Anybody out there a fan of these quirky old instruments? Even cooler, anybody actually own one or ever play one?
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, basically, it's a tape-based keyboard instrument that plays back prerecorded sounds (e.g. flute, cello, strings). Sort of the old school equivalent to a keyboard with digital samples. Each key has its own recording, so it's theorietically 35-note polyphonic (good luck keeping it from going out of tune with all those notes down, however). Each note lasts between seven and eight seconds, so you have to be creative if you want to create long chord effects.
It has a delicious lo-fi sound and has been featured on countless albums, usually in the place of a real string section or choir. Also, the "flutes" at the beginning of "Strawberry Fields Forever" are actually a Mellotron. They were used extensively in prog rock, so if you're a fan you probably know what they are, and if not I can almost guarantee you've heard one. The Moody Blues were actually founded as an excuse to use the Mellotron, as Mike Pinder worked in the factory that made them.
If you'd like to know more (and hear it used in context), here's a great site with snippets from many songs where it was used: