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How Stevie Wonder found the keys to his golden years

A room-sized sonic box of tricks caught the young star’s ear in 1971 and it would become a vital ingredient in a run of legendary albums. But first he would have to throw off the shackles of his record company

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Writing’s on the wall: Stevie Wonder was determined that this music would not be stuck in the sort of R&B ghetto that affected most black artists at the time

Writing’s on the wall: Stevie Wonder was determined that this music would not be stuck in the sort of R&B ghetto that affected most black artists at the time

Crossover appeal: Steve Wonder on stage with Mick Jagger for the Stones’ 1972 concert at Madison Square Garden

Crossover appeal: Steve Wonder on stage with Mick Jagger for the Stones’ 1972 concert at Madison Square Garden

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Writing’s on the wall: Stevie Wonder was determined that this music would not be stuck in the sort of R&B ghetto that affected most black artists at the time

Zero Time is an experimental album from the summer of 1971 that few people heard on release. Even today, it is a curio that is likely to draw baffled expressions from all but the most trainspotterish of music history devotees.

The album was made by a British-American electronic music duo known as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band. It was in effect a showcase for Tonto, a room-sized multitimbral, polyphonic synthesiser built by the two members of the band, Malcolm Cecil and Bob Margouleff.


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