Monday, 22 November 2010

Fifty Five

So the amazing Moog system 55 which I mentioned in this post eventually sold on ebay. What was interesting was the question of it's provenance, i.e. whether it had been previously owned by synth-god Kieth Emerson. As it turned out, there was a mix up / exaggeration by the seller which resulted in an excellent round of publicity for the item for sale. Read below for the full story from the seller. BTW, it got £15000, less than I expected for such a system

From the eBay seller:



There has been much hearsay regarding the provenance of this Moog 55, so we would like to explain in exact detail how we came to acquire this magnificent synth.

In early 2010, we purchased an ARP 2600 on eBay from a seller with the eBay user ID “hitechwaitress.” Since the seller was located in Los Angeles (on the border of Venice and Santa Monica), we both agreed to do the transaction in person. The seller, Will Alexander, was gracious enough to invite us into his home to complete the deal.  Will is undeniably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. His unique charisma comes from a combination of his naturally friendly demeanor and his willingness to share his endless wealth of knowledge regarding all things electronic. All of this mixed with a slight southern accent (originally being from Texas) and his permanent smile, made him an instantly likable character.  (For those of you who live, or have lived, in southern California, you too will admit how rare it is to find a genuinely nice person. Will is definitely a diamond in the rough.)

Perhaps more pertinent to the story, Will himself had serviced the 2600 beyond perfection. His attention to detail was incredible, and we still own and enjoy the Arp quite frequently. Through the natural course of our conversation, and having inquired about the numerous gold and platinum records alongside his stairway, he was kind enough to share stories from his glamorous and accomplished career. Will’s charm and extreme expertise earned him a career working with some of the greatest bands and musicians of all time, including; the Rolling Stones, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Keith Emerson (solo), Herbie Hancock, and No Doubt, (to name a few).

Will had cut his chops as the head service technician for Oberheim in the late-70s, which is absolutely impressive for those familiar with their product line at the time. His stories about helping certified service centers repair an OB-8 over the phone is both comical and remarkable.

After spending over an hour getting to know Will, we couldn’t help but inquire about a beautiful Moog 55 in his living room. In typical Will fashion, he had no reservations about sharing the story. The system 55 was NOT the one being offered in this auction, and belonged to a well-known and highly successful music producer. Will had been restoring this Moog for nearly a year, mostly because his schedule was constantly interrupted by his relentless touring activity. Being extreme gear enthusiasst, Will intuitively recognized our immense interest.

At which point he explained that he had another one! The System 55 he owned had been in storage for decades, and now that he was taking an extended break from his usually endless touring activity, he was finally in a position to fully and completely restore it properly.

Nobody knows more about synths than Will, and even though we knew such would probably dictate an appropriate market value asking price, we didn’t care. We loved the Arp 2600, and knew that a Moog 55 fully serviced by a legendary technician, composer, and engineer who worked alongside Keith Emerson for the entirety of his career would be worth owning at almost any price. Having owned some of the best musical equipment of all time, we had never owned such a piece, and we were determined to make it happen.

We left Will’s house (apartment-style condo is more accurate) with a sense of euphoric discovery. We purchased a great synth, met an amazingly competent and skilled tech, and were confronted with an opportunity to buy a Moog 55! In other words, it was our magnificent synth trifecta!

Several months had passed since we first met Will, and I nearly forgot about the Moog 55 all together. Until one fateful day, when my iPhone vibrated in my left back pocket with the screen brightly displaying the name “Will Alexander.” I answered the phone, “Hey Will, how are you?” He replied, “Hey buddy! Do you want to buy that Moog 55 I was talking about?” While I was surprised, flattered, and ecstatic, I also realized the next words out of his mouth would be the price. Keep in mind, Will is a smart man: he is internet-savvy, has lots of experience with Moog modular synths, and is not desperate for cash.

After responding, “Yeah, of course, I’m interested. How much?” he allowed transparency into his though process, and formation of his asking price by saying, “Well, I’ve read about some selling for nearly $50K, but I know that’s too much, and well, there’s one on eBay without a Sequencer or keyboard, that doesn’t appear to work, and they’re asking $35K, so I would expect to sell it for around that much. That seems reasonable. And if you could pay in cash, I would offer a discount.”

I kindly requested time to consider his offer, and told him I would get back to him within 24 hours, so we could discuss the synth in detail.

When I called back the next day, having had plenty of time to recover from the debilitating price, we discussed the unit in great detail.

He told me several important things. Firstly, the unit was not completely done with its service, and after having worked on it for 2 months non-stop, he was approaching the home stretch, and need and additional 3-5 days. Also, the parts and electronic restoration alone cost him over $2,000.00, and that the repair would be valued at approximately $6,500-$7,500 on the cheap side.

Will told us: this unit was used by Keith Emerson as a backup, not used as an entire backup synth, rather, as a unit which allowed easy access to other modules when one of his would break and needed instant replacement on the road. At which point, Will would remove the module from Keith Emerson’s famous monster Moog, and trade the identical module with the working one from this synth. That explained the necessary restoration and extensive service order. We can not prove this, nor did we ask for proof. It is purely a story told to us at the time of purchase.

Will insisted we come and play the Moog when he was finished. We drove over to his house on a beautiful Sunday morning, and weren’t exactly sure what to expect. As always, Will, Candy (his youthful wife) and I had a great conversation. The anticipation, however, was eating away at our ability to focus on our conversation about liberal politics, and I interjected with “So, shall we plug in this beast?” Will was way ahead of me. Not only was it plugged in, but there were so many patch cables already attached, that it became difficult to see the controls underneath. Will proudly took control, flipped a couple switches, adjusted the volume on his home stereo (yes, it was plugged into his home hi-fi rig) and started playing. For those who are not familiar with Will, you would not know that in addition to his list of accomplishments, he is also great musician. Furthermore, he knows how to use a Moog modular like Babe Ruth knows how to use a baseball bat.  No exaggeration.

This subtle technique worked on me. I was sold. The synth sounded both bold and beautiful (forgive the poor choice of words and reference to the soap opera, but it’s true.)

I’m sorry if some of this seems predictable, like a historical biopic about a famous person where you already know most of what is going to happen and how the movie ends, but as you may have deduced, we made a deal. I had every intention of keeping the synth in my studio, and using it to make music. It was going to be part of my collection of instruments never offered for sale. If I was going to do otherwise, I would not have paid the exorbitant price I did. The ONLY reason I am selling this synth, is because like everyone else, I have too many bills, and not enough money.

Will also shared some very interesting personal information about his relationship and friendship with Keith Emerson. According the Will, Keith had lived with Will for approximately a year while sorting through some personal issues. Afterward, Keith moved into the apartment complex next door.  While working with Hans Zimmer, Will was able to introduce the two, which resulted in Zimmer offering Keith a facility to work and create music. Nothing much transpired.
Once again, this is what Will told us. We didn't think it would enhance the value to have Will write his story down and have a third party notarize it.

Without divulging additional personal information, I can just simply say that Will and Keith were close, and that the two know things about each other only privileged through 30 years of friendship.

Several months later I purchased another amazing piece from Will. In total, I was thankful to buy 3 great pieces: all serviced by Will, and all of which are amazing instruments.

Since listing this synth for sale on eBay, we have received incredible interest, as explained to many serious and interested buyers, I would like to reiterate:
We are selling this synth with the information we received when it was sold to us.

This detailed account didn’t seem necessary at first, as we intended on protecting Will’ anonymity, but we feel it is now the best way to shed light on the provenance and story behind the keyboard.

We are also sorry if this created any tension between Keith and Will.

If you have read this additional information, and still have questions, we will be more than happy to answer then via e-mail or phone (323-876-9862).

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