To some, the stylophone is music to their ears; to others the most irritating musical instrument to have ever been! And we all know which school of thought Rolf Harris belonged in - he was, after all, the official ambassador for the toy.
When inventor Brian Jarvis created the first stylophone in 1967 after carrying out a repair jobbie on his neice's piano, he decided that, while the toy itself was interesting enough, a celebrity endorsement would propel it to new highs. And who better than Rolf - the king of UK entertainment at the time? Artistic, on trend and always up for a bit of experimentation - he was the archetypal stylophone fan and that remains true today.
But what exactly was this stylophone we talk of? Basically, it was an electronic organ/keyboard you could fit into a large pocket and take with you to play wherever and whenever you felt the creative urge. Packed with the usual oscillators, diodes and resistors, the stylophone had everything to enable you to play a tune - albeit a rather twangy one - by punching out notes using a small stylus. Luckily, Rolf was on hand to show the youngsters how to get the most from your stylophone - not only did his bearded face grace the product's box, but he also produced a flexidisk of instructions as well as played his own on his TV programme (David Frost was having none of it).
Over four million stylophones have been sold over the decades, in various guises. The usual was a black and silver finish, but fake wood veneers were also involved at one point, and a dual stylophone fell into hands of dedicated stylophoners in the form of the 350s.
The Noughties have seen a resurgence in the stylophone's popularity, as a new generation put their faith in the instrument to kick off their music recording careers. It's doubtful that many musicians attribute their success to early experiments on the instrument, but Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and David Bowie are self-confessed fans, and that's good enough for us!
Ben Jarvis obviously thought so too, when in 2003 he decided to resurrect his father brian's business and breathe new life into what had become a dusty relic of the 70s. He even convinced Rolf Harris to pick up the stylus for a burst of electronic wonderment with a full orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London!