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Mellodrama (2008)

 |  Documentary  |  2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 29 users  
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Mellodrama, a documentary by Dianna Dilworth, explores the rising and falling fortunes of the Mellotron - the first musical keyboard to "sample" the sounds of other instruments - from its ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Rod Argent ...
Jesse Carmichael ...
Richard Chamberlin ...
Steve Frothingham ...
Woody Jackson ...
Ian McDonald ...
Patrick Moraz ...
Michael Pinder ...
Himself (as Mike Pinder)
Markus Resch ...
Tom Rhea ...
Geoff Unwinn ...


Mellodrama, a documentary by Dianna Dilworth, explores the rising and falling fortunes of the Mellotron - the first musical keyboard to "sample" the sounds of other instruments - from its birth in a California garage in the 1950s, through its dominance on concert stages in the 1970s, through its almost religious cult of followers in the 2000s. From the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields" to Black Sabbath to Kanye West, Mellodrama is a 50-year odyssey of musical invention, revolution, betrayal, and rediscovery. The Mellotron is a keyboard instrument that plays prerecorded tape loops. It was invented as the Chamberlin organ in Harry Chamberlin's Southern California backyard in the late 1940s. Harry wanted to sell his "orchestra at your fingertips" to every Aunt Mable in America, and drove his motor home across America doing so. But his trusted salesman Bill Franson took two instruments to England, and found manufacturers to replicate the Chamberlin. Under this dubious pretense, the Mellotron ... Written by Anonymous

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User Reviews

"It's a boy thing"
2 February 2015 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

Don't get me wrong - I really liked it - but I have to admit that there's a quaint irony in the fact that while this very enjoyable, documentary was directed by a woman, every single person who appears on screen is male. I guess that just reflects the inherent gender bias of popular music ... and, let's be frank, the Mellotron is definitely one of the ultimate geek-tech devices of all time, and as it happens just about all of the best known "Tron" practitioners - Mike Pinder, Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman et al - are all men.

But don't be put off ... 'Mellodrama' is an affectionate and very informative history of two iconic musical instrument brands, the Mellotron, and its progenitor, the Chamberlin, that lovingly unravels their tangled history, explains how the incredible devices were created and how they operate (or sometimes don't, as so many Tron players can attest) and explores their combined impact on popular music.

Although it's a fairly low-budget affair, production values aren't really an issue - it's the info that's the interest, and 'Mellordrama' is both a good exploration of the subject for aficionados, and an engaging introduction for novices. The only minor drawback is that, understandably, the music soundtrack includes virtually none of the many famous musical works that feature the Chamberlin/Melltron - but I'm guessing that the licensing fees for using even a small snippet of something like "Strawberry Fields Forever" would probably have been more than the entire budget of the show.

That being said, if you have any interest at all in behind-the-scenes stories about the history of technology and popular music or if, like me, you've had a lifelong fascination with the magical sounds and mysterious inner workings of these remarkable instruments, this is a must-see, and it definitely deserves full marks for giving the brilliant Harry Chamberlin the recognition he so greatly deserves.

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