From roller skates and panel vans to bellbottom jeans and polyester leisure suits, the 1970s were nothing if not colourful.
The Summer of Love had given way to grittier, edgier, acid-etched hard rock, dirty denim and shaggy beards. Amidst Death Wish and Dirty Harry, pop culture managed to carve a bright - if plastic - path through the grit and gloom. It was the age of technology; the space race roared on and all in glorious televised colour; kids cheered as The Six Million Dollar Man thwarted baddies and Evel Knievel soared over cars, canyons and, yes, even sharks. And it all occurred against a backdrop of synthesised sound.
The synthesizer may have been born in the '60s, but it came of age in the '70s. Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Lucky Man kicked off the decade with one of the very first synthesizer solos in a rock song. Improvised in a single take - almost a throwaway - it’s instantly recognisable for its sweeping glide and its deep, resonant sound. It was the solo heard around the world, and keyboardists scrambled to catch up.
Fortunately, companies like Moog and ARP gave musos plenty of opportunities to do so over the decade, churning out one classic synth after another. From Moog’s Minimoog and ARP’s Odyssey to Sequential Circuits’ polyphonic Prophet-5, the synth sounds of the '70s have become indelibly imprinted onto our collective cultural consciousness.
It wasn’t just the rockers who were responsible. Funk and soul musicians embraced the electronic sound, and the radio rang with synthesized bubblegum pop. The democratisation of synthesizer technology allowed solo musicians to create fully orchestrated arrangements on their own, most obviously demonstrated by synth heroes Jean Michel Jarre and Isao Tomita.
The popularity of these new synthesized sounds went far beyond novelty. They were powerful, pointed and even at times profound. Here, we’re going to show you how you can recreate those super synth sounds of the '70s. Sizzling solos, burping brass, and space-age laser zaps - you’llfind all the smash hits here!
For videos to accompany all of these tips, check Computer Music 207, which is on sale now.