Friday, 23 April 2010
Requiem For A Hammond Organ
But having said all that, why is it that when I hear a certain sound, my senses pick up and transport me to a time when I was just beginning to appreciate what popular music was really all about? Why is it that this particular sound is more evocative than my beloved guitars? The sound I am talking about is the immediately recognisable grinding swell of the Hammond Organ. During its heyday in the late sixties and early seventies it rivalled the guitar for the sound most associated with rock. From Procul Harem’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ through Stevie Winwood and Keith Emerson to Jon Lord and the progressive bands like Genesis and Yes, the Hammond reigned supreme.
Given the plethora of electronics we have today when no two bands have the same kit, it is almost laughable to remember that once upon a time the definitive rock band seemed to sport nothing more than a Fender Stratocaster, a Rickenbacker bass and a Hammond Organ (plus perhaps a Pearl drum kit and a trusty non-wireless Shure mic) – who needed anything else?
I was reminded about all this the last time I played ‘Woodstock’ by Crosby Stills Nash and Young when I was rather taken by surprise by the low level drone of a Hammond cutting through all those duelling Stills and Young guitars. I’d never really thought about CSN&Y being a keyboards band and of course, they’re not but anything recorded around about 1970 is almost bound to have one and there it is.
Since the seventies, the Synthesiser has made obsolete all the early keyboards and possibly the last post for the Hammond appears to have been during the mid-1990s when Brit-poppers, The Charlatans, built their brave new sound around the ancient instrument. Since then I’ve not really heard its croaking drone too often so perhaps it has finally expired and been replaced by a microchip and some preset on a multi-functional synth.
What a way to go.