Mellotron Mark I/II

SPECIFICATIONS

Years of ProductionMark I: 1963 – Mark II: 1964 – 1968
Number of Unitsabout 55 – Mark II: about 300
Original Price£1,000
Dimensions W x H x D129.5 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.
[ See 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 is polished mahogany.
According to Goeff Unwin, the official Mellotronics demonstrator, a Mark II in a distinctive black and gold finish was delivered to Princess Margaret after a demonstration of the instrument at a party at Peter Sellers. This copy will finally be returned a few months later to Mellotronics.
Six Mark II will eventually be produced with this finish. Among the owners of this rare version: John Lennon, Graham Nash (The Hollies, Crosby, Stills & Nash), Richard Wright (Pink Floyd), Jon Lord (Deep Purple).

Mark II has 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 allows you to play the lead parts among 18 instrument sounds.

[Click on the picture to zoom]

Mark II uses 3/8″ tapes. The sounds are recorded on 3 tracks, one sound on each track.
The tapes are fixed on a drum at the front and the rear.
When changing banks, an indicator light flashes and a locking system prevents any action on the keyboard.
The drums are driven by a motor using a chain, similar to that of a bicycle.
A special tape allows the identification of the different banks. Once the tapes are positioned at the desired bank, the indicator light will stop blinking, indicating that the Mellotron is ready for use.

Each keyboard has access to 6 banks of 3 sounds using a selector.
Another selector allows you to choose one of the 3 tracks A, B, C for each bank, as well as a mix of 2 tracks: A + B or B + C.

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 has two 12″ built-in speakers, a tube preamp, two transistor power amps and a spring reverb.
The replay heads have a high impedance.
The internal circuits use alternating current.
The speed of the motors is controlled by a V.F.O. (Variable Frequency Oscillator). The VFO delivers 150 volts, and its frequency is variable (10 to 100 Hz). This system was very fragile; as a consequence, from the FX Console, the next Mellotron models use direct current, and their motor is 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). The Mark II is replaced by an M400 on the following albums of the two groups.
[ Audio excerpts in Audio section ]


The Beatles

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.
[ See Anecdotes ]

Several improvised sessions of John Lennon with his Mellotron have been recorded at his home in Weybridge.
[ See Anecdotes ]


England band and The Black Melly

England’s keyboardist Robert Webb used a Mellotron Mark II (# 109) cut in half to make the instrument more portable.
This half Mellotron was nicknamed The Black Melly or Half-a-Tron.
It was used on the album Garden Shed (1977). Gordon Reid is now the owner.
[See the photos in the Photos tab]
Robert Webb then acquired the white Mark II from Genesis, which had been used during tours from 1972 to 1976 (visible on the cover of Genesis Live -1974).


Ron L. Hubbard

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.

PHOTOS

Mark I #132

Photos: David Cilia
John Bradley’s Mark I


Black Mark II #244

Photos: Winston Eggleston
This Mark II belonged to Jon Lord (Deep Purple). It is now owned by Winston Eggleston.


Black Mark II

Photos: Streetly Electronics
This Mark II belonged to John Lennon. It is now owned by Jimmy Iovine.


Black Mark II

Photos: Streetly Electronics
This Mark II belonged to Rick Wright (Pink Floyd). It is now owned by Zohar Cohen.


Black Mark II #220

Photos: David Cilia – 2000


Half-a-Tron (Mark II #109)

Photos: Robert Webb
The Half-a-Tron is now owned by Gordon Reid.

This Mellotron was used by the band England on the album Garden Shed (1977).
Read the chapter dedicated to it in the Specifications tab.

Before restoration
After restoration

Photos: Streetly Electronics

VIDEOS

Demonstration by Blue Peter in 1966 – BBC Archive
Demonstration at the BBC’s Ealing Studios in 1964 – BBC Archive

DOCUMENTATION

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]
Mellotron Mark II ad
Mellotron ad
Mellotron ad
Mellotron ad
Original promo shot taken at Eric Robinson’s house

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