Speaking Of Classic Synthesizer Albums …

The soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was released to accompany the 1971 film of the same name. The music is a thematic extension of Alex’s (and the viewer’s) psychological conditioning. The soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange comprises classical music and electronic synthetic music composed by Wendy Carlos. Some of the music is heard only as excerpts, e.g. Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (a.k.a. Land of Hope and Glory) heralding a politician’s appearance at the prison.

The main theme is an electronic transcription of Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, composed in 1695, for the procession of Queen Mary’s cortège through London en route to Westminster Abbey. “March from ‘A Clockwork Orange'” (based on the choral movement of the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven) was the first recorded song featuring a vocoder for the singing; synthpop bands often cite it as their inspiration.

Switched-On Bach features ten pieces by Bach available under the public domain, performed by Carlos, with assistance from Folkman, on a modular Moog synthesizer. Carlos worked closely with Robert Moog, designer of the instrument, throughout the recording process, testing his components and suggesting improvements. The album was recorded in a studio in the basement of a brownstone building acquired by Carlos and Elkind in the West Side of Manhattan in New York City, using a custom-built 8-track recording machine constructed by Carlos from components built by Ampex.

Recording was a tedious and time-consuming process; as the synthesizers were monophonic, meaning only one note can be played at a time, each track was assembled one at a time. According to Carlos: “You had to release the note before you could make the next note start, which meant you had to play with a detached feeling on the keyboard, which was really very disturbing in making music.” The synthesizer was unreliable and often went out of tune; Carlos recalled hitting it with a hammer prior to recording to obtain correct levels. After several notes were played, it was checked again to make sure it had not “drifted”. According to Carlos, Switched-On Bach took approximately five months and a total of one thousand hours to produce.

Bach provided only two chords for the second movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, intending that the musician would improvise on these chords. Carlos carefully constructed this piece to showcase the capabilities of the Moog.

Bob McLeod Draws Spider-Man

Bob McLeod was another comic artist I admired in the Eighties. I got to meet him at the first Memphis Comic Con, way back in 19 and 82.

He autographed my copy of New Mutants number 1, and somehow refrained from killing my spazzy friend who almost spilled a glass of water on a commissioned piece McLeod was working on at the time.

Vintage Star Wars Toy Auction … What

Check it out, you magnificent bastards!

A massive treasure trove of vintage Star Wars and pop culture toys and collectible ephemera are going on auction at the end of this month, and the folks at Prop Store bring a few of the rarities to our studio. We learn about prototype mockups, international figures, and even retail display pieces that would be the prize pieces for toy collectors.

All those toys you lost or destroyed that are now worth thousands of dollars? Look for ’em here.

Marvel Comics 7-Eleven Slurpee Plastic Cup Set

Originally posted to Facebook, but I’m deleting all my shit over there and wanted to hang on to these. Marvel Slurpee cups, one more pop culture item that makes me nostalgic for the Seventies.

Four sets of these plastic cups were produced — three for Marvel Comics characters and one set for DC Comics characters. This is the first of the three Marvel sets issued. Marvel’s more popular characters — Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Thing — each received three cups.

Help! Magazine

Holy shit, more pop culture dots connected. Before I forget, a few full issues of Help! are available online.

Help! is an American satire magazine that was published by James Warren from 1960 to 1965. It was Harvey Kurtzman’s longest-running magazine project after leaving Mad and EC Publications, and during its five years of operation it was chronically underfunded, yet innovative.

In starting Help!, Kurtzman brought along several artists from his Mad collaborations, including Will Elder, Jack Davis, John Severin and Al Jaffee.

Kurtzman’s assistants included Charles Alverson, Terry Gilliam and Gloria Steinem; the latter was helpful in gathering the celebrity comedians who appeared on the covers and the fumetti strips the magazine ran along with more traditional comics and text pieces. Among the then little-known performers in the fumetti were John Cleese, Woody Allen and Milt Kamen; better-known performers such as Orson Bean were also known to participate. Some of the fumetti were scripted by Bernard Shir-Cliff.

At Help!, Gilliam met Cleese for the first time, resulting in their collaboration years later on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Cleese appeared in a Gilliam fumetto written by David Crossley, “Christopher’s Punctured Romance”. The tale concerns a man who is shocked to learn that his daughter’s new “Barbee” doll has “titties”; however, he falls in love with the doll and has an affair. Gilliam appeared on two covers of Help! and along with the rest of the creative team, appeared in crowd scenes in several fumetti.

The magazine introduced young talents who went on to influential careers in underground comix as well as the mainstream: among them Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and Jay Lynch. Algis Budrys and other science fiction writers were regular contributors of prose and scripts to the magazine.

A total of 26 issues were printed before the magazine folded in 1965. Volume one (Aug. 1960–Sept. 1961) had 12 issues, and 14 issues comprised the second volume (Feb. 1962–Sept. 1965).