Was it really a Theramin?
Started conversation Oct 4, 2003
I just saw the Beach Boys video for Good Vibrations on TV, and I was pretty shocked to see the instrument being used wasn't a Theramin at all. In fact it looked like the thing Jonny whatshisface out of Radiohead plays.
A quick bit of Google research shows Radiohead's instrument to be an "Ondes Martenot", and a search for *that* shows that it's a 'bit like' an 'Electro-Theramin', a device invented by a big band musician called Paul Tanner who was annoyed by the lack of pitch accuracy offered by a true Theramin.
And this is the instrument used by the Beach Boys on Good Vibrations. Well, kind of - a Paul Tanner protege, Tom Polk, built a version for them when they decided that the Moog Theramin they had wasn't quite right.
I feel a little weird - all these years of imagining Darian Sahanaja, madly bearded, waving his arms around in the studio replaced with a similarly bearded but altogether less ethereal image of him playing an Electro-Theramin. Still a fantastic sound, but the true Theramin is king.