writers: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney
Producer: P. McCartney

A Moog modular synthesizer was used for the bass line under the verses (0:27). Linda McCartney held down a single key and the synthesizer did all the work, with its Low-Frequency Oscillators (LFO) controlling both the Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF) and Voltage-Controlled Amplifier (VCA)

Synthesizer bass drones from the Moog modular (1:52), and (2:51), and (3:40)

Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren is a true renaissance man in the pop/rock music world. A gifted technologist, vocalist, instrumentalist, writer, engineer, and producer, he's had a hand in numerous hits for many other artists in addition to his own prolific catalog. He first hit the charts while still in his teens with The Nazz and their song "Open Your Eyes", which topped out at #118. An early version of his solo hit “Hello It’s Me” would reach #66.

Rundgren continues to create in multiple genres, having revisited his work in both bossa nova and EDM stylings. His most recent project is “Clearly Human”, a virtual concert presentation with Chicago-based performances being broadcast to a “tour” of international markets.

Todd Rundgren - Initiation, 1975, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"A Treatise On Cosmic Fire (Intro - Prana)"

Released May 1975 by Bearsville

Album reached #86 on Billboard LP's and Tapes Chart


Writer: Todd Rundgren
Producer: Rundgren

Roger Powell’s “Wall Of Moog” modular, comprising multiple cabinets, and including a custom dual-keyboard controller now in the Moogseum archives, appears on Rundgren's solo recordings and albums by their band Utopia, from 1974 to 1985

Side two of the Initiation album was completely performed by Rundgren, with synthesizer programming assistance from Powell

Rundgren skillfully layers the Moog modular with other instruments, in contrast to other early recordings where Moogs were featured individually in arrangements

The Wall Of Moog first enters the mix with a glittery layer of notes under the control of a sequencer, a device that “played” a series of pre-programmed notes (0:16)

A brief little fill with a sweep of the Moog’s Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF) (0:25) and two more tracks of Moog appear, playing the lowest and highest notes in the multi-layered chords (0:28). The Moog continues to provide the synthesizer bass throughout the piece

A wind-like effect wends its way into the proceedings (0:55), with the synthesizer’s Noise Generator providing the initial sonic content, and the VCF’s controls manipulated to further shape the sound
A slight flurry of metallic tones (1:10), created using the Moog’s Ring Modulator, leads into the next section, where it is used for a brighter, chime-like tonality layered with other instruments (1:15)

A downward pitch sweep, with a trill effect from the Moog’s Low-Frequency Oscillator provides a nice little fill (1:34), with an upward-moving version answering it (1:46)

A flute-like sound is used for fills, leading into and reappearing throughout the extended guitar solo section (1:57)

A reprise of the glittery layer appears prominently in the mix (3:34), and can be heard weaving in and out through the end of the piece

The bright, ring modulator chimes return, stating a brief theme as the track segues into the next section of the composition (4:29)

Pink Floyd

It could be argued that atmospheric rockers Pink Floyd took fuller advantage of synthesizers than any of the other artists featured in this exhibit. Whereas a majority of the iconic parts presented here could all be performed live by the original participants, the layering employed by Richard Wright in Pink Floyd’s studio recordings demanded the band tour with a second set of hands in order to faithfully recreate the material.

As such, Wright, along with the classic line up of David Gilmour (guitar/vocals), Roger Waters (bass/vocals), and Nick Mason (drums) achieved an instantly recognizable sound that continues to enthrall listeners to this day.

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here, 1975, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Wish You Were Here"

Released September 1975 by Columbia/CBS Records

Album reached #31 on Billboard LP's and Tapes Chart

Writers: David Gilmour, Roger Waters
Producers: Pink Floyd

Keyboardist Richard Wright skillfully layers multiple tracks of Minimoog to create a warm, horn-like pad sound (2:24)

An increase in the setting of the synthesizer's Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF) opens up the sound, taking a slight melodic turn (2:40), and it remains open when the pads return (3:32)

Heart

Heart made a huge splash with their unique combination of the stunning vocals from sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, and the Zeppelinesque drumming and guitar work of Michael Derosier and Roger Fisher, respectively. The original lineup, rounded out by bassist Steve Fossen and multi-instrumentalist Howard Leese, would go on to release two more platinum albums through the late ’70s, Little Queen and Dog & Butterfly.

Heart - Dreamboat Annie, 1975, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Magic Man"

Released September 1975 by Mushroom

#9 Billboard Hot 100

Album reached #7 on Billboard LP's and Tapes Chart

Writers: Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson
Producer: Mike Flicker

This song’s tasteful Minimoog work was a highlight when the song dominated the summer FM airwaves after dropping in July

Howard Leese, also the band’s rhythm guitarist, played the Minimoog both live (@ 4:13) and in the studio with the band

The Minimoog first appears on the accompanying album version (4:00) with a bright, buzzy sound, with the synthesizer's Voltage-Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) stacked in fifths, an increasingly popular tonality for the still relatively new instrument

A second Minimoog track appears soon thereafter (4:04) with a hollower, yet still buzzy, sound. Thanks to a more extreme portamento setting the pitch of the sound drops until it becomes a bass drone for the ensuing section

Leese manipulates the Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF) control, adding harmonic movement to the bass drone, while the studio engineer pans the sound between the speakers (4:14)

The bass drone artfully rises from the depths to provide counter melody in the vocal passage, with Leese continuing to work the VCF knob (4:18)

The Minimoog gets its moment in the spotlight as a solo instrument before the rest of the band joins in sync to close out the instrumental section (4:45)

A slight increase in the portamento setting allows for more sliding between the accents (4:53) with Leese using the Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO) to impart an extreme vibrato at the end of the last note in the passage (4:58), with a reverb effect applied at the very end, allowing the Minimoog to trail into return of the lead vocal

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Manfred Mann, a South African keyboardist, first hit in the late ’60s with the hit “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and a successful cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn”. He would experiment with jazz fusion before forming the Earth Band in 1971.

Mann, along with original members Mick Rogers (guitar/vocals), Colin Pattenden (bass) and Chris Slade (drums/vocals) worked consistently from 1971 to 1976, releasing six albums. Mann has continued to work in a variety of projects, including an Earth Band revival in 1991.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - The Roaring Silence, 1976, From the collection of: Bob Moog Foundation / Moogseum
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"Blinded By The Light"

Released August 1976 by Warner Bros. Records

#1 Billboard Hot 100

Album reached #10 on Billboard LP's and Tapes Chart
Writer: Bruce Springsteen
Producer: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

The only song penned by Springsteen to reach #1, as of 2020

Extreme portamento, and vibrato via the Minimoog’s Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO), are applied to the big sliding pitch sweep (2:19), processed through an echo for a more dramatic effect

The Mini reappears with a wind sound effect, created using the synthesizer’s Noise Generator (3:31)

Credits: Story

Special thanks to Anders Lundquist.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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