Mellotron from Lawrence Welk to King Crimson

Radio Massacre International Mellotron on Bottom

Radio Massacre International's Mellotron on Bottom

There’s a new movie out called Mellodrama: The Story of the Mellotron that documents the history of the Mellotron and it’s forerunner, the Chamberlain.

I haven’t seen the documentary, which just opened at a film festical, but some interesting tidbits are gleaned from the trailer and an interview with the director, Dianna Dillworth.

Who’d have thought that the sound of King Crimson, Tangerine Dream and the Moody Blues was born in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, which apparently provided the source materiel for the original Chamberlain and Mellotron tapes.

There’s also a hilarious YouTube promo film for the Mellotron from the early 1960s.

Best Chamberlain/Mellotron Songs and/or Albums:

Magical Mystery Tour The Beatles “Strawberry Fields” Magical Mystery Tour The Beatles use of mellotron flutes on Strawberry Fields helped paved the way for this instrument and revealed that the Mellotron was’t a replacement for the orchestra, but a whole  new soundworld unto itself

Days of Future Passed The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed Like The Beatles, the charm of the mellotron in their music was that it didsn’t sound like an orchestra.  IN fact, their actual orchestral arrangements sound sappier now than they did 40 years ago, but the mellotron arrangements sound timeless.
Phaedra Tangerine Dream “Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares” Phaedra The Mellotron is all over this album and other TD releases from this era.  They took the mellotron out of the orchestral mode and sent it to textural space.

In the Court of the Crimson King King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King What can you saw about this quintessential mellotron recording, creating the orchestra of doom on the title track and pastoral fantasies on “I Talk to the Wind” and “Moonchild”

Aguirre Popol Vuh Aguire I can’t tell you how many musicians I’ve talked to who cite the opening of Werner Herzog‘s Aguire-The Wrathe of God with the conquistadors descending into the mist shrouded Amazon valley to the strains of Popol Vuh’s haunting score
The Isness Future Sound of London The Isness I suspect they used samples off of lots of other records with mellotrons, but this trip into post-electronica psychedelia resounds with flutes and strings redolent of a great acid trip, coutesy of the Mellotron.
mosaic2 Richard Burmer Mosaic Richard actually used a Chamberlain of much of his debut album, a masterpiece of sampled orchestral exotica where the smokey, atmospheric sound of the Chamberlain adorned lovely tunes like Ave Plaedelio and fever dreams like “The Serum.”
Cruel Inventions Sam Phillips Cruel Inventions You wouldn’t think of this singer-songwriter as a mellotron exponent, but producer and then husband T-Bone Burnett brought the Chamberlain in to create slightly surreal beds for Phillips often tortured songs.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

  1 comment for “Mellotron from Lawrence Welk to King Crimson

  1. James Pettis
    February 22, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Michael Pinder, of the Moody Blues was one of the first to introduce the mellotron; he was a sort of test pilot at a factory that made them and made some suggestions of improvements and things musicians would like to have. I think they said that they (the Moody Blues) suggested it as an instrument choice to the Beatles so they bought 4 of them and made the hit, “Strawberry Fields Forever”. This site is informative with good videos of mellotrons.

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