The Fairlight CMI


Mercury Blues
I watched a perfect Fairlight CMI IIx go on ebay for $6000 the other day, all the while crying softly to myself.

Quite aside from its incredible historical significance in being the first (? certainly first purchasable) sampler, it had an incredible sound that contributed a great deal to the early-mid-eighties music scene.

I was wondering if any of us knew of some prominent uses of the Fairlight sampler. I can only think of a few, but each has that amazing Fairlight sound.

Coil - Horse Rotorvator album
Art of Noise - Moments in Love / Who's Afraid of / Beat Boxing
Afrika Bambaata - Planet Rock / Looking for the Perfect Beat

Did Mantronix use one? Did Jan Hammer use one on Miami Vice? Does anyone know of other samplers/methodologies that approach the sound of the Fairlight? And how fucking great would Factory records have been if Tony Wilson had had the sense to agree to buy Martin Hannett a Fairlight?

Speaking of which... I feel a Martin Hannett thread coming on...


manos de piedra
Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel "Nail" (and "Hole" and others)
SPK "Machine Age Voodoo"

"Horse Rotorvator" is one of my top 10 LPs of all time- Foetus and Coil might have used the same Fairlight actually- i think i read that somewhere. maybe Some Bizarre got it for them...?


Tight but Polite
I went to a thing a couple of years ago where there was a guy who restores old Fairlights exhibiting a couple that he'd been working on. Video here:
I think there's even a very brief glimpse of me fucking around with a Roland JX-3P in the background...

The event is on again in a week or so - dunno if they'll have anything Fairlight related but it might be worth a visit for anyone within range who's interested in nerding out about old gear...


Well-known member
tangentially related


I once wiled a way a few hours looking for evidence that Oscar Peterson actually used the TB-303 he used to shill, came up empty, but did find this video of him showing off his synthesiser collection, which included a Synclavier, the budget competitor to the Fairlight

Oscar Peter showing off his synths and Synclavier

I don't think his, legendary, long lost to the mists of time, all synthesiser album has ever been released


Cat Malogen
Was trying to find a Coil fairlight brass track from Horse Rotorvator (for the cheap midi horns thread) and went down a wormhole tangent. Thought Dissensus must have a thread and t’dah, even if fairlights were pricey the compositions can still vary a lot

Cue Tomorrow’s World and all manner of archaic gear memory strangeness


Well-known member

The Fairlight CMI is a digital workstation used by Prince in the mid-1980s. It was one of the first workstations, combining synthesis, sampling and sequencing into a single unit. Although the Fairlight had many sampling and sequencing capabilities, Prince mostly stuck to the presets, using it as a keyboard and drum machine.

Prince first used a IIx model on the Parade album. The first four songs on the album, "Christoper Tracy's Parade", "New Position", "I Wonder U" and "Under The Cherry Moon", all feature woodwind, orchestral, vocal and handclap samples from the Fairlight.[1] The outtakes "Others Here With Us" and "Tibet" are also made predominantly from Fairlight samples.

The Fairlight became Prince's primary keyboard on the Sign O The Times album. Some songs, like "Sign O The Times" and "It"[2] feature Fairlight drum sounds. Wendy and Lisa also used the Fairlight to record the song "Strange Relationship", with sitar and wood flute sounds coming from the instrument. It can be heard on "Sign Of The Times", "Play In The Sunshine", "Housequake", "It", "Starfish and Coffee", "U Got The Look", "If I Was Your Girlfriend" and "Adore" from Sign O The Times, "Le Grind", "Bob George", "Rockhard In A Funky Place" from The Black Album, and "Joy In Repetition" from Graffiti Bridge.[3]

Prince owned two IIx models. Prince also took the Fairlight on tour, with Lisa using a Fairlight on the Parade tour and Dr Fink using one on the Sign O The Times and Lovesexy tours. The Fairlight proved difficult to use live, so Dr Fink sampled Prince's favourite sounds into an E-mu Emax.[4] Prince continued using this sample set into the early 1990s. In 1996, Prince had his Fairlights repaired and its possible that they appear on Emancipation and New Power Soul.[5] The two Fairlights remain in the collection at Paisley Park.