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Long live the the Village Green - and the Mellotron
January 16, 2009 9:55 AM   Subscribe

The Mellotron features prominently on the 1968 album, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, more commonly referred to as The Village Green Preservation Society. The weird, eerie quality of this electronic keyboard, which uses pre-recorded tapes of individual sounds such as strings and woodwind instruments, worked well with singer/songwriter Ray Davies' nostalgic, backwards looking sensibility.

For Kinks Mellotron goodness, try Sitting By The Riverside, Phenomenal Cat, All Of My Friends Were There, Animal Farm, Starstruck, and Days, the last of which was originally intended for Village Green but dropped from the final playlist. Bonus Mellotron, not on Village Green: Autumn Almanac, which "relies heavily on the MkII trombones and mixed brass". Nicky Hopkins and Ray Davies played the Mellotron on Village Green.

Upon its release, reviews were favorable but the public ignored it, in no small part because it was so at odds with the cultural and rock/pop climate at the time. Village Green is now considered a godlike album and a cult favorite, prompting Ray Davies to state in the 2004 re-issue liner notes, "It's the most successful failure of all time."

Previously
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (26 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
For those interested, this book by Andy Miller got me interested in the Mellotron as used by The Kinks.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:57 AM on January 16, 2009


I like the Kinks, but their albums really were spoiled by their lo-fi & tinny production values, Village Green included.

Imagine how good these records would sound if George Martin had produced them...
posted by dydecker at 10:20 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


God bless the Kinks, and let's not forget: the Kinks were the biggest mistake that the American Federation of Musicians ever made; if it weren't for them, the Kinks would've been up there with the Who, the Beatles and the Stones as one of the epic bands heading into the 70's. And, given the fact that they kept going strong longer than any of those other bands and made music that was just as good if not better, that would've meant a lot.

Let's also not forget that the Kinks were still around thirteen years after The Village Green to out-punk the punks and show them where it all came from.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


dydecker: Imagine how good these records would sound if George Martin had produced them...

That's the kind of thing they could've afforded if they hadn't been inexplicably blacklisted in the United States. /bitterness
posted by koeselitz at 10:32 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I also love the Kinks and Village Green, and appreciate the Mellotron, but they were hardly big proponents of the instrument. It's use on Village Green is pretty transparent and subtle as these things go. As opposed to, say, Odessey & Oracle.
posted by anazgnos at 10:36 AM on January 16, 2009


BTW, today in 1877 the color organ was patented. (The distant ancestor of the light show.)
posted by kozad at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2009


Mellotron admirers may also enjoy the Optigan.

These guys made cool music with it.
posted by orme at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tangent to the topic: I've been interested in the 33⅓ series as a concept, but never took the time to do more than eyeball them at the record shop counter. Thanks to this post and this review, they sound to have some actual content to them. I was worried they'd be something to generate a quick buck off of a nice design and artist name recognition.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2009


FYI The Boston Rock Opera worked with Ray Davies in 1998 to produce the only stage adaptation. It featured Kay Hanley. No Mellotron was used however. Sadly BRO doesn't seem to keep their Web site up to date.
posted by Gungho at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Forgot to mention that several songs from Village were used in Hot Fuzz
posted by Gungho at 11:25 AM on January 16, 2009


Graham Bond the first to record a Mellotron in 1965, it's thought.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:25 AM on January 16, 2009


I used to have an Optigan, paid 10 bucks for it at a thrift store, came with tons of disks and all kinds of rat turds inside. I eventually gave it away because it wasn't too portable and I love a portable life. Neat shit.

By the way, this dude built a low budget Optigan which is just about one of the coolest DIY projects I've ever seen: THE MELLOMAN!
posted by cloeburner at 11:32 AM on January 16, 2009


Did I say Optigan, I meant Mellotron.
posted by cloeburner at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2009


Everyone awesome uses the mellotron. King Crimson, Bowie, Zeppelin, Flaming Lips, Eels, etc etc - and let's not forget Porcupine Tree's Mellotron Scratch [not a real video], which actually is about a mellotron.

Personally, I prefer a midi-based accordion. Adds a touch of class to the fake sound.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks to this post and this review, they sound to have some actual content to them. I was worried they'd be something to generate a quick buck off of a nice design and artist name recognition.

In my experience, they're a bit of a mixed bag. It can be hard to mix the kind of detached journalistic approach that often makes for good music writing with the pure fanboy-ism of most of the authors.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:32 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


John Medeski uses a Mellotron on stage, at least the last time I saw MMW live.
posted by bonefish at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2009


The Beatles used a mellotron very effectively in Strawberry Fields Forever.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:30 PM on January 16, 2009


anazgnos writes "I also love the Kinks and Village Green, and appreciate the Mellotron, but they were hardly big proponents of the instrument. It's use on Village Green is pretty transparent and subtle as these things go. As opposed to, say, Odessey & Oracle."

That's exactly how it should be. It's like the Theremin. It's great when used in just the right amount, by someone who can play it like an instrument, not a novelty.

Still, a Mellotron is nothing like a Hammond B-3 with rotating Leslies.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:34 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Overlooking the greatest band ever to feature the mellotron ... KING CRIMSON!!!
posted by 5imian at 2:33 PM on January 16, 2009


Let's also not forget that the Kinks were still around thirteen years after The Village Green to out-punk the punks and show them where it all came from .

Some great comments on that video if you can stomach such things, in which the 13-year-old YouTube intelligentsia discuss the origins of punk rock:

""the sex pistols are punk, everything else is punk rock" quote from johnny rotten himself, hated them at the time but love them now, go figure. nevermind the bollocks I say is still just a good "hard" rock album, fuck the romones i hated them and still hate them now, they sucked ass"

Fuck the romones indeed, "mikemoair". Fuck the romones. By the way, this guy's argument is that the Sex Pistols invented punk rock totally by themselves out of whole cloth.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2009


I've been interested in the 33⅓ series as a concept, but never took the time to do more than eyeball them at the record shop counter. Thanks to this post and this review, they sound to have some actual content to them.

Oh, hell yeah they do. The Magnetic Fields and Led Zeppelin ones are fantastic.

My best friend is actually giving me her dad's old Mellotron soon, and I'm even more excited about this fact after this post. (Although, if I had money to spend on a vintage keyboard I'd probably run out and buy a Wurlitzer 200A.)
posted by the_bone at 4:37 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


As my friend Ralph remarked on the night of a show:


"You can tell we're a supergroup. We have a Mellotron."
posted by louche mustachio at 3:32 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really like a lot of The Kinks' music, but every time I hear the title track of "Village Green" I can't help but picture it being sung and performed by little elves in pointy hats and shoes with bells on the tips of the toes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2009


Another band that used the Mellotron was Genesis. In fact The Musical Box had to have one restored to put on their very accurate Genesis authorized stage shows.
posted by Gungho at 9:31 AM on January 17, 2009


My favourite album by my favourite band. That is all.
posted by cerulgalactus at 9:48 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Upcoming documentary on the Mellotron and Chamberlin: Mellodrama
posted by Paid In Full at 1:17 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


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