Ten Great ARP appearances
Computer Music|September 2021
OK, not all of these are directly about the ARP Odyssey, but some are just too good not to mention…

01 THE FIRST SYNTH TO GREET ALIENS

The scenario might be the stuff of fantasy: aliens make contact with humans atop the strange Devil’s Tower (actual place). But in what is probably the greatest idea anyone could have ever, the humans’ first reaction is to play them some synth music on an ARP 2500. We think the finest thing you could do to ease into a relationship would be to play some early Tangerine Dream or Jean-Michel Jarre – we do exactly this when we form relationships with other humans, so know what we’re talking about – and top marks for whoever thought of this. The ARP 2500 plays the famous ‘da da da, do, daa’ theme which [SPOILER ALERT] the aliens like so much, they decide to return some people who they’d essentially kidnapped, and then take some replacements just for good measure (and probably hugely painful genetic experiments). Would the same thing have happened if Bieber had been blaring through the speakers?

02 THE FIRST SYNTH VOICED BY ALIENS

If you think ARP’s alien connection is pretty cool with Close Encounters, then the sci-fi story continues with R2-D2, possibly the most famous robot in our galaxy’s history and – because we’re actually starting to believe that the whole Star Wars saga actually happened – that of a galaxy far, far away. Yes, he/she/it/they spoke ‘ARP’! The diminutive star of Star Wars (and the real star if you think about it) was voiced by an ARP 2600. We can only assume that ARP’s PR company must have been very closely involved with Hollywood at the time. To have your synth involved in one iconic sci-fi film is lucky, but two? Careless…

03 ANYTHING BY BILLY CURRIE

Visage, Numan and Ultravox – as we shall see here – all owe a huge debt to the ARP Odyssey and its finest ever player, Billy Currie, who deserves his own slot in our Ten ARP appearances, in addition to some of these act’s tracks. In short, Currie did more for 70s and 80s synth playing – and ARP’s own PR – than pretty much any other keyboard player, taking what is essentially a simple synth by today’s standards, and wrestling so many different sounds, solos and emotions from it, you’d think he was using a giant bank of many a module. “I just like the honky, mad sound,” he once told Electricity Club.

04 GARY NUMAN – ON BROADWAY (LIVE) AKA BILLY CURRIE PART 2

Numan is really known more for his Moogs, Polys in particular – those classic strings defined his sound in the late 70s/early 80s – but he made special use of the Odyssey when he employed Billy Currie on his 1979 Living Ornaments tour. Incredibly, given his stark and alien output up to this point, Numan decided to cover On Broadway, a ‘smooth jazz’ song originally recorded by The Drifters. This live version was then released with one of the best ARP solos ever – Billy Currie wrestling a range from the ARP never heard before or since, with Chris Payne’s Polymoog joining forces for one of the finest synth segments in any song ever committed to tape, let alone performed live. Check it out from 1:50 on the YouTube for a screaming, howling idea of what the Odyssey is capable of (in the right hands, of course).

05 ULTRAVOX – ASTRADYNE AKA BILLY CURRIE PART 3

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