Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Queen II - No Synths (Okay, just one)

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Posted: 24 Nov 09, 10:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

In the audio commentary of "Seven Seas of Rhye" on the new Absolute Greatest compilation Brian says Roy Thomas Baker plays the Stylophone during the outro.

I've always heard a low sound following the melody (I do like to be beside the seaside... etc) but I always assumed it was a varispeed guitar (like the bass lines on God save the Queen) or perhaps even a distorted bass. But now we know :-)

So, they did use a synthesizer after all in the 70s!



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Posted: 24 Nov 09, 11:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well we all know how accurate Brian's commentaries are these days


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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 00:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Brian is old. He doesn't remember things. Roger doesnt either. He called Adam Lambert, Adam Bolton on BBC. I'm sure Brian knew what was happening better, when it actually happed, then looking back on it now.


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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 03:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

They never used synths in the 70's. They proudly displayed it on their records and wouldn't have lied. Brian is just a bit senile these days.



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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 06:04 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I wonder if it's the same one as seen in the new Roger Taylor video?

Interesting, I guess technically it does qualify as a synth.


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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 06:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

> So, they did use a synthesizer after all in the 70s!

It was already known: Save Me, Sail Away Sweet Sister and Coming Soon were recorded in 1979. The 'news' about this is that they used synthesiser in a 'no synth' album.

> Well we all know how accurate Brian's commentaries are these days

Indeed. I think it'd be better for one of the musician QZers to record that bit with a stylophone and see if it sounds the same.

> Brian is old. He doesn't remember things.

While both statements are true, we've got to consider:

* There IS an 'alien' instrument during that bit.
* Unlike other comments by the doctor (e.g. saying MFK is on 'Queen II'), this time we've got no counterevidence, which means that based on what we can document so far (unless we get hold of multitracks, for instance), the most reliable source is his quote.

> Roger doesnt either. He called Adam Lambert, Adam Bolton on BBC.

Loads of people have a better memory for things that happened decades ago than for things in the recent past. Just think about those orchestral conductors who can't even remember what they had for breakfast but know by heart every part of a symphony. And while Roger's memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), it's virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.

> I'm sure Brian knew what was happening better, when it actually happed, then looking back on it now.

Wrong: at least Roger remembers My Fairy King is on the first album. Between the two of them, the blond one's more reliable.

> They never used synths in the 70's.

Of course they did: even if I Do Like... had been with another instrument, 1979 is part of the 70's, and they recorded Sail Away Sweet Sister (with synths) then.

> They proudly displayed it on their records and wouldn't have lied.

Of course they could've lied. Or more than 'lied', having a background stylophone during 10+ seconds in an album outro didn't count as a 'synth' for them if they wanted to quibble. Remember that, by that time, Moog's and VCS3's were what was descriptively known as 'synths' (though technically the stylophone fits that definition as well). Likewise they didn't mention the organ on Liar in the credits, etc.

It's not a question of lying, it's a question of leaving more general liner notes rather than specifying every little thing... I do know for a fact that, occasionally, percussion instruments or effects (tambourine, handclaps, maracas) were played by whoever was around at the time (a band member, the producer, an engineer, a teaboy, a girlfriend, an acquaintance), but only Who Needs You lists the situation in depth. It's totally believable that, for instance, the handclaps on Best Friend were done by a random person who just happened to be in the studio at that time, and who didn't ask for a credit since the handclaps aren't a crucial part of the recording.

> Brian is just a bit senile these days.

I don't think that's fair. I'm the first to say his memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), but that doesn't mean we should discard everything he claims. The stylophone quote could easily be right (as many recollections from Dr May have been), and could easily be wrong (as many recollections from Dr May have been), the topic still deserves much more research.

BTW, if you think Maylor aren't a reliable source, you should ask Roy: he'll surely tell you he played ten thousand stylophones in a four-track tape and had the band overdubbing their voices twelve million times!

> I wonder if it's the same one as seen in the new Roger Taylor video?

Indeed it is.

> Interesting, I guess technically it does qualify as a synth.

Technically, the human voice is also a synth. Since the word usage is almost exclusively (and especially in 1974) for electronic (keyboard) synthesisers, I don't see a 'lie' in using a stylophone (not a keyboard), a Syndrum (ditto), an organ (electronic keyboard, but not synthesiser) or a Wurly (ditto). Even the headphone+can 'trick' they used for Freddie's voice in Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon could be considered a synthesiser (since they synthesise sound through the set-up in question).

Queen's 'no synth' motto meant that wherever you heard an exotic sound you could be sure they hadn't used (keyboard) synthesisers there, but instead something else: voices on Rendezvous, prepared piano on Nevermore, guitar+piano on Father to Son, cymbal rolls (with phasing or something like that) on Rhapsody, etc.



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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 07:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote


Senile?

I wonder how many "senile" people could do a PHD in astroph.. with the thesis and everything else...




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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 07:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



masterstroke_84 wrote:


Senile?

I wonder how many "senile" people could do a PHD in astroph.. with the thesis and everything else...



Actually, more than one would think at first. Brian's not senile, but if he were, it wouldn't stop him from doing his PhD and playing some great solos, most of which he learnt 30+ years ago.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 09:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Was it supposed to be funny? But it seems for me so :)
Brian forgot what he supposed to lie about or simply messed up :D

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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 10:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



So, until earlier this week I didn't even know what a Stylophone was. I saw one in Roger's vid that looked like a Nintendo DS and thought it was something relatively new. Now it turns out there's one in frickin' Queen II, of all albums??!

Next we'll find out half of the synth-like sounds in every Queen records was done by the fifth Queenie, a very modest Stylophone virtuoso known to the band only as 'Bob'.



Interesting find, indeed.



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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 10:53 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Sebastian wrote:

And while Roger's memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), it's virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.

That's right, I forgot... Roger's the one who just got his PhD in astronomy after writing a 400-something page paper and orally defending to the panel it for hours, and wrote a book on the subject.  My mistake!



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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 11:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Sir GH wrote:







Sebastian wrote:



And while Roger's memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), it's virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.


That's right, I forgot... Roger's the one who just got his PhD in astronomy after writing a 400-something page paper and orally defending to the panel it for hours, and wrote a book on the subject.  My mistake!

It's Brian who wrote the PhD. So what? It's not related to having a good memory. Brian wrote a 400-something page paper and orally defended it to the panel for hours, and wrote a book on the subject. That qualifies as being a good scientist and a skilled person in science.

But it does NOT change the fact that, when it comes to Queen history, Roger's memory (while not perfect - nobody's is) is virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 13:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote































































Sebastian wrote:































It's Brian who wrote the PhD. So what? It's not related to having a good memory. Brian wrote a 400-something page paper and orally defended it to the panel for hours, and wrote a book on the subject.






























...which requires an excellent memory.  Do you think a doctor of science is constantly looking up scientific information for reference?  They know it.

You categorically stated above that Roger's memory was better than Brian's, not just in terms of Queen's history.  Thanks for clarifying that.



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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 13:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote







Sir GH wrote:



































































































































































































































































Sebastian wrote:































































































































It's Brian who wrote the PhD. So what? It's not related to having a good memory. Brian wrote a 400-something page paper and orally defended it to the panel for hours, and wrote a book on the subject.






























































































































...which requires an excellent memory.  Do you think a doctor of science is constantly looking up scientific information for reference?  They know it.

You categorically stated above that Roger's memory was better than Brian's, not just in terms of Queen's history.  Thanks for clarifying that.

It doesn't require excellent memory per se, but being a good scientist (which Brian is, of course). If the person also has excellent memory, that's always a plus, but AFAICT, Brian's more the sort of bloke whose academic output uses clarity of concepts rather than encyclopaedic collection of data in the top of one's head.

Of course, it doesn't mean Brian's senile, it doesn't mean he's got a lousy memory, it doesn't mean he can't even remember 2+2.

And I didn't categorically state anything, I said that Roger's memory, while not perfect (nobody's is), is virtually eidetic compared to Brian's. There's nothing categorical about it.

Indeed, Roger's memory, while not perfect (nobody's is), is virtually eidetic compared to Brian's. Brian's is eidetic compared to Bowie's (for instance), and Bowie's is eidetic compared to many rock stars.

BTW, 'knowing' scientific information is not the same as 'memorising' it. They're both related, but they're not the same (just like an e-piano's not a synth).

In terms of recalling specific data (such as venues, equipment, which album each song belongs to), Roger's demonstrated throughout the years that he's way more dependable than Brian.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 14:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I had to look up eidetic. 

Though I don't know the historical accuracy of the comments of May or Taylor, I would add that Brian is really quite generous with his comments and answers through his website etc. and there is perhaps more opportunity for him to mix up details because he's simply fielding a lot more of these issues.  Ask me to answer details about a 20 year old work project (never mind 30+ for Queen) and the chances are good my recollections are going to be flawed.  Pretty normal stuff.

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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 15:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Can we say that a Stylophone is a synth ?

Not so sure...

For me (and I've' got one) it's a toy, an insteresting toy but not a keyboard and all the different sounds we can have...





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Posted: 26 Nov 09, 16:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

> Though I don't know the historical accuracy of the comments of May or Taylor, I would add that Brian is really quite generous with his comments and answers through his website etc.

Of course, but it doesn't change the fact that, while Roger's memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), it's virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.

> and there is perhaps more opportunity for him to mix up details because he's simply fielding a lot more of these issues.

While Brian's memory isn't bad (compared to most 60+ year-olds, let alone rock stars), it's certainly far less reliable than Roger's. Which means: Roger's memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), but it's virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.

> Ask me to answer details about a 20 year old work project (never mind 30+ for Queen) and the chances are good my recollections are going to be flawed.  Pretty normal stuff.

Indeed. However:

* A person's memory stores better things of (not too) early ages. My grandmother still remembers the nursery rhymes she heard as a kid, the games she played with her siblings, can make a second-by-second description of her first encounter with my late grandfather... but she surely can't remember people she's met a couple of years ago, and may mix-up details when talking about what she's seen in the news this morning. BTW, fortunately, she's not senile.

* A person's memory also catches milestones with special accuracy (or lack thereof, in some cases). Typical Ebbinghaus - it's not only about how many years have passed. In that sense, it's way more possible that Brian clearly remembers stuff about Seven Seas of Rhye (the first hit of the band that made his financial and professional life) than whether I'm Scared is the 8th or 9th track in the 'Back to the Light' album; it's also more possible that he remembers watching Roy using a stylophone (exotic and at the time very new instrument) 36 years ago, than for him to be positive about whether he used a Kurzweil or a Yamaha on One Vision, even if both I'm Scared and One Vision are more recent than Seven Seas of Rhye.

* For that same reason, many of the concepts and stuff he used in his scientific affairs (definitions, maths, formulae) were things he'd learnt from a young age and as such didn't abandon him. I still remember my first girlfriend's landline number, but I couldn't tell you my ex's mobile (we broke up some months ago) without looking it up. Likewise, Brian probably won't forget, during his lifetime, how to spell his lastname, how to play the Bo Rhap solo, the stars in the Orion belt or his first date with Anita but none of those things confirm or deny his having an 'excellent memory'. Same for Roger: mixing Christmas Eve with New Year's Eve is a slip anybody can have; getting confused about an American Idol loser's surname is something he could be proud about, to be honest. Claiming Freddie didn't use Steinway pianos (though he did during seven Queen albums plus 370 Queen concerts, not counting the many others where he used rented Steinway's as well), My Fairy King is on 'Queen II', Master-Stroke was done at Wessex, Rainbow was in '76 or they didn't do It's Late (or was it Doing All Right? or both? See? I'm senile!) on stage, is something else.

Does that mean Brian's got Alzheimer's? Not at all.
Does it mean Brian's got a lousy memory? Not at all.

But, it does add up to my conclusion, which is: while Roger's memory isn't perfect (nobody's is), it's virtually eidetic compared to Brian's.

> Can we say that a Stylophone is a synth?

Synthesiser: An instrument used to create sounds.
Stylophone: 'A miniature electronic musical instrument producing a distinctive buzzing sound when a stylus is drawn along its metal keyboard' (OED).

The question (and it's not rhetorical since I've never owned a stylophone) is: can you create new sounds with it? If so, then it is a synthesiser. A toy synthesiser is still a synthesiser. We could argue, then, that Queen meant 'nobody played (electronic 61-key) synthesizers (that you can play as you play a piano or an organ)' rather than 'nobody played synthesizers' per se.

If, on the contrary, a stylophone can only use the sounds it comes with, then it's not a synthesiser (in spite of Wikipedia's definition, it wouldn't be the first or last time it's wrong), and the 'no synths' note is true for 'Queen II' and all the first five albums for that matter.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 27 Nov 09, 05:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The point was that Brian's memory regarding Queen facts is pretty poor. But that's quite normal. It's been his job for 40 years, no wonder he focuses on other stuff in his life.
Same for signatures - I'm pretty sure I can recognize 95-98% of fake signatures of Queen members but I'm sure I wouldn't recognize my own! Because I don't see or study it every day...
And about other things... I for sure know quite a lot of people with PhD. who don't use their academic degree at about every possible occasion including their own websites! I'm sure it wouldn't hurt Brian if he were slightly more modest these days.

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Posted: 27 Nov 09, 06:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Sebastian wrote:

Technically, the human voice is also a synth. Since the word usage is almost exclusively (and especially in 1974) for electronic (keyboard) synthesisers, I don't see a 'lie' in using a stylophone (not a keyboard), a Syndrum (ditto), an organ (electronic keyboard, but not synthesiser) or a Wurly (ditto). Even the headphone+can 'trick' they used for Freddie's voice in Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon could be considered a synthesiser (since they synthesise sound through the set-up in question).

Nope, that's just not true, I'm afraid. The human voice produces a harmonic series (and thus, a so-called compound/complex waveform) with different dynamic 'envelopes'. The key point here is that the source is a single set of resonating strings, namely the vocal cords. In a synthesizer, especially the kind used in the '70s, multiple simple waveforms (such as sine or saw waves) are combined through modulation, phase cancellation or other means of overlapping (the word 'synthesis' means creating one whole out of distinct parts). That is a fundamentally different means of sound generation, and thus the voice cannot be regarded as synthesized, as the harmonics result from the original vibration, not the combination (synthesis) with other vibrations.

While your headphone+can example is more ambiguous, I would argue that this is not synthesis either, because the logical result from calling it synthesis is that John Cage's prepared pianos are synthesizers, and technically, also that any acoustic instrument that shapes the sound (and any instrument that actually physically exists, does) through, for instance, body shape, is also a synthesizer.







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Posted: 27 Nov 09, 07:43 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Martin: Some time ago, an ex-girlfriend gave me a box of 'crap' I'd given her circa five years ago (letters mostly - she conveniently kept whatever could be sold to a pawnbroker or at a swap meet), and I couldn't believe I'd written those things... both the style and the handwriting was completely alien to me... but of course those things were genuine. Likewise, there were loads of things I didn't remember having ever written, etc. So there you go, you've got a good point.

At the end of the day, we should put them both in a sort of pop quiz to see who wins to be sure about who's got the better memory, but my statement's mostly based on the fact Rog recalls details about more obscure Queen tracks (e.g. Sweet Lady and Staying Power) while the PhD often gets mixed up with simpler stuff (e.g. which album is My Fairy King on? Did Freddie use Steinway pianos?)

ThomasQuinn: Yes, you're right - if I expanded the definition of synth to include the human voice, then it would also include any instrument. I suppose, however, that what Queen did was quite the opposite: they reduced the definition of 'synthesiser' to include only keyboard synthesisers played with fingers (not a pen), which may be technically incorrect or incomplete (if we want to quibble) but descriptively (or more to the point, in terms of usage of the word) spot-on.

Remember that's an album released in 1974, before they were famous (let alone superstars) so maybe they didn't feel like being far too specific in the liner notes. They didn't think that, 35 years later, people from all over the world would be discussing the authenticity or veracity of the 'nobody played synthesizers' quote.

Still, I insist on my question: can anybody tell me how exactly a stylophone generates its sound? It's an honest doubt I've got since I've never owned one of those.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.