The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music

Drum Machines: A Recorded History, Part 1, Analog Drum Machines

September 28, 2021


Chamberlin Rhythmate

  1. Two Times The Trauma, “Freak Show” from I Fell In Love With An Ocean (2006 Starfly). There is an original Chamberlin Rhythmate at Roth Händle Studios in Stockholm, plus some other precious vintage equipment used in the making of the first album by Two Times The Trauma. Double Bass, Vocals, Magnus Eugensson; Drums, Percussion, Optigan, Mellotron, Tin Whistle, Turntables, Chamberlin Rhythmate, Mattias Olsson; Electric Guitar, Eric Fallope; Mellotron, Orchestron, Tobias Ljungkvist; Tuba, Fredrik Wennström; Vocals, Cecilia Åhlfeldt; Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Mattias Eriksson; Xylophone, Daniel Kåse. Recorded at Roth Händle Studios 3 & 4, Stockholm. Mellotron bee tape set used with kind permission from Gaby Stenberg. Yamaha GX-1 used with kind permission from Benny Andersson. Orchestron French Horn disc on 'In Your Eyes' used thanks to Zac Rae. All Optigan, Mellotron and Chamberlin Rhythmate service and maintenance was performed way beyond the call of duty by Markus Resch.

Wurlitizer Side Man and Swingin’ Rhythm

  1. LCD Sound System, “Somebody’s Calling Me” from This Is Happening (2010 Parlophone). Somebody's Calling Me; Finger Snaps Snaps, Matt Thornley; Finger Snaps Snaps, Synthesizer Casio MT-68, Wurlitzer Sideman, EMS VCS3 Putney, Korg Poly Ensemble, Bass, Piano Acoustic, Keyboards Roland System 100, Vocals, James Murphy; Mixed By, DS; Trombone, Jason Disu; Written-By, J. Murphy.
  2. Glenn Derringer, “The Girl From Ipanema” from Wurlitzer Swingin' Rhythm (1968 Wurlitzer). Glenn Derringer at the Wurlitzer electronic organ, demonstrating the Wurlitzer Electronic Swingin' Rhythm attachment with an unspecified Wurlitzer electronic organ. Each track on this demonstration disc explains the Swingin’ Rhythm settings that were used. For “The Girl From Ipanema,” the settings were: “Moderate Bossa Nova. The Swingin’ Rhythm was set at Latin, tempo control set to 1 o’clock.” What more can I say?
  3. Dick Hyman, “Strobo” from the single Strobo/Lay, Lady, Lay (1969 Command). Dick told me about this track, which was one of his Moog experiments that didn’t make it onto his two albums around this time. Normally, he produced his Moog tracks with the help of synthesizer programmer Walter Sear. But in the case of this single, he did all the programming. For “Strobo,” he used a drum machine. It sounds like a Swingin’ Rhythm.
  4. Jean-Pierre Sabar, “Fool on the Hill” from Super-Danse/Les Orgues Électroniques De Jean Pierre Sabar (1969 Sava). French LP of instrumental cover versions of popular music, all played on the Wurlitzer 4300 electronic organ with integrated Multi-Matic Percussion unit and Swingin’ Rhythm, which was also sold as a standalone drum machine. In this case, I’m having a little trouble telling the difference between the drum machine and what sometimes sounds like a drum set with bass and toms. The settings on the organ indicate that the pedals can be used to play “drum” and “cymbal” sounds, and the Swingin’ Rhythm unit had buttons for drum, brush, snare, block, and cymbal. Still, I can’t account for the tambourine sound but so much of this rhythm section sounds like a drum machine repeating sounds robotically that I must assume that this is a combination of live drummer and drum machine.
  5. Jerry Styner And Larry Brown, “Dock of the Bay” from Orbit III (1971 Beverly Hills). Album produced to showcase the sounds of the Wurlitzer Orbit III organ, the “orbit” portion being a a third, two-octave keyboard that was a monophonic synthesizer. The instrument was equipped with the latest Wurlitzer rhythm machine built in. On this track, you not only hear sounds of a drum machine that sounds similar to the Wurlitzer Swingin’ Rhythm machine introduced in 1969. Although the liner notes suggest that all of the sounds were created using the organ, there appears to be a regular human drummer playing along (probably percussionist and co-producer Larry Brown). I say this because there is a hit hat heard throughout and although Swingin’ Rhythm had setting for a Snare, Brush and Cymbal sounds, as fills for the rhythm settings, they really did not reproduce the hit hat sound that is heard here. That and the miscellaneous drum fills added throughout sound more “played” than mechanized. Anyway, that’s my take after examining this recording as compared to the actual sounds of the Swingin’ Rhythm unit.

Thomas Organ

  1. Byron Melcher, “Spanish Flea” from The Entertainers (1966 Thomas Organ Co.). Thomas Organ was one of the leading makers of electronic organs for the home. On this track, you can hear the Playmate rhythm component, a drum machine with 15 preset rhythms. The Thomas organ drum machine, circa mid-1960s. Thomas Organ was another maker of electronic organs for the home market. By 1966 they had created the Playmate rhythm component, a drum machine with 15 preset rhythms and a standalone device called the Band Box that had 10 preset rhythms. These were often sold as part of their Color-Glo line of transistorized organs. Color-Glo helped amateur musicians by lighting up the keys for preprogrammed melodies and chords to guide them along.

Lowrey Organ

  1. Johnny Kemm “Taboo” from Latin Days (1970 Concert Recording). This album was created using the Lowrey Theater Console Deluxe organ model H25R-2 equipped with the built-in Automatic Rhythm drum machine feature.

Not Sure Which Drum Machine

  1. Robin Gibb, “Mother and Jack” from the single Saved by the Bell/Mother and Jack (1969 Polydor). There was brief period in 1969 when the Brothers Gibb, otherwise known as the Bee Gees, had a sibling riff and Robin went off on his own to record some solo projects while Barry and Maurice completed a two-man Bee Gee album called Cucumber Castle. Perhaps because he was working along, Robin used a drum machine to mark time while recording various tracks and in the case of a few songs, he kept the mechanical rhythm as part of the finished recording. This might be the earliest purposeful use of a drum machine on a pop hit. I include it hear because it is probably a Swingin’ Rhythm, although it might also be a Seeburg Select-A-Rhythm, also available at the time.
  2. Bruce Haack “Saint Basil” from The Electronic Record For Children (1969 Dimension 5). Tape composition, drum machine, and synthesis by Bruce Haack; Directed by P. Pandel; Performer, The Children Of Holy Trinity Cathedral School. Bruce used an unidentified drum machine on this album of children’s music.

Roland (Various)

  1. Michael Iceberg, “Mexican Hat Dance” from Does It Live: 100th Week At Walt Disney World (1977 Hihomusic). This album was only sold to tourists as a souvenir at Walt Disney World during the Michael Iceberg residency as a performer at Tomorrowland Terrace during the late 70's through the late 80's. Unknown drum machine, but likely a Roland Rhythm TR-55.
  2. Miha Kralj, “Apokalipsa” from Andromeda (1980 PGP). Yugoslavian record from synthesist Miha Kralj features a Roland CompuRhythm CR-78. Composer, producer, Synthesizer, Vocoder, Sequencer, Drum Machine, Effects, Miha Kralj.
  3. Gary Numan, “Slowcar To China” from Dance (1981 Atco). Bass , Mick Karn; Percussion, Gary Numan, Tim Steggles; Polymoog, Prophet 5, Roland JP 4, CP30, Claptrap, Electronic Drums Roland CR78, Gary Numan; Viola, Chris Payne.
  4. The Noyes Brothers, “Byte to Beat” from Sheep From Goats (1980 Object Music). Synthesizer and electronic drums, Solamar. The Noyes Brothers had two members, Steve Miro and Steve Solamar. They were from the UK and Solamar seems to be the only artist on this track and uses an non-specific Roland drum machine. This track is taken from a double LP, the only record I know of for the Noyes Brothers.
  5. Comateens, “Ghosts” from Comateens (1981 Cachalot Records). Here is a group who’s unofficial fourth member was a Roland Compu-Rhythm CR-78. The inner notes for the album featured profiles of all of the artists, including Lyn Byrd on synthesizers and vocals, Oliver North on guitar and vocals, Nic North on bass, and vocals and the Roland machine, which was described as having a square black head, no body, with red, blue, and yellow buttons. In addition, the notes state that the Roland drum machine was born in Japan and existed as 3,468 separate pieces before assembled and called upon to serve with the Comateens.
  6. Joël Fajerman, “Espace – Oiseaux” from Azimuts (1981 PSA). French record by Fajerman featuring a Roland TR 808 Rhythm composer, and instruments such as the Multimoog, Prophet 5, Korg polyphonic 3100, Clavinet D6, ARP sequencer, Oberheim module.
  7. SPK (System Planning Korporation), “Emanation Machine R. Gie 1916” from Information Overload Unit (1981 Side Effects). Australian industrial sounds released in the UK. Guitar, Bass, Tape, Vocals, Mike Wilkins; Synthesizer, Roland Drum Programming, Effects, Vocals, Graeme Revell; Synthesizer, Effects, Dominic Guerin.
  8. Rüdiger Lorenz, “Out of the Past” from Invisible Voices (1983 Syncord). This late pharmacist/synthesist from Germany played all the instruments on this album, including Korg Polysix, Formant Synthesizer, Roland Vocoder VC 10, Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, Moog Sample & Hold, MXR Stereo Chorus, Electro-Harmonix Flanger, PPG Sequencer, Elektor Ringmodulator, and Pearl Vorg Echo-Orbit.

Other analog drum machines

  1. Bob Hacker, “Careless Hands” from One Man Opry: Bob Hacker Plays The Yamaha Electone D (1980 Yamaha). This album, produced by Yamaha, features some of the wacky analog synth effects it could produce as well as its built-in drum machine. This was a spinet style organ, a small upright keyboard with pedals for the home market.
  2. Arthur Brown and Kingdom Come, “Time Captives” from Journey (1973 Polydor). Brown used Bentley drum machine to provide drums on this track. The Bentley was actually a UK version of the Roland TR-77 which was the very first product Roland released under they own name. In the US this same unit was sold by Hammond as the Auto-Vari 64. The unit has 5 faders for Volume, Tempo, Cymbal/HH/Maracas, Guiro, Snare, Bass Drum. The TR-77 has 6 faders for Tempo, Fade Time, Volume, Bass D, Snare D, Guiro & Hi-Hat/Cymbal/Maracas. Bass, Percussion, Vocals, Phil Shutt; Bentley Rhythm Ace, Vocals, Arthur Brown; Electric Guitar, Vocals – Andy Dalby; Mellotron, Synthesizer [Arp 2600, Vcs3], Piano, Theremin, Percussion, Vocals, Victor Peraino.
  3. Kraftwerk, “Radioactivity” from Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity (1975 Capitol).Electronics, Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter; Lyrics by Emil Schult, Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter; music by Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter; Electronic Percussion Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür; Vocals, Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter.
  4. Schoolly D, “P.S.K.-What Does It Mean? (instrumental version)” from‎ P.S.K.-What Does It Mean? / Gucci Time (1986 Schooly D Records). A remix of this track that features only the drum sounds of the The Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer. This drum machine was one of the first Roland instruments to be equipped with MIDI, and was the first analog/digital hybrid machine, combining analog circuits for its drums with digital samples for its cymbal and hi-hat sounds. You can hear how Schooly D isolated the cymbals and drums on this track.
  5. Pixie Ninja, “Leng Plateau” from Colours Out Of Space (2020 Apollon Records). Another recording using the Chamberlin Rhythmate in the Roth Händle Studio in Stockholm. Roth Händle studios is run by producer and musician Mattias Olsson who collects, restores, and offers vintage musical gear for use by visiting bands. There is so much to listen to here with Pixie Ninja’s hard-driving and somewhat deranged mix of vintage, cranky electronic instruments and modern guitars and synthesizers. You can hear the Chamberlin Rhythmmate in this track, a Bandmaster Powerhouse Drum Machine (the one that used 8-track tapes), and an Electro-Harmonix DRM-16 Drum Machine. Godin Shifter 4 Bass, Korg Krome 61, Korg Volca Keys, Korg Monotribe, Nord Lead A1, Glockenspiel, Polar Circle Bells, Kalimba, Marius Leirånes; Drums, Percussion, Mother Modular System, Mellotron M400, Philicorda Organ, Chamberlin Rhythmate, Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet, Blind Typemachine, EMS VCS3, Casio PT-88, Roland JV-8080, Roland SH-101, Electro-Harmonix DRM-16 Drum Machine, Moog Taurus, Korg MS-10, Optigan, Roland VP-330+, Bandmaster Powerhouse Drum Machine, E-Bow (Bass Gizmotron), Jenco Celeste, Grand Piano, Mattias Olsson; Fender Stratocaster, Gretsch G5320T, TC Electronic AEON Infinite Sustainer, Korg Krome 61, Korg microKORG, Nord Lead A1, Arturia Microbrute, Stylophone 350s, Glockenspiel, Jostein Haugen; Rickenbacker 12 String Electric Guitar, Fender Rhodes, Philicorda Organ, Mellotron M400, Hampus Nordgren-Hemlin.

Background Sounds

Opening: Negativland, “Side 1, Track 3” from Negativland (1980 Seeland). An unidentified drum box is heard throughout this track. It sounds a lot like the Wurlitzer Swingin’ Rhythm. Recorded Dec. 1979-April 1980. This privately release album had a hand-made sleeve made of cut-and-paste artwork assembled with xerox, wallpaper, black construction paper, and magazine photos. Beneath these pasted portions, the cover itself is spray painted and stenciled with parts of the band name, as well as hand-numbered. Synthesizer, edited by, voice, tape, David Wills; Tape, Electronics, drum machine rhythms, Booper (an electronic oscillator), Clarinet, Organ, Viola, Loops, Guitar, Mark Hosler, Richard Lyons.

Description of previous way of producing drum sounds: George Wright, “Happy Talk” from Goes South Pacific (1958 HiFi Records). George Wright on the Mighty Wurlitzer theater organ, an electronic organ popular in the 1950s.

Introductory dialog: Johnny Kemm “I Say a Little Prayer” from Latin Days (1970 Concert Recording). This album was created using the Lowrey Theater Console Deluxe organ model H25R-2 equipped with the built-in Automatic Rhythm drum machine feature.

Description of Chamberlin Rhythmate: Audio track demo of the  Chamberlin Rhythmate  from the YouTube video posted by instrument collector Dan Hicks (aka Peahix), a collector in California.

Description of Wurlitzer Side Man: Audio track demo of the Wurlitzer Side Man from the YouTube video posted by instrument collector Dan Hicks (aka Peahix), a collector in California.

Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.

Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.

For additional notes, please see my blog Noise and Notations.


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