Toys In The Attic: No Really.

Forgive me, Aerosmith fans, for the unwittingly misleading headline, but I was in L.A. over the weekend and on the way out of town, we stopped by one of my favourite book stores, the venerable and perennially hip, Book Soup.

Of course, while I was there, I was happy to find that they had at least one copy of my 2007 book, It Ain’t Easy: Long John Baldry And The Birth Of The British Blues (Greystone/D&M).

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. The other book that caught my eye was this,

The book is Toy Instruments: Design, Nostalgia, Music by Eric Schneider (Mark Batty Publishing).

I have always been interested in tiny, seemingly amateur instruments, particularly the electro toys of Japan, the 50’s and 60’s, or all of those combined. On a 2001 trip to Kyoto, I purchased this Hello Kitty Toy Shinkansen train that plays a selection of spoken word sentences, not music, but I play the short samples like as if it was a musical instrument.

And just this past winter, I was at Tower Records in Tokyo, where I saw this weird thing called an Otamatone.

Looks like a cross between a saxophone, a plastic model of a sperm, and music note with eyes. Here’s their demo video from the YouTubes.

But back to Toy Instruments,

According to the copy on the MBP website, Schneider’s book “comprises an eye-popping collection of musical toys made between the 1950s and 1990s. Created to excite children about learning how to play an instrument, it turns out that adults also had fun with these products. Just ask David Bowie; he used the Dubreq Stylophone on “Space Oddity.”

Apparently Mr. Schneider has a huge collection of this sort of thing, and according to the blurb,  Toy Instruments explores “just how musical toys are emblematic, and enigmatic, artifacts from bygone eras. Here’s a little collage of three of them from Schneiders personal website museum [].

Left to right: 1954 Nucleonic Eltronovox, 1960 "Baby Grand" and 1959 Asahi Electronic Organ

Here are some other screen grabs I made from Miniorgan.

The Michael Jackson Sing-A-Long Sound Machine:

And I’m not even sure what THIS is: But you’ve got to go to the Miniorgan site to hear the samples, loops you can sort of make a track out of:

Click on this image to get to this:

In his introduction to Toy Instruments, DJ Spooky writes,  “I think of the material that Eric Schneider has compiled as a kind of ‘object’ time machine, reaching back to the heart of what electronic music represented when it was new.”

Cool stuff.

4 Responses to “Toys In The Attic: No Really.”

  1. […] A recent trip to Portland gave me an excuse to finally visit one of the true giants of independent retail, Powell’s, the multi-floor juggernaut downtown. I have previously written about Book Soup in Los Angeles, and you can read about one of my recent visits in this post (click here). […]

  2. Toys are an important part of children’s learning and exploration of form and color tones are good for their development.
    Toys with music helps to stimulate the brain of your child, go for toys that have characteristics and functions of music and different sounds. Animal sounds or beeps are good, also the lights and moving objects are good for your child. It fascinates many babies.

  3. nice post! thanks… I’ve bought the book.

  4. As a collector and user of old childrens’ instruments, I really enjoyed reading this entry! Next time I’m in Japan, I’m going to have to pick up an Otamatone (seems like the sort of thing that Tokyu Hands would carry).

    By the way, I noticed that there are not one but *two* of the “Nucleonic Eltronovox” keyboards from the site that are upon eBay right now — for $250 and $5,000!

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