Celebrating 60 years of the British chart
Many of us have fond memories of the Oasis/Blur and Boyzone/Take That face offs, buying our first single and all those TOTP performances, complete with one hit wonders, bad miming and bizarre costumes.
It's not all trivia and questionable clothing however. The No. 1 tag can lead to overnight success at home and abroad, even leading to every UK artist's dream of US stardom.
In honour of this great institution and it's 60th birthday we've compiled our own chart of notable hits, both famous and infamous.
The Tornadoes - Telstar
At the time however the haunting melody and sound effects were considered strange enough to fuel rumours that it used real recordings from the Telstar satellite. Really though it was British recording legend Joe Meek that was responsible for the singles unique sound.
The main melody is played on an electronic instrument known as a Clavioline. Manufactured by Vox it was essentially an early synthesiser. To get a similar, analogue synth tone try the Korg Monotron. For the sci-fi effects you can squeeze any number of wild sounds from a Microkorg, just like Joe Meek in his studio on the Holloway Road.
Eventually Vox went on to develop the Continental Organ, cropping up on countless famous 60's recordings. So for a range of organ sounds, retro and contemporary, try the Nord Electro.
The Beatles - Hello, Goodbye
Of course if you want the classic McCartney bass tone it can only be a Rickenbacker, on guitar the Epiphone Casino was the source of so much mellow, woody tone from both Paul and John while Harrison often favoured his Gretsch Country Gentleman.
The real star on Hello, Goodbye is Ringo, giving it some beans. For that deep, punchy sound you really need maple toms, however to buy Ringo's Ludwig Hollywood kit you might need to have a few number one records yourself. Mapex offer great maple kits at introductory and higher end price points.
You might also want to snag some natty percussion for that full, always exciting Beatles arrangement. According to McCartney a big part of the distinctive sound was achieved by deciding to "...really whack up the echo on the tom-toms." So get some classic vintage delay sounds from the Beatle's amp maker Vox.
T Rex - Get It On
Get It On had numerous members of the Rock gliteratti involved in recording and performing. Tony Visconti (Bowie, Morrissey, Kaiser Chiefs) was producing, Rick Wakeman provided the small piano part (earning £9 for his efforts) with Ian McDonald from King Crimson on sax. Even Elton John got in on the act, merrily miming a piano part on the classic TOTP performance. With T Rex it's all about that guitar tone, Marc Boland was well known for using Les Pauls and was a fan of both Epiphone and Gibson models.
Of course effects pedals were really starting to take off by the 70's and Bolan was a pioneer of the effects heavy glam rock sound. Nothing says glam quite like a big, smiley Fuzz Face. A more subtle part of the arsenal was the Electro Harmonix 'Screaming Tree', out of production now but very similar sounds can be had from quality modern boosters. You can still get Bolan's Vox Wah made the same way as ever or using modern production techniques to the same spec. For the more far out tones try an MXR Blue Box for wild octave down fuzz. Bolan's acoustics were generally the Hummingbird and 160 models from Gibson.
For the instrumental parts why not try a funky black alto Saxophone for great stage presence and sound. These days you're more likely to see Rick Wakeman in the limelight with a Roland Fantom than odd jobbing around studios.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax
Essentially the brain child of mega producer Trevor Horn (Yes, Seal, Robbie Williams), who took the raw original songs and through extensive studio trickery turned them into the finished product.
Early 'Relax' Demo Recording courtesy of Wikipedia
One of the first users of this fantastically expensive instrument Horn still sings it's praises to this day, along with being a huge fan classic analogue sequencers and synths. Whether it was an 808, Minimoog or Synclavier you can be sure Horn was among the first on it. To the great perfectionist even MIDI is a little too sloppy for his tastes, stating in Sound On Sound that only analogue CV/Gate sequencers are really "Spot on."
Nothing quite defined the sound of classic 80's synth pop like a Yamaha DX7. Out of production today and ultimately superceded as Yamaha have gone from strength to strength in the performance synth world, similarly great value can be had with the MOX6 synth or try the Motif XF8for an all in one production power house like the Fairlight and Synclavier.
For the classic tight sequencing and great programmed drums there can be only one choice with Swedish company Elektron still making superb analogue-style drum machines.
Of course there's a lot more to the 80's sound that Trevor Horn helped define than the instruments. Nearly every studio of that era had the holy trinity of analogue console, Yamaha NS10 speakers and tape machine.
Try the Yamaha N12 for a great analogue front end for recording and studio console feel. Has numerous modern features to integrate with your DAW of choice.
Yamaha updated the NS10M over the years and now you can get similar looks and legendary sound from the HS50M.
Try Universal Audio's stellar plugins for classic tape sounds and other near perfect emulations of rare and vintage gear.
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
There are a number of ways to get in on the modern production game with many great software and hardware options.
- For the classic hip hop production style that Danger Mouse is rooted in then it can only be the MPC, used on more rap records than air raid siren samples.
- You can't get beat Ableton for quality modern workflow, ease of use and great remix/mashup potential. Mix any manner of samples, VST instruments, MIDI gear and built in Live Instruments while keeping the tempo locked and your creative juices flowing. Check out Push for cutting edge performance options with Ableton.
- Maybe you're more of a decks and FX kind of remixer, in which case Native Instruments have you covered with this great Traktor controller.