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Mellodrama – Our Mellotron Playlist

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The keyboard instrument that was loved by every Prog rock band was invented in Birmingham in the early 1960s. It was an organ-like keyboard that housed a series of tape loops which gave it the ability to sound like a an orchestral string section. Appropriately it was the Moody Blues, who also had their start in Birmingham that did so much to popularise the instrument, but it was the Beatles who were one of the first to use it on record. Our playlist includes classic tracks and a few hidden gems.

53 Comments

53 Comments

  1. Al Bod

    May 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Interesting selection, some I was unaware of. You overlooked King Crimson and contemporary musician Steven Wilson “The Raven Who Refused to Sing”

    • zoli79

      August 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      I also missed King Crimson from the list. The first two or three albums built heavily on the instrument.

  2. Tim Pepper

    May 29, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    WHERE’S THE IQ SONGS?!!!!

    • Lorenzo

      June 10, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      I’m also an IQ fan… (just for the records) in the early albums they were using a “real” Mellotron but starting from “Ever” they are playing a sampled sound…
      Have a look here : http://www.planetmellotron.com/reviq.htm#samples
      Cheers…

  3. fredo 100

    June 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Where is “Caroline” from Matching Mole, sung by robert wyatt?

    • uDiscover

      June 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      We’ll add it on on the next go round…good call!

    • James Rozoff

      August 28, 2014 at 2:52 am

      Great song, great example of Mellotron. I got to see David Sinclair play it with Caravan in 2002.

  4. borzas

    August 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    MANY King Crimson songs.

    Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Breaking The Girl

    The Raconteurs: Steady As She Goes

  5. Joe Bruno

    August 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Strawbs

  6. Rob G

    August 27, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    King Crimson: The Devil’s Triangle (In the Wake of Poseidon; 1970) This had 3 Mellotrons playing!

  7. Grietens Francis

    August 27, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Kayak and Earth & Fire, two Dutch bands, who also used the Mellotron, are missing in your list.

  8. Bill Feagin

    August 27, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    I believe the Beatles used it on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” And a few American bands have used it – Aerosmith used one, IIRC, on “Dream On.”

  9. Chris

    August 27, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    For the record, the Mellotron, or at least the basic operating principle, was actually developed in the early 70’s, in the States, by a man named Harry Chamberlin. One of his former employees actually took a couple Chamberlins keyboard to England, and started the company that made the Mellotrons. There actually had to be legal arrangements made for Mellotron to make their instruments, because they were effectively infringing on Chamberlin’s patents.

    • Duncan

      June 10, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Would this be a member of the company GForce, by any chance..?

    • John L Rice

      June 12, 2015 at 5:05 am

      Correct that Harry Chamberlin originally first invented the instrument and that Mellotron was initially selling “stolen” technology in the early 1960’s (thanks to a devious former Chamberlin employee) but Mr. Chamberlin invented it and started producing instruments as early as the late 1940’s, at least according to this WIKI page:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamberlin

    • Another Chris

      August 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      The Mellotron was developed in the late 50s and early 60s in the UK. The Chamberlin patents were from the early 70s and smell of sour grapes. Harry Chamberlin had the same sort of idea (though he proposed to use tape LOOPS, and he didn’t get a viable instrument out until well into the 70s.

    • Chris Hunter

      November 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Chris – you’re quite wrong. The Chamberlin was developed in the late 1950s in the USA for film sound effects! The first “Mellotron” keyboards were built in 1963 in the UK . The Mellotron was a significant improvement over the Chamberlin, though both suffered from basic fragility.

  10. James Rozoff

    August 28, 2014 at 2:49 am

    How do you miss King Crimson? More obscure but equally as awesome (I never use that word lightly) is Histoire Sans Parole by Harmonium, Zarathustra by Museo Rosenbach, and the entire album Hybris by Anglagard.

  11. William Duffy

    August 28, 2014 at 4:25 am

    There’s also Hawkwind, who used it on The Hall Of The Mountain Grill & Warrior On The Edge Of Time albums.

    Also, what about Tangerine Dream?

  12. MattMcHess

    August 28, 2014 at 7:12 am

    The artist / bands I know that used the Melotron for sure are:
    Angel
    Giuffria
    Rainbow
    Pink Floyd
    Vangelis

  13. Steve Gould

    August 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    One very much overlooked album thatmade extensive use of mellotron was Things To Come by Seventh Wave, Ken Elliott was so ahead of his time. Also, if you’re looking at TD, then surely Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares from Phaedra is an excellent and atmospheric track that utilises the instrument so well…

  14. Gary

    October 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    The vert first recording with mellotron is on a Graham Bond Organisation song released in july 1965 called ”Lease on Love”. The first time the Beatles recorded with mellotron is on ”Strawberry Fields” in october 1967. Graham Bond had used mellotron on several songs on the album ”There’s a bond between us” realeased in november 1965. The first UK chart hit featuring mellotron is Manfed Mann – ”Semi-detached suburban Mr. James” in october 1966.

  15. brett

    October 17, 2014 at 6:34 am

    What, no Strawberry Fields? Bogus man.

    • Rob Miller

      October 17, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Good shout Brett – but it is not on any streaming platform….. yet!

  16. chris newton

    October 17, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for posting this , Mick. ( brother in law ). I’ve always likes the sound of the Mellotron but wasn’t aware it was so widely used, even back then. My suggestion for the list is the band “Gracious!”. They played one before hundreds of thousands of us at the Isle of Weight festival, 1970.
    Also Earth and Fire and Matching Mole and one assumes Soft Machine used one. Are King Crimson missing from the list for legal reasons? There’s hardly any Crimson on Spotify, that I’ve found
    Chris

  17. Tom Lawrence

    October 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    I saw john lees barclay james harvest a few weeks ago . Great sound ,she said has s got to be up there as one of the great examples of prog

  18. Don

    December 18, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Led Zeppelin? No Quarter and Cashmere….

  19. Bill

    March 12, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Jethro Tull: Witch’s Promise or Cross-Eyed Mary (the only two songs on which they used mellotron, to my knowledge); Black Sabbath: Changes.

  20. Berkman

    March 12, 2015 at 11:04 am

    The song “Three Friends” by Gentle Giant, that majestically closes the album of the same name.

  21. Raymond

    March 12, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Joan of Arc by OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)
    Not quite “rock n’ roll” but an 80’s band who loved the Mellotron for what it was, not to be overlooked…

  22. Knút

    March 12, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Radiohead: ‘Exit Music (for a film)’

  23. Vitaly

    March 13, 2015 at 8:20 am

    What about Rare Earth?

  24. Jim

    March 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

    rick wakeman…six wives of Henry VIII

  25. Paul

    March 15, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Starless – King Crimson
    Tuesday Afternoon – Moody’s
    Seven Stones – Genesis

  26. Tarquin

    April 11, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Genesis – Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats – the Mellotron was surely made for this tune.

  27. Sound Chaser

    June 9, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Nice selection, here is mine, a bit different with some modern choices : http://www.spleenarcana.com/mixtape-majestic-mellotron/ – Enjoy! 😉

  28. Jules YENTOMA

    June 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

    What a pity you didn’t mention any italian band from the 70s…

  29. Pentatonic

    June 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I think the most impressive use was on Genesis’ “Trick of the Tail”, and “Squonk” just wouldn’t be awesome without it

  30. Bernie

    June 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Contrary to what the text says, Mellotrons have never used tape loops. Also, the picture of the MkI above has been used by many people, often without permission of the owner. I just hope permission has been approved by the owner. I know him and have played this very same Tron.

  31. Craig Wall

    June 10, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Highly recommend a song called “Glomd Konst Kommer Studom Anyo Till Heders” by Dungen. It is a 56 second Mellotron strings SOLO with all the wheezing and tape glitches in tact. It’s a thing of absolute beauty.

    • Craig Wall

      June 10, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Sorry, it’s Mellotron FLUTES, not strings.

  32. watchman

    July 11, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues was the arch-exponent of this ethereal instrument and the band never recovered fully from his departure. The poignancy of Mellotron-driven tracks on To Our Children’s Children’s Children makes for some of the most emotionally powerful music I have ever heard, even >40 years later.

  33. Bernie

    July 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I am sure it was used by Kingdom Come’s album Journey with Arthur Brown on the song Superficial Roadblocks, maybe on even more of the album.

  34. Rusty

    August 24, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Pink Floyd – Careful With That Axe Eugene
    Lynyrd Skynrd – Tuesday’s Gone/Free Bird
    Elton John – Empty Sky
    Yes – Heart of the Sunrise
    Moody Blues – My Song
    King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
    Elton John – This Song Has No Title
    Van der Graaf Generator – Plague of Lighthouse Keepers
    The Eagles – Desperado

  35. Brian

    August 24, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I can’t believe ‘The fountain of Salamacis’ by Genesis is not there

  36. Alvis

    August 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    How about PFM’s “River of Life” from Photos of Ghosts?

  37. biff

    August 25, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    IN THE COURT OF THE KRIMSON KING …. a song unplayable without the Melotron, by King Krimson, of course !

  38. Jose Maria Oliveira

    December 11, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Sou fã dos timbres do Mellotron, e como ele foi utilizado durante os anos setenta por tantos grupos maravilhosos de rock progressivo. Também toco em uma banda de hard progressivo que se chama Hardwind.

  39. Don Engelson

    December 12, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Al Stewart – One Stage Before.

  40. John K

    December 16, 2015 at 4:34 am

    Lot of great Mellotron songs on the list but having nothing from In the Court of the Crimson King is a major omission.

  41. Giangi

    January 5, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Leaving out King Crimson from this list is analogous to forgetting to mention Michelangelo in the top ten list of best Renaissance artists. Unbelievable!!!

  42. Kent M.

    May 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Mellotron later picked up by Streetly Electronics, and called the Novatron. was in a band that had a Novatron built into an Anvil type flight case. Classic Keyboard Instrument.

  43. M Dempster

    August 28, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Brian Jones played great mellotron on We Love You

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