A quick ode to the theremin (and JSBX)

We just got a mini theremin in at the shop and, since I’m a first-timer, I’m having some fun with it. Have you ever used one? You might know it from the Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations,’ but it turns out the sounds on that track don’t come from a theremin at all, but something called an electro-theremin, which creates a similar effect but is easier to play. There’s a great summary of the instrument’s history and cultural significance on The Rising Storm, including some useful links, songs, and recommendations for further study, if you happen to be into that sort of thing.

At any rate, the whole thing on paper is pretty technical and a little boring, so here instead is a Saturday-morning wake-up clip of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on Australian morning TV which is almost certainly the most fun one can have with a theremin without actually having one at one’s disposal.


Watch him shove the cameraman away from the amp as he goes for the theremin — there’s a good reason for that, which is that the cameraman and his equipment will cause interference with the instrument. As for Mr. Spencer knocking over the drums, busting down the sign, climbing all over the rest of the studio (including what kind of looks like the set of a cooking show) and generally scaring everyone, from audience to camera crew, half to death — there’s a good explanation for that, too, which is that The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion kicks all sorts of ass.

For further proof, here’s an anecdote re: this performance from the crackpot minds behind Wooooo Magazine:

In 1997 the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion came out to Melbourne Australia and played some shows. On a hot friday night at the Prince of Wales Hotel they played a show that froze everyone’s blood. It was religious. Then they went to the bar and drank with the regulars/lurkers (us) until about 3am. The next morning they went to a local TV show and performed live. They could not have had more than 4 hours sleep, if they slept at all.

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