12 Days of Mixmas: Day 3
Tony Miller of Ideal Free Distribution

12 Days of Mixmas: Day 3
Tony Miller of Ideal Free Distribution

Day 3 comes to us a little late, but finds Tony from Ideal Free Distribution giving us great information on the mellotron! IDF are a great Lexington band that will be releasing their debut album on Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records in January.

MP3: Ideal Free Distribution – Mr Wilson

“My Favorite Songs Featuring the Mellotron” as done by Tony Miller of Ideal Free Distribution

The Mellotron was first built in Birmingham, England in the early 60’s as the first commercial available tape sampler, primarily for the function of recreating the sound of orchestras and choirs when they weren’t available for live performances. The Mellotron didn’t look particularly fantastic – it looked like a church organ – but instead of producing sounds intended for salvation it tended to invoke something more sinister. Sounds emanated from their wooded shells that were scary and haunting but yet were still strangely beautiful. Launched into the mainstream due to its inclusion in the intro of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, the Mellotron eventually became responsible for producing some of the most characteristic sounds associated with the psychedelic music of the 60’s and 70’s.

My band worships this instrument – I just recently realized that I unknowingly emulate its characteristic attack and release when I sing a backing vocal – and it’s featured prominently on our self-titled album coming out next month on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records. So anyway, I have lots of favorite songs that utilize this beautiful machine and I’d like to talk about them all but, for the sake of brevity, I’ll just share a few in no particular order.Though new music is continually recorded with the Mellotron, I’m sticking to the classics for these picks.

MP3: The Bee Gees – Red Chair Fade Away
Almost never has psychedelic music been more beautifully orchestrated and arranged than on these two songs from the Bee Gees First. They’re both incredible in their own rites, but add a healthy dose of Mellotron and you have gold. Though it’s often hard to discern, I think they used one of the string orchestra settings on “Red Chair” and the vintage violin sound on “Every Christian Man”. The most poignant M-tron moment comes at the very end of the latter from a beautiful downward pitch bend.

MP3: The Zombies – Care Of Cell 44
This tune off the album “Odyssey and Oracle” is up there for one of my favorite songs of all time. Never mind the entertaining subject matter of this song (some poor bastard waiting for his woman to get out of jail), this song is pop perfection. It makes my knees weak when Colin Blunstone hits the high note in the chorus. The undulating Mellotron violin sound so common throughout the song is balanced perfectly against the layered vocals. “Feels so good, she’s coming home soon!”

MP3: The Kinks – Starstruck
Though Ray Davies featured the Mellotron prominently on the idyllic Village Green Preservation Society, it never really stands out. Sometimes it even sounds a little forced. “Starstruck” is the exception; it comes across beautifully. Listen for the M-tron strings starting on verse two then coming in and out until the end.

MP3: The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
Though “Strawberry Fields” is arguably the most famous song featuring the instrument, “Tomorrow Never Knows” is my favorite. This song blew the top of my head off the first time I heard it. Adapted by John closely from Tim Leary’s book “The Psychedelic Experience”, it was the Beatles first true venture into psychedelia and it features abundant use of the Mellotron alongside backwards tape loops and Ringo’s persistent drop/stop beats.

MP3: Rolling Stones – 2000 Light Years From Home
I don’t care how bad the Stones were leaching off Sgt. Pepper, this album rules and 2000 Light Years is the highlight for me. This song is a swirling and swaying audible trance – primarily due to Brian Jones’ use of the Mellotron. The instrument fit Brian Jones’ personality to a T: refined appearance with a sinister core. No one has or ever will rock it harder.

Mixmas 06
Day 2: Ivana XL
Day 1: Daniel of Oh No! Oh My!

Mixmas 05 (MP3 links don’t work)
Day 13: Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal
Day 12: Keith Murray of We Are Scientists
Day 11: Justin Rice of Bishop Allen
Day 10: Becca from The Light Footwork
Day 9: Jay from The Light Footwork
Day 8: Christian Owens from Bishop Allen
Day 7: The Rinse
Day 6: Chris of Gorilla vs Bear
Day 5: Dodge from My Old Kentucky Blog
Day 4: Ryan Allen of Thunderbirds Are Now!
Day 3: John Vanderslice
Day 2: Tapes ‘n Tapes
Day 1: Dean from Secret Unicorns Forum

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