Why I Love My Stylophone

Guess what I bought today:

Yep! A STYLOPHONE!

It may not mean much to you but it’s a slice of my childhood. I wanted one for ages and, after much pestering, I got one when I was nine or maybe ten. I played and played that little box. I composed maudlin elegies and triumphal marches which, had they been preserved by sympathetic white-coated EMI engineers, would have made humanity weep, laugh and gnash its collective choppers in a wild-eyed funk. Alas, nothing remains of this output… only my memories…

Yes, I loved my Stylophone.

Unfortunately, I broke it.

This was in the phase of my life where I was taking everything apart but hadn’t quite figured out how to put it back together again. A year later, I took apart a transistor radio and actually managed to re-assemble it, none the worse apart from some suspicious scratches around the casing. Had I opened up my Stylophone at 11 or 12, it would have been fine. But I was a little too early and, yes, it was fucked.

Ever since then, a corner of my soul has missed my hornet-toned first electronic instrument. Imagine both how happy and sad I was to hear Stylophone all over Kraftwerk’s 1981 Computer World album. If I hadn’t broken mine, I could have played along! Waah!

The decades passed by… synths came and went. Always, part of me pined for a Stylophone. But I never bought one on Ebay or elsewhere because… well, I don’t know why, really. That seemed a bit too cold. Stylophones are warm, idiosyncratic beasts, their personalities as individual and unpredictable as the drift of their tuning. I didn’t want to just go and get one off Ebay.

I wanted one to find me.

Today, browsing round the current hobby-horse of apathetic, apolitical whingers, I went into a shop.

And there was a Stylophone.

Brand new.

In a box.

For fifteen quid.

How could I resist? There was a rainbow, rooted right in that shop. And at the end of the arch was my little electronic friend.

He’s been updated a bit – there’s now a swanky socket named ‘MP3,’ to which one attaches ones iPod. The sound of doing that is, of course, gratifyingly terrible. (But it’s still better than all you pesky kids playing music on your goddamn phone speakers. Where’s the bass? GET A GHETTOBLASTER! Suckas!)

I’ve been playing it all evening. It’s as magical as I remembered. The stuttering contacts, the glisses from white to black note (damn hard to perform on a normal keyboard), the honking, farty, wobbly loveliness of it all. It’s one of the best instruments I have ever played, it’s so expressive and very human.

I’ve recorded a little demo tune for you, so you may revel at its stentorian wonder. Here’s the Stylophone, all by itself:

Stylo 1

And here it is in a slightly more musical context:

Stylo 2

If you already own the best album ever made, the tune should be recognisable. If you don’t, check the ID3 tags.

I’m now tempted to do a whole tour only using my Stylophone. And maybe that mousemat that plays horrendously distorted drums. Watch out, Scandinavia!

I think I’m in love!

(Click here for a gallery of Stylopics!)