I can’t believe this photo has received so many views on Flickr. It’s been up for less than a week.
We had a pretty good time setting up for this shoot. We shot over a dozen synthesizers that day, July 17th 2010 to be exact. We listened to a bunch of records and drank some beers while we took photographs. We listened mostly to stuff from the 1980’s. Tracks that featured the synthesizer of course.
When we talked about covers for the book, I was thinking I’d use my favorite synthesizer of all time, the Prophet 5 Synthesizer!
I first became aware of the Prophet 5 synthesizer while I was living in Miami, around the early 80’s. MTV was just launching and Florida was one of the first states to get MTV. I was there for the launch of the best idea to ever hit cable TV. It’s such a shame that MTV turned into something different. During the early 1980’s it became my daily ritual to watch MTV. I would come home from school and if I could get it in, MTV would be on most of the time. I remember The Buggles video for Video Killed the Radio Star. There was The Fixx with Saved By Zero. There was Peter Gabriel’s, Shock the Monkey. Of course there was always as many Duran Duran videos as a person could wish for. It’s around this time that I really started to notice the synthesizer.
One of the first synthesizers to leave a mark on me was the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. I remember seeing Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, I think it was him, playing a Prophet 5 synthesizer in Nena’s 99 Luft Balloons (99 Red Balloons) video. Oh, that wood! Ralf Hütter, of Kraftwerk probably hated the Prophet 5 just because it was made of wood. That’s one of the reasons why I liked it though. It had lots of knobs. It was futuristic, but still wanting to fit in with the organ player using it in a rock band or something.
In a 1984 Keyboard magazine I read an interview with David Diamond and Matt Reid of Berlin. I still have the issue. They were really big users of the Prophet 5. A month later it was Mark Isham singing it praises and talking about how he used it for 95% of the synthesizer cues on the Disney movie Never Cry Wolf. He would become one of my favorite film composers.
Dave Ball of Soft Cell, Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads, John Carpenter, David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri and many, many others artist are well known for their use of the Prophet 5 synthesizer. Sylvian and Barbieri are rumored to have invested an incredible amount of time tweaking sounds on the synthesizers they used for Japan’s, Tin Drum. The Prophet 5 was at the core of those sessions and an Oberheim OBX. Producer/Engineer Steve Nye was brought to the brink of a breakdown as they slaved away endlessly creating sounds. They all played a pivotal role in helping me build an adoration for this Sequential Circuits synthesizer.
It was Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran that I remember most for using the Prophet 5, however. MTV became synonymous with Duran Duran. They capitalized on the use of video better than anyone. The video helped Duran Duran sell lots of records. I still like The Chauffer and Rio. They always had beautiful women in their videos. The video was becoming a new way to sell music to a buying public. For Duran Duran there was Girls on Film, Careless Memories, and Planet Earth. Nick Rhodes is perhaps best known for his use of the Roland Jupiter 8. For me though, I couldn’t keep my eyes off his Prophet 5 synthesizer in those videos. I saw him use it on TV concerts, live in studio appearances, and all the shows bands appeared on, in the 1980’s. Think Top of the Pops. I don’t think Duran Duran played on Solid Gold! Did they? I wonder. They did play on Soul Train a few years later, though I don’t recall seeing a Prophet 5!
It would be years later that I would get my hands on a Prophet 5. Well after I left university. For a very long time all I had was magazine photographs of the Prophet 5. They were too expensive when they were first introduced in 1978 and they remained expensive to a teenager like me years later. To me it was like owning some 1950’s Porsche or something. I created a grand mystique for it. They were starting to go up in price when I got mine, but the prices still weren’t prohibitive. This one is a Rev 3.2. The one just before MIDI was introduced. It has the extra banks of patches too. I had it MIDI’d a couple of years back by Stephen Jones in Seattle.
I’ll post more pictures of the Prophet 5 soon.