Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein, from 1973, is a classic synth jam.
But – while you’ve probably heard Winter’s Frankenstein dozens of times – you may not know much about the songs’ origin – or how Edgar Winter came to be one of the few badasses of the keytar….
Winter recently explained the epic genesis of Frankenstein:
“The original riff for that (came) back when I was playing with Johnny (Winter). As a matter of fact, we played it at Woodstock.
And that’s a little known fact. I had written that riff basically thinking (how) I wanted an instrumental that I could use as a showcase. I thought of myself as an instrumentalist, though not as a singer at all.
I wrote the riff just thinking of that particular blues trio. Now what would be a cool, really powerful riff that I could use as a basis for a song? (Sings opening riff.)
I said, ‘That sounds really powerful and sort of bluesy.’
And I was playing Hammond B-3 and alto sax. And I also played drums as a kid. Played all of those instruments in various bands that Johnny and I had together.
And I said, ‘Well, I’ll just use this instrumental as sort of a platform. And I’ll play a little organ and play some sax.’ And then we had two sets of drums onstage. And I did a dual drum solo with Johnny’s drummer, Red Turner, and we played that song all over the world and then completely forgot about it. I didn’t think of it for years.
Then, with the advent of the synthesizer … I had just seen the synthesizer in various music stores. Manny’s in New York was the most popular music store. And I’ll never forget walking through the store and looking at these new synthesizers.
Basically, there were Moogs and ARPs back then. And the Moog was a built-in unit with the keyboards being a part of the control unit itself. But the ARP-2600 had a separate keyboard, a remote keyboard that was attached to the brain or the guts of the instrument with an umbilical-type cable. I looked at the keyboard and I said, ‘Wow, that looks pretty light. It looks like you could put a strap on that thing like a guitar.’ That’s exactly what I proceeded to do. The rest, as they say, is history.
I never thought about recording that song. I had no intention of recording it. We just called it ‘The Instrumental.’
It didn’t have a name. … And ‘Frankenstein’ was this big opus that was 15 or 20 minutes and had all of these parts. … And the way the whole thing came about was that back in those days, in recording bands would typically go into the studio with three or four songs. They’d have three or four songs written and sit down in the studio and actually create an album in the studio…. But one of the cardinal rules was the tape was always rolling. Whatever you played would not be lost and would be captured some kind of way. We loved playing that song and it was a song we used to, when we’d come in, to start the session a lot of times, we’d warm up by playing that song just because it was so much fun.
And I was talking to Rick Derringer about it … and Rick said, ‘Maybe we could edit that instrumental into something that would be usable.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of a crazy idea.’ But I like crazy ideas. It didn’t sound like anything else we were doing as a group, but it sounded like a good excuse to have a big end of the project bash and get a little more blasted that usual and have a big editing party.
That’s basically what we did. So we were sitting there with pieces of it lying all over the control room, draped over the backs of chairs and overflowing the console and the couch. And we were trying to figure out how to put it all back together.
And then, at that point, the drummer, Chuck Ruff, mumbled the immortal words, ‘Wow, man, it’s like Frankenstein.’
Wow. ‘Frankenstein.’ I think that’s it. It really has that musical imagery. When you hear that theme, you can just see that hulking monster, that hulking, lumbering monster. I couldn’t have written something that sounded more like Frankenstein if I’d been thinking about it, with that intention. As soon as I heard, ‘Frankenstein!,’ the monster was born! And that’s the story.”
Edgar Winter – Frankenstein – Live Studio Performance – 1973
The Edgar Winter group in a 1973 live studio performance. Watch as Winter demonstrates his mastery of several instruments including the synthesizer, saxophone, and timbales all in one stellar performance of his rock classic Frankenstein.
The other players are Chuck Ruff on drums, Rick Derringer on guitar, and Dan Hartman on bass. Derringer was a frequent guitarist for Winter in both the studio and on tour. His biggest hit as a solo artist was his 1974 Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo. Frankenstein was the big hit off of Winters They Only Come Out at Night LP, which Derringer produced.
Hartman co-wrote, with Winter, most of the songs and did most of the lead vocals. They Only Come Out at Night is a must for any early 1970s classic rock collection. It is a solid production from start to finish featuring several music styles from pop rock to progressive rock, to the party novelty We All Had a Real Good Time. The acoustic ballad Autumn written and sung by Hartman is one of my favorites off the LP. Hartman would have his biggest hit as a solo artist in 1985 with I Can Dream About You, which peaked at number 55 on the charts.
I obtained this video via another YouTube channel. I noticed the audio was way out of sync with the video so I fixed that and did some other minor editing. This is an exceptional look at an era in music that many feel was the peak of artistic expression and song craft. An era when raw talent and musicianship mattered most as opposed to todays visual and sex obsessed music industry. Oh to be back in the days when the music mattered most!
Edgar Winter on synthesizer, saxophone, and timbales
Chuck Ruff on Drums
Rick Derringer on Guitar
Dan Hartman on Bass