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5/03/2006

A History of Pop Music

Pop Music

A History of Pop Music

by Geir Hongro

History is crowded with great pop music, but sadly a lot of it is often terribly overlooked in Rock History books. This is meant as simply a chronological overview of where to spot good melodic pop music, and it is then quite logical I start with the early years:

The Pre-Beatles years:

In the years before Beatles we have to go back to Tin Pan Alley ( a name givin to broadway show area of NYC, ) composers such as Cole Porter and George Gerswin to find someone willing to go beyond stardard songwriting formulas and write original and wonderful pop songs. In the early 50s Tin Pan Alley was generally boring and it is understandable that something new was needed, which is why rock broke through.

Pop in some way made a partial revenge in the late 50s with the Brill Building in NYC now the centre. Songwriters such as Neil Sedaka wrote a couple of nice pop song. Pop pundits may also find some musical interest in the recordings of Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly. Still the best pop records of the late 50s/early 60s were mainly done by black artists. Sam Cooke is one of them. His songs such as "You Send Me" and "Only Sixteen" are great pop songs. Later there were Drifters, an Atlantic soul vocal group that did some nice pop songs. Singer Ben E. King did even better things on his own: You just HAVE to like songs such as "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand By Me".

The Beatles and British Beat music

The Beatles

As probably a lot of pop pundits will agree the story of good pop didn't start for real until the arrival of The Beatles. I will go as far as say you are no real pop fan unless you have all - and I said ALL of the Beatles albums. Beatles, simply stated, made pop better than pop has ever been made before or since. Already from the start there was something completely new about them, and songs such as "From Me To You", "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold You Hand" all changed the way pop was supposed to sound forever. After that they became more and more adventurous.

"A Hard Day's Night" is one of the best pop albums ever made, with classics all over. "Rubber Soul" is an exciting journey into folk rock terrotory while "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper" are so adventurous and innovating while still keeping the ear for a great pop tune". They said goodbye with "Abbey Road" which was again a huge pop classic. Without Beatles there would have been no pop the way we know it today.

There also were other British beat groups starting in Liverpool at the same time Beatles broke through. (The music was often called Merseybeat after the Liverpool river) Gerry & The Pacemakers achieved great succes with partly the same style. Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Foursome and Peter & Gordon were all given Lennon/McCartney songs to make their own versions of. In fact someone who could donate songs like "Bad To Me" and "A World Without Love" to other artists just had to have an almost eternal well of pop classics to drink from.

The HolliesAn often underrated 60s British Beat group is The Hollies. OK, they didn't write their own songs until after the mid-60s, but they were great singers and songs by writers such as Graham Goldman sounded terrific when covered by Graham Nash, Allan Clarke et co. Recordings such as "Bus Stop", "Yes I Will" and "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" all sound almost as great as anything done by the Fab Four, and with "King Midas In Reverse" and the entire "Butterfly" album they also proved they could be adventurous.



Other great British beat groups were The Kinks (Pure Pop pundits should steer clear of their very earliest work though), Swinging black Jeans, Manfred Mann, Freddie & The Dreamers, Dave Clark Five and The Searchers, all did make some truly great pop stuff.

The Zombies Best of all, though, was the often shamefully overlooked The Zombies (picture right). Their "Oddysey and Oracle" album from 1968 is IMO one of the best pop albums ever made, but sadly the band had already decided to break up by then as a result of poor sales and lack of public acceptance. However a lot of musicians admired them a lot, and now it seems that people are finally rediscovering their gems (not only "Oddysey and Oracle", but also such wonderful early singles as "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No"..

Btw. Did you know that even Bee Gees started out making some wonderful melodic pop singles?




The Revenge Of The US

The British invasion came as a shock to American artists, and it took some time to recover. Still just a couple of years later America was once more potent to come up with IMO the greatest period in American pop music ever!

The Beachboys

The biggest name was, of course, Beach Boys, who saw Beatles as their main rivals from the very start. Brian Wilson was one of The Beatles' greatest admirers, and particularly he was struck by "Rubber Soul", and set forward to make an even greater album. The result was "Pet Sounds", definitely one of the greatest pop masterpieces of all time. Later that same year (1966) they released "Good Vibrations" which was even greater a masterpiece.

But 1966 was not the beginning of Beach Boys. Even before that they were able to come up with some pop songs most groups could only dream about making. Especially their vocal harmonies were great, and they definitely inspired a lot of later pop/power pop groups with those. The earliest real Beach Boys classic I can think of is "Surfer Girl", which was a song way ahead of its time with its vocal harmonies, and advanced chord changes.

The mid 60s also brought other great American music. Definitely defining their sound about the same time as The Beatles were the Tamla Motown record company. With artists such as Supremes, Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. 60s Motown music was great pop with great melodies, and it's only since the late 60s that too many black artists have been busy with laying down a groove rather than writing a strong tune.

The Byrds

Still the defining thing about American pop music of the 60s was Folk Rock, and the biggest folk rock name probably was The Byrds (picture left). Their earliest stuff was a brave attempt at combining the best of the American folk tradition with the best of the British Beat tradition. They also sang some wonderful harmonies, and their version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" is easily the best cover version ever done.



Other great folk rock bands of the 60s were The Mamas & The Papas(check out the hamonies on "California Dreaming"!), The Turtles (underrated but great) and Lovin' Spoonful. Some of Bob Dylan's work may also appeal to pop fans.

 

The Psychedelic Years

The Band Pepper The psychedelic period was a funny time when a lot of musical experiments were done. Again Beatles were forerunners, as most of their 1967 ranks among the finest psychedelic music ever. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" still wins surveys about the greatest albums ever.

But psychedelic music was also initially highly melodic. Among other things this meant that some of the hardest rock'n'roll bands suddenly produced some pop gems. An example is The Rolling Stones, who made a couple of melodic pop albums in 1967. Also the newly formed Buffalo Springfield dropped their blacksiest music to play some poppy and weird stuff.

Still the psychedelic period also brought the world some new names. Pink Floyd and Traffic made some funny psychedelic singles just to turn into more album oriented pop bands afterwards. Procul Harum and The Moody blacks laid down the basement for what was to become known as progressive rock. The psychedelic rock soon became more heavy and blacksy (the "psychedelic" and "experimental" part often focused on new ways of treating guitar sound) and other styles of music took over as great pop sources.

Bubblegum and Glam

While music became more and more adventurous during the other half of the 60s a new sort of simple pop music was created for those who didn't want too adventurous music. It was called Bubblegum and could most easily be described as nursery rhymes put to a 60s rock/pop backing. Some of it was inspired by psychedelic rock (some groups used sitar, for instance) while some of it was more similar to early 60s music.

Some bubblegum acts were simply created by businnes people. One of those was The Monkees. An American TV company was about to start a new TV series about a band, and they needed some people to play the band members. The Monkees were given songs by top songwriters, and some of their early stuff, like "Last Train To Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer" definitely are quality pop classics. Later they lost their momentum and turned into a MOR act.

Now a lot of other bubblegum acts turned up. With names like 1910 Fruitgum Co., Amen Corner, Marmalade, Tommy James & The Shondells and Ohio Express they came up with some cool pop tunes. Amen Corner were famous for songs such as "Bend Me Shape Me" and "(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice". Old Buddy Holly copycat Tommy Roe was possibly responsible for the best song of all with "Dizzy".

David Bowie Some years later UK created its own answer to Bubblegum. Glam Rock was harder edged and more rock'n'roll than Bubblegum music, but the melodies were still nursery-rhyme-like. The name Glam Rock came from how the artists appeared visually (with glam and glitter in their faces), but still it also had musical components. A lot of Glam Rock is hitlist teen throwaway stuff, but some of it actually was great pop. Slade, for instance, knew how to come up with a great pop tune.

The most important artist of this age still is David Bowie (picture right). While appearing as a strange angrogynous creature he actually made his best music ever. His early 70s glam period was when he wrote songs such as "Starman", "Changes", "Ziggy Stardust", "Life On Mars" and "Drive In Saturday" - all classics of British pop music. Bowie also helped Mott The Hoople kick off their career, when he wrote, and sung on, "All The Young Dudes".

Singer/songwriters

The early 70s also were the age of the singer/songwriter. Inspired partly by folk they had a much simpler approach to music than the typical late 60s musicians. They mainly wrote their own songs, thoughtful lyrics included, and they were strong on melody and weak on backing stash. Singer/songwriters such as Carole King, James Taylor, Paul Simon (initially with Art Garfunkel), Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Don McLean all had their heyday at this period.

While the singer/songwriter was generally a US phenomenom possibly the greatest of them all was British. Elton John made some wonderful pop songs during the early 70s, and noe one else have ever been able to write such beautiful piano based ballads. Elton John was not completely a fully fledged singer/songwriter, since Bernie Taupin wrote most of his lyrics, but his melodies (and Taupin's strong words) are enough to make him a great artist from this period. Elton John's output may have weakened, and today he is a boring MOR artist, but his early 70s records are still worth checking out closer.

"Progressive Pop"The progressive rock age was a heavy period filled with ambitious 20 minute works that don't really belong here. Still some of the progrockers had an ear for a great melody, and especially Genesis are worth checking out if you aren't afraid of ambitious music with more to it than just verse, bridge and chorus. Especially "A Trick Of The Tail" and "Wind And Wuthering" are filled with wonderful pop tunes.

More important, though, is the so-called "progressive pop" that came out of this period in UK music. Bands that were mainly pop bands, but still had lots of musical ambitions, suddenly emerged on the UK 70s scene. Examples were Supertramp, 10cc, Alan Parsons Project and Electric Light Orchestra. Canadian group Klaatu may also be mentioned here..

The Band 10cc



10cc (picture above) consisted of four experienced individuals. Graham Gouldman had been a songwriter with artists such as Hollies, Yardbirds and Herman's Hermits giving him hits, Eric Stewart had been a member of Mindbenders while Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had both been doing a lot of production work. Together they set forward to create a perfect sound, write some great tunes and sing the most wonderful vocal harmonies since The Beach Boys. Especially their mid-70s work was great. "I'm Not In Love" is a classic, but if you are into ambitious music album tracks such as "Don't Hang Up" and "Un Nuit a Paris" are even stronger.

The Band ELO Electric Light Orchestra (picture left) originally were based on UK 60s pop group The Move. Led by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood they intended to keep up where Beatles stopped around 1967, with string based rock music inspired by "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am The Walrus". Roy Wood soon left to form throwaway glam band Wizzard and Jeff Lynne was left to build up ELO (as they were usually) called on his own. He recruited several string players plus keyboardist Richard Tandy (Keyboards were to become an important part of their sound) and started writing wonderful melodic pop tunes with great backing vocals. During the late 70s they were superstars, thanks to such wonderful albums as "A New World Record", "Out Of The black" and "Discovery".

Another band that partly belongs in this category are Queen. They were more of a rock'n'roll band than the others, but their songs, and their vocal arrangements, pointed in the pop direction. Queen were even more adventurous than 10cc when it came to backing vocals and "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the album where it was taken from; "A Night At The Opera" are true classics that every pop pundit should own. They continued making great pop until marvellous singer Freddy Mercury sadly died far too early from AIDS.

Power Pop

Already in the late 60s some people missed the great pop of the mid-60s. They didn't want to be adventurous and experimental - they simply wanted to write great pop songs. This is what led to Power Pop, which can easily be described as "melodic rock'n'roll".

While Power Pop has mainly been an American phenomenon one of the early great Power Pop groups was The British group Badfinger. They were on The Beatles' recording label Apple, and musically they compared a lot to The Beatles, except they had a harder edged sound. Songs such as "No Matter What" and "Come On And Get It" are considered classics among most US pop pundits, as is "Without You", a song that was actually more famous by Nilsson. Several central members of Badfinger tragically suffered untimely deaths.

Another important early-70s Power Pop band was Raspberries. Led by Eric Carmen they initially sounded a lot like The Beatles. The band didn't last very long and Eric Carmen continued recording on his own. In 1977 the classically trained Carmen had a major hit with "All By Myself", a hit that was partly built on a piece by Rachmaninov.

The band Bigstar The third of the great early Power Pop groups were Big Star (picture right). Led by pop legend Alex Chilton they didn't sell that many records at once, but has since become legends and important inspiration sources for almost any Power Pop band that was to follow. "September Gurls" was their most famous song and has become a pop classic.

Also partly a Power Pop artist was Todd Rundgren. More occupied with trying to find the perfect sound than the others Todd Rundgren made some wonderfully produced melodic rock'n'roll, most well-known from his "Something/Anything" double album.

As the 70s went more Power Pop groups appeared, most of them American. Among the other important Power Pop names of the 70s were Flamin' Groovies, Cheap Trick, 20/20 and The Knack. The latter group had a huge hit in the US with "My Sharona" in 1979.

From Pubrock to New Wave

The UK Pubrock scene was in many ways quite similar to the US Power Pop scene. The Pubrockers objected against the complexity of psychedelic and progressive rock and wanted to make more simple melodic rock'n'roll. The leading bands among the pubrockers were Ace and Brinsley Swarz, and those two bands were led by respectively Paul Carrack and Nick Lowe, both of whom became important figures in the UK 70s pop scene.

New Wave is often described as a more "sophisticated" version of punk, but the fact is that besides an obvious reggae inspiration New Wave first and foremost builds on the Pubrock heritage: Simple, melodic pop songs backed by power chords. The before mentioned Lowe was one of the people behind what was to become the New Wave sound, with songs such as "I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass", "So It Goes", "Little Hitler" and "Cruel To Be Kind".

Elvis Costello & The Attractions appeared on the scene in 1977 and has since continued to provide the world with great pop music. Songs such as "Oliver's Army", "Accidents Will Happen", "Clubland", the wonderful ballad "Shipbuilding" and later gems such as "Veronica" and "The Other Side Of Summer" are all the sort of songs that will delight any pop fan.

The Band Sqeeze Anyway the New Wave group that more than anyone else were the favourites of pop pundits were Squeeze (picture left). Obviously inspired by the Fab Four they made some truly great pop classics. Titles like "Cool For Cats", "Up The Junction", "Tempted" and "Pulling Mussels From The Shell" were all among the greatest pop stuff you could possibly find in the late 70s/early 80s.

Other New Wave groups that are worth checking out for pop fans were The Boomtown Rats, Undertones , US Powerpoppers/New Wavsters The Cars, some stuff by Tom Robinson Band, Graham Parker & The Rumour and Ian Dury. The earliest stuff by XTC may also be put in the New Wave category.

The UK Ska movement also has to be mentioned here. It started out as a punky, and rather lo-fi try at mising together reggae and punk, but ended up in some tryly sophisticated records. At least compilations by Madness and Specials should be in any pop music record collection. Specials member Terry Hall later formed Fun Boy Three and Colourfield before he ended up as a highly underrated and recommended solo artist.

New Romantics

The Twins If you don't like synths you may as well skip this whole chapter, because the UK early 80s New Romantics craze definitely was about synths - synths, music video and image. But New Romantics also was about great melodic pop songs, and groups such as Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, ABC, Culture Club, Japan, Thompson Twins(picture right) and even teenyboppers Duran Duran made some songs worth checking out.

Even more interesting (again if you don't hate synths) were the plain synthpop groups. Human League made one of the best albums ever with "Dare", Depeche Mode and Yazoo followed to make Daniel Miller, the man behind indie label Mute, rich. Orchestral Manouvers In The Dark, Visage, Soft Cell, Ultravox and Human League-spinoffs Heaven 17 also made some great pop records. Vince Clarke, once a member of Depeche Mode and then Yazoo, later formed Erasure, a band that still exists and has had more success than Yazoo. There even was an American synthpop band, the slightly more musically eccentric Devo. After some time a more musically sophisticated, and not that entirely synth based, sort of synthpop was developing. Artists such as Talk Talk, Tears For Fears and Howard Jones represented this new trend.



Underground Pop

During the 80s an "underground culture" was building itself up within the music audience. While most of those underground bands were typical rockers some pop music also started being released on small labels. In the early 80s this was mostly guitar based pop as most mainstream pop was keyboard based, but later also some keyboard based stuff had a large underground audience.

The Band Aztec One of the very first underground pop labels were the Glasgow based Postcard label. One of their bands were Aztec Camera, who were in reality Roddy Frame (Picture left). He debuted with the album "High Land Hard Rain", a wonderful album that was IMO the best debut album that has ever been released. After that he never quite managed to follow it, although "Dreamland" from 1993 was a great album. The Postcard label also had some other great pop artists, such as Orange Juice (led by now succesful solo artist Edwyn Collins) and Paul Haig

The band XTC Even more important than what happened on Postcard was XTC (picture right). This innovative and eccentric, still highly poppy and melodic band started out as some sort of New Wave/Power Pop outfit, then changed into a more "sophisticated" pop style. They were inspired by late 60s psychedelic pop. On their later albums they have dropped their original low fi profile to come up with possibly an even better sound. "Skylarking" from 1986 is IMO one of the best albums ever made.

Two other important bands/solo projects just had to be mentioned. Scritti Politti in reality soon turned out to be Green Gartside using a band name. He made some interesting reggae/jazz funk inspired music and "Cupid & Psyche" from 1985 contained a lot of great tracks including the hits "The Word Girl" and "Perfect Way". The latter was covered by Miles Davis, which should be seen as a great honour. Possibly more of a band than Scritti Politti was Prefab Sprout although Paddy McAllon was the lead singer, songwriter and undisputed leader. Their records are harmonically very advanced, but still highly catchy. Their "Jordan...The Comeback" from 1990 is a great concept album that in lots of fans' opinion represents the highlight of their career.

The band Splitenz Down under, in Te Awamutu, New Zealand, Split Enz (picture left) was started in the early 70s. After making some truly quirky prog rock inspired records during the 70s they turned into a more Power Pop/New Romantics inspired sound. The band was led by brothers Tim and Neil Finn, and any of their early 80s albums are worth checking out for pop fans. Big brother Tim left for a solo career in 1984, and after one more album Neil disbanded the group to form Crowded House

Other important "sophisticated underground pop artists" of the 80s were Thomas Dolby (who also produced Prefab Sprout), The black Nile, The The and Danny Wilson among others.

Ex-Japan singer David Sylvian could also possibly be put in this category except he is a lot more experimental than a lot of pop pundits would probably swallow.



80s Power pop

The US Power Pop movement was somewhat unfashionable during the 80s, and the best American pop songs you could find on the hitlists were possibly those by girl groups such as The Go Gos and The Bangles.

Crenshaw Still this didn't mean that good American (Power) pop didn't exist during the 80s. You just had to dig a bit down into the underground to find it. Great US Power pop was still done by artists such as Marshall Crenshaw(picture right),The Spongetones, Phil Seymour and The Romantics.

Some AOR-type bands also did great pop records, most important of which were The Cars. Another 80s AOR artist that some pop pundits may like is Australian Rick Springfield.

British Indie

Indie originally means "independent", which means the music was released on independent labels. Still "indie" since the mid-80s also have been used to describe a particular type of music, mainly British guitar based underground pop. While some 80s indie stuff may be more rock than pop there still were indie groups that did some good pop tunes. The Smiths, The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen are all examples of British 80s indie groups that at times write/wrote great pop songs.

After some time indie evolved into baggy, which comes of the big clothes those artists used to wear. Baggy started in Manchester during the late 80s and was mainly some sort of compromise between indie pop/rock and the new dance music. Baggy started as a Manchester thing and the leading baggy group were The Stone Roses. Some baggy artists were heavily into rap and dance, in such a way the melodic aim disappeared from their music. Still a lot of baggy bands made great pop music, among those were The Charlatans, The Mock Turtles and the earliest stuff by Blur.

Some more British indie bands have to be mentioned here, as they all made some wonderful 60s inspired stuff that pointed towards what was later to become known as Britpop. Particularly all lovers of good pop should check out The Wonder Stuff. Their song "Size Of a Cow" is among the great British indie classics. Also The La¨s and, a little later; Ride made some wonderful melodic pop songs in an indie style.

Totally "Unfashionable"

At the turn of the decade making melodic quailty pop was just about as "unhip" as you could possibly get. The "hip" people loved rap and house music, possibly the least melodic and "poppy" styles of music ever in rock history. Still some people did exactly what they wanted to without caring too much about what's hip or not.

One of those people was Karl Wallinger. He used to be a member of The Waterboys, but split early to start his own band World Party. World Party based their sound mainly on 60s folk rock combined with some British beat and a little dash of funk, of course all pretty melodic. "Goodbye Jumbo" from 1990 is a highly recommended album.

Even bigger was Oz band Crowded House. Started by ex-Split Enz-members Neil Finn and Paul Hester Crowded House made some truly wonderful songs, given truly tasteful arrangements. All their three last albums are classics, particularly "Woodface" from 1991, where also big brother Tim Finn guested as band member for a short time. They split up in 1996, which was pretty sad to their fans. A lot of people will proably rank Crowded House as the best pop group of the late 80s/early 90s.

A bit similar to Crowded House were US group Jellyfish. Some people would put them into the Power Pop category, but in that case they were definitely more pop than power. Most of all Jellyfish was beautiful harmonic pop music.



In the late 80s UK producer/songwriter Ian Brouide finally started making records on his own. Broudie had been a member of UK Big In Japan together with later stars such as Bill Drummond (KLF) and Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), but in 1989 he released his debut single "Pure" under the name Lighning Seeds. The music was melodic pop, filled with harmony. It was wonderful and as far from house music as you could possibly come. Brouide started some sort of underground movement for melodic pop, and he also discovered some other melodic acts.

The band Dodgy One of those were Dodgy (lef). Sounding a lot like The Hollies Dodgy wrote songs as strong as the ones written by Crowded House/Split Enz. They also sang some wonderful backing vocals. "Staying Out For The Summer" still is among my favourite 90s singles. "Homegrown" and "Free Peace Sweet" were brilliant albums, and Dodgy is the recent group to check out!

With Britpop making good old fashioned pop songs once more fashionable both Lightning Seeds and Dodgy have had big hits in the UK. (Lightning Seeds even topped with "Three Lions"). But making "unfashionable" music is still possible, which is proved by The High Llamas, the brainchild of Sean O'Hagan. Like ELO originally tried to build their sound on "I Am The Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" The High Llamas rather use "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys as a musical role model, which has lead to two great, perfectly produced and highly original albums.

Britpop explodes

Sometime around 1993-94 the past suddenly became very important indeed for British indie bands. It seemed the point was to collect the best of British pop history and turn the whole thing into a style of music that was more British sounding than anything since British Beat.

Although the mentioned British Beat has been important the first big Britpop band took most of their inspiration from 70s glam rock. Suede were "the next big thing" in 1993, and their self titled debut album got rave reviews all over in British newspapers. For "poppers" their 1996 album "Coming Up" is probably the best Suede album though.

blurThe band Oasis

Shortly after Suede Blur(left) were kings of British indie pop. When they released "Parklife" in 1994 they also broke through to a wider audience than most British indie bands would normally do. "Parklife" was an album that draw inspiration from almost the entire British pop history, but particularly from The Kinks. . That same year Oasis (right) also released their debut album "Definitely Maybe". Oasis were(and still are) led by two brothers, singer Liam and songwriter Noel Gallagher. They often spoke to the press about how much they love The Beatles, but they also spoke about how much they hated Blur, which led to some kind of "band war".

The autumn after the two groups released a single on the same day. Blur debuted at UK#1 with "Country House", while Oasis debuted (and stalled) at UK#2 with "Roll With It". Thus Blur won the first round of the "band war" that had meant a lot of important publicity for both of them. Later Oasis released "Wonderwall", a much bigger worldwide hit than Blur had ever had (including huge US sales) and it seemed that while Blur won the UK band war Oasis had won the US thing.

When Pulp also became quite huge that autumn the press decided a name for the style, and that's when Britpop was born. The Britpop age was a wonderful time for pop fans, because it meant that once more melodic pop music was hip. Records by artists such as Kula Shaker, Ocean Colour Scene, Gene, The blacktones, Sleeper and Supernaturals meant reason to be happy once more for most pop pundits, at least us in European countries where most of those wonderful British records were released.

One group that deserves a special mention here is Super Furry Animals. This Welch group has developed a somewhat more experimental and psychedelic sound than the other bands, which still means they often are even better than the others. Their recent concept album "Radioator" is better than most other Britpop albums ever released.

Power Pop returns

At a time when retro was dominating the British charts before or since the same retro/melody/pop thing had to move to the US, and it did in the mid-90s, by once more bringing Power Pop up from the underground. The new generation US power poppers partly based their sound on typical 90s grunge-like ideals, but the melodies and harmonies were the same wonderful ones.

The band Sweet Among the main names in 90s American Power Pop are Lemonheads, Gigolo Aunts, Red Kross, Posies, Wondermints and Matthew Sweet (right). Matthew Sweet has been making records since the mid-80s, but it's only recently he is being discovered for real. His recent "black Sky On Mars" album has received rave reviews just about everywhere, and he is celebrated as some kind of "King of 90s Power Pop".

The recent success of Power Pop has also led to labels searching for bands to promote and turn into huge stars. It seems that Elektra found one of those when they signed Third Eye Blind, a grunge-inspired Western Power Pop band, and thanks to the commercial success of singles such as "Semi Charmed Life" they may well be labelled the Knack of the 90s.

Still also when it comes to Power Pop the Brits are at the time probably even better than The Americans. Power Pop veterans on the British scene are Teenage Fanclub. Their lojal fanbase has grown bigger and bigger for each album, and this year's "Song From Northern Britian" has to some extent led to them getting some of the kind of success they long since deserved. Those who know their older work know that "Grand Prix" is possibly even better.

The most recent addition to the UK Power Pop scene are Silver Sun. With hard fuzz guitars, Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies and strong songs they have made on of the better records of 1997 with their self titled debut album.

And this means we are at the end. We are now talking about today's music. Let me therefore add that besides Power Pop/Britpop Ben Folds Five is an American band worth checking out. Radiohead's "OK Computer" probably also appeals to pop pundits the way it has appealed to surprisingly many music fans around the world. By adding their "The Bends" from 1995 was also a wonderful album I simply stop here. What a wonderful world of pop it is?!!!!!



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The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll

Fender Strat

by Jack Madani

In 1945, World War II ended. By 1946, American servicemen began returning home to start up the families they had had to put on hold for 4 years. Thus began the unusually large bubble in the population curve of America known as the Baby Boom, as gazillions of babies were born all of a sudden in the span of five to ten years. Remember that all those babies born in 1946-1947 would be 18 in 1964-1965 (and eventually 22 and out of college, and into the marketplace in the early '70's, to kick off the Me Decade). What that means is that American society would suddenly find itself catering to a generation of young people in a way that had never occurred before.

Sixties rock finds its roots in several places, starting as far back as the big swing bands of the pre-war era that the 60's kids' parents listened to as youngsters: Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Duke Ellington's bands are some of the most famous. Except for Duke Ellington, all those bands were primarily dance bands, with big swinging backbeats. You can still hear some of their greatest hits today in such unusual places as the Chips Ahoy commercial (1,000 chips in every bag).

There were also the smaller, "rhythm combo" groups, usually of only four or five players. Their tunes were popular on the jukeboxes of the day, but were not considered artistically important which is why we have mostly forgotten them today. The recent Broadway show "Five Guys Named Moe," which highlights the career of Louis Jordan, tells about one of the most popular rhythm combos of the day. Nat King Cole also had a small jazz combo that had popular success, before he became a Sinatra-style pop ballad singer in the '50's.

Then there was Country & Western--especially what was called "Texas Swing," of which Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys was the king. Hank Williams Sr. was another important singer/songwriter of that era and genre.

Over in Memphis there was Sam Phillips and his Sun Studios, where rockabilly and Elvis Presley were born. Besides Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison all began their recording careers at Sun Studios.

Two other sources of modern rock'n'roll, absolutely essential to the sound we think of as 60's rock, were, first, the blacks. blacks began as the music of black sharecroppers in the poor cotton-farming region of the Mississippi Delta, and traveled north to Chicago with the sharecroppers as thousands of them moved north in search of a better life. It was in Chicago that the blacks went from acoustic solo guitar music to electric guitar-electric bass-drums combos. Muddy Waters, Little Milton, B.B. King, and Howlin' Wolf were just a few of these important Chicago blacks artists.

The last source of modern rock'n'roll is actually a single man. Les Paul was a studio whiz and guitar player who designed the Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, and pioneered the technique of overdubbing, allowing one person to play more than one part on a recording. Working with his wife Mary Ford, who sang the vocal parts, Les Paul created a series of two-person recordings that sounded like an entire band was playing--and the music was all guitar-based.


The 1960's Begin:

As the late fifties gave way to the early sixties, the rockabilly stars of the previous decade (the Everlys, Elvis, Roy Orbison) were still having hits, but the older pop-music stars were fading away as they struggled to find material that would click with this new and energetic generation of kids. Pop music gradually became controlled by new young "vocal"-groups, taking their power from a combination of the performer's charisma along with the songwriting talents of the production team, who operated behind the scenes. Eventually rock artists came to be expected to write and even produce their own songs, becoming responsible for everything about how their records sounded--but that would have to wait for Marvin Gaye, Brian Wilson and Lennon & McCartney.

In general there were four main pockets of early 60's pop:

the East Coast DooWop and girl groups were singers and groups whose origins are in the streetcorner a cappella groups found in many urban centers. With very rare exceptions, these groups did not write their own songs, but relied on their handlers to set up the recording sessions, pick the material, and produce the records. In fact, many of these behind-the-scenes people eventually became stars in their own right in the seventies.

The R&B and Soul scene included many talented people who often didn't receive the popularity of less-talented white groups, because of barriers and prejudices against buying "race" records. Later in the decade, after the British groups acknowledged their debt to soul music, and as the civil rights movement inspired black pride, the general American public rediscovered these performers.

the California scene was first dominated by instrumental surf groups like the Surfaris, the Crossfires, and Dick Dale & the Del-tones. Dale, the "King of Surf Guitar," in particular helped define how modern rock guitar solos would sound. Then the Beach Boys added vocal harmonies to the surf sound. This surf-&-drag, fun-in-the-sun sound was so popular that the style showed up all over the place, even in tv theme songs such as the Munsters and Hawaii Five-O. But the real important stuff was happening in the recording studios, where young studio wizards like Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and the team of Sloan & Barri began turning the studio itself into their instrument, looking for new sounds in a quest not for records but for productions. There were studio svengalis back east, too, including Bob Crewe and the team of Burt Bacharach & Hal David. Modern artists like Prince, Lindsey Buckingham, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis who use synths and samplings, are rather like the spiritual descendants of those white suburban teenagers, taking their distinctive sound with them regardless of the particular artist they happen to be working with.

The Motown record label in Detroit was founded by Berry Gordy Jr., and while its recording stars were all black, still you couldn't necessarily call this totally black or "soul" music. Instead, Gordy controlled the performing styles, clothes, even hairdos of his artists, grooming them for success in the wider mainstream (read white) American audiences. The label's slogan, "the sound of young America," and their nickname, "Hitsville USA" point to the wide net that Motown attempted to cast. Among the many successful performers who recorded for Motown, one ought to mention Marvin Gaye, who was first to take control of his own career and insist on artistic control over his recordings. Later Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson would also prove to be outstanding writers and producers, but Marvin Gaye was the first at Motown.


The British Invade:

With 1963 comes the end of rock'n'roll and the beginnings of "rock." Of course, in 1963 John Kennedy was assassinated, and his vice president Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president. Soon LBJ escalated the United States' involvement in Viet Nam and declared war on poverty as part of his Great Society program, a systematic widening of the government's powers that required higher taxes and spurred ruinous inflation. Meanwhile, the televised police beatings of members of Martin Luther King's nonviolent Civil Rights movement made it plain to many people that the powers that be were not necessarily interested in protecting people's human and constitutional rights. Thus it wasn't long before the youth of America was finding itself deeply questioning its country's leaders. A large part of the innocence went out of pop music. And then came the British.... The Beatles were merely the most visible of the many British music acts that found success in America in the mid-60's. Many people count the Fab Four's landing at La Guardia airport on February 7, 1964, and their performance on the Ed Sullivan Show a week later, as the official beginning of what came to be called the "British Invasion." The Beatles were hugely popular; at one point they had the top five records on the Billboard Hot 100 list. Their sound and attitudes influenced everything that came afterwards--even today, when kids sing along with pop tunes on the radio and sing soft Britty "r's", they're unconsciously mimicking the English sound. Like the killer meteor that caused mass extinctions 65 million years ago, clearing the way for a whole new evolutionary path based on mammals instead of reptiles, the British Invasion killed off almost all the existing American groups (only the Beach Boys, Four Seasons, and the biggest Motown acts managed to survive). In their place rose up all sorts of American groups who dressed and sounded just like the Brits, as for instance the Knickerbockers, Beau Brummels, Buckinghams, Sir Douglas Quintet, and Turtles--before the Turtles became famous they used to hang out at bowling alleys and order tea with plenty of milk, speaking in fake English accents and trying to pass themselves off as Gerry and the Pacemakers. Then the folkies went electric. For this the great turning point was 1965, at the Newport Folk Festival. Bob Dylan turned up to perform with an electric guitar, and was practically booed off the stage, but he had shown the new path for folk music. And the Byrds had their first big hit with Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," using that record to show how folkie songs could be built on a Beatle-esque sound (the first time group founder Roger McGuinn saw the Beatles on tv, he went right out to buy a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar just like George Harrison's). From Songs to Productions: Rock'n'Roll's death and the Birth of "Art Rock": The next two years, from 1965 to 1967, saw the most amazing experiments and changes in rock music ever. The simplest way to watch those changes is to review the back and forth record releases by the Beatles and the Beach Boys, perhaps the two most innovative recording groups of the mid 60's. Back in 1964, these groups produced such fun energetic pop as:

BEATLES BEACH BOYS
A Hard Day's Night I Get Around

By 1965 these groups became more studio-oriented and less interested in performance-friendly songs. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys had a nervous breakdown while on tour at the beginning of 1965, so he stopped touring and concentrated on working in the studio. John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles also became more interested in the production angle, collaborating more with their longtime producer George Martin.

BEATLES BEACH BOYS
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) God Only Knows
Michelle Pet Sounds

In 1966 the Beatles announced that they would no longer tour at all and retired full-time to the recording studio. John was particularly interested in using recording tricks in Beatles songs, and the subject matter of their songs was becoming more and more openly radical. Brian, meanwhile, was now working completely with studio musicians, often using 25 musicians at a time in what was in effect the first rock-orchestra. He stopped writing songs in the traditional manner, instead "constructing" songs out of recorded bits and pieces (pre-dating Todd Rundgren's recent forays into "interactive music" by 25 years).

BEATLES BEACH BOYS
Eleanor Rigby Good Vibrations
Love You To Heroes and Villains
Tomorrow Never Knows Cabinessence

1967 saw the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile. Sgt. Pepper was a complete and revolutionary album, full of weird effects and songs about drugs. Smiley Smile was also a revolutionary album, full of weird effects and songs about drugs. But it was not a finished album. Brian went through another breakdown, this time caused by LSD, and the album he released wound up a pale imitation of what he had intended to produce. Sgt. Pepper became the anthem for 1967's "Summer of Love;" it was the height of flower power, arty progressive music that seemed to influence the social fabric, and of the youth movement's naive sense that a new age was about to dawn.

BEATLES BEACH BOYS
Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds Fall Breaks and Back to Winter
Within You Without You Wind Chimes
A Day In The Life Vegetables

1968 & 1969: The Unraveling:

No sooner had 1967's "summer of love" passed than it all started to come undone in 1968. In that year both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. LBJ had so escalated America's involvement in the Viet Nam conflict that across the nation's campuses students were rioting, while the "war on poverty" seemed to be going nowhere. The constant criticism from every corner finally convinced Johnson not to run for re-election. There were riots in the inner cities of many urban centers around the country (which would continue to occur each summer for the next several years). The civil rights movement gave up its nonviolence philosophy as SNCC was taken over by radical extremists; in Oakland the black Panther movement, the extremest of the extreme, was born. Richard Nixon was elected president, and Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California; both ran on strong law-and-order campaigns.

Rock music took a step back from its drug-fueled experiments of just a year before, and turned to less-experimental sounds, while the topics became angrier. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the most successful of the roots rock groups, with hits ranging from "Green River" and "Proud Mary" to the ferocious anti-Viet Nam song "Fortunate Son." Even mainstream acts like Elvis Presley and the Supremes released protest songs. The Yardbirds broke up, and Led Zeppelin, the quintessential seventies hard rock band, grew up out of its ashes (that was also the year that the first version of Pink Floyd appeared, although it would still take a couple years of tinkering with the line-up to create the progressive-album-rock juggernaut that would reign over the FM airwaves in the next decade). Finally, the rise of the black Power movement helped spur soul music to heights of popularity never before experienced. Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin became major stars.

The next year, 1969, saw two important rock festivals, Woodstock in August and Altamont in December. While people tend to remember Woodstock fondly because the hippies were mostly able to organize and run a 450,000-person three-day festival with few major problems, in retrospect its overwhelmed facilities (only 200,000 had been expected) and lousy weather were a symbol that Woodstock was in reality the end of an era, not the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Only a few months later, at a concert in Altamont, California, (which was documented in the movie "Gimme Shelter,") a fan was knifed to death in the audience as the Rolling Stones performed on stage.

In 1969, Charles Manson and his gang were living in Beach Boy Dennis Wilson's house, sponging off Dennis and using his credit cards. Manson was writing songs and trying to break into the music business. At the same time he was also trying to build up a new religion with himself as God, with followers who were willing to do his bidding. Musically, he got as far as to get the Beach Boys to record one of his songs ("Never Learn Not to Love," on the album 20/20), before Dennis got fed up and kicked him and his gang out. A month later, Manson and his followers committed the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders. The grizzly multiple murder was part ritual sacrifice to show loyalty to Manson, and part warning to the music business not to mess with Charlie (a producer used to own the house in which the murders took place). One of the clues that led to their finally being caught was the fact that Manson had smeared "Helter Skelter" (a Beatles song title from the White Album) in blood on the walls at the scene of the crime. Seems like '60's rock no longer pointed the way to a better world.

By the end of 1969, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix had all died of drug overdoses. In England, the Beatles produced a documentary ("Get Back") that had been meant as a kind of new start for the group, but which instead showed how the boys could barely stand to be in the same room with each other anymore. In America, on the tiny island of Chappaquiddick off Martha's Vineyard, Senator Edward Kennedy was involved in a car crash in which a young woman died. The bizarre and ambiguous circumstances surrounding the fatal accident put a stain on the remaining Kennedy brother's reputation that he was never able to shake.

In 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but when that singular moment in the history of mankind was announced at an Earth-bound rock festival, the self-absorbed audience booed the news. A year later, the Beatles broke up and Diana Ross left the Supremes; one year after that, Berry Gordy moved his Motown operations from Detroit to Los Angeles. The musical decade of the sixties was over.


TEXTBOOK EXAMPLES OF THE GENRES



1950's pop music
the "popular vocalist" type such as often recorded in Los Angeles for Capitol Records, Frank Sinatra, Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, The Four Freshmen, Patti Page, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett

Rhythm'n'blacks, Rockabilly


"Race" music (which eventually became soul music)
Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, The Coasters, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Billy Haley & The Comets, The Everly Brothers, Rickie Nelson, Little Richard, LaVern Baker.

1960's early pop music
the behind-the-scenes people who wrote and produced songs, especially for the NY groups (and who eventually in many cases became the sensitive singer/songwriters of the 1970's), Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Quincy Jones, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman.

New York Doo Wop and girl groups
The Skyliners, The Tokens, The Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Shangri- Las, The Duprees, Dion & The Belmonts, Little Eva, The Four Seasons.

R&B, Soul
Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, Jackie Wilson, The Impressions, Inez Foxx, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters, Ike & Tina Turner, Percy Sledge, James Brown, Ray Charles, Booker T. & The MG's, Ben E. King, Otis Redding.

California Studio Wizards and Surf Groups


Beach Boys/Brian Wilson, Jan & Dean, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Phil Spector, Dick Dale & The Deltones, The Surfaris, The Ventures, The Fantastic Baggys (Phil Sloan &Steve Barri), Terry Melcher, Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, Gary Zekley.

Detroit Motown (Berry Gordy, Jr., founder and producer)
The Supremes Marvin Gaye, The Temptations Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops Mary Wells, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Holland, Dozier & Holland (producers & songwriters).

The British Invasion:

in their own category
The Beatles

the mop-tops
Chad & Jeremy, Peter & Gordon, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Gerry & The Pacemakers.

mods and rockers
Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Spencer Davis Group, The Hollies, The Swinging black Jeans, The Kinks, The Small Faces, electric blacks, Derek & The Dominoes, Cream, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin.

the phonies and wanna-be's, and other heavily-influenced's
The Standells, The Monkees, The Buckinghams, The Searchers, Tommy James & The Shondells, The Turtles, The Beau Brummells.

Electric Folk
The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan, The Band, The Mamas & Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

White blacks, black-eyed Soul
Janis Joplin, Mitch Ryder, Three Dog Night, The Animals.

Mainstream Protest Songs
War (What Is It Good For), Eve of Destruction, Think, Who'll Stop The Rain, Cloud Nine, Abraham Martin & John, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), What's Going On, Living For The City, Love Child, Have You Ever Seen The Rain, Ball of Confusion, Fortunate Son, In The Ghetto.



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5/02/2006

1970 - Disco Music

Disco Music

As the 1970's began, the term "rock & roll" had become almost nearly meaningless. This decade began with the breakup of the Beatles and just earlier, the death of Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin which robbed rock of major influences. Pop music splintered into a multitude of styles: soft-rock, hard rock, country rock, folk rock, punk rock, shock rock and includng jazz rock. As people were dazed by a violent decade of war, assasinations, drugs, and silent corporate takeover, television ignited in comedy programs making way for "Family Pop," or the birth of the teen idols. Earlier, The Monkies, who devised to cash in on the early Beatles' success by applying the most superficial aspects of the British Invasion formula to capture a preteen audience, made way for the advent of Family Pop and the teen-idol beginning with the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson, but the '70s successor to the Monkees were The Partridge Family with the face and voice of teen-idol David Cassidy. Shortly there after, the Osmonds, with younger brother Donny propelling into teen-idol superstardom much like Michael was for the Jacksons. As the teen-idol superstardom continued to produce a slew of others, in the background of that spotlight, rock music was quietly still big business.

Among the top names in popular rock music at the time music were,

The Eagles, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton and Cream, Beach Boys, Neil Young, Crosby-Stills-Nash & Young, Elton John, Alice Cooper, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Maria Muldaur, Cheap Trick, Toto, Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa, Gordon Lightfoot, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Bread, Golden Earring, Queen, Lynard Skynyrd, Toto, Grand Funk Railroad, Peter Frampton, Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Boz Scaggs, J. Geils Band, Kansas, Jim Croce, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Jefferson Starship, The Sweet, America, Jimmy Buffet, The Cars, Foreigner, Rose Royce, Grateful Dead, Guess Who, ZZ Top, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Carole King, Joan Biaz, Jackson Browne, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Chicago, BeeGees, The Temptations, KC & the Sunshine Band, Linda Rondstadt, Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds, Sister Sledge, Blondie, Cher, Joe Cocker, CCR, Deep Purple, Doobie Brothers, Supertramp, ELO, Patti LaBelle, Commodores, Kool and the Gang, Olivia Newton John, Roy Orbison, REO Speedwagon, Sly and the Family Stone, Steely Dan, Jackson 5, Rod Stewart, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Wild Cherry, *Bay City Rollers, Chic, The Carpenters, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Diana Ross, The Knack, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, The Pointer Sisters, 10cc, The Village People, Santana, Kiss, Paul Anka, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens, The Carpenters, Heart, Jethro Tull, Traffic, Gerry Rafferty, Paul Davis, Chuck Mangione, Yes, Neal Sedaka, Boston, Bobby Sherman, Kansas, Charlie Daniels Band, Steve Miller Band, Simon & Garfunkel, Seals and Croft, Paul McCartney and Wings, Eric Burdon & War, Bread, Yvonne Elliman, Nick Gilder, Andy Gibb, Samantha Sang, Hall and Oates, Stevie Wonder, Loggins and Messina, Leo Sayer, Captain & Tennille, Barry White, ABBA, Rick Springfield, Boston, Styx, Bob Dylan, Derek & The Dominos, Thelma Houston, Stevie Wonder Barry Manilow, Blondie, Pablo Cruise Natalie Cole, Stephen Bishop, John Denver, Anne Murray, Bonnie Tyler, Randy Newman, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, Little River Band, Meatloaf, Three Dog Night, Cat Stevens, Ray Stevens, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Bob Marley gained a huge core of fans in the U.S. performing Jamaican reggae music.

But the Most influential music of the decade was Disco

Disco is an up-tempo style of dance music that originated in the early 1970s, mainly from funk and soul music, popular originally with gay and black audiences in large U.S. cities, and derives its name from the French word discothèque (meaning nightclub), coined from disc + bibliotèque (library) by La Discothèque in Rue Huchette.

Deep funk begot proto-disco (1970-1975)

Before the word disco existed, the phrase discotheque records was used to denote music played in New York private rent or after hours parties like the Infinity, The Loft and Better Days. The records played there were a mixture of funk, soul and European imports [LP-cuts or 45s]. We will call this genre of music "proto disco". These "proto disco" records are the same kind of records that were played by Kool Herc on the early hip hop scene.

Disco 2.0 (1976-1982)

The times change, the drugs change, new clubs like the Paradise Garage open their doors, the disco twelve inch was invented. For the first time in musical history, music was made with "discotheques" in mind. The disco years ended with its gay audience decimated by a deadly disease called AIDS. My preferred disco labels of this era are Salsoul, Prelude and West end. A perfect CD-introduction to the music of this era is the superb three-volume compilation Give Your Body Up: Club Classics & House Foundations, vol. 1, vol. 2 and vol. 3.

The twelve inch single

The twelve inch vinyl recording was a technical innovation. Because 45s were geared for radio, they were all 'middle,' and you couldn't cut a lot of [bass] onto the record, the twelve inch record allowed more bass and made records suitable for night club play. The first promotional copies appeared in 1975 and the first commercial release was the 1976 release 'Ten Percent' by Double Exposure, on the Salsoul label.

The 12-inch single was a late and unexpected child of the recording industry. It was therefore given a name to distinguish it from its older vinyl siblings. "12-inch" refers to the diameter of the record — which it shares with the LP. "Single" refers to the quantity of songs per side — as on the 45 rpm single. Whereas 45s and LPs have been common fare since the late 1950s and 1960s, respectively, 12-inch dance singles were issued first in mid-1975, and then only to a small clientele: disk-jockeys, alternatively known as DJ's, who were perceived to constitute the only group to become attracted to the new format. --Kai Fikentscher, "Supremely clubbed, devastatingly dubbed", 1991

1976

Salsoul release the first commercially-available 12 inch. Walter Gibbons takes double Exposure’s Ten Percent’ and works it into an 11 minute disco extravaganza. Repetitive beats, disco music as we know it was born.



Walter Gibbons (1954 - 1994)

... he turned otherwise unremarkable dance records into monumental sculptures of sound ...

Profile

Walter Gibbons Gibbons was born in Brooklyn on 2 April 1954. He grew up with his mother, Ann, his sister, Rosemary, and his two brothers, Robin and Edward. Nothing is known of his father — friends say he never spoke of him — and little more is known of his young adult life save that he subsequently moved to Queens, dated men and collected black music.

Gibbons was easy to miss. An innocuous white boy with an unconvincing moustache and carefully combed brown hair that was parted right to left, he stood at approximately five foot five and, thanks to his pencil thin build, looked like he would need help carrying his records to work. Shy and softly spoken, he kept himself to himself. He preferred cigarettes to chatter.

But when Gibbons stood behind the turntables at Galaxy 21, an after hours venue on Twenty-third Street owned by black entrepreneur George Freeman, he was hurricane articulate. It was almost as if he kept his daytime thoughts to himself because he knew he could articulate them with so much more force through the Galaxy sound system at night. Why talk when you can DJ? --Tim Lawrence via the liner notes to Mixed with Love, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

First Commercial 12" [...]

It was Gibbons transformation of Double Exposure's Ten Percent from a three minute album track into an eleven minute dancefloor stormer that radically changed the disco undergound in terms of record production, remixing and development of the 12" record. At the time when orchestration was commonly used on dance records, Gibbons' technique was to concentrate on percussion and the song. He was an explorer and innovator of DJ techniques and skills which we now take for granted and he was also considered to be one of the most impeccable live mixers of his time. Walter Gibbons' Djing began in the early 70s in NYC at the Galaxy 21, Fantasia, and Buttermilk Bottom, Second Story in Philadelphia and the Monastery in Seattle. Years before his death Gibbons became a Born Again Christian and wouldn't mix songs with sexual content. However, he resurfaced in 1984 with the unforgettable electro classic Set It Off, and did two more mixes for Arthur Russell in 1986.

Ten Percent (Nov 1976) - Double Exposure

Walter Gibbons didn't just electrify fellow DJs and suburban dancers. He also electrified Ken Cayre, head of a newly formed label called Salsoul, which had created a minor tremor in Nightworld with the release of the Salsoul Orchestra's debut album. The Salsoul boss proceeded to sign Double Exposure and realised soon after that Gibbons could help him market the group's first single. "Walter was very aggressive when it came to searching out new records," says Cayre. "He became friendly with Denise Chatman, our promotions girl, and we went to hear him play. I was very impressed with his skills."

Cayre was particularly taken with the way the DJ worked "Ten Percent", which had been released as a non-commercial promotional twelve-inch test pressing that consisted of the standard single plus a longer version. "We knew the DJs wanted longer records so we told the producers to get the musicians to jam for a couple of minutes after they had recorded the regular song," says Cayre. "I had to release the promotional twelve-inch single because the seven-inch wasn't doing well." Having laid his hands on two copies of the test pressing, Gibbons worked up a whirlwind. "He did this fantastic edit and the reaction in the club was phenomenal. I said, 'Can you do that in the studio?' He said he could."

Salsoul gave Gibbons and engineer Bob Blank three hours to complete the remix at Blank Tapes Studios. That meant the duo had one hour to put up the mix and channel the sound, one hour to break down the recording and one hour to cut up tape with a razor blade. "Walter was prepared but he couldn't prepare everything," says Blank. "He had to be ready to do 'brain work' on the spur of the moment. The session was very intuitive. Walter was a real genius."

By the end of the session the diminutive DJ had transformed a dense four-minute song into a nine-minute-forty-five-second roller coaster. He was paid $185 for his efforts — $85 to cover a night's work at Galaxy, plus $100 for the blend — and he started to spin an acetate of the remix, which was effectively a readymade version of the lightning-quick collages he had already been concocting at Galaxy, in late February/early March 1976.

"'Ten Percent' was one of the best mixes anyone had ever heard," remembers Smith. "Walter turned a nice song into a peak song." The remix became an instant classic. "I heard it on an acetate in the Gallery," says Mixmaster editor and downtown connoisseur Michael Gomes. "It sounded so new, going backwards and forwards. It built and built like it would never stop. The dance floor just exploded."

Salsoul released the twelve-inch — the first commercially released twelve-inch — in May, much to the chagrin of the Philadelphia-based songwriter Allan Felder. "The mixer cut up the lyrics and changed the music," Felder told me shortly before he passed away. "It was as if the writers and producers were nothing."

Gibbons didn't set out to offend. Blank notes the DJ-turned-remixer was "very, very, very concerned" the artists, producers and writers would feel he had done the record justice. But DJs were widely regarded as musical parasites and the idea that they should be given carte blanche to remix an original work of art was doggedly opposed by music-makers. The development was seen as being nothing short of scandalous and Gibbons lay at the centre of the action.

Cayre stayed calm and kept his focus. "Walter was the first DJ to show the record companies that they should be open to different versions of a song," he says. "They were in the club night after night so they knew what worked and what didn't work. Walter was pivotal. He convinced producers and other record companies to give the DJs an opportunity to remix records for the clubs. And he showed us that these records could be commercially successful. People didn't believe that was possible before 'Ten Percent'. Walter was a pioneer." --Tim Lawrence via the liner notes to Mixed with Love, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

Biography

Apr 02 1954 to Sep 23 1994

Hit and Run (1977) - Loleatta Holloway

[t]he DJ's remix of Loleatta Holloway's "Hit And Run", which was recorded at Sigma Sound in April 1976 and released on Holloway's album, Loleatta, in December. Gibbons asked Cayre if he could remix the song and the Salsoul chief, taking a deep breath, decided to entrust his little prince with the multitrack [see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitrack_Recording]. "'Hit And Run' was the first time that a studio let a DJ completely rework the song," says Cayre, "and Walter, the genius that he was, turned it into a twelve-minute, unconventional smash."

Having been restricted to carrying out a cut-and-paste reedit of the half-inch master copies for "Ten Percent", Gibbons was now able to select between each individual track, and he dissected and reconstructed the six-minute album version in the most sweeping manner imaginable: a swathe of strings and almost all the horns were sliced out in order to emphasise Baker, Harris and Young's exquisite rhythm track, and, in a high-risk move, the remixer shifted the focus of the song by cutting the first two minutes and all of the verses of Holloway's vocal.

Salsoul's bigwigs were aghast. "When Walter played me his mix I initially wanted to choke him," says Cayre. "Loleatta wasn't there anymore. Walter just told me that I had to get used to it." Always up for a party, the mogul went to listen to Gibbons play the twelve-inch in its intended setting and "after hearing it a couple of times" he knew that Gibbons "had done the right thing." --Tim Lawrence, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

Trivia: Carl Craig's Throw (Open) (1994) is based on a small sample from "Hit and Run" [about 7 minutes into the original]

Tape Editing, from Reel to Reel [...]

Tape editing

What I say is that the first 'cut-ups' were by Walter Gibbons - the first great 'mixing' DJ. These date from 1974/5 and use funky records like The Fatback Band [building] up to latin percussion jams, cut up on reel-to-reel tape … and used to provide a continuous mix (sometimes 20 minutes plus) in the clubs of New York. A good example of this would be the 'looped up' 'break' (remember, nobody knew these terms back then!) from the Cooley High soundtrack album [‘Two Pigs and a Hog’]. First he used two copies [of the record] to capture the break, then did it on tape to be cut onto an acetate, thus saving the hassle of doing it live all the time. -- Colin Gate via http://home.wanadoo.nl/discopatrick/history.htm [Jan 2005]

Gibbons, Luongo, Herc

Performing in parallel yet unconnected universes, DJ Kool Herc in the Bronx and John Luongo in Boston started to play back-to-back breaks around the same time as Gibbons, but neither of them could match the Galaxy mixmaster's razor precision. --Tim Lawrence, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

1983 Profile by Steven Harvey

Outside a disco Walter Gibbons is the least known of the mixers profiled here. This in no way diminishes his importance. Walter not only mixed the first 12 Inch single '10 Percent' by Double Exposure - he completely transformed it from a three minute album track into 11 minutes of break after break. It was a revolution - a record designed specifically for the underground club scene in New York.

"You really have to think that every time you change the record, the title or something about the record is going into people's heads. For me, I have to let God play the records, I'm just an instrument."

His trademark was a concentration on the percussion, the song and the singer. Where many of the period releases by Salsoul were heavily orchestrated, Walter stripped down his tracks to essence. Two Salsoul albums, 'Disco Boogie Vols 1 & 2' (the first disco party album) and 'Disco Madness' feature his mixes. The latter has him singing 'It's Good For The Soul', a perfect slice of what he is playing now and the reason he no longer works in the dance music industry. When he became a born-again Christian he stopped playing songs that were not uplifting. That pretty much eliminates the majority of dance music dealing with sexuality.

Walter was considered to be one of the most impeccable live mixers of his time. He could play the impossibly slow intros to 'Love Is The Message or 'Love Hangover' and still keep the dancing going by his edits of the segues. He anticipated breakstyle mixing with his percussion blends of tunes like 'Two Pigs and A Hog' (from Cooley High soundtrack) a one minute break that he would cut up with two copies.

Many people think that in the vastly competitive dance music business, once you drop out you are through. If Walter's faith keeps on, some record company might realise that he would be the perfect mixer for a new Philly style release or a gospel dance track. Perhaps 'Faith' - the unreleased track he mixed and produced with Steve D'Aquisto - would be a good place to start

From the beginning of playing records, the issue was getting a message or narrative across through the songs. Now it's 'in the mix'

''I think I did that. I used to keep a book of what were my top records every week, Looking back it scares me - at that time I wasn't very Christ minded. Music is too easy to make - there are Spirits in records. You really have to think that every time you change the record, the title or something about the record is going into people's heads. For me, I have to let God play the records, I'm just an instrument.''

That's appropriate to DJing as a modern art form where the DJ is basically the instrument, the medium for other people's music.

' Unlike most DJs, I do requests I like to know what they're thinking too, The thing about requests is if you can change what they're thinking into something positive. This girl used to like 'Nasty Girls' so I'd play it. My thought behind that would be a record like 'Try God' by the NY Community Choir which is the total opposite."

Sort of advocate style spinning. "The last time I saw Tee Scott I bought a record for him. it was a mix of 'Law Of The Land' by Undisputed Truth with a little bit of 'Ten Percent' and the Ten Commandments spoken. He played it and the crowd roared like I've never heard in my life. Especially after the part where he's saying 'thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shall not steal. thou shall not kill' - there was such a roar. it was like WOW, compared to what they hear normally. It was very interesting." --Steven Harvey, 1983, Collusion Magazine

Profile

It was a New York disco-era deejay, Walter Gibbons, who pioneered many of the techniques of disco mixing that would become the lifeblood of house deejays-turned-producers in the `80's. After years out of the spotlight, Gibbons resurfaced in 1984 with a mix of a 12-inch single called 'Set It Off' that would define the New York dance underground. It created a sensation at the Garage, where it was championed by Levan, and spawned countless remakes by the likes of C. Sharp and Masquerade and at least one answer single, Number 1's 'Set It Off (Party Rock)'. Perhaps the definitive version of 'Set It Off' was Strafe's, with its mesmerizing vocal hook woven into a spare but hauntingly atmospheric rhythm bed.-- Greg Kot

Francois Kevorkian

February 1976: Walter Gibbons was DJ at the Galaxy 21 when Francois K. got hired to play live drums over Walter's records.

Faze Action

Faze Action on Walter Gibbons: "Like Brian Jones and Keith Richards poring over their blues records, Faze Action are purist scholars of the form -- for them the Salsoul Orchestra is Howlin' Wolf and Walter Gibbons is Muddy Waters." [...]

Selected Discography

  • 12D-2008 Double Exposure 'Ten Percent' (1976)
    first commercially available 12"
  • 12D-2011 Salsoul Orchestra 'Nice 'n' Nasty' (1976)
  • 12D-2030 Anthony White 'I Can't Turn You Loose'/'Block Party' (1977)
  • SG 2067 Cellophane 'Super Queen' (1978)
  • SG 2071 Luv You Madly Orchestra 'Rocket rock / Moon maiden' (1978)
  • SG 311 Robin Hooker Band 'Stand By Your Man' (1979)
  • WES 12113 Bettye Lavette 'Doin'the Best I Can (Short)' (1978)
  • WES 12113x Bettye Lavette 'Doin'the Best I Can (Long)' (1978) go for the long version
  • Colleen Heather: "Heartbreaker" LP (West End WE 108, 1979). Co-credited.
  • GG-402 Loleatta Holloway 'Catch Me On the Rebound' (1978)
  • GG-40O3 Love Committee 'Cheaters Never Win' (1977)
  • GG-4006 Loleatta Holloway 'Hit And Run' (1977)
  • GG-4011 Love Committee 'Just As Long As I Got You' (1978)
  • True Example: "Love is finally comin' my way" b/w "As long as you love me" (Gold Mind 12G 4005, 1977). Two releases exist of this record. One credit Walter Gibbons while the other not.
  • Salsoul
  • Various Artists: Saturday night disco party (Salsoul SA 8505, 1978). Co-credited with Tom Moulton & Jim Burgess
  • Salsoul Orchestra: Greatest disco hits (Salsoul SA 8508, 1978)
  • Various Artists: Disco madness (Salsoul SA 8518, 1979)
  • Various Artists: Salsoul's greatest 12" hits Vol. 1 (Salsoul CA 1002, 1982), Co-credited with Tom Moulton
  • SLX-23 Indian Ocean 'Tree House' / 'School Bell' 1986
    • Produced by Arthur Russell and Peter Zummo
    • Mixed with Love by Walter Gibbons
  • Upside rds
  • Logarythm 12" LR-1002-1 1002 Arthur Russell 'Let's Go Swimming' (1986)
    • gulf stream dub / puppy surf dub / coastal dub /
      Coastal dub Mixed with Love by Walter Gibbons
  • Jus Born records
  • Strafe 'Set It Off' (1984)
    • Steve Standard and George Logios (Bombers?)
  • Various
  • Sandy Mercer: "Play with me" b/w "You are my love" (H&L 2005, 1978), co-credited with Steve D'Acquisto
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips : It's a better than good time (Buddah DSC 130, 1979). Canadian issue. I never saw an american print of this.

History of House

Most Chicago DJ's admit a debt to the underground 1970's underground club scene in New York and particulary the original disco-mixer Walter Gibbons, a white DJ who popularised the basic techniques of disco-mixing, then graduated to Salsoul Records where he turned otherwise unremarkable dance records into monumental sculptures of sound.It was Gibbons who paved the way for the disc-jockey's historical shift from the twin-decks to the production studio. But ironically, at the height of his cult popularity, he drifted away from the decadent heat of disco to become a "Born Again Christian", having created a space which was ultimately filled by subsequent DJ Producers like Jellybean Benitez, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, Arthur Baker, Francois Kervorkian, The Latin Rascals, and Farley "Jackmaster" Funk. Most people believed that Walter Gibbons was a fading legend in the early history of disco, then in 1984 he resurfaced, and had a new and immediate impact on the development of Chicago House Sound. Gibbons released an independent 12" record called "Set It Off" which started to create a stir at Paradise Garage, the black gay club in New York, where Larry Levan presided over the wheels of steel. Within weeks a "Set It Off" craze spread through the club scene, including new versions by C. Sharp, Masquerade, and answer versions like Import Number 1's "Set It Off(PartyRock)". The original record had been "mixed with love by Walter Gibbons" and was released on the Jus Born label, a tongue in cheek reference to Walter's christianity. Gibbons had set the tone again, the "Set It Off" sound was primitive house, haunting, repetitive beats ideal for mixing and extending. It immediately became an underground club anthem, finding a natural home in Chicago, where a whole generation of DJ's including Farley and Frankie Knuckles, rocked the clubs and regularly played on local radion stations. -- Stuart Cosgrove on The History of House Sound of Chicago BCM Records, Germany

Set it Off

  1. The Perfect Beats, Vol. 2 [Amazon US] The Perfect Beats, Vol. 2
    1. Let The Music Play - Shannon 2. I.O.U. - Freeze 3. Dancing On The Fire - Jellybean 4. Crash Goes Love - Loleatta Hollaway 5. My Love Is Alive - Chaka Khan 6. The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight - Dominatrix 7. For The Same Man - B Beat Girls 8. Infatuation - Upfront 9. Hip Hop Be-bop - Man Parrish 10. Set It Off - Strafe 11. Moody - Esg 12. Cavern - Liquid Liquid 13. Together Forever - Exodus 14. Confusion - New Order 15. Slack - Slack
    Following the history lesson of volume 1, The Perfect Beats, Volume 2 reaches a little wider in its selection of electro-boogie, hip-hop, and freestyle oldies. This seems to be the set's unofficial "happy" disc--some of the fastest cuts are on this volume, as well as the lightest and most playful. (Even the monochromatic series package design adds to the effect--this volume's a sunny orange.) "Let the Music Play" by Shannon (one of the highest-charting records in the collection) appears in a livelier-than-life remix, and just try to resist the bubbly synth-vibraphone on Dominatrix's "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight." Lots of these cuts will be familiar as the source of samples that fueled bigger hits, especially Liquid Liquid's "Cavern," which formed the basis for Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel's huge rap record "White Lines." --John Sanchez

Mixed with Love (2004) - Walter Gibbons

Mixed with Love (2004) - Walter Gibbons

Beluga (2004) - Jean Van Cleemput [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

1. Ten Percent (Original 12" Mix) 2. Block Party (Original 12" Mix ) 3. Catch Me On The Rebound (Original 12" Mix) 4. Just As Long As I Got You (Original 12" Mix) 5. It’S Good For The Soul (Original Lp Remix) 6. Let No Man Put Asunder (Original Lp Remix) 7. Love Is Finally Coming My Way (Original 12” Mix) 8. We’Re Getting Stronger (Original 12" Mix) 9. Ice Cold Love (Original Lp Remix) 10. Cheaters Never Win (Original 12" Mix) 11. Law & Order (Original 12" Mix) 12. Catch Me On The Rebound (Original Lp Remix) 13. As Long As You Love Me (Original 12" Mix) 14. I Can’T Turn You Loose (Original 12" Mix) 15. My Love Is Free (Original Album Remix) 16. Hit & Run (Original 12" Mix) 17. I Wish That I Could Make Love (Original Lp Remix) 18. Nice N’ Naasty (Original 12" Mix) 19. Where Will It End (Original 12" Mix) 20. Salsoul 3001 (Original 12" Mix) 21. Moon Maiden (Original 12" Mix) 22. (Dance With Me) Let’S Believe (Original 12" Mix) 23. Catch Me On The Rebound Inst (Original 12" Mix) 24. Ten Percent (Original Lp Remix) 25. Rocket Rock (Original 12" Mix) 26. Magic Bird Of Fire (Original Album Remix) 27. Super Queen (Original 12" Mix) 28. Stand By Your Man (Original 12" Mix) 29. Your Cheatin’ Heart (Original 12" Mix)

Yet Walter Gibbons, against all odds, still became a DJ's DJ. "Everyone was going to hear Walter," says Smith, who would go down to Galaxy once he had wrapped up for the night at Barefoot Boy. "Most DJs finished at four so we could hear Walter from five until ten." After that, Gibbons and Smith would go for breakfast and, weather permitting, a trip to the beach, where they would talk about music. "DJs couldn't go and listen to too many people because we had played all night and didn't want to hear the same thing all over again. But we knew Walter would turn us on. Everyone showed up." --Tim Lawrence via http://www.timlawrence.info/writing-pages/wg_mixed-w-love.html [Jan 2005]

[...]

Having been restricted to carrying out a cut-and-paste reedit of the half-inch master copies for "Ten Percent", Gibbons was now able to select between each individual track [see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitrack_Recording], and he dissected and reconstructed the six-minute album version in the most sweeping manner imaginable: a swathe of strings and almost all the horns were sliced out in order to emphasise Baker, Harris and Young's exquisite rhythm track, and, in a high-risk move, the remixer shifted the focus of the song by cutting the first two minutes and all of the verses of Holloway's vocal. --Tim Lawrence via http://www.timlawrence.info/writing-pages/wg_mixed-w-love.html [Jan 2005]

Tom Moulton

Tom MoultonTom Moulton was a fashion model on hiatus from the music business when he visited Fire Island's Botel during a photo shoot. "I got a charge out of it, all these white people dancing to black music." Painstakingly, he spent 80 hours making a 90-minute dance tape using sound-on-sound and vari-speed to create a nonstop build. The Botel's owner rejected the tape, but the competing Sandpiper offered to listen, and Moulton left the reel. At 2:30 on a Saturday morning, Moulton was awakened by a call from the Sandpiper that was unintelligible except for the screaming of dancers. To a tape!

Biography

Tom Moulton (1940) is an American record producer and originator of the remix and the 12-inch vinyl format.

He was one of the earliest disco DJs in New York, USA. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Moulton [Aug 2005]

The First 12" was a 10" :-)

"OK, Well - You have to remember something - so many great ideas are accidents... I mean - I thought it [the 12" single] was a great idea AFTER the fact.

You see, this is going back now to the early 70's, when I first started I took my records to Media Sound to master.

Tom continues; "So, the thing is - one day I went in there to José - José Rodriguez - and I had "I'll be holding on" by Al Downing and I said; "José, I could really need some acetates." And he said; "Just Tom, I don't have any more 7" blanks. All I have is like the 10"." And I said; "Well, if that's the only thing - we're gonna do it, what difference does it make?". So he cut one, I said; "It looks so ridiculous, this little tiny band on this huge thing. What happens if we just like... can we just like, you know, make it bigger?". He goes; "You mean, like spread the grooves?" and I said; "Yeah!". He goes; "Then I've got to rise the level." I said; "Well, Go ahead - rise the level." And so he cut it like at +6. Oh, when I heard it I almost died. I said; "Oh my God, It's so much louder and listen to it. Oh! I like that - why don't we cut a few more?". So it was by accident, that's how it was created.

But for the next song we cut, we went for the 12" format instead of the 10" and the song was "So much for love" by Moment of Truth. That was the birth of the 12" single.
--

Claes Widlund interviews Tom Moulton (1999) http://disco-disco.com/tributes/tom.html [Dec 2004]

On Vince Montana [...]

Tom Moulton in an interview with Claes Widlund :
And, if you listen to Vince you would think that Gamble & Huff kept stealing from him. Look at this, it has been so many times where I have tried to help out Vince and I just don't understand him.
But at Salsoul... He got mad at me when I produced the album the... Oh, what the hell was it called now - "Street sense". And I was only asked to do it because Vince was being so difficult with Salsoul. He was giving Salsoul such a hard time. And then I remixed the Christmas album, he knows that."

"You know, Vince can not say someone else does anything good. I wish I could understand him, I just don't. I just try and try and try, but I just don't understand him, so... 'Cause he didn't tell you that his album "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" - this is after he starts mixing his own records "A Vince Montana Mix". I mean, that's about as close to copying me as anybody can. And then he begs me to mix his album because Atlantic rejected it. He called me the day before Christmas and begged me. I said "Vince, I can't do this." He said "You're a shit" and then "Oh Tom, I'm sorry and bla bla bla bla bla" I mean, I couldn't believe it - no one else could either.
And I said "Vince, I'll do it on two conditions...". He said "What's that?". I said "You are not there and if you say one word to me other then Hello or Goodbye - I'm leaving!". And he did, and no one would believe it. Well I ended up mixing it, then they accepted it." --

Claes Widlund interviews Tom Moulton (1999) http://disco-disco.com/tributes/tom.html [Dec 2004]

Profile by Brian Chin

Tom Moulton's concepts singlehandedly created a new industry of remixing--producing records with greater dance impact. He leapfrogged Philadelphia sonics by rebalancing the frequency range, extending the high frequencies much further than Motown ever did. "Because 45s were geared for radio, they were all 'middle,' and you couldn't cut a lot of [bass] onto the record. A lot of records didn't have the fidelity and sounded terrible. But you were playing them for the songs, not the fidelity."

That regard for the integrity of a song also guided Moulton in the studio. He not only sharpened sound for high-volume nightclub play, but he also restructured records, setting up hooks and repeating the best parts, greatly amplifying the original song scheme's tension and release. He'd tweak levels obsessively all through the record--effectively rephrasing a track or vocal by hitting the volume control--when he felt it would increase intensity. "I was so wired into the song. They thought I was crazy. But you go for the blood and guts, the thing that really counts in a song." Moulton's hook might be a mistake by the players, and he points out that the insane sonic power of "Disco Inferno" happened when he was compensating for a console that was set up wrong. Repeatedly--with the simple woodblock in "More, More, More (Part 1)," in the strong but never overdone pop pump of "Instant Replay"-- Moulton made good records stronger. His blueprint has been used thousands of times over.

Moulton worked in promotion for Scepter Records, and mixed DCA Productions' "Dream World" by Don Downing for the label. In 1974, when DCA called him to work on Gloria Gaynor's first album, he made history. Never Can Say Goodbye featured a side-long medley of three long songs segued together. Meco Monardo says it was "a revelation" when Moulton extended three-minute songs to more than six by lengthening the instrumental. But Moulton knew by instinct that this would intensify and modulate the impact of a song or a series of songs: "You start here [he points down], and go allll the way up." Incredibly, Moulton's credit does not appear on the album because of a potential conflict: he'd by then launched the first music trade-paper column on the scene, "Disco Mix," in Billboard.

Like everything else in disco, formula set into remixing, but it wasn't Moulton's fault. He often critiqued remixers for making music into a DJ tool, instead of mixing to maximize the original intent of a song. He used drum breaks, for example, as transitions within a song, to set up an emotional rush with the return of the rest of the music, or when key changes made a break necessary to create dramatic structure--not merely because drum breaks made it easier for a DJ to mix in or out of a record. "People have said, 'You make disco records,' and I said: 'Wrong. I make records you can dance to.' I wouldn't know how to make a record just for discos." source: http://www.rhino.com/features/liners/75595lin7.html

--Brian Chin

Disco Records

"People have said, 'You make disco records,' and I said: 'Wrong. I make records you can dance to.' I wouldn't know how to make a record just for discos."

Soul Jazz presents: A Tom Moulton Mix (2006) - Various Artists

A Tom Moulton Mix

Soul Jazz presents: A Tom Moulton Mix (2006) - Various Artists [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Track Listings
1. I'll Be Holding On 2. Keep On Truckin' 3. La Vie En Rose 4. Moonlight Loving 5. Peace Pipe 6. Dream World 7. You've Got The Power 8. Make Me Believe In You 9. Free Man 10. Needing You 11. Feel The Need In Me 12. Moonboots 13. Lip Service 14. Love Is The Message 15. More More More 16. Won't You Try

Product Description
''A Tom Moulton Mix'' is released today on Soul Jazz Records. This is the first album to bring together some of the classic and rare tracks that have been blessed with the phrase "A Tom Moulton Mix" on the record label. Tom Moulton is one of the most important people in the history of dance music. From inventing the first ever 12" single to remixer to the stars, the trademark "A Tom Moulton Mix" is a mark of quality given to only the finest records -From Grace Jones' seminal "La Vie En Rose" to the million-selling MFSB disco anthem "Love Is The Message", to over 4000 remixes in an incredible career that has now lasted over 30 years.

New Tom Moulton compilation on Soul Jazz.

Source: www.jahsonic.com

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