back to article Fairlight: The Rolls Royce of synthesizers

Synthesizers and Royal Weddings were everywhere in the early Eighties, but the real Rolls Royce of electronic music was the Fairlight. An Australian-made music production system based on the Motorola 6800 processor, the Fairlight was - at well over £20,000 – a stupendously pricey piece of kit. Officially named the Fairlight …


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I'm lucky enough...

To have one of these in the Corestore Collection. And, it's one of the original ones - the Fairlight 1. Very rare to find those, even rarer to find one with the software, and most unusual for it to still work perfectly! See:


Awesome machine, one of the greatest hacks ever. What they managed to screw out of such primitive hardware is nothing short of amazing. Thanks for running the story!

(of course there are two sides to every story; there are a fair number of people who would say this was the Ferrari; for the Rolls Royce you would have to look at Synclavier...)


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The writer may be wearing rose-tinted specs. My exerience with a CMI was less than fulfilling.

I worked with Vince Clarke of Yazoo, another CMI owner, and I programmed all the A/V content for the first Yazoo tour.

Vince used a Linn to trigger the CMI and also had an interface built to trigger, via the Linn, an AVL Eagle* computer that controlled all the slide projector dissolve units and a 16mm B&H film projector.

The CMI was incredibly unreliable during the programming sessions and Vince decided to hire a backup machine for the tour. I think the going rate for rental was about a grand per week. The Linn was always good and never, if you'll pardon the pun, missed a beat.

Yazoo did a warm-up gig in the band's home town of Basildon and during the first song the Fairlght played up and the Linn/AVL interface died. The bloke that had been engaged to look after the visuals on the tour didn't have a clue what to do but I had been watching the show from backstage and had to intervene. From the second song until the last I had to manually cue all the visuals from memory (my memory) and there were probably well over 30 sync points in each song.

Ultimately the CMIs were dumped before the rest of the tour and the songs were dubbed on to a TEAC A3440 four track for playback and the A/V content was triggered by AVL's native timecode. A UKP500 Jap tape recorder was more reliable than the UKP20k CMI.

Yazoo geek trivia: Vince wrote many of his songs on an acoustic guitar and did his accounts on an early IBM PC. Alf Moyet's vocals were always live and always note perfect.

*The show was programmed on an Eagle but an AVL Roadrunner was used for the tour.


Ah memories

When I was a schoolkid I could not afford all the nice toys all the TOTP muso's had. My first 'instrument' was a Casio VL Tone. You know the one they used in that Da Da Da track. I progressed from that to a larger Casio keyboard with built in organ accompaniment. From there to a small Yamaha keyboard (Iforget the name but it was small and a bit of a toy really) with a built in mic and sampler. It wasn't until I actually started work I invested in a Roland Juno 106, Akai S400 sampler and 4 track cassette mixing desk type thingie.

I was contunuously upgrading my gear over the years but could never quite afford the 'big toys'. I finally got to play with a Fairlight whilst in a recording studio working on a track. It was now seen as somewhat of a novelty item by that time though.

Now anyone with a copy of Fruityloops can pretty much do it all in the comfort of their bedroom for a few hundred quid or less.


Mostly used for sounds effects in 'Aliens'. Mostly.

On the DVD extras for the quadrilogy and anthology editions of 'Aliens', it's mentioned that James Cameron did tons of sound effects in his hotel suite with a Fairlight during the production of that movie in 1985.

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Those were “days of High Adventure”

Yeah, I think Conan The Barbarian was on VHS then. Wow – I dig all that. But it was all a mysterious thing – The Fairlight; it was the holy grail of synthesisers: thanks for unmasking the Wizard of Oz! What a money pit it must have been. I use to love all that Synthesiser stuff, but now a days – I think most PCs – with the right card and software can do great things.


Trevor Horn loved his

Trevor Horn told me the story of when he was about to buy a Fairlight. The people at Synclavier called and said that the Fairlight was ok but it was a fun toy while the Synclavier was a 'serious Scientific Instrument'. Trevor said 'I'm a record producer and I like my toys'! That made me laugh.

He talks about Fairlight and the early days of squeezing 'stuff' out of other early gear in a video I recorded with him: http://www.recordproduction.com/trevor-horn-producer-video-pt1.html



Jurassic Park?

Peter Vogel is back in the game.

See http://fairlightinstruments.com.au/

So is Dave Smith (Sequential Circuits - Prophet).

See http://www.davesmithinstruments.com/





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