Who Played What On....?
Here's a partial list of some of the more well-known songs that featured combo organs prominently (and a few that are NOT combo organs - read on, you'll see). Now before I get flamed for not including your favorite band/song, please understand that the only combo organ music I'm familiar with is what was produced when the organs were still being made. I'm not familiar with much music that came out after the 1970's. It's not that I have anything against it, I just don't know anything about it and have no interest in it.
What I'm primarily attempting to do here is answer some of the frequent questions that come up about what organ was used by what band/musician or featured on what well-known song. If you know of others that logically belong here, please let me know. Much of the information on who played what is often sketchy. Due to the commercial nature of things, bands often posed for publicity shots or did videos or even live performances using equipment other than what they recorded with or normally used. I understand that Jon Lord of Deep Purple was even seen once with a Vox Continental - yikes! Also, keep in mind that the memories of the people involved may not always be accurate. There was a lot of equipment in use back then, and several different organs may have been used over time, both live and in the studio, so even someone who was there may be confused as to exactly which instrument was used on a particular recording.
The Doors: Vox Continental, and later the Gibson G-101. It's been thought that Ray Manzarek played an Italian Continental (he said himself that the plastic keys kept breaking), but he's also been seen, in a PBS special, with what appears to be a US Continental. NEW! On a related note, it's been pretty well-established that he played a Fender Rhodes piano on "Riders On The Storm", and not a Wurlitzer. In this excerpt from video, "Mr. Mojo Risin" (where Ray seems to be playing the appropriate keyboard for each song), he's playing a Rhodes for ROTS.
The Animals, The Monkees, The Dave Clark Five: Vox Continental
Pink Floyd: Farfisa Compact Duo, played by Roger Waters on many of their early albums, and used live as late as 1973.
"96 Tears"/Question Mark and the Mysterians: This one has typically been thought to be a Farfisa Combo Compact, but there's been quite a bit of discussion and disagreement about it, with much of the available evidence actually pointing to a Vox Continental as the more likely instrument, including several photos and live appearances with the Vox. According to "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits", regarding "96 Tears": “One of the song’s attributes that has merited attention the past two decades has been its acclaimed use of the Farfisa organ. It was a surprise, then, when Martinez (Lead singer/songwriter Rudy Martinez), revealed in a 1982 Goldmine interview with Jeff Tamarkin that the group used a Vox organ, not a Farfisa” . The Rolling Stone "Encyclopedia of Rock&Roll" also attributes it to a Vox, also mentioning the common assumption that it was a Farfisa. However, our friend Eric from Boss Guitars apparently spoke to Lavern, the band's manager, in 1997, and this is what he said: "Not many people know this, but the organ used mostly on the bands first album "96 tears" was a big Lowery organ. Not a combo organ. Live they'd usually use a Vox continental or a Combo Compact Farfisa." Exactly what model Lowery he didn't know. So score one more for the venerable Lowrey home organ!
"Green Onions"/Booker T: Hammond M-3 without a Leslie (not a combo organ - duh). I only mention this because it was from the same era, and sounds as though it might be a combo organ. As a possibly interesting side note, Tom Scholz used an M-3 with a Leslie on Boston's first album. This is interesting to me because I used to own an M-3. It's probably not interesting to too many other people, so no flames, please.
"Telstar"/The Tornados: Univox - predecessor
to the Vox Continental. It was a monophonic (one note at a time) instrument
(the name "Univox" means "one voice"). Here's a site with more info
on the Univox. Peter Forrest suggests that since a Selmer
Clavioline (similar instrument) was listed in the auction of Joe Meek's estate,
that it may possibly have been a Clavioline that was actually used. The
two look similar, but certainly not identical. In "Beatles Gear", Andy
Babiuk also suggests that the Univox was a modified version of a Clavioline.
"Do It Again"/Steely Dan: The liner notes indicate that it was "an inexpensive, imported plastic organ (an instrument which long ago fell into disuse in most rock circles)". It had to be some organ with a pitch-bend effect that would bend the notes UP under the player's control. The Gibson G101 pitch bend does not do that, neither does the Farfisa Syntheslalom, and the Yamaha Pitch knob doesn't have enough range. NEWS FLASH!!!: It was recently brought to my attention that there's a sort of "interview" on the re-issue of "Can't Buy a Thrill" in which it's mentioned that Donald Fagen rented a "strange Yamaha organ with a felt strip for glissandos....." This would have to be the YC-30 with the Portamento strip. It's still unclear to me exactly how he would have played it, but it does seem to be the best answer yet to this puzzling question.
Updated! Iron Butterfly: The infamous "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was done on a Vox Continental, and as far as anyone's been able to tell, Doug Ingle played a Vox organ exclusively for Iron Butterfly. Despite earlier reports, they did NOT credit a Doric organ on the album, "Heavy". In fact, Kirk S. supplied the following quote from Doug Ingle about writing the "Iron Butterfly Theme": "I wrote those while the group was still in San Diego," explains Ingle. "I was locked in this club all night with the lights off -- it was just me and my Vox Continental organ and a dark building full of creaky sounds, so I let my emotions travel into a mysterious realm, and this melody came to me. I had no problem getting Danny into it, 'cause he was excellent at feedback. The crash at the end is supposed to be the death of the butterfly, and the Morse code spells out, "we love you."
"Won't get fooled again"/The Who: It was, believe it or not, a Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 home organ run through an EMS VCS-3 synthesizer. Check out this web page on Townshend's Synths for an excellent explanation of this song and several others. There's some truly amazing stuff there!. The VCS-3 was apparently used for the repeat effect, in addition to the filtering. Since the Gibson and Lowery combo organs are close relatives of the Lowrey spinets, I've often wondered if the same effect could be achieved using the organ's repeat percussion effect, and a wah-wah pedal for the filter sweeps. Turns out I'm wrong about the percussion. The Lowrey repeat percussion retriggers every time a key is pressed, rather than being free-running, like the LFO/VCA setup used with the VCS-3. According to the same web site, the TBO was also used (without the VCS-3) for that amazing "synth" sound on "Baba O Riley". According to the site owner, here's how you produce that sound:
"Select some reed sounds on the upper manual, Trumpet, Oboe, Kinura. Turn on Wah if you have it and lower the exp pedal slightly. Turn off all tabs for the lower manual and turn on upper to lower coupler. Turn on (Marimba Repeat) and make sure percussion repeat is in the off position. Play the lowest F on the lower manual and set the repeat speed still it sounds ok. These are eighth notes: UM) DEF FEF FEF FEF FEF FD FDC etc. LM) FCFCFCFC etc etc etc. Just keep repeating the fcfc on the lower manual and experiment on the upper manual mainly using fedc."
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"/The Beatles: The intro was done on a Lowrey Heritage (it's mentioned in an article in Keyboard Online), similar to the Lowrey Berkshire TBO used by Pete Townshend. This sound can be re-created perfectly by the Gibson G101. John played a Vox Continental on "I'm Down" at Shea Stadium, and more than likely on the studio version too, but that's about the only song that they definitely used a combo for
"Runaway"/Del Shannon: The distinctive "organ"
part was done on a one-of-a-kind instrument called a Musitron. This ancient,
3-octave, monophonic, tube-driven thing was actually a modified Clavioline,
built by Max Crook himself (who played the part on "Runaway"). Check
out the official Del Shannon
web site for information on the Musitron and more than you ever wanted
to know about "Runaway". Now you may run across this very interesting
web site, Space Age Pop
Music , which claims that it was an Ondioline (a similar instrument),
but I believe it's incorrect - there's too much information available, from
Max Crook himself among others, to believe otherwise. Also check out
Clavioline.com for more than you
ever wanted to know about this instrument and its cousins
"Good Vibrations"/The Beach Boys: I do not
want to get into a long-winded discussion of which instrument(s) were played
on which recording or performance of this song because I do not know all
the answers. The whining, meandering tone is a Theremin/"Tannerin"/Electro-Theremin/Moog
Theremin - take your pick, and the organ part in the middle was possibly
a combo organ, possibly a Hammond. This was discussed at great length on
the discussion group
some time back, and no conclusive answer was reached, as far as I could tell.
Now, having said that, Kirk S. has supplied the following definitive
explanation: "...as a theremin player, I take exception to the
info on Good Vibrations. This issue has been settled over and over since the
60s... Even though the Tannerin is also referred to as the Electro-Theremin, it
is a different type of instrument, played in a very different way. The Theremin
uses two antenna (some cheapies use only one) for pitch and volume control,
played with no physical contact to the instrument. The Tannerin used in the
studio recording of Good Vibrations has a keyboard painted on it as reference
for the mechanical slider. This instrument was created "to produce a sound
to mimic that of the theremin" while being much easier to play. The
Tannerin used by the Beach Boys on that record looks a lot more like a combo
organ than a Theremin. This is pretty much what theirs looked like:
So you can see how the Tannerin gets that rock-steady pitch on the sustained notes like an organ, as heard on Good Vibrations, that nobody has ever been able to quite duplicate on the Theremin. I remember thinking "I WISH I could sound like that on my Theremin".
The Grass Roots: I've usually heard that they used a Farfisa Compact (which they were seen using on an old TV show for "Midnight Confession"), but I also heard that they were seen on an old video playing either a Baldwin or Howard. Baldwin had a tie-in with both the Grass Roots and the American Breed ("Bend Me, Shape Me"), so it's possible (the American Breed's tie-in was for Baldwin guitars, only). It might have been a Howard, but I doubt it was the Baldwin. From what I've heard, I doubt the Baldwin would be capable of such a sound. It's also been reported that a concert photo on an old album cover showed them with a blue RMI and a Farfisa Professional.
"Incense and Peppermints"/The Strawberry Alarm Clock:
Typically considered Farfisa Compact users, they've been seen several times
on TV playing a Vox, including "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls", and "Psych-Out",
where the Vox suddenly turns into a Farfisa about half-way through.
Most who listen to the song agree that it sounds much more "Farfisa-esque",
than "Vox-ish". I contacted Mark Weitz (organist for SAC), and he
confirmed that a Compact was used on the album,but that he switched to a Vox
later: Here's what he had to say about the experience:
"I liked the Farfisa very much when I first bought it. I Really looked around for a portable organ with funky sound patch's. It folded up like a suitcase! and off you went . But soon found out it had many limitations. There we very few choices back then ( in early '67). I used it until I heard the Dave Clark Five. They used a VOX continental on "Can't you see that she's mine", and instanly I fell in love with that new VOX sound. I was FATTER sounding. It was also very versatile. You could take the signal out and run it into Boss effect pedal for more weird sounds. I sold the farfisa and never went back to it. Used the Vox "C" for about a year on the road until I was exposed to the Hammond B-3 and Leslie 122 cabinet with the slow and fast rotor option switch. That was it for me. I went and bought a brand new B-3, put it on a special organ dolly, and lugged it on the road with me for another year."
I used a standard issue bright red Farfisa "combo compact" on the original recording of Incense and Peppermints--over dubbed with a Grand Piano(Original Sounds studio on Sunset Blvd. Hollywood). I used the farfisa and a Hohner Clavinet --thru a VOX Super Beatle solid state amp on stage for about a year. On Psych Out, I think I used a Vox Continental at that point. I dumped the Farfisa for a Vox once I found out what the keyboard player of the Dave Clark Five was playing ( I really dug the sound) I never went back to the Farfisa for "anything"-probably sold it for peanuts...Toured with the Vox for about a 1 1/2 years,Then in late '68 bought a new B-3 and 122A Leslie from Hammond organ studio in Pasadena--convenient for me--20 minutes from where I lived. Paid $3,300 then!
At the beginning of the movie I remember vaguely having to show one of the actors how to stand and play the organ for the fake band with Jack Nickleson as "Stony" or some name like that. (upon direction of the assistant director).They might have had that Farfisa there already on the set. I can't remember if it was mine or not--It might have been? When we performed on stage in the Dance scene of the movie, I think I played the Vox. We filmed those two scenes on different days-- I guess it was at that point when I was just switching over--I guess I wanted to use the Vox ever since the moment I started playing it. I got new inspiration, and that's what we are always looking for as musicians...no
"Whiter Shade of Pale"/Procol Harum: No, definitely not a Combo Organ, but since this is one of the few for which I have actually found a definitive answer, I thought I'd include it. It was a Hammond M-102 - check out the web site of Matthew Fisher , the fellow who actually played the part.
Sun Ra: I know nothing about this guy or his music, but he's probably been seen with more different combo organs than anyone else. Here's a partial list: Yamaha YC-30, Farfisa Professional, EKO Tiger, Gibson G-10, Clavioline. Anyone know of more?
"Pictures of Matchstick Men"/Status Quo: Pictures and text at the Status Quo web site would indicate a Vox Continental.
"Double Shot Of My Baby's Love"/The Swinging Medallions: Seen in NC 2-3 times in 1966, the organist was playing a red Farfisa Combo Compact, with all white tabs on, heavy vibrato, and had adjusted the vibrato speed to where it was between the normal Slow and Fast settings (Thanks, Carl G for this tidbit)
NEW! Sam the Sham: Almost always used a Farfisa Compact in the studio, but often mimed with a Vox Continental for TV appearances (thanks, Simon Beck)
NEW! "I Can Help"/Billy Swan: Composed on Swan's on RMI Lark, but recorded using a Farfisa Compact (again,thanks Simon Beck)
Any not listed here: If it was in the 60's, and it wasn't a Hammond, then 9 times out of 10 the answer is "Vox Continental"