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In the Moog

Reflecting on the death of the creator of the modern synthesizer

by Dr. Spin
September 5, 2005

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In the Moog

Dr Spin,

Whatever happened to the Steve Martin of the Left Banke?

Very Olde Fan

He became a wild and crazy guy! No wait, that's the other Steve Martin.

The history of the Left Banke is a sad one. Founded by keyboardist Michael Brown, the band had its biggest hit with "Walk Away Renee." Shortly after that Brown decided he preferred being a studio musician, so Steve Martin and the rest of the Left Banke attempted to continue without him. However, Brown formed another group, and began recording as the Left Banke as well, which caused confusion and lawsuits. Brown and the original group reconciled, but by then the damage was done; they had lost their fanbase, and the Left Banke dissolved in 1969.

Apparently, Martin and Brown worked together again, releasing a single under Martin's name. Martin and the Left Banke also reunited for an album in 1978, again without Brown, but it failed to generate any of the buzz the Left Banke had in the sixties.

Since then, very little has been heard of Martin and the other members of the Left Banke, though Michael Brown has worked with other artists, and on some soundtracks.

Dr Spin,

Robert Moog, inventor of the synthesizer, died the day your last column appeared.  Can you assess his influence on rock? What are your favorite synth-pop acts? What are your favorite synth-heavy songs?

80's fan

Dear 80's fan,

Thank you for bringing Mr. Moog's death to my attention. As one article I read put it, Robert Moog was to the synthesizer what Les Paul is to the electric guitar; Moog did not invent the synthesizer; he improved it until it became the industry standard. Compared to other synthesizers at the time, Moog's was compact and capable of being played both in a studio and on stage. Without his innovations, bands like Yes, Genesis, heck, the entire "art rock" movement would not be possible.

Surprisingly though, with all the rock and pop bands that used synthesizers, specifically Moog's synthesizers, it was the Monkees that first used a Moog on their 1967 song, "Daily Nightly." It is a trippy psychedelic tune that is both one of my favorite synth tunes and Monkees' songs.

Some of my other syth-heavy favorites are Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Lucky Man" and "From the Beginning," Yes' Fragile album, and a good deal of Genesis' music.

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