I’m trying to think of a pithy, alliterative title for this post and can’t. Since I already wrote about my Farfisa, I could make some really weak pun along the lines of “Getting Organ-ized,” but somehow that would remind me of the deeply closeted, deeply unfunny photography teacher at the first high school I attended. But I digress.
As I wrote earlier, I’ve been lugging this piece of junk around for 23 years and counting. But even though it never really worked 100%, I could never let it go. It’s my favorite sounding organ, having been featured in a veritable googleplex of awesome songs in the 1960s, and finding coolness again in the 70s via Elvis Costello and the Attractions and the Damned, among others. Plus, it looks really bad-ass.
The shockingly well-dressed lad standing behind the organ had deeper pockets than most, I’m guessing, as a Vox organ (even the budget-ey Jaguar) was the higher-class and higher-priced alternative to the Farfisa, which was really always somewhat of a joke, except perhaps later on to Brian Eno and Steve Reich. But I digress.
Like the Farfisa, the Vox featured early germanium-based transistors, which as they age tend to drift pretty radically, especially with fluctuations in temperature. After the standard electronic rebuilding, the organ was sounding pretty good, or as good as these things EVER sounded. But “B flat” was just not working. On the oscillator card, the note would make it to the first divider and just stop.
Unlike the Farfisa, the Vox’s oscillators feature sealed “pods” which contain resistors and capacitors. They’re unmarked and fragile, and it’s hard to determine if they’re truly working or not. Even after swapping out pods, transistors and resistors, I just couldn’t make the note work. I was depressed.
Fortunately, some kind souls at the Yahoo Combo Organ Forum were able to help me out with a truly weird (and therefore infinitely satisfying) concept: Grafting a binary counter IC–in other words, a computer chip designed decades after the Vox organ–into the card to take the place of those troublesome transistors and R/C networks.
Essentially, this made the organ bionic, to completely misuse the term. The tone the organ produces is exactly the same, but the simple math of dividing the tone (lowering the pitch) for each lower octave is handled by a small, simple (and stable) computerized part. GENIUS!!!!
Next up: The Hammond!