Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Roland CR-68/CR-78 "No more waiting for Louie" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1979

Roland CR-68/CR-78 drum machine "No more waiting for Louie" full page colour advertisement from page 115 in the November 1979 issue of International Musician and Recording World magazine.

How time flies! Happy 8/08 day!

And what has now become kind of a tradition, I've uploaded this lovely 808... er.... wait a tick!   Actually, I've uploaded a scan of an advertisement for the predecessors of the TR-808 - the CR-68 and CR-78 drum machines. I haven't seen this ad online, so if it hasn't been available there, I'm happy to get it onto the record (pun intended).

Where to start? Well, for one, the ad-copy is very well done.

Read it... I'll wait...

I say its well done because Roland strays a little bit away from their usual no-nonsense "We design the future" text to poke a little fun at those drummers reading International Musician. A perhaps risky move since at the time synthesizers and drum machines were viewed by more than a few "real musicians' as just boxes of job-stealing tubes and wires.

But Roland handles this topic well by not suggesting that the rest of the band kick Louie the drummer to the curb for being late all the time, but instead to use this waiting time wisely by plugging in one of their drum machines so they can keep on practicing. To make sure they stay firmly on the fence, they conclude the ad copy with:
"The Compu-Rhythms may not replace the drummers of the world, but they're going to make it a lot easier to live with their little inconsistencies". 
Well played, Roland... well played. Especially since these drum machines ended up on many hit records anyway including ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie and ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.

As mentioned above, the CR-series directly preceded the TR-808 drum machine, coming out in 1978 according to Roland's own "Roland Drum Machine History 1964-2016". A great treat for anyone who hasn't scrolled through it yet.

And, also according to the Web site, The CR-78 in particular is a unique milestone for Roland in that it "was the first of its kind to use integrated circuits - an important development in the history of drum machines." In other words, it included memory so that users could program their own patterns and store them for later use. Which you already knew because you made me wait while you read the ad-copy. Right? :)

I'm a little sad that the photo of the drum machines are so small in the ad. I love the look of these machines. The wood-grain sides. The dials. The buttons. And also the colours - some of which went on to appear within the TR-808 colour scheme.

One thing suspiciously missing from the ad is the CR-800 - a third CR- drum machine that also came out in 1978. This was kind of a mash-up between the CR-68 and 78, built within a large floor speaker. Jon Dent's blog goes into some great detail (with large photos!) on the similarities and differences between all three of these drum machines in a Feb 2015. Definitely check it out.

Time to go enjoy the rest of my 8/08 day!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

1985 Roland New Product News for NAMM show, 1985

1985 Roland New Product News for NAMM show 16 page black and white brochure from June 1985.

Another big XOX day! This time celebrating all that is awesome about the TR-727. Heck, who doesn't love the Agogo and Whistle sounds from Phuture's Acid Tracks!

Quite by accident, I just looked on Twitter and Roland tweeted out a Boss Summer NAMM highlights video. Honestly, a total fluke that I'm posting a Roland NAMM brochure from 32 years early.

And if you haven't guessed, Roland features the TR-727 in this "new products" brochure that they handed out at Summer NAMM 1985. And it had good company - so many great products are including in this document. And they all have one thing in common (besides the obvious) - SPECIFICATIONS. As far as the eyes can see. Damn I love specs.

Each summary write-up does a great job including various other Roland gear that would be compatible. For example, the summary for the TR-727 pulls in the Pad-8 MIDI pad controller and the MKB-200 MIDI keyboard - both also featured in the brochure.

The Pad-8 Octapad was a piece of gear I had always wanted but never managed to pick up. I so wanted to stand on stage and summon my inner Depeche Mode a la Construction Time Again.

Another great highlight are the two pages devoted to the MKS-7 - both the black and ivory versions! Every once in a while an ivory MKS-7 pops up around town but I always miss out on picking it up. Under the photo of the ivory rack are diagrams of typical and expanded set-ups featuring many of Roland's products. Yum.

One thing missing from today's market is something akin to Roland's CPM-120 compact power mixer. Eight channels including an effects send/return, all in a small box. I still use Boss's mini-mixers of the era and would snap up a CPM-120 if it was ever remade.

The back of the doc includes a table of contents as well as Roland's logo and tagline - "We design the future". Its hard not to think that Roland's current "The future redefined" tagline for many of their remakes isn't a nod back to this original tagline that featured many of the originals.

If I was gonna quibble, I'd say the only thing missing are suggested retail prices. But I ain't complaining. I love this brochure from cover to cover.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Roland TR-707 "Digital Dynamite" ad, Keyboard 1985

Roland TR-707 drum machine "Digital Dynamite" full page colour advertisement from page 50 in the May 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Well, it seems like its only been a week or two since I celebrated 6/26 day by posting a TR-626 ad. That may be because it has only been a week or two.  :)

Coincidentally, it is 7/07 day and to date, this blog has been conspicuously absent of any mention of the TR-707. So, time for that to change.

I'm a big fan of the TR-707. The large LCD screen and the fact it has MIDI, DIN sync, trigger out AND tape sync are big pluses for me (well, not so much tape sync any more). The individual outputs and the great little mixer section make it very useful in live situations.

As you can see from the image of the advertisement, this lovely drum machine got swept up in Roland's "Roland Makes It Happen" marketing campaign. The distinctive neon light design style and tag line started to appear in Keyboard and other magazines back in the summer of 1984 beginning with their gorgeous dark blue Juno 106 "Synful" advertisement, and carried on well into the spring of 1986 until ads with a new "computer art" design replaced it - like that used in their TR-505 "Light Heavyweight" ad.

Other Roland ads to get the neon "We make it happen" treatment included the JX8p (green) and MPU-401 (baby blue). And of course, this yellow TR-707 ad. But the most memorable piece from this marketing campaign bunch has to be Roland's three-page-plus  MIDI-love-fest fold-out that appeared in the July 1984 issue (see right).

The ad itself got little play in Keyboard Magazine, making only two appearances - May and December 1985.  During this time period, Roland instead chose to give their JX8p and new MPS software (Music Processing System) ads its monthly page real estate. Kinda makes sense since the Magazine is called "Keyboard".

The ad copy, although a tad hard to read, includes a lot of useful information, including my favourite historical reference- the price! $595 ain't too shabby. The text also highlights the increasingly rare M-64C memory cartridge, and  Roland fortifies its importance by including a not insignificant sized photo.

But one of the most interesting and notable features of this ad and others in the series is the size of the Roland logo. Its quite small compared to the other design elements. Normally I'd be freaking out about something like that, but Roland had such a large presence in Keyboard and its products' evolution was so highly recognizable, that they could get away with it. Work in their favour even.

A nice position to be in!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Roland TR-626 "The drum machine with today's sounds, tomorrow's features and yesterday's price" ad, Electronic Musician 1988

Roland TR-626 "The drum machine with today's sounds, tomorrow's features and yesterday's price" colour advertisement from page 9 in the May 1988 issue of Electronic Musician.

Happy 6/26 day!

I guess it was kind of predictable that I would post a TR-626 advertisement on 6/26 day, especially after doing the same for the also misunderstood TR-505 on 5/05 day. But it makes sense since they have so much in common, not least of which is their extremely good looks. Sure, not everyone will agree with that statement, but I love those really clean lines and beige colour scheme. The TR-626 also has a similar programming style to the TR-505 - simple and easy to play with. Can't argue with that either.

But, unlike the TR-505, the 626 features eight individual outs to allow the user to separate some of the sounds out. And, speaking of sounds, it also came with a lot more of them - 30 to be exact, including three snares! In fact, sound wise, I'd almost say its more of a TR-707/727 hybrid. And did I mention those sounds are TUNABLE!?!? Sweeeeet.

Roland also took a different approach to the placement of this advertisement - choosing to not advertise the TR-626 in Keyboard Magazine at all - at least as far as I can tell anyways. Instead, Roland chose to push the TR-626 in magazines such as Musician and Electronic Musician. Quite a long run in EM in fact, running for five months from January to May, 1988.

So, what was Roland advertising in Keyboard instead during that time period? Large ads - sometimes three or four pages long - for their flagship D-50 synthesizer and S-50 sampler. I can't even find a Keyboard Report or spec sheet entry for the TR-626. It's like it didn't exist there. I gotta be wrong though, so I plan to keep checking.

The ad itself isn't too colourful, keeping to the colour scheme of the drum machine itself. And it includes a lot of text. I mean, *A LOT*. And because there is no visual cue of paragraph breaks, it makes it even harder to read. Just a huge wall of words.

Which is too bad, because there are a lot of good points being made throughout. I've mentioned the number of sounds, their tuning, etc above. But two other pieces of info really jump out if you do take the time to read it.

First is that Roland has included the price - $495! Not too shabby, and from a historical perspective its always great to see a price included.

Second, and maybe even more interesting, is that Roland makes reference to the fact this is the first drum machine with a memory card interface (I've bolded the important bits):

"But probably the most important performance feature is one you won't find anywhere else - and it's an idea that makes the TR-626 the first drum machine that's really usable in a live performance. We've added a Memory Card Interface..."

I'm assuming they are making a differentiation between a memory card and a memory cartridge, which drum machines like the TR-909, TR-707 and TR-727 featured. A card can definitely hold a lot more data!

Could this be the first drum machine to have a memory card interface?

I'll have to do more digging! But right now I'm gonna go play on my TR-626.

Don't forget to hug a 626 today!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Roland TR-505 "Light Heavyweight" ad, Keyboard 1986

Roland TR-505 drum machine "Light Heavyweight" colour advertisement from page 17 in the December 1986 issue of Keyboard magazine. Also appeared on page 9 in the March 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Well, it's Cinco De Mayo today, and I don't want to take anything away from that. But May 5 also has another name - 505 day!

Sure, its not as celebrated as 303, 808 or 909 day, but to me it's part of the XOX family and deserved a little recognition.

Hmmmm... not buying it, eh? Okay - I'll come clean. I have a personal soft spot for the 505. It wasn't the first drum machine I played on, but it was the first one I bought for myself. I spent hours programming the rhythm patterns to songs like Dreaming of Me and New Life by Depeche Mode into it, along with the bass and melody lines into the sequencer of my Casio CZ-5000.

Yup. That was me.

And I'm  not the only one who digs this machine. Although review sites will often give the 505 a relatively low rating when compared to its brothers and sisters, it only drives users like me to become even more fanatical about it.  For example, Vintage Synth Explorer only gives this adorable battery operated puppy two stars, but the user rating is a much higher 3.72 stars. Just look at some of the comments below the review. Yoiks!

The ad itself looks to only have appeared once in Keyboard Magazine and Electronic Musician. I suspect its rarity can be attributed to the fact that it was released after the Super JX and right before the D-50. Roland only had so much ad space to allot to a budget drum machine when sandwiched between those two heavyweights. Technically, the 505 also appeared in another set of Roland Family ads - I'll get to those later.

In fact, it was so far off the radar I don't think it even ever got a review in Keyboard. But, luckily, it did make it into Keyboard's Spec Sheet section back in June 1986.
"Roland Drum Machine. The TR-505 Rhythm Composer features 16 PCM drum sounds, including five Latin percussion sounds. The unit is MIDI-compatible and has a memory capacity of 48 programmable patterns, 48 preset patterns, and six tracks, storing a total of 423 bars. MIDI velocity controls dynamic response. A cassette interface in included. The TR-505 can be powered with batteries or AC. RolandCorp, US, 7200 Dominion Circle, Los Angeles, CA 90040-3647" 
I'm almost as fond of the advertisement as I am about the drum machine itself. Roland had been using this colour pallet for a number of earlier synths including the Super JX and Alpha Juno series ads. In particular, I love the low-res computer graphics that were becoming all the rage in the 80s, as MIDI and personal computers started becoming more common. Alas, this was to be the last ad to use the design style before the introductory advertisement for the D-50 took on a totally new 4-page look and feel.

The text of the ad makes me happy as well. Phrases like "Spunky new TR-505". "Thoroughly modern MIDI instrument". "Our new champ still has a few moves you haven't seen". "Scores an easy technical knockout". And its

Read the whole thing and tell me it doesn't make you happy.

As happy as I am right now on Cinco De Mayo!