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One Two Tidings

Hittory In The Making

Article from One Two Testing, January 1986

stories from an ex mag

In this world of sampling, graphite guitar necks, digital recording and MIDI pads, it seems strange to look back at the instrumental "innovations" of yesteryear. Yet when we transport ourselves back to the late 1960s via the files of Hello is This Thing On musicians' magazine (1963-1980), forerunner of One Two Testing, we find many inventions which, though they may have seemed deeply fab at the time, never really made the impression on contemporary musicians that they perhaps deserved.

So come with us now as we present a few selected highlights from the files of Hello Is This Thing On (known as HiTTO). You may even smile, you big greatcoated sulker.

HiTTO April 1965 Quiet Drums Ltd. Drum maker Tom Floor identified the major problem with drums as being their excessive noise, and quickly developed the Quiet Drum Kit. He is seen in the picture below testing his snare drum to see if it makes any sound at all, and explained his technique as follows: "The drum is made just like any other drum except that it is stuffed full of old carpets and eiderdowns. This packing is jammed into the space between the heads, so that even if you whack hell out of the drums you can barely hear a thing, apart from the occasional sound of a drum stick breaking.

I test each one, as you can see, and if I hear anything at all that sounds like a drum then it's back to the drawing board, oh yes. Most of the enquiries I've had have been from guitarists, bassists and keyboard players, but I think that all drummers will have at least one Quiet Drum in their set-up by the end of the year."

HiTTO March 1969 Invisible miniature flute. Charlie Mental (centre, above) was interviewed about this revolutionary new wind instrument from Japan: "Me and my group have taken to these new flutes in a big way, oh yes. It's tricky at first because you don't know where your fingers are, or indeed where the bleedin' flute is, but you soon get the hang of it. They make very little sound, so it's often quite difficult to cover up the noise of the audience pissing themselves laughing. But we do try. I think that in ten years' time everyone will be using these flutes and no-one will bother to touch traditional flutes."

HiTTO April 1969 The String Saw. Inventor Fred Saw (right) commented: "This is the new, easy way to get strings off your guitar. No more fiddling with 'the nut' and 'the bridge' as I understand they're called. Now, when you find you need to change strings, just whip out your String Saw from the strap-mounted holster, and gently saw across the strings close to the pickup as we're doing in the pic. Within a fraction of a second the strings will break and, depending on the tension, will most likely spring up and slap you in the face. The damage can be quite extensive, as you can see from our faces in the pic. The important thing is to stay very serious, because after all music is not a laughing matter. The String Saw will be on everyone's guitar strap within six months."

HiTTO October 1968 Dublo-Vision Guitarists Glasses. Optical engineer and blues singer Blind Nigel Hopkins developed these special spectacles for the guitar player early in 1968, and discussed the production models in this issue as follows: "The problem to me seemed to be that whenever you're actually playing notes on the guitar your hand is covering up the fingerboard in that area. So I've devised these glasses in such a way that they'll give the illusion of a second guitar neck beyond the one you're playing. The artists' impression shown in the picture (left) gives you an idea of what it looks like: you can carry on playing and still have an uncovered neck above so that you can work out the next chords or notes. I find it very useful, and predict that all guitarists will be wearing my spectacles in two or four years' time, depending on how you read the calendar."

HiTTO January 1969 Expression Box. Top electronics engineer Hazel Boring-Boffin was extensively quoted in the special issue devoted to her new product (including 16-page ad supplement). The most revealing passage, attached to the photo above, reads as follows: "Top new pop group The Herd have used the Expression Box both in the studio to cheer up the engineer and in an on-stage live situation to stop the audience from falling asleep. Basically, groups plug into the boxes with their headphones and choose from the 64 expression presets on the top. Shown here left to right are just three of those presets: Very Happy But Probably Quite Stupid; Quite Definitely Dumb And With A Big Nose To Boot; and Totally Brainless But With An Endearingly Hopeless Approach To Sartorial Elegance. The expressions last for 30 minutes per key-press, and cost 69 guineas each. I think that artistes across the world will not be seen dead without them for many years to come, quite honestly."

HiTTO December 1968 Weird Guitars Ltd. The company was set up in late 1968, and Hello Is... musicians' magazine set up an interview almost immediately with Belgian boss Pierre Frog. He said: "'Ello my little bridge-pieces. My team of experts and myself have now got two wonderful instrument on le market, and these will be in your hypermarkets by Christmas. My group Pierre Frog et le Chopped Legs are showing them off to you in the picture above. On the left is guitarist Michelle, and 'e 'as the spectacular 24-string electric guitar with 'im. It was quite a job to fit in all the machine 'eds, and quite frankly the little bugger doesn't stay in tune. In fact Michelle, 'e does not even know how to tune 'im! I am in the middle and I have got the glass guitar what is manufactured entirely from a sheet of glass. I like to play the guitar entirely unclothed, but wanted a way to show off my little willy to the crowds who foregather at my gigs. This was the obvious answer! I think everyone will be using Weird Guitars in France, Belgium and other European countries by 1970."

HiTTO September 1969 The First Classy Instrument Ad. Managing Director Hunter Watts of Sinns-Watts explained his company's move: "It's like a vision of the sort of concepts that the music will like take you to, in a broadly sort of artistic vein so to speak. I mean the art is like on a higher plain than all this other advertising you get. It says: MUSIC, ART, CREATIVITY, you know? Our gear is like only the starting point, it's like up to the artist him or herself, because our gear is the first like non-sexist equipment, right? I mean the artist must create, and our ad shows that we understand that, know what I mean? Have you got a fiver on you?"

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Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Jan 1986

One Two Tidings




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