MATRIXSYNTH: Jimmy and the Yamaha FX1

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Jimmy and the Yamaha FX1

You are looking at the Yamaha FX1. The FX1 was a three manual FM based synthesizer under the Electone organ moniker, similar in look but not synthesis as the coveted analog GX1. GX1, FX1, get it? I have searched for images of the FX1 on the net and have come up empty.

Well.... Jimmy managed to run accross my site and informed me that he actually has one. To give you an idea of how rare the FX1 is, according to this Sound on Sound article there is only one in existence in the UK. The SOS article does not have an image of one. Think about that. This is about as rare as it gets folks. From the SOS article: "Lest you think that (other than the DX1) all FM synthesizers were small, neat affairs, let me tell you about the FX1. This was a huge three-manual beast very much in the mould of the GX1, but based entirely on FM synthesis. If you've never heard of it, I'm not surprised. Costing £36,000 in 1986, there's only one working example in the UK, and not many more elsewhere." Well, we now know there is at least one more working sample out there. Title link takes you to more shots sent my way via Jimmy. I need to stress how thankful I am that Jimmy took the time out to take pictures and share some of his story with me (during our conversations he stated that he would takes some shots and send them to when he had time. To my surprise that ended up being much sooner than later). I decided to include a bit of his story as well, as I found it fascinating. It also gives you a bit of this particular synthesizers' history and gives it context.

The following are excerpts from an email exchange I had with Jimmy:

"I do a single - organ, piano, sing, comedy, etc. One of the last night club entertainers left, I guess. I've been doing essentially the same type of show for the last forty-five years. I'm 65, but I'm going on 30. I definitely don't act my age, on or off stage. I still play a B-3 Hammond with two Leslie speakers. The B-3 I'm playing is the one I started playing in 1960, when I started in the night club business. I only play three nights a week. I really don't want to work more than that. I'm married and have raised two sons. I've met most of the musical stars through the years and have maintained a friendship with most of them."

"Back to the FX1, I tried to get it fixed one time (I spilled a coke into a small section to the left of the lower keyboard). Yamaha company said that they could replace the boards if I sent them to them one at a time. I really didn't know what was wrong with the organ at the time, so I sent one circuit board at a time and Yamaha replaced them, one at a time. Yamaha didn't even have a prototype of the FX1 in their repair facility so that they could compare the one I had with one in their shop. Sending parts to them really didn't solve the problem, because they didn't have a prototype in which to insert my parts to note a problem. I hadn't realized that the spilled drink was the problem. I brought the organ here from Florida and within a week, the repairman had diagnosed the problem and repaired it like new. It really is a workhorse piece of equipment. It will probably be around long after I'm gone."

"I wonder how many of these FX1s are left. I was told that there weren't too many of them to begin with. I'm not sure, but I had been told that there were twelve of them in the USA. I was told that Stevie Wonder owned one when they first came out. He has to have used it in studio. There was a train wreck (I believe) where all but a couple of them were destroyed. It was going from California to New York. Mine was one which survived the wreck. There is a corner of the keyboard where the edge is slightly bent. This supposedly happened in the accident. I don't know if this is true, Matrix, but that is what I was told (after I bought the organ!)"

"You asked how the FX1 plays, etc. It is a wild piece of history. It is the most powerful sound because of the huge external speakers. The speakers can be turned up so loud, that the sound can be deafening. I never really turned it up to max, but it is scary. The speakers are on wheels and they match the organ, which is an off-white. The organ as well as the speakers and the bench are extremely heavy - extremely. I thought that the B-3 Hammond was heavy. The organ itself weighs probably 300 pounds. The bench, alone, has to weigh 80 pounds. In order to get to the guts of the organ, you have to unscrew aload of screws and the whole front lifts up in two sections. The inside looks like the most complicated thing you've ever seen. It has six (I think) large circuit boards which pop out. It was way ahead of its time! When you change registrations, all of the sliders automatically move to the desired preset settings. It is quite amazing."

"You [Matrix] are a pretty crazy person [indeed ; )]. Very interesting that you have that site! I am really a collector of everything, so I guess I just never got rid of keyboards when I used them through the years. I also have a mini-moog that I've had for twenty five years. I'm not a great synthesizer player - I used the mini-moog for effects in my show. I should really use it for effects today. I'm trying to get informed enough to sample it down to my Kurzweil sampler. You see, on the job, there isn't a lot of time to play synthesizers, changing stops to be interesting, plus keep everyone's interest as a singer and comic. I'm a very busy guy on the stage. It's a very little one-man show that relies on personality as well as technical ability. I'm sort of the entertainer's entertainer. Andy Williams, Ray Stevens, Pet Clark, and the like, come out and watch me after their shows. Not much use for them with the type of shows here. They are playing pretty straight stuff. The town used to be known for country, but it is changing by the year. There are Beatles shows and good old Rock and Roll shows. Synthesizers are quite scarce in the shows. A bunch of my friends are into them, though, and have them at home. I am from the school of Earl Grant, Shay Torrent, Buddy Cole, Lenny Dee, Ethel Smith, Jimmy Smith, and the like. Most of them were personal friends. Petula Clark came in to see me on Saturday night. She sat in with me and sang a couple of old standards. It's a gas, because, I'm sort of a retro act. Although I have had some of these keyboards throughout the years, I am really not proficient in using them with any great knowledge of wave lengths, etc. I've been friends with a lot of the great players, and they think I'm a monster in my own way, but I've always been crazed with the way they play. I probably have thirty old keyboards - none of them are the ones mentioned in your blog - they are simple, usable keyboards that I've picked up in pawn shops, etc. I don't know if you knew who they were, but years ago, Joe Mooney, Del Statton, and Jocko Pastorius (and his dad, Jack) were good friends. Jocko was a mega monster on keyboards, as well as the bass. We were friends from the time he was 13. His dad was a good buddy. Jocko was the freak of all freaks. He would sit, as a kid, and watch me kick footpedals, without even looking up at the keyboards. I'm rattling on. I just wanted to fill you in."

Rattle on. : ) Again, I want to thank Jimmy immensely for taking the time out to share this with us. Folks, if you have any questions for Jimmy please feel free to post a comment and I'll make sure he gets it. Thank you more than words can say Jimmy. Wow!

Update: link to the manuals via hugo:
FX1E_1.pdf
FX1E_2.pdf
FX1E_3.pdf
FX1E_4.pdf
FX1E_5.pdf

Update via Jimmy in the comments: "The FX1 I have has a mini-disc recorder/playback unit attached to the underside near the right knee which can replay as though it were live. I think you can see it in the picture. Not bad for the time! I also have a second recorder. - J"

Update via the comments: More shots and info here

Update: be sure to check out the comments for more. The following via Jason:
"Add another FX1 to the list of found. This one was purchased new to be, of all things, a church organ! My father was a Yamaha dealer at the time and he was offered the chance to "test" a new model of the Electone series. It was actually purchased in 1982 (yep, before it was released). The serial number on it was "XXX" and there was nothing on the organ indicating it was an FX1. I always thought it was kind of strange Yamaha would send something like this to such a small town to be tested. Anyway, the organ is now gone after being struck by lightning in 1989. It sat out in an alley exposed to the elements for 7 years before it was finally hauled off to the dump. I tried to stop that, but I was only 15 when it was drug off, so I didn't have a choice.
I'll always remember that organ as being the "Star Trek" organ. The kids of the church would just sit at it and change the settings to make the sliders move on their own. Anyone else think it looked like a console out of Star Trek TNG? haha
btw, here's a link to an MP3 file of a demonstration of the organ playing."



Update via Andrew in the comments: "Yamaha made a promotional album for the FX-1 in 1983, you can grab it here"

Update via Rockstardave in the comments: "I did a write up on my FS-500, very similar to the FX-1, with some pictures and such:

http://freeorgansusa.blogspot.com/2010/03/yamaha-electone-fs-500.html

Come have a look at my "new" baby."

34 comments:

  1. Nice instrument
    i remember seeing a demo of that "organ" with a DX7 too, both played by a japanese guy named hiroshi kubota (i know he later worked on some video games musics)

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  2. Interesting that they letter G is used in the GX1 then the GS1 and GS2.

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  3. Great post Matrix!
    Interesting stuff.

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  4. Indeed, a rare Electone. Here is another picture:

    http://img214.imageshack.us/img214/4536/fx1tx1zi2.jpg

    But not as funky as the earlier EL-11/EL-22.

    Greetings
    André

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  5. Great post.

    As rare as the SMS 2000 though?

    I dare not ask for an MP3, but perhaps a vorbis?

    I like saying 'vorbis' almost as much as I like typing 'vorbis'.

    V O R B I S. yes.

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  6. great post!

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  7. Very rare.
    Not the synth, the musician.

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  8. Keep on rockin', Jimmy!

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  9. Oberheim Four Voice for sale on Craigslist in Boston, with photos. $3000. Oh, well.

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  10. Jimmy showed me your site a few minutes ago and I feel compelled to leave a comment. He might just be "the most unforgettable character I've ever met". His collections of almost everything imaginable is beyond my ability to describe .... the organ is just a drop in the bucket. I consider him to be a true friend ... a really warm and wonderful person. You must come see his show sometime.

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  11. It's Jimmy. I never thought there were so many people interested in these FM synths. The fact that Matrix provides this site makes it worth keeping the FX1 all these years. When I bought it in 1986, I think everyone thought I was a bit out of my mind. Maybe that's why I bought it. I'd like to know if there is another one left in this country. Thanks, Matrix

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  12. P.S. from Jimmy. The FX1 I have has a mini-disc recorder/playback unit attached to the underside near the right knee which can replay as though it were live. I think you can see it in the picture. Not bad for the time! I also have a second recorder. - J

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  13. Thanks Jimmy! I updated the post with that last bit of info.

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  14. When can Jimmy get you some SAMPLES to post of the SOUNDS? Thanks. Regards, Uro

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  15. Please can we have sound samples?
    Is there Midi on this beast?
    If so what kind of spec?

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  16. This is a fabulous machine. I have a Yamaha E70 that is PART of the guts of a GS1. I couldn't buy a GS1 when I wanted to because they were too expensive. Stevie Wonder got his free I think (Quite rightly). Micky Most had a GS1 in his studio in St John's Wood when the Who recorded WHO ARE YOU. I couldn't make myself sound sound Stevie. The E70 I have used on quite a few Who recordings - Eminence Front is the most famous. The arpeggio effect it produces is quite randomized in some ways. Under the lower keyboard it has a little tray with preset faders as on the GS1. They did a model with three keyboards, the E70 has two.

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  17. There are several photos of the FX1 here;

    www.xs4all.nl/~wkoopman/electone/details/fx-1.htm

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  18. FX1 is cool musicmachine from 80´s and I am a lucky one in Sweden who have FX1 with 4 TX-1 cabinets

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  19. actually I really want to know the mystery sounds of FX-1. although it's FM SYNTH, but the sounds you cnould not heard from a DX7.

    I guess it's some kind of PCM+FM. In the manual they called it FAM.
    Very interesting

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  20. Very nice piece of kit. I remember being allowed (wasnt very old) to play on one of these in a Yamaha shop in Milton Keynes many, many years ago. Think it was the only one in the country then. Very cool how the slider controls used to move mechanically when changing voices etc...

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  21. Add another FX1 to the list of found. This one was purchased new to be, of all things, a church organ! My father was a Yamaha dealer at the time and he was offered the chance to "test" a new model of the Electone series. It was actually purchased in 1982 (yep, before it was released). The serial number on it was "XXX" and there was nothing on the organ indicating it was an FX1. I always thought it was kind of strange Yamaha would send something like this to such a small town to be tested. Anyway, the organ is now gone after being struck by lightning in 1989. It sat out in an alley exposed to the elements for 7 years before it was finally hauled off to the dump. I tried to stop that, but I was only 15 when it was drug off, so I didn't have a choice.
    I'll always remember that organ as being the "Star Trek" organ. The kids of the church would just sit at it and change the settings to make the sliders move on their own. Anyone else think it looked like a console out of Star Trek TNG? haha
    btw, here's a link to an MP3 file of a demonstration of the organ playing. http://thankscity.com/jams/diagilev/Electone_FX-1_-_Were_All_Alone.mp3

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks Jason. I updated the post with your notes and mp3 and I put up a new post here.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great post everybody! I just bought a pair of ST-1's from a gentleman who traded a church his set of acoustic drums and they sound great for home stereo and home theater!

    Would anyone possibly have any information on the ST-1 speakers themselves? Is there a good place in FL or GA that can service them if required?

    I love these speakers! Thanks!

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  24. That I don't know Mr. Student. You might want to try the Synth Techs label and contact the different sources listed. You can also try the SDIY and/or Analogue Haven lists. You can find info on how to join them here. Good luck!

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  25. May 27, 2009 Hello. HERE's ANOTHER ONE. I am just posting my Yamaha Electone FX-1 on Ebay, Craig's list, and a few other sites. I am really sad to sell it, but need to make room in my home and also have very little time to play it anymore. I am the original owner. It is in IMMACULATE shape. It retailed for $30,000. when I bought it. My organ teacher, J. Candy, a famous musician who played his FX1 out professionally for years, and I bought ours together. Mine is like new. And it still is the "space ship" of organs to this day. Comes with original bench, 2 TX-1 Model Tone Cabinets (that will blast you to the moon!) and I have installed a Yamaha Disk Recorder on the underside of it (as I was reading some other owner had too). If you know anyone interested, please send him/her my way.. Thanks for the post. hotflsh@aol.com

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  26. Yamaha made a promotional album for the FX-1 in 1983, you can grab it here:

    http://myjazzworld.blogspot.com/2009/12/reiko-kashiwagi-dream-of-dream.html

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  27. The keyboard and button layout is almost identical to the FS-500 from 1983. I just acquired a very clean FS-500 in perfect working order for FREE off of craigslist. It sounds amazing, was a rare find. I wonder what main differences between the FX-1 and the FS-500 models are, as far as sound goes? The styling difference is obvious, and the minidisk player (though the FS-500 does have a reader slot and bulky Atari style cartridges).

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  28. Interesting. I don't have any posts on the FS-500. If you get a chance to take some pics or more, please send them in. Contact info is on the bottom right of the site.

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  29. If it's not too hard a work. May you please digitize the last song of the "New Birth" LP (Brandenburg Concerto #5) and use it as an
    alternative demo mp3 of your page ? I haven't
    heard that performance for 20+ years! And I
    lost the LP when we moved to our new house.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I did a write up on my FS-500, very similar to the FX-1, with some pictures and such:

    http://freeorgansusa.blogspot.com/2010/03/yamaha-electone-fs-500.html

    Come have a look at my "new" baby.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Another FX-1 has been found! It is currently sitting in my dining room! It needs a little TLC, but it is still in incredible shape. Sadly, I don't have a lot of room in my home and I am considering parting with it...

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  32. This guy as of 8/2010, wants $6200 for one:
    http://milwaukee.craigslist.org/msg/1893041825.html

    a GX-1 I'd sell a limb for, but not for FM. I have a pretty decent FM electone (can't remember the number) but it sounds sad next to my big 415 analog Electone.

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  33. Another found! A church in Brooklyn has one that they are trying to unload if anyone knows of an interested party!

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

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