An Introduction To The Mellotron (1965)

This video, via British Pathé, features a vintage (1965) introduction to the iconic Mellotron tape sample playback keyboard. 

For a deeper look at the Mellotron and its history, see the documentary Mellodrama.

Video summary:

Various shots of large country garden. L/S of swimming pool. L/S of garden with white doves on the grass. M/S of large country cottage. The narrator introduces us to the personality Eric Robinson who explains to us from his living room armchair the new instrument we are about to see which can make all the sounds of an orchestra, but can be played by one person – The Mellotron.

The camera pans as Eric walks to introduce us to his son-in-law the magician David Nixon. M/S of David Nixon seated at the Mellotron that looks very much like a piano or organ. Eric and David talk about the complexities of the machine. Then David gives a demonstration and lets rip with two fingers only to produce an awesome sound!. C/U of Nixon’s hands as he twists a few knobs to add a trombone sound, and starts to play again.

M/S of Eric asking David what other rhythms the machine can play. David replies by launching into a French accordion with a Viennese waltz. C/U from inside the machinery of the Mellotron. We see the various components at work as David plays.

Finally, Eric introduces us to Geoff Unwin an expert pianist to show what the machine can really do. M/S of Geoff playing great piece of music, the Mellotron produces a variety of amazing sixties musical sounds. M/S of Geoff finishing the piece. He turns to the camera and smiles.

Note: this is one of the best! A rare Colour Pic almost completely in natural sound, and what funky natural sound it is!

via Phil Marsh

12 thoughts on “An Introduction To The Mellotron (1965)

  1. Of course David Nixon was a well-known magician and TV personality. Though not known as a musician, this was still a powerful celebrity endorsement for the original two manual mellotron.

  2. The video seems almost Monty-Python-like, but it just adds to the Mellotron’s bizarre image in keyboard history. In 1965, you probably wouldn’t have extrapolated from its demeanor that it would end up being a rock fixture before anything near strings and choirs could be had in any other way. I’ve seen a few bands struggle with the real thing live, so its a weird pleasure to have M-Tron Pro. All of the fun, none of the maintenance madness. Its a great sound you just can’t synthesize. Best description I’ve heard: “It sounds the way a black & white movie LOOKS.”

  3. Hooda thunk that popular TV magician David Nixon – he who first brought us Basil Brush – was involved in the development of the Mellotron? He did love his technology though. He invented a TV monitor for magicians that reversed the image left-to-right, as magicians always practice in front of a mirror (and turned the wrong way on TV) and used sleight-of-hand coupled with chromakey technology to perform magic tricks where he apparently passed objects to himself whilst speaking in duologue.

    Clever guy, sadly missed.

  4. Wow! What an engaging video!

    Yeah I love the mellotron, I’d love to own one but they cost the earth. I’ve also played an optigon that badly needed a service but it was fantastic. They sound great, and have a great unique feel.

  5. Wow, I had no idea the mellotron was such a responsive instrument. I had previously thought it was mostly just capable of long-sustaining notes. Very neat, would love to play one.

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