First I have to apologize for not posting for such a long time. In fact there would have been enough to post and I will try to catch up with all those nice topics during the last year. This time I have some pictures from an SDC 200 restauration project. This amp had been designed especially for Simmons drum kits. It has separate channels for kick, snare, toms, hihat and cymbals. 200 Watts amplification, a 12″ mid/bass speaker (ILP 312S, 12″ 8 Ohm) plus an Audiotech HF 200A piezo tweeter. The power is ok for personal monitoring, but at least I have heard about many blown speakers and I was adviced to change it for something stronger once it got broken.
However, it’s a rare collectable and I am glad that I got one about 1 year ago. As all SDS 200s I’ve seen before, the foam panel as well as the light blue hexagon disppeared over the years. The artificial leather coat got gray and dusty. Fortunately all knobs are still in place and the amp works pretty good. So all restauration jobs are cosmetical. Simmons used many parts from supplier Adam Hall like the edges, the black coat, wheels and the panel foam. These parts are still available!
This is the amp as I actually got it. I did some testing, took a look inside:
For the cosmetical issues I removed the amp part from the chassis and removed the protection edges to clean and fresh up the artificial leather:
The most interesting part is making a new front panel. I cut a frame from thin wood strips and stapled them to a frame. Afterwards I stapled the panel foam as well as the hook-and-pile tape to the wood stripsx:
Finally I cut some piece of light blue rubber foam to a hexagon and stuck it to the panel:
And here we are! It’s no rocket science and I am glad to have saved one of those amps. I doubt that more than a “handfull” of SDC200s are still in use and working. I would estimate that Simmons built around 500. Anecdote: After carrying this monster back in the basement storey I got a bad back for 3 days 🙂
Richard James Burgess, world famous producer of many successfull New Romantic acts in the 80s, musician, educator, writer, etc…etc… (too much to mention) was so kind to open his treasure house for Simmonsmuseum.com. Thanks for sharing!
Richard was a friend of Dave Simmons and drummer of the 80s band “Landscape“. He was involved in the very early development of SDSV and still possesses the very first development prototype.
RJB: “Here are some pics I took of the prototype SDSV that I used for Landscape’s From the Tearooms of Mars… album and for Shock’s Angel Face and R.E.R.B. tracks. After those I used one of the early production models that came out of Musicaid that I have included some pictures of. I had several of those so this is not the earliest one but we kept improving upon it as I made more records with it.
The pale blue triangle is the first pad that was made – it has the riot shield surface and, as you can see is just two pieces of particle (or chip) board screwed together. the center hole on the back was for the stand and there is a jack for the trigger out to the brain. ”
The following pictures come from the private collection of Richard James Burgess.
The internet is full of coincidences. Watching the Kate Bush video “Experiment IV” I was already enthusiastic about the Simmons kit when I saw the guitar player’s synth guitar.
I was sure that I have seen this before and I was right! It was the “Stepp Guitar” synthesizer.
taken from Complete Simmons Drum Book
In the “Complete Simmons Drum Book” Bob Henrit writes about the “Stepp Guitar”:
“Over the last few years when I’ve been visiting either of the Simmons factories, I’ve frequently been confronted by a very futuristic guitar which has always been whisked out of sight the moment I’ve asked any questions about it. However, this bunch of hi-tech components has finally emerged as the ‘Stepp’ guitar, which now has only tenuous links with Simmons, to the sort of critical acclaim which greeted the original SDS.5 drum set. Being the go-ahead company that they are, Simmons have frequently carried out, via their ‘R and D’ department, feasibility studies on a number of percussion, and non-percussion-linked musical properties. They’ve not only looked into guitars, but also keyboards and the like.
Back in the early days at Abbey Mill, a chap called Steve Randall came along wit a sketch of a guitar on the back of a cigarette packet. This was his dream and he felt that Dave Simmons might well be able to help. They talked about the project and Dave experimented with an ARP 2600 and some pickups and applied what knowledge he had about voicing to get the equipment to produce guitar-like sound. From there he built prototypes, and then ran into so many problems that it became obvious very quickly that he’d either have to devote all of his time to the project, or none at all.
So, even though there were many times that the guitar could have been a total of Simmons venture, the board decided to pass on it in favour of drums. Steve Randall consequently took their joint work to a Cambridge consultant where it has resided ever since. Dave says that the formative ideas where mostly Steve’s, and post-Simmons he’d been searching for some time for very good brains, as well as a large amount of fonance to make the dream a reality. It has not, I understand been easy for him and has necessitated a great deal of stubborn determination to get this revolutionary guitar into the market-place. The guitar, with its inherent complicated technology, was beset by many problems which were unfortunately not solved overnight. Dave Simmons says that, had his company remained involved, they would not have had sufficient resources left to fight their other drum battles. Obviously it would have been a great coup to have Simmons hi-tech drums and guitars, but the company decided they had a big enough battle on their hands building the market for drums, let alone guitars.
Just like Simmons drums the ‘Stepp’ guitar is unique. It’s not a bastardisation of an acoustic instrument, and they haven’t simply mounted a pickup and endeavoured to pluck control signals from the strings. They’ve taken a sideways look at the whole soncept. In their philosophy they parallel Simmons who always maintained that if you’re going to do something different, then you might just as well go the whole hog.
From bitter experience Dave knows that there are going to be guitarists who critisise the ‘Stepp’ in the same way that drummers originally derided the SDS.5 drums. They’ll probably say why should they pay a great deal of money for an instrument which sounds something like the guitar they already own? the fact is, if they’ve managed to make it sound like a guitar and play like one, then they’ve more or less ‘cracked it’. It is relatively simple then to persuade it to sound like an organ, a trumpet or perhaps even a drum!
While we discussed the guitar, Dave admitted that some of the problems Simmons have had with their products have been of their own making; they were simply too complicated. He feels that they ran perhaps too far ahead of the general public. It’s frustrating for the company, but they can understand the public too. For ‘Stepp’ guitar to be successful the people behind it will have to realise this. The player will want to pick it up, plug it in and scintillate. Because of dummy strings he may have to modify his technique a little, but otherwise one would have thought all the lessons learned from marketing Simmons electronic drums, could be just as succinctly and valuably applied to the ‘Stepp’ guitar.”
During the last month I had to swallow more than once when I noticed certain Ebay prices. In most cases the auctions seemed pretty high-price to me, but sometimes also very low. For almost 7 years I have followed quite all international Simmons auctions, basically to complete my collection, but also because of personal interest. For sure the prices depend on more than the actual gear that is to be sold: When does the auction end? Pick-up only? (Inter-)national shipping? Shipping costs? The seller’s feedback? The seller’s origin country? To be honest, I am still glad that I invested my money in Simmons synthesizers rather than in stocks although not every piece of my collection has been a real bargain. I talked to an editor of a recording magazine who proved that thesis. He owns some rarities like vintage Moogs’n stuff. He told me that all of his vintage gear that he bought 10 years ago has a double value today.
Anyway I decided to start tracking all these auctions from now on to give people an idea about the actual current value of gear or it’s value development and progress. Further more it will be possible to measure the number of appearances of a certain item over the time.
I remember the period when SDSV consoles appeared in average only once a quarter year. But during the last 6 weeks I have seen 5 of them! Very strange.
I am confident that tracking these auctions will at least answer my question when it’s time to start drawing my pension.
It’s about time for a nearly senseless post: The boxes….
Normally I keep boxes only if the cats or the kids want to keep them for playing or handicrafts. Only if the boxes say “Simmons” or “Musicaid” I don’t have the heart to give them away:
This topic even got a passage in the Complete Simmons Drum Book by Bob Henrit: “… They had a problem too when it came to packing them for shipment. None of the work force of two or three had much idea about packing musical instruments! The first set they ever sent to Germany was delayed because they didn’t possess anything to send it. The early Simmons days were fraught with all sorts of these setbacks, but fortunately SDS3 was still selling very, very well. …”
You may look forward to the next post. It will be at least as senseless 🙂
I think it is not exeggarated to say that the Complete Simmons Drum Book is the holy bible for every Simmons fan. Even more since this book is not available anymore. It was written around 1987 by professional drummer/editor/tester Bob Henrit. It tells the full story of Dave Simmons and his Companies “Musicaid” and “Simmons” from the very beginning until the announcement of the SDX.
As I am no contemporary witness of this period, I am really glad to possess my very personal copy. It cost something around 50 Euro. Probably today the only source to obtain essential information about at least the first (and better) half of the company’s history.
To get to the heart of this post: I really wanted to provide a PDF version on my site for free, but a book is more than a catalogue or an advertisement and I did not want to hurt anybody’s rights. So I contacted the auther Bob Henrit to discuss the idea of making it puplic domain. Unfortunately he was aversed to this idea what I absolutely respected. He preferred the idea to distribute it with a required fee. But my policy is to keep my site non-commercial, so I refused. In my opinion a fee would have reduced the number of readers (and the expected sales) to a very minimum.
The only thing I can tell is if you have the chance to get your hands on a copy: Take it. It was expensive, but is still worth every cent. Promised.
Even the vintage Simmons drums made it into Web 2.0. For those who do not know who I am and what I am doing here just a few words:
Simmons Electronic Drums are the mother of all electronic drums and conquered the stages and Top Of The Pops in the early eighties. Only to mention some bands and drummers: Phil Collins, Paul Young, Re-Flex, Herwig Mitteregger, The Cars, David Bowie, Kajagoogoo, Spandau Ballet and many more…. Even non-drummers could easily recognize the drum pads by their significant hexagonal shape. The company founder, Mr. Dave Simmons developed countless innovative features on electronic drums, nevertheless the company was forced to close in 1995 after years of raugh competion. Since then E-Drums are boring (yes, all) 😉
My target is to collect, restore and archive that great vintage gear and of course to go out and show it. Pictures and information about all of my vintage gear is organized on http://www.simmonsmuseum.com. There you will also find almost any manual, flyers, adds and catalogues from that time. Some demo videos are placed on youtube
Since 2006 new “Simmons drums” appear in several music stores. These “Simmons” drums have nothing to do with the old British “Simmons Electronic Drums” factory from St. Albans (GB). On the contrary US retail chain “Guitar Center” undertook the name rights. Since then cheap chinese mass ware E-Drum sets are labeled “Simmons”. If you buy one of those expecting to get a piece of pop history, you have been fooled!
However… old Simmons drums still have a lot of fans and I am proud and happy that I got to know many of them through my site over the years. I am also proud and happy that some former employees of of the Simmons company got in touch with me talking about the “happy times”.
Finally I would like to thank you guys out there for all the great feedback I received so far. I will try to keep you up-to-date about upcoming events. And I can tell you there will be some!