this page is about songs that marked music history. this is
out of a truly subjective perspective and currently limited
to recent history. the songs aren't necessarily the best
in their style, but in many cases the first, or at least the
first to hit the general public.
- space - magic fly pretty much introduced electronic pop music
together with vangelis' pulstar, jean-michel jarre's
oxygene album and moskow diskow by telex.
kraftwerk soon followed up with the man machine. this stuff
inspired people to experiment more with electronics. it got rockers and
punkers like ultravox and human league to look at synths, which up to then
had been used mostly by experimental and progressive rock artists from
tangerine dream to emerson, lake and palmer, and therefore
considered evil inhuman bourgeois and square. they even featured
square waves. i believe in the long run this development led to new wave
and 80s pop.
- giorgio moroder & donna summer - i feel love was the first
worldwide computer disco hit. even before the invention of MIDI giorgio
managed to connect a whole set of synthesizers together and make them
produce a bombastic synth bass line. he did have some problems with
latency, which he turned into a virtue: he made secondary sounds play
slightly after the main sound creating an impression of slap back echo.
this song shocked everyone who thought disco would just go on forever,
and music would always be made by humans playing instruments. it was
probably after that, that the "disco sux" movement got a significant
following. or maybe because bee gees came up with night fever ;^)
- chic - le freak marks a turning point for seventies disco.
it is considered revolutionary in its clarity of sound and arrangement.
suddenly everyone in music who didn't dare to enter the arena of disco
starts experimenting with it, like rod stewart with do you think
i'm sexy, hard rockers kiss with i was made for lovin' you
and punk rockers blondie who came up with heart of glass.
also future 80s acts like wham! or spandau ballet
started out with experiments in disco. chic's follow-up single
good times soon got massively abused for early rap music,
as it was called back then. but first there was...
- sugar hill gang - rapper's delight, the first rap song to
rock the earth, although the group members had acted as bouncers at
the venues where grandmaster flash was rapping and doing his revolutionary
- "M" - pop muzik and atypical tracks like cliff richard's
we don't talk anymore, christopher cross' arthur's theme,
buggles' video killed the radio star, supertramp's
logical song and robert palmer's johnny and mary
probably introduced the new sound of 80s pop music.
more synths, less rock'n'roll.
- queen - another one bites the dust was somewhat revolutionary
as well, as it had this chic feel and yet was unusually airy.
queen actually produced it that way by mistake, because its writer john
deacon got the harmonization wrong, so the piano chords kept sounding
strange. they decided to leave the track without strings or pianos,
making it deliberately sound very mechanical and dehumanized.
soon more mainstream pop and rock artists followed up with disco hits
like david bowie's programmatic let's dance which pretty much
terminated the disco movement and evaporated it into the general sound
of early 80s pop and dance music.
- bob marley - could you be loved actually comes with an 80s
pop beat, and yet it introduced reggae music to the worldwide public.
culture club followed up with do you really want to hurt me
and later came UB40.
- visage - fade to grey was probably the first really big
new wave hit, together with kim wilde - kids in america,
and soft cell - tainted love.
even urgent from foreigner was an unusual sound for a rock band.
so was it's my party by barbara gaskin & dave stewart who
would later form eurythmics with annie lennox.
- ultravox - vienna was an especially revolutionary track since
it wasn't suited for dancing at all. it lived and breathed the new sound
of synthetic drums and atmospheres and just kept it that way. similar
songs of success were OMD - maid of orleans and (much later)
depeche mode's blasphemous rumours.
- rheingold - dreiklangdimensionen marks the birth of the
neue deutsche welle, the german chapter of new wave soon followed by
successes from trio, spider murphy gang, falco, nena, hubert kah and
- adam and the ants - stand and deliver marks the
birth of the new romantic movement.
- no revolutions, just excellent 80s pop
- rock steady crew - hey you make their breakdance breakthrough
in the middle of 80s pop high noon, accompanied by ollie & jerry's
ain't no stoppin' us and herbie hancock - rockit who was
coming from jazz. straight from punk instead came malcolm mclaren
with buffalo gals and hey dj while his
former sex pistols colleague john lydon had a hit with
this is not a love song. argueably the only ever mainstream
success of a "no wave" song, the late 70s postpunk movement of underground
new york city.
- van halen - jump provided the beat for a new dancing style
that the pointer sisters tried to name neutron dance, others
just called it pogo. it actually came from the british punk scene and
merged into ska, resulting in tracks like madness' one step beyond.
but with songs like pat benatars love is a battlefield,
kenny loggins footloose or prince's let's go crazy
it arrived at the mainstream top of the 80s.
- billy idol - eyes without a face features a hard rock
intermezzo with billy rapping on top - this could have inspired
bands like faith no more and the red hot chili peppers
to explore that territory further in subsequent years.
- yes - owner of a lonely heart was the first song to
use orchestral hit samples. back then it really knocked you out
to hear something like that. duran duran later came up with
a view to a kill which used that type of sound so
excessively i had to laugh when i first heard it. since then
pretty much no one makes much use of that sound element anymore.
- evelyn thomas - high energy becomes the hymn of the HI NRG
movement, the first claiming to be a dance music you are supposed to
dance all night and day in a row without rest, introducing the rave philosophy
(studio 54 and other disco heavens already celebrated that principle, but
they didn't explicitely articulate it).
the rhythmic synth chords using a particular pattern characterized
HI NRG, too restrictively though. in the same year the greatest HI
NRG success song arose: relax by FGTH. that song was so incredibly
high energy, that no one dared to follow up with another. nothing could
match relax. while everyone was waiting for FGTH's next release to show
the way for HI NRG, frankie arranged its sudden death. their new song
killed the barely one year old new trend.
- frankie goes to hollywood - two tribes was nothing anyone
had ever heard before. this song introduced the use of heavy computer
sequencing, especially in the bass line, and chords just layered on
top of that. this sound was incredible and marked the sound of the
late 80s and follow-up developments like acid and techno. the only
thing it kept from HI NRG was the four-on-the-floor kick drum pattern
that had been out of fashion since disco.
i was surprised to find out that the man who produced this stuff,
trevor horn, had already
impressed me with "owner of a lonely heart", "video killed the radio
star" and would soon do so again, with steve lipson in..
- grace jones - slave to the rhythm had an unusual hip shuffly
beat for 80s electronic productions. it anticipated the hip grooves of the
late 80s which influenced several 90s music directions, a decade all about
hip grooves, except for some straight techno.
one other song comes to my mind which also had such
a beat: the even earlier howard jones track what is love?
i think that was in 1982.
- nirvana - smells like teen spirit in september 1991.
just as guitars were dead, this band comes along and throws all rules
of classic music theory into the air. let's just pick weird major chords.
never mind the key. let's play them all wrong and sing something catchy
on top of it. needless to say, this was the most impressive innovation
of the 90s. brilliant.
- techno hip hop acid jazz jesus so much more to write.. TODO TODO!!
- miss kittin and the hacker define the future sound of
a female voice speaking about sex, drugs and decadence
on top of electro beats, bass lines and pleasant chords.
- les rythmes digitales are every deejay's hot new record.
from electro house over synth pop to early 80s style dance music.
the year after, the man behind it releases with zoot woman a
late 70s early 80s inspired pop rock group - with a naughtier edge
than back then. and everyone talks about it's automatic.
- tok tok & miss soffy o are berlin's hot new wave act.
- tiga & zyntherius - sunglasses at night introduce the
return of the new wave sound as the first worldwide hit in this genre,
and fischerspooner had emerge'd with the sound of
- tomcraft makes it to the top of the british pop charts
with his new wave techno track loneliness. soon followed
by goldfrapp's train and danii minogue's version of
jca's begin to wonder later on bastardised with dead
or alive's you spin me 'round.
i found a very interesting history of dance music on a mexican
website. history of HiNRG. it puts abba at the beginning of disco music,
how unexpected, how interesting!