So much has been written about Pete Townshend and his guitar playing and equipment but very little about his keyboard playing and Synth skills. I first heard Baba O' Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again in the eighties and even then those Synth parts sounded so original and unique. They still do!
To find out how those parts were created and what equipment was used read on.....
Equipment Used : Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ from 1968.

I'd always thought this was programmed into Pete's huge modular ARP 2500 Synth/sequencer. It certainly sounds like it could have been! It's hard to believe that the sound we hear on Baba O' Riley is really a Lowrey home organ. The model Pete used was a TBO-1, but for anyone wishing to recreate Baba O' Riley, just pick one up the following models to do the same job: TLO, DSO, TLS, TSO 25 and HR and GAK (seems to be the nearest). Pete is using a setting called “marimba repeat.” This is different from a normal repeat effect in that certain notes are repeated either on or off the beat creating a much more complicated repeat pattern. For example the following group of notes sound ON the beat when these keys are held F-G, B-C#, and these other notes G#- A#, D-E repeat off the beat creating the alternating pattern heard on Baba O' Riley. In addition, a setting called Wow-Wow is used, much like a guitarist's wah-wah pedal. It's not that obvious in the Who's Next version as it's only being used as a tone control; but in Pete's original demo, the effect is used in the regular way. It's often been reported that Pete recorded the part at half speed, making playback sound fast and frantic (Terry Riley often did this), and again sounds possible but it is performed in real-time. If you get the chance to try one of these organs, hit that marimba repeat tab and you will quickly realise how it inspired Pete to come up with this fabulous keyboard part.

Here's an amusing excerpt from a late sixties Lowrey demonstration recording of the percussion repeat effect. To listen click here


Won't Get Fooled Again
Equipment used -Lowrey Berkshire TB0-1/EMS VCS3
Pete is playing block chords spread between the two keyboards of the 1968 Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ. The output of the organ is fed into the audio input of the EMS VCS3 mk1 Synth. The first bit of processing to be applied to the organ sound is a low-frequency oscillator (LFO) controlling the frequency of a voltage-controlled filter (VCF), using a sine or triangle wave shape. In other words, the Synth is turning the tone of the organ from mellow to bright, up and down automatically.
Step 2 has the output of Step 1 being fed into a voltage-controlled amplifier triggered by a square wave LFO . This means the VCS3 is turning the volume of the organ on and off in a repeating fashion.
So that was how the sound was created and Pete's playing on this is pure genius.
Equipment Used -Overdriven Electric Guitar and ARP 2500/2600
Pete's guitar is being processed through an ARP 2600 synth. The guitar output is fed into the audio input of the voltage controlled filter (VCF) section of the synth. Using the sample-and-hold function, the output is connected to the VCF, which automatically turns the frequency (tone) of the filter to different, random positions in a rhythmic style creating the effect we hear on Relay
Equipment Used - ARP 2500/2600 and Lowrey Berkshire TBO-1
The Jew's harp on the intro is an ARP Synth. It sounds like a four- or eight-bar loop that Pete built the rest of the song on. The organ part that comes in two bars before the vocals is interesting as it's the same setting as Baba O' Riley, only set to a much slower speed. The organ is also fed through a low-pass filter, which can be heard on the demo.
EquipmentUsed ARP2500/2600
Pete's overdriven electric guitar is being processed by the ARP's Voltage controlled filter.The filter is being controlled by a triangle wave LFO that creates the pulsing sound we hear.Now here's where the guess work comes in!Listening to the track you can here the arp being panned from left to right by the same LFO that is controlling the filter.I haven't figued out how this was done and Pete has only mentioned it as a 'sectret ARP patch'.I cheated on my Who Are You backing track and used a plugin called'chopper' which does the same thing.
Equipment Used -Yamaha E70 from 1977

Both of these songs use the same setting, called “Auto Arpeggio.” When chords are held on the lower keyboard, it automatically plays the notes of the chord up, down, up and down, random, etc.


Other tracks using the Lowrey organ are Cut My Hair, The Punk and the Godfather and I've Known no War. This instrument also features heavily on the Tommy Soundtrack, which also has some amazing ARP Synth programming.


Here's a track I wrote when I found my first Lowrey Organ called TLO RAG.It's really just a Baba O'Riley rip off but uses the sounds from Won't get fooled again,Baba and Relay.Click here

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