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Monday, 28 November 2011


Over the last few years I've been a bit amused by how styles from the 60s and 70s have become fashionable again, and there's also nostalgia for a 'golden era' that allegedly existed in the 70s. I say allegedly because I was a teenager then and it was rubbish, so I'm rather amused to see trendy pop groups wearing clothes that I wore when I was 16. However, they don't get the subtleties - 'plain' sports shoes are pretty cool, but I nearly fell off my chair laughing when I saw a picture of Liam Gallagher wearing a parka! And, no doubt, thinking he was really cool! Us 'oldies' who lived through it the first time round know that anyone who wore a parka past the age of 14 was immediately branded a 'Mummy's Boy'!
The automotive world hasn't been spared this 60s/70s nostalgia, just look how successful the VW Beetle, Mini, and Fiat 500 have been by aping previous styles, and Triumph's whole Bonneville range has shown that bikes aren't immune from it either.
Even children's toys like the Raleigh Chopper and the Spacehopper have made a comeback, and they've been joined by another horror from my childhood. I was a branch of electrical shop Maplin and what did I see but a Stylophone! Yes, a good old Stylophone as advertised by Rolf Harris.

I did a bit of looking round the Web and found that the Stylophone is back in production. Let's hope it's better than the version built back in the 60s and 70s, which to be honest sounded like a wasp in a Coke can. Add to that they used to go out of tune depending on battery life and keyboard cleanliness, and the keys were sometimes out of tune with each other.
However, they did have their celebrity fans. David Bowie used one on Space Oddity,

And later in his career,

It almost goes with saying that Kraftwerk have used them, and have even played one live,

Here they are doing Pocket Calculator live on minimalist instruments. At 0:27, you can see Karl Bartos playing one. Also, dig the groovy dancing - who says Germans don't understand irony!
I also found some video of Little Boots using one one Later with Jools Holland:

The info with the video mentions that the thing with the flashing lights is a Tenori-on made by Yamaha, a sort of touch screen sequencer type thing. You can tell I don't know anything about this, so you may as well go to the website.
I like how she uses a mixture of 'good old technology' - a grand piano, 'good new technology' - the Tenori-on, and 'oldish rubbish technology' - the Stylophone. Can't help thinking it would have been much easier sampling a Stylophone into a modern instrument with a 'proper' keyboard'.
The most important thing about the Stylophone is the price. In the late 60s one cost £8.80, and now it costs £9.99 from Maplin. Shows how the price of electronics has gone down, and I would imagine that the new Stylophones are made in China rather than the UK, as was the case with the old ones.
I would also imagine that with the advances in technology, the new Stylophone is a lot better electronically, and will stay in tune, and be less 'battery hungry' that the old ones. Whether it still sounds like a wasp in a Coke can, we'll have to wait and see!!
I might buy one to see what it's like, but if you've got small children, DON'T buy them one for Christmas. The insistent, tuneless buzzing will drive you mad!!


  1. Kids! They should be nostalgic for the time they were born into...oh well. I was leaving my teen years in the 70's, and working and going to various colleges. Didn't realize how "future-fashionable" I was, dressing all "grunge-like" in worn out jeans with patches,flannel shirts, old army field jackets, and boots.Wait a minute, oh yeah, didn't have much money in those days. I've always liked that saying..."The Good old days...are now". Course it is interesting how many middle age guys want to re-live part of their youth by buying and restoring bikes like they used to have. I kind of fit in that category, but as I think about it, I'm really just getting around to finishing projects I started in the 70's.
    When I saw Bowie play in Oakland, California- he was playing a Saxophone and guitar. Not familiar with the Stylophone.

  2. There's a whole load of this sort of 'retro' junk in the various Xmas gift catalogues this year. Quite scary to see things that you thought were rubbish 30 years ago offered to an unsuspecting younger generation.

  3. George from the Netherlands14 December 2011 at 11:12

    Hi Norman,

    Thanks to the MuZ Skorpion, I have bought an original x-mas gift for my son.

    Kind regards.