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Yes and the rarest musical instrument in the world with Chris Dale – 503

Produced by Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

This week we decided to go really deeply into the technical weeds of Yes and look at an instrument which appears on Tormato and not very many other places in the musical universe. We are joined by the remarkable Chris Dale who has devoted many years of his life to collecting and renovating this, rarest of all musical instruments, the Birotron. We discuss what Rick Wakeman had to do with this fascinating story, what the Birotron is and why it was never put into production despite 1000 musicians wanting to buy one.

It’s another deeply hidden part of the Yesstory and one which Mark and I enjoyed finding out about enormously. I hope you also find it an interesting diversion.

  • What is a Birotron?
  • Where can you hear one?
  • Why is it the rarest musical instrument in the world?

Listen to the episode and let us know what you think!

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An article on the Birotron

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from:

5 replies on “Yes and the rarest musical instrument in the world with Chris Dale – 503”

Fascinating story. Yes! Get him back to talk more about Mellotrons, etc.

8-tracks! What a brilliant solution.

The last few episodes have been phenomena! If anyone had suggested, when I subscribed when the podcast was in single figures (I think it was episode 4 – so my personal 500 is next week) that you’d still be delivering and unearthing such fantastic content five years on
I’d have thouight they were living in the sort of fantasy land only Jon Anderson and Roger Dean can imagine. And yet here we are! So grateful to you (and MAK) for a little Yes each week and a Whole Lotta Yes many weeks! I now need a Birotron.

Fascinating from YMP, as ever. I hadn’t realised that the Birotron was used on the Going for the One tour. That means I heard it live, presumably on “Wondrous Stories”, back in 1977, at my first ever Yes concert (28 October that year). I must re-listen to the ‘Yesshows’ version of that song now, where the instrument will also feature.

Good that Chris ran through its appearances on the fine and underrated ‘Tomato’ album (there y’go, Kevin it’s not just quirky!). I’m pretty sure that the wailing, pitch-bending instrumental sounds on ‘Don’t Kill the Whale” are Birotron, too. That’s one of the tracks included as an example of the instrument here: The Out of Phase site also includes some more photos.

Thanks for this deep dive as well (like episode 505). The “Biotron! It is good to hear about all the innovations that went on around this special time (the swan song of the classic 70s lineup). Tormato is such an incredible album. I like to think of it as the sound of a star exploding (or imploding, like a supernova). And then, alas, the classic lineup was no more. I know they reunited in the 90’s, but really the magic of the band sitting down writing as a unit was lost, IMKO. And the story about switching the tapes on Rick is so funny. I can just imagine his chagrin as the others had a good chuckle! 10 years and 500 episodes and you guys keep getting better! Six the tears that separate…thanks!

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