Mellotron Mark I/II

INFORMATION

Years of ProductionMark I: 1963 – Mark II: 1964 – 1968
Number of Unitsabout 55 – Mark II: about 300
Original Price£1,000
Dimensions L x H x P129.5 x 99 x 68.5 cm
Weight159 kg

The Mark I is the very first Mellotron model, based on the same concept as the Chamberlin 600 Music Master.
[ Cf. History ]

Because of their reliability problems, most Mark I’s were converted to Mark II’s when this model was released in 1964.
In particular, a keyboard locking system during the change of banks has been added.

Except for some technical details, Mark I and Mark II are quite similar.

The finish of the Mark II cabinet was polished mahogany. Only six Mark II were black with a gold serigraphy (Pink Floyd and John Lennon had one of these).

Mark II had two 35 note keyboards (G to F). The left hand keyboard is divided in two parts: a rhythm section (keys 1 to 17) and an accompaniment section (keys 18 to 35). The right hand keyboard played the lead parts among 18 instrument sounds.

Mark II used 3/8″ tapes. The sounds were recorded on 3 tracks, one sound on each track.

Each keyboard used 6 banks of 3 sounds. One selector granted access to one of the six banks, and another selector allowed the player to chose one the 3 tracks (A, B, C) in each bank.
For the accompaniments and the lead instruments, the selector had black buttons, which were aimed at playing two tracks together (A+B or B+C).

The tapes were fixed on a drum at the front and the rear. During the change of sound bank, a warning light flickered, and a locking system prevented any action on the keyboard.
The drums were activated by a motor using a chain.
A special tape was aimed at locating the different banks. Once the tapes located the desired bank, the warning light stopped to flicker, which meant that the Mellotron could be used.

Many bands (Genesis, The Moody Blues, King Crimson…) replaced the rhythm and accompaniment sounds of the left keyboard by the right hand keyboard’s sounds of lead instruments.
The most famous example of the use of a double lead instruments keyboard is the intro of Genesis’ Watcher Of The Skies:
Left hand keyboard: Accordion
Right hand keyboard: Violins + Brass
[ Audio excerpts in Audio section ]

Mark II had two 12″ built-in speakers, a tube preamp, two transistor power amps and a spring reverb. The replay heads had a high impedance.
The internal circuits used alternating current.
The motors’ speed was controlled by a V.F.O. (Variable Frequency Oscillator). The VFO delivered 150 volts, and its frequency was variable (10 to 100 Hz). This system was very fragile; as a consequence, from the FX Console, the next Mellotron models used direct current, and their motor was ruled by the CMC4 control card.
Several parts like spunkers, chains… are made by Meccano.

Compared to the sound of other Mellotrons (and most notably the M400), the sound of the Mark II is quite typical. Because of the use of a tube preamp, its sound is warmer, sweeter, softer. It can be found on King Crimson’s first three albums (In The Court Of The Crimson King, In The Wake of Poseidon, Lizard), Genesis’ first three albums (Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot) and the first Moody Blues records.
[ Audio excerpts in Audio section ]

The Beatles recorded parts of Mellotron on a Mark II rented by Abbey Road Studios for Strawberry Fields Forever and the album Magical Mystery Tour in 1967.

According to the Anthology 2 compilation, we discover a first version of Strawberry Fields Forever in which the introduction is played with the Brass sound.

Strawberry Fields Forever – Brass sound

Subsequently, Abbey Road acquires an FX Console which will be used on The White Album.
This Mellotron will be sold in 1980 to Mike Oldield to finally be bought by Paul McCartney in the 90s.
[ Cf. Anecdotes ]

Robert Webb, the keyboardist of the England band, used a Mellotron Mark II cut in half: one of the two keyboards was kept and installed in a plywood cabinet, this in order to have an instrument more easily transportable.
This “new” Mellotron was nicknamed The Black Melly or Half-a-Tron.

Ron L. Hubbard reportedly had a Mark II too. This Mellotron was ordered in 1965, was played until 1967, but has not been used ever since. It is one of the best preserved Mark II today. After a small repair at Streetly Electronics, it has returned to the Scientologist Church.

Princess Margaret and Peter Sellers are a few of the other personages who have owned a Mark II.

PHOTOS

Mark I #132
Black Mark II #220

Mark I #132

Black Mark II #220

Photos: David Cilia – 2000

VIDEOS

MANUALS / BROCHURES

Mellotron Mark II Instruction Manual cover
Mark II Instruction Manual
Mark II Service Manual cover
Mark II Service Manual
Mark II Brochure
[Thanks to Michael Wookey]
Beat Instrumental July 1967
[Thanks to Brian Kehew]
[Thanks to Brian Kehew]

SOUND LIST

Mark I

RHYTHMCHANNELADDED BACKGROUNDCHANNELLEAD INSTRUMENT
A. Bossa Nova
B. Viennese Waltz
C. Slow Waltz
1
Key C
A. Cello & Violin Moving Chords
B. Marimba
C. Celeste
1A. Flute
B. Rock Guitar
C. Organ N° 1
A. Rhumba
B. Afro-Cuban
C. Reverberated Organ
2
Key C
A. Guitar
B. Afro-Cuban
C. Reverberated Organ
2A. Violin
B. Trumpet / Trombone / Sax
C. Tenor Sax
A. Dixieland
B. Slow Foxtrot
C. Foxtrot
3
Key Ab
A. Trombone
B. Clarinet, Alto, Tenor
C. Woodwind
3A. Spanish Guitar
B. Piano
C. Vibraphone
A. Church Organ
B. Cha-Cha
C. Moving Bass
4
Key F
A. Church Organ
B. Swinging Flutes
C. Cello & Violin Chords
4A. Trombone
B. Brass (Muted)
C. Mandolin
A. Foxtrot
B. Bolero
C. Tango
5
Key Eb
A. Piano Chords Moving
B. 3 Clarinets
C. Sound Effects
5A. Organ N° 2
B. Harpsichord Effect
C. Organ N° 3
A. Jazz Foxtrot
B. Samba
C. Fast Jazz Bass
6
Key Bb
A. Piano Chords
B. Electronic Organ Chords
C. Sound Effects
6A. French Accordian
B. Accordian
C. Church Organ

Mark II

RHYTHMCHANNELADDED BACKGROUNDCHANNELLEAD INSTRUMENT
A. Bossa Nova
B. Viennese Waltz
C. Slow Waltz
1
Key C
A. Cello & Violin Moving Chords
B. Accordian Chords
C. Guitar Chords
1A. Flute
B. Rock Guitar
C. Organ N° 1
A. Rhumba
B. Slow Foxtrot
C. Accordian Bass Notes
2
Key C
A. Guitar
B. Piano
C. Accordian Chords
2A. Violin
B. Trumpet / Trombone / Sax
C. Tenor Sax
A. Dixieland
B. Slow Foxtrot
C. Quickstep
3
Key Ab
A. Trombone
B. Organ
C. Saxophone
3A. Spanish Guitar
B. Piano
C. Vibraphone
A. Church Organ
B. Cha Cha
C. Foxtrot
4
Key F
A. Church Organ
B. Flutes
C. Cello & Violin Moving Chords
4A. Trombone
B. Brass (Muted)
C. Mandolin
A. Reverberated Organ
B. Bolero
C. Tango
5
Key Eb
A. Reverberated Organ
B. Brass
C. Piano Chords Moving
5A. Organ N° 2
B. Harpsichord Effect
C. Organ N° 3
A. Slow Jazz Bass
B. Samba
C. Fast Jazz Bass
6
Key Bb
A. Blue Beat Rhythm in F
B. Rock Shuffle
C. Rock & Roll
6A. French Accordian
B. Accordian
C. Church Organ