1. Robert Arthur Moog set up the RA Moog Co in 1954 in Trumansburg, New York. The company made guitar amplifiers and Theremins before building its first modular synthesiser in 1964. It’s trademark sockets and wires was derived from early telephone exchange systems, as a means for creating temporary connections. The term ‘Moog’ quickly came to mean any type of synthesizer produced around the time by any manufacturer.
2. Moog’s synthesizer was initially adopted by experimental composers, but the machine’s breakthrough and commercial success came thanks to Wendy Carlos’s Switched-on Bach, performances of works by JS Bach performed on a modular Moog and recorded on an eight-track multitrack recorder.
3. Unsurprisingly, competitors to Moog quickly sprang up – in response to these, Moog developed the Minimoog, a portable version of the totally impractical modular model. The Minimoog was sold between 1970 and 1981 and its far more practical size made it popular in pop, rock and jazz. Its fourth and final version, Model D, became the Moog that everyone knew and loved.
4. The original Minimoog was cobbled together by one of RA Moog Co’s engineers, Bill Hemsath, who used discarded and spare parts lying around the office to build the prototype. Its distinctive, punchy sound was actually a result of a circuitry miscalculation, rather than by design.
5. The Minimoog was the catalyst for a new wave of electronic music in the 1970s and 1980s and had a massive impact on albums such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Herbie Hancock’s Rockit and hundreds more from Ultravox to Simon & Garfunkel. The 1990s even saw a resurgence in ‘vintage’ synths, since nothing at that time could reproduce the raw bite of the Minimoog’s analogue circuitry.
6. Original Moogs and Minimoogs in working order today can sell for thousands of pounds. But fancy a brand new Moog One? Moog’s first polyphonic analogue synth in over 30 years will cost you £7799. For hands-on experience with all models of Moog, you can visit the Moog Factory and Store in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, US or visit Andertons in Guildford, UK. And it’s pronounced ‘Moag’.
Oliver Condy is the former Editor of BBC Music Magazine, a post he held for 17 years. His debut book, Symphonies of the Soul: Classical Music to Cure Any Ailment, will be released in November 2021 with Octopus Books. He is also a semi-professional organist, having previously given recitals in Bach’s churches across Germany.