Psychedelic-Rock'n'roll: VOX CONTINENTAL ORGAN (1962)




Lord and master of all things combo, this line of organ is probably revered as much for its sound as for its sleek look.
The beautiful inverted, harpsichord-like keys, smooth pull drawbars, and striking red flat-top cover set the bar for portable organ design over the next 10 years. Initially meant to replace the "Hammond B3" for touring musicians, the distinct transistor sound of the "Vox Continental Organ" caught on with groups like the "The Animals" with "Alan Price", "Sir Douglas Quintet" with "August Meyers", "The Doors" with "Ray Manzarek" and was used most famously on "Iron Butterfly"'s "In-A-Gada-Da-Vida".

The "Vox Super Continental Organ" boasted two sets of keyboards (known as "manuals") and even more customization of sound with a "percussion" feature, while stripped down versions like the "Vox Jaguar Organ" featured only preset buttons, without the drawbars, and a slightly thinner sound.

The "Vox Continental Organ" is probably the most famous of the "new breed" of transistor organs that started emerging in the early '60s.

Previously, organs were built around tone-wheel technology.
This undoubtedly created a fantastic organ sound but made the instruments heavy and unwieldy (and expensive).

With the advent of transistors, it was possible to create lightweight, portable organs.... in theory.

In practice, the majority sounded thin and weak by comparison.
However, that sound in itself appealed to the new "Surf" and "Beatnik" music that was evolving at the time. The portability also appealed to groups.

The "Vox Continental Organ" was unusual in that it actually sounded quite good... not cheap and cheesy like so many of its rivals.

Although possibly better known for their amplifiers (the legendary "Vox AC30", for example), VOX actually started life as a manufacturer of 'traditional' home and church organs. With the emerging new 'micro' technology of transistors, they saw the possibility to use this technology in their products.

vox_continental_organ,VOX_super_continental,VOX_jaguar,PSYCHEDELIC-ROCKNROLL,italy,uk,usa,V301J,V301H,V301E,V301E/2,V302E,john_lennonJohn Lennon with VOX Continental

The "Vox Continental Organ" came in two basic models, each with its own variations.
The basic models were the single manual, and the dual manual, which was known as the "Vox Continental II" in England and the "Vox Super Continental Organ" in Italy.
For a short time single manual Continentals were built in the USA.

Single Manual Continentals

Although they all made the same tones and were similar in appearance, there were 4 different builds of the the "Vox Continental Organ".
The first were UK models (V301J) built by Jennings Musical industries in Erith, Kent; later UK models were built by Vox Sound.

vox_continental_organ,super_continental,jaguar,V301J,V301H,V301E,V302E,john_lennon,shea_stadium_1965John Lennon used a Vox Continental Organ for the B-side of the HELP! single "I'm Down" on the 1965 US Tour. Photo courtesy duncanw

The USA versions (V301H) were built from 1966 by "Thomas Organ Company" under license, and the Italian Models were built by EME under license.

Italian models from (mid-1966) (V301E, V301E/2, V302E) were distinguishable from US and UK models by the flimsy plastic keys, white and black (instead of red and cream) drawbars and the stand braces crossed (the first few models - very early V301/E2 - out of the Italian factory used the UK stands with the single-point leg braces, and later went to the crossed style).

Thanks to Vox Showroom, North Coast Music!


Unknown said...

Wonderful information about the Single Manual Continentals,although facts are also good to read.

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Anonymous said...

It is really very interesting and also amazing peace of work regarding Single Manual instruments.

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Anonymous said...

It's too bad Korg does not think about a reissue, utilizing modern technology, but with the cool vibe of the original. Unfortunately, all of the ones "refurbished" on the market today are so fragile that one needs an on-call tech every time you move one. They simply do not hold up.

Anonymous said...

I found and restored a 1967. It was ultra clean on the inside. I had a Jaguar as a kid and always wanted a Continental. Can't find anyone who wants to play the music, though, so I play in my house through a 1967 Fender Dual Showman.

Anonymous said...

^^ Wish we lived in the same town friend.