Thursday, May 16, 2013

Philicorda for sale

I am selling my Philicorda 751, a combo organ. It is one of the early compact single manual models, from the early 1960's with the spring reverb and the removable metal legs (not one of the cumbersome later Philicorda Rhythm models), and it has some unique features. It sounds awesome and the Scandinavian-aesthetic woodwork is in good condition and looks lovely. I've used this Philicorda on all the Gravenhurst albums.

The Philicorda is a unique transistor organ with a sound all of its own; sonically it's closer to a Vox Jaguar or a Farfisa Compact than a Hammond organ, but it is capable of a much more powerful and thick sound than either. It has found favour with producers in recent times; one was used on Adele's '19' album by producer Jim Abiss, but perhaps more interestingly it's a favourite instrument of many bands including The Coral (who take two of them on tour apparently), The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Movietone, Crescent and Gravenhurst (naturally). I sought out the Philicorda because I loved the sound of it on Crescent's classic albums Electronic Sound Constructions, Collected Songs and By the Roads and the Fields. I wanted that sound for Gravenhurst and after a couple of years of searching I finally got hold of one. If you hear any organ sounds from Flashlight Seasons through to The Ghost In Daylight, it's this. It's been used for a large range of sounds, from full-on speaker frying psychedelia ('See My Friends') to subdued, mournful and mellow ('Nicole'). It's also regarded as the most beautiful looking combo organ there is. While that's not that difficult given how dodgy and plastic most of the competition look, there's no doubt it's a rare bird.

The instrument has a built in spring reverb, vibrato and 5 switchable stops. There is also an extra ‘voxchord’ setting, which splits the lower half of the keyboard into single-key chords, for left hand accompaniment. Lots of different tones can be had by different combinations of switches. Also, unknown to many, if you turn up the internal speakers to maximum you can get the spring reverb to start feeding back on itself, which makes an incredible roar. Also banging the unit lightly with your fist gets the spring going with an amazing sound. Loads of the distant clanking sounds on Fires In Distant Buildings were created by this method. Most 751 models only had the old-fashioned DIN output connectors, but this 751 has a normal quarter inch jack output for easy connection to recording equipment, so you don't have to use the internal speakers; this gives you loads of scope for production/engineering possibilities; it also has a switch that turns the speakers off so you can play silently, with the signal only coming through the jack output. This addition of a regular jack output  must be a modification because according to all the sources I've seen, this jack output only existed on the later 753 model. So that's another reason this one is unique – you can record it silently.

One of the eccentricities of this organ is that it was originally sold with a bunch of vinyl LPs, "Philips rhythm/accompaniment records" which you could play along to, and actually plug a record player into the organ and have the sound of the record coming through the Phili's speakers along with your accompaniment. This raises an interesting possibility: if you seek out or wire up a DIN cable you could even feed other sounds into the Philicorda, using its reverb and speakers, instantly making anything sound fifty years old.

The vinyl that came with mine is long-lost, as is the volume pedal, and the sheet music stand. Also, the 'power on' light doesn't light up. None of this effects the playability though. The foot pedal adjusted the volume of the bass to lead, but this can be done with the balance dial. According to one review, posted below, finding a Philicorda with the spring reverb working is rare – so this one is a find.

To recap, here are the main points of interest:

* 751 model with a switch to turn off the internal speakers
* quarter inch jack output - unique modification feature of this particular unit
* spring reverb which can be made to overload and feed back
* DIN input socket allows sounds to be fed into the reverb and speakers
* variable vibrato dial
* five voice switches giving loads of tone combinations
*3 bass switch settings:
position 1: The whole keyboard plays treble voices - no bass section   
position 2: Converts the first 17 notes to a polyphonic bass section
position 3: Drops the pitch of the bass section an octave, and alters the timbre
* balance knob controls the relative volume between the bass ('foot') and treble sections.
* lovely Scandinavian-looking wood finish
* unique history; used on every Gravenhurst album

  • Detailed technical info on the Philicorda can be found here:

    More info from the Sonic State site

    The entry from user Professor Spodnick says
    "The early single manual Philicorda is probably one of the coolest 60's transister organs,unfortunately they were replaced by the ghastly double manual 'philicorda rhythm' The singles sounds range from the sublimely delicate to full on speaker frying depending on the mix of vox and foot settings,a variable vibrato and spring (reverbio),add effect,the keyboard can play either full organ,split lead/bass or a thundering one finger chord bass with lead, The early philicorda is quite portable but be careful of the wood case which marks easily, but gives it that scandinavian retro/designer looks which other keys would die for!
    Exellent 60,s organs sounds 8,4,2 plus 5 vox switch,has vibrato and spring reverb,but I not found one with its spring reverb still workingsounds variable on vox and footage,from delicate to exteeeme powerful(bury's vox or farfisa duo) "

The Philicorda is currently in Bristol and it can be collected or sent by courier.
Send a message via the Gravenhurst Facebook page if you're interested:

Price £500

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Against Tolerance

I welcome and support British Sea Power's endorsement of a campaign launched as a reaction to the success of Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party in the recent local government elections. The plan is to try and get the band's pro-immigration anthem 'Waving Flags' into the hit parade in response to UKIP's populist anti-immigration rhetoric. (The Facebook campaign is here). However, I have serious misgivings over the language that is used on this side of the argument.

BSP's Jan Scott Wilkinson writes: "It seems that over the last year or two especially there has been a rise in anti-immigration sloganeering and propaganda. For several reasons this seems rather stupid, and what is more disappointing is the way that so many people in politics and the media who should know better have largely not challenged this view. Obviously times are hard and the economy is not going well, and it seems the old story of 'blame the last ones in' rather than looking towards real solutions has become popular. It's a kind of superstitious nonsense akin to witch burning. Instead of hearing about the NHS being staffed and kept going by conscientious hard workers from other parts of the world, we're told that it's groaning under the strain of newcomers. It seems obvious that immigration is being used as a scapegoat for all the problems caused by greed, ignorance, bad luck and a lack of planning.

"It would be easy to get angry at all the fools and the sanitised racism, but i would prefer myself to stick to the attitude of 'Waving Flags'. This is a positive song of pro-immigration, an embracing of different cultures and a welcoming of tolerance, a quality lacking these days and one which we could do with a lot more of in the UK. “ (from
I welcome this move, and pretty much all of what Wilkinson says is correct, but promoting the language of tolerance is the wrong move; it sends out the wrong signal. This is why: tolerance encourages people to indulge a kind of sensitivity towards something they instinctively disapprove of. Toleration means putting up with something you don't like; it means realising that you have to let something slide even though you personally disapprove of it. Many people disapprove of homosexuality but they tolerate it because they value the principle of individual freedom above the fact that they find homosexuality repulsive.

Tolerance implies disagreement with the thing being tolerated, thus we shouldn't be encouraging tolerance. We want people to agree with immigration, not put up with it. People who have a problem with immigrants are not going to be won over by people preaching tolerance, because that just seems to them like a bunch of overly-sensitive, hand-wringing liberals failing to engage with what they see as a genuine problem.

What we should instead be furthering is the notion that immigration should be welcomed, not tolerated. It must be spelled out why immigration and cultural diversity is good for society and good for the economy. This is an argument that needs to be won; it cannot be resolved by sympathy alone.

When there is division between different cultural and religious groups, rather than promoting tolerance, we should be promoting the recognition of what these groups have in common. White British people should not be told to tolerate Romanians, Bulgarians or Muslim Somalians, people who they perceive as different to them – they should instead be encouraged to see what they have in common. They go to the same football matches, they go to the same shops, they share the same sense of humour, they watch the same TV shows, they have they same fears and hopes for their children's futures. They need to be encouraged to see that their similarities are greater than their differences.

Tolerance should only be preached when there is irreconcilable differences between two groups; tolerance is a last resort. The problem with immigration is that the native groups do not see how much they have in common with the immigrant group – and they do have a lot in common. This message of commonality is what should be promoted – not tolerance. You tolerate things you dislike but have to go along with; this is emphatically not the message we want to send out about immigration.

So while I support British Sea Power's campaign wholeheartedly, I strongly urge that we pay close attention to the language we use and the message we send out. Tolerance is not the issue.