Friday, July 15, 2022
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
I don't remember where I got this from back in the day but it's still an accurate account of the history of my beloved Italo Disco so I figured my readers would appreciate it. Italo Disco refers to an entire genre of dance music that evolved mysteriously and very quickly during the early 80's in Italy and other parts of Europe. Italo Disco music was and still is considered to be quite futuristic and spacey in regards to the massive effects created with the first generation of true synthesizers, drum machines, and vocoders. Twenty-five years later, Italo Disco music is experiencing a major renaissance in which deejay's all over the world are spinning the original classics in much delight while others are making brand new music that sounds more like it was made in 1982. Compilations also pay tribute to the masterpieces. But what defines masterpieces? Is it musical charts? Is it standing the test of time? Or is it the songs that have become cherished at one point or another in the last 25 years? You decide! There is no true history of italo disco that replicates how it all evolved, however, we are about to tell you italo disco through our eyes and those of many other fans of the genre! So.. it's 21st century and deejay's, clubbers, and electro fans of all ages are now looking to hear the original stuff that started it all. Forget about disco, synth-pop, and new wave - maybe they were factors in the evolution of modern dance music, but it was the 10,000+ Italo Disco artists who truly fused the arpeggio synth-hooks, electro beats, and chic 12" cover art for the very first time. It's now clear that many Italo Disco songs influenced the Chicago house scene, acid house, techno, and other early forms of dance and trance music. Much of today's most lush electro music is clearly attributed directly to Italo Disco. The History Of Italo Disco 1975-1977 - Emerging from Val Gardena, Italy, Mr. Giorgio Moroder begins to experiment on a new toy in the music world: an electronic synthesizer. He starts to create loops and synth-hooks using basic equipment from Moog and Korg. "The Chase" and the rest of the score for the 1978 film, Midnight Express made a permanent marking in the ears of young Italians who would later go on to create their own electronic music, eventually to be known as 'Italo Disco'. Just a year or so earlier in 1976, it was the beginning of John Carpenter's illustrious career as a moviemaker and composer of electronic music using excessive use of droids and drum machines. The original motion picture soundtrack to "Assault On Precinct 13" would go on to become a major influence for many Italians who realized the power of a drum machine, as heard in the opening theme of the movie. Around the same time, an Italian music group by the name of Goblin emerges and begins creating electronic-themed soundtracks for all of Dario Argento's Italian horror films, setting up another major influence for early Italo Disco artists. Some of the more memorable and early scores were for the movies "Deep Red" and "Suspiria" (1976 and 1978, respectively). Goblin's scores and Argento's style would cause many other Italian movie directors to use electronic elements in their Giallo and horror-styled films - thus starting a new era for electronic music (the first being disco several years earlier). Eventually the dark sound of these scores would fuse with disco music and we'd reach Italo Disco. But first, 1977-78 - Giorgio Moroder's first full LP was released. "From Here To Eternity", featuring the self-titled first single that became an instant success, was what started everything! This would go down as a pioneer album that would forever change electronic music. Less than a year later, "Chase" was released, becoming Giorgio's biggest hit ever, once again strenghtening his appeal as a leader in the electronic department. Nearly simultaneously, Italian producer, Jean-Marc Cerrone releases a series of albums - the most famous being, "Supernature" and "Love In C Minor". Simply outstanding work using a synthesizer would make Mr. Cerrone, a native of France become another major influence for all Italo Disco music to follow. Soon after Moroder and Cerrone hit the airwaves, the rest was history. Lucrethia & The Azoto 14,008 releases the "Dance Skinsation LP" to help jumpstart the Vedette Records label - leading the way for Italians to produce disco music. In 1978, La Bionda emerges with one of the songs many consider to be Italo Disco's very first song: "One For You, One For Me". 1978-1981 - In late 1978, Black Devil, a very obscure act at the time from France, releases the "Disco Club LP", which is now considered one of the greatest electronic pleasures of the late 70's. Beautiful harmonies working solely with a synthesizer in real-time recording sessions make this album still in deman today! "Disco Fizz" by Azoto (working without the Lucrethia syntax) appeared in 1980, alongside Tantra's "The Hills Of Katmandu" release. Both artists being Italian and leaning further away from the traditional disco beat and more towards a faster drumbeat using a drum machine, would later be known as two more pioneers of what would become Italo Disco! At the same time, on the newly formed Discomagic Records label, Sylvi Foster created "Love Dawn" and "If You Are Master" while Delanua makes a masterpiece called "Flood" - these songs being considered to this day the first true Italo Disco songs. Kano begins his long career with songs such as "I'm Ready" and "Holly Dolly". in 1980, La Bionda would solidify their position as a major influence of Italo Disco music with their big hit entitled, "I Wanna Be Your Lover". 1982 - The Italo Disco scene was well under way by the time 1982 rolled in. Discomagic Records and Il Discotto Productions had both surfaced at this point and had started spawning off many sub-labels, each with their own distinguishable sounds. On Il Discotto, Jo Jo created the masterpiece track entitled, "Mind Games", which fused R&B, electro, and disco all into one song, and Gary Low released his first single, "You Are A Danger" which took a synthesizer and piano and welded them together into one song. On the other end of the spectrum, Discomagic was beginning a long catalogue of records. The first big ones seemed to be "How Many Fill" by Delanua, "The Garden" and "Robot Is Systematic" by 'Lectric Workers, and the club smash, "Hookey" by Sylvi Foster. ll Discotto Productions has a huge hit with "Tequila" by Bo Boss. "I Need Love" by Capricorn is released and considered a major accomplishment in electro dance. "Plastic Doll" by Dharma becomes a cult classic way ahead of its time! On Zanza Records, Klein & M.B.O. release "Dirty Talk", and Pink Project debuts with "Disco Project" a cover version of Pink Floyd's, "Another Brick In The Wall" becoming two of the biggest chart hits in Europe in all of 1982. Also released in '82 on Zanza Records was "Droid" by Mito, a song and artist that has developed quite a following since then. Kato, who would go on to become one of the most famous Italo artists ever, debuts with "Chinese Revenge", a very spacey disco song. Bob Salton's "Starknight" becomes a high energy Italo Disco hit. "Coda" by Amin Peck starts a long list of hits for this man. The Twins debut with "Face To Face - Heart To Heart" and would be back in 1983 with two more big singles (more on them later). The big accomplishment for electro fused to Italo Disco in 1982 would have to be "Bad Passion" by Steel Mind. Using male, female, and robot vocals all in one song, we hear what is more like a prelude to all future dance music. We won't stress it any further, but this is to be considered one of the fundamental songs of Italo Disco! Marzio Dance debuts with some promising hits such as "The Adventure" and the early '83 followup release entitled, "Rap-O-Hush". One of the most respectable songs of 1982 is "Life With You" by Expansives, a project by Franco Rago and Giorgio Farina who also produced "The Man From Colours" by Wanexa, all releases by the aforementioned 'Lectric Workers, and also "Batida" by Cariocas, which hit the market in the end of 1982. 1983 - The best year for Italo Disco music from a true Italo lover's standpoint is without a doubt 1983! So many hits, so many memories. To get the ball rolling, the Mr. Disco Organization (a sub-label of Full Time Records) releases "Spacer Woman" by Charlie and becomes an immediate classic and the biggest song on the entire label. The House Of Music label also makes some waves with several masterpieces. First, B.W.H. releases a double single entitled, "Stop" / "Livin' Up", often considered to be the most well-crafted Italo Disco release ever made! Next release on the label: "A Dog In The Night" by Mr. Master becomes another major hit. However, it was the third release on House Of Music label that set the tone for the perfect song: "Cybernetic Love" by Casco, a vocoder and synthesizer masterpiece. We're just scratching the surface with the big hits on the year! "Take A Chance" by Mr. Flagio features a heavily vocodized male voice and electro beats that are forever engraved in many Italo lovers heads. Il Discotto was the home of Doctor's Cat and their debut song, "Feel The Drive". Also on the same label was the first release by Brand Image entitled, "Are You Loving?" On the Italian Records label, Gaznevada releases "I.C. Love Affair" and N.O.I.A. releases "Stranger In A Strange Land" - two immediate classics. On the Fly Music label, "Shaker Shake" by Time is released, becoming an unforgettable classic with amazing synthesizer work that has since been unparalleled. At Discomagic, it was an absolutely huge year including the infamous song, "I'm Hungry" by Stopp, which displays one very phat bassline. Also, Samoa Park debuts with an Italo Disco version of Mike Oldfield's famous "Tubular Bells" project. Ryan Paris creates the happy piano-esque tune called "Dolce Vita" which topped European charts. Tommy Bow's "Dance Tonight" and Felli's "Diamond In The Night" were two of Discomagic's big songs of 1983. However, one of Discomagic's best releases was "Orient Express" by Wish Key. Gary Low continued to emerge as a leader with his next single, "I Want You", which has been sampled many times over the years, most recently by Miss Kittin. Gazebo makes a string of top hits all over European charts with "Masterpiece", "I Like Chopin", and "Lunatic". Over at American Disco Records, Scotch releases "Penguin's Invasion" and P. Lion releases "Happy Children", two songs which top the European charts and lead to success on this record label. Also on the American Disco label, Finzy Kontini releases "Cha Cha Cha", a tropical melody still retaining the Italo Disco sound. And one more big hit on the label of course: "Hey D.J. (Give Me A Lot Of Music)" by B. Rose. Camaro's Gang release "Fuerza Major" and "Ali Shuffle" while Kano returns to top the charts with a major hit entitled, "Another Life". An amazing and beautiful song off the amateur Danse Records label is "Come ..r" by Pineapples with Douglas Roop, an American vocalist. This is one of the most beloved Italo songs ever made. Memory Records was on fire with releases led by Hipnosis ("Pulstar" and "Oxygene") and Baby's Gang ("Happy Song"). One of their best releases however, was "Don't Stop Lovin'" by J.D. Jaber. "Incantations" by G.A.N.G. is another big Italo hit, coming off the Discomagic label. "Let's Go Out" by Roberto Onofri & Dee Jay Program Band is an extremely obscure song that is now in extreme demand. "Suicidal" and "Anxiety" by Amin Peck become two of the best Italo songs of 1983, showing how much work goes into each song - these 8-10 minute tracks use many instruments and channeled layers, ultimately making Amin Peck still popular today! "Run Away" by International Music System becomes a well known songs as a result of some very deep, dark beats. The year was topped off by a super powerful song called "You ... See" by Helicon - using male/female combo vocals, which is uncommon for an Italo song. The Creatures release "Believe In Yourself" making themselves a permanent staple in the Italo Disco as a result of this song. The same thing goes for The Twins and their 2 big songs: "Ballet Dancer" and "Not The Loving Kind". Righeira released "No Tengo Dinero" and "Vamos A La Playa", two Italian vocal songs that both topped all charts in Europe. Other big hits in 1983 included, "Young Man" by Nite Lite, "Communicate" by Kirlian Camera, "Voice (In The Night)" by Martinelli, "Hypnotic Tango" by My Mine, and "Magical Body" by Los Angeles T.F. In a category of his own, Den Harrow debuts with "To Meet Me" and "A Taste Of Love" two very nice productions with someone else actually lip-synching these songs for the handsome 'Den Harrow' character. Since Den Harrow was a fake name, the question soon became: "Who is Den Harrow?" Was it the same person as Fred Ventura, Joe Yellow, or Albert One? Soon, it was realized that Italo Disco had a whole 'nother element of mystery created by these sort of scenarios. As the year came to an end, Decadance released "On And On (Fears Keep On)", an amazing masterpiece that many deejay's want to have. As 1983 ended, it was obviously clear that Italo Disco was the biggest genre of music in Italian history. Many record labels, big and small, were now releasing hit after hit. Some of the bigger labels began to make waves in Germany, Netherlands, and throughout the rest of Europe (with England as an exception), eventually finding their way to the ZYX label in Germany. This record label was the biggest and baddest label in all of Europe and was known to do a lot of third-party licensing for the German market (which was absolutely huge on disco/dance music!) It was in this year that ZYX had enough songs licensed to their label that one of their producers/deejay's created 2 short megamixes using Italian disco songs. The mix was named, "Italo Boot Mix Volume 1" and it featured artists such as Mr. Flagio, Time, Doctor's Cat, Samoa Park, and Brand Image. The mix of course, was a huge success all over Europe and was the first outreach of pure Italian music in new markets. Soon after the first "Italo Boot Mix" was released, everybody in Europe began referring to disco music from Italy as Italo Disco, which is now what the entire genre is known as. One important note to make: The Italo Boot Mix series, which had a total of 16 volumes, 2 mixes apiece, only featured songs licensed to the ZYX label and is clearly not an indicator of the "best Italo Disco" songs - only the best ones that ZYX got a hold of. Many of the best Italo Disco songs never left Italy and are not as well known. 1984 - Fockewulf 190 paves the way with "Gitano" and "Body Heat", two of the most respected Italo songs ever. The Italian men behind Fockewulf 190 wouldn't stop there - they made one more song using the alius of Frank Tavaglione called "Tumidanda" - one of the most sought after Italo songs ever! The original 12" features both an English and Italian version, which was very uncommon! Using the voice of Fred Ventura and the production values on Market Records, the Fockewulf 190 group took one more shot in the Italo scene with "Eagles In The Night" by Dario Dell'Aere - becoming another majorly sought after release that almost no DJ can claim he or she owns to this day. Simply put, Fockewulf 190's four productions were all on limited release in 1984 and have become harder and harder to locate as the years go by - they sell on eBay for hundreds of dollars each. Speaking of the years going by, Fred Ventura has a huge hit with "The Years (Go By)" and it's featured in an Italo Boot Mix, making it an even bigger hit in Germany. International Music System, release a major party song called "Dancing Therapy". Memory Records big hits of the year are led by Ken Laszlo's,"Hey Hey Guy" and "Tonight" and by Cyber People's "Void Vision" and "Polaris". The Peecker Melody label, a sub-label of Il Discotto provides 3 huge hits in 1984. They are: "Your Fun" by Modem, "Driving" by Sensitive, and "Running Straight" by Amin Peck. "I Wish" by Bolero became a huge hit all over Europe. One of the biggest hits of the year was "Self Control" by the late Laura Branigan. The song was actually written by an Italian artist who released his version (the original) under the alius of RAF (or RAFF in other markets). Both versions topped every single chart in Europe and at one point both songs held the ..1 and ..2 positions simultaneously in the German music charts. As fantastic as the Laura Branigan version is, it lacks the beautiful male vocals and fantastic rap segment near the end of the song. "Queen Of Discoteque" by Sissy on the Eyes Records label is an amazing song. Also on the label is "Future State" by the same-named artist and also "Firelight" by Ghecko (often mistaken as Checko) - these songs helped make Eyes Records a top Italo label in 1984. On Ram Productions, a sub-label of Discomagic, Ram Band releases "Silent Smiles" and then on the same label, Anthony's Games releases the same exact song. Same label, a year later, Visions releases "Everybody" and then soon afterwards, Videovision (on the Ra.Re label) releases "Anybody" and Video (on the Fly Records label) releases "Somebody". The man behind all 3 songs that "coincidently" have similar titles and the same exact synth-hook is Raff Todesco. All this stuff about the same song being released by two or three different artists was quite common in the Italo Disco genre. The most famous would be the song "Souvenir" which was originally released by OMD was then covered by a handful of Italian artists including Nicky & Nicky and Saxophone. By 1984, Italo Disco was already in its prime with 100's and 100's of new songs arriving each month at the local record shops throughout Italy and Europe, particularly Netherlands and Germany, where the genre became an absolute phenomenon. "Clouds" by Angie is a great female Italo hit. "Magic Carillon" by Rose is another female vocal classic, often considered to be the best Italo song ever. Fake debuts with an extremely sexy vintage disco styled song that keeps many elements of Italo Disco. The song is called "Donna Rouge" and is often considered to be the perfect song! Let's move on to the big hits of 1984. "The Years (Go By" by Fred Ventura becomes a lead track on one of the Italo Boot Mixes and also a top chart hit all over Europe. Il Discotto's big hit was "Hot Stuff" by Image. Discomagic's big hit was "Play Boy" by Venise - another amazing female vocal song with a great electro/drum beat combo. However, the big Italo song of 1984 (from a true fans standpoint) would be "Catch" by Sun-La-Shan. 'Catch Is Sexy' would become the famous vocals to this song that almost any Italo fan is able to sing along to. Scotch released "Disco Band", a major arpeggio hit that became a major hit in Germany, actually becoming one of the biggest chart success Italo songs ever! Miko Mission releases two songs in a row, "The World Is You" and "How Old Are You?" which are immediately entered into the history books of Italo Disco music! Without a doubt, it was the synthesizer work that Miko did with these two songs that made them so memorable. Memory Records is led by Ken Laszlo (e.g. "Hey Hey Guy", "Tonight") and Cyber People (e.g. "Void Vision", "Polaris"), 1985 - Fantasy Life releases "Over And Over", considered to be the rarest Italo Disco vinyl ever. The mp3 is quite easy to locate, but it's the original 12" record that fetches 600-700 dollars regularly on eBay. What a DJ would do to have this one!!! What wouldn't a DJ do??? Brand Image returns to the Italo scene in 1985 with "Love In A Summer Night" helping jumpstart the infamous Time Records label. Magika also has a nice hit on Time Records with "I Know Magika". It should be pointed out that around this time, as Italo Disco became took over the airwaves that suddenly we begin to see a major saturation of the market - 1000's of releases a year, eventually peaking in 1984 and 1985 with 5,000 major releases each year across 100's and 100's of labels. Several things can explain this market saturation: 1) creating an Italo Disco song was very easy, cheap, and trendy, especially for the DJ's of that time. Everybody was taking a stab at the Italo market; 2) many of the biggest producers from the big labels would start sub-labels and let one major artist head the label and produce literally hundreds of songs in a very short period of time. Often times, one producer would make 100's of songs a year, and the same vocalists would appear on songs across many sub-labels, being the secret vocalist. Rose, Ken Laszlo, Fred Ventura, Eddy Huntington, Den Harrow, Joe Yellow, and Albert One would become the major contributors to this rapid movement of new songs being produced. For example, "Spanis Run" by Jaco is actually the voice of Ken Laszlo, famous for his smash hit "Hey Hey Guy". Here we are in 2006 still sorting through productions and trying to figure out who sung and who produced some releases - it's all quite confusing because the genre was very tightknit yet so quickly evolving. Anyways - 1985 brough many, many big hits. "Forever And A Day" by 93rd Superbowl presents some amazing male vocals, Fake returned with a major smash hit called "Brick" and a b-side called "Another Brick" - a very fine production indeed! "Dial My Number" by R. Bais. "Baby On Fire" by Ottomix & P.K. Siegel. 1986 - Italo Disco already past its peak, begins to decline as new genre's are now surfacing. High Energy music in Germany, fueled by Modern Talking, Bad Boys Blue, C.C. Catch, and Silent Circle is a major dance scene that begins to conquer the charts. At the same time, all the traditional Italo/Euro disco beats begin to sound "old fashioned" when compared to the likes of the new speedy drum machine beats on a TR 808 or 909. Basically, this is when Garage House, Acid House, Chicago House, House, Acid, and any form of the true 130BPM would begin to take over the dance scene. It was all in the planning stages since 1982 when Italo Disco surfaced. We knew the beat would speed up and the bassline would become louder. However, Italo Disco was still not dead! This was the year it finally touched the soil of America - 2 songs actually became minor hits in USA, but were simply thrown into the New Wave genre. The two songs that now have cult status for making it to USA are "Boom Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room)" by Paul Lekakis and "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora, which was released in 1985 but became an American hit in 1986. Just like any other dance genre, 1 big European hit always touches every country at least once. With Eurodance it was "Mr. Vain" by Culture Beat. For Italo Dance, it was "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" by Eiffel 65. For trance, it's Cascada, for techno, its "Sandstorm", and so forth. The point we are trying to make is that the entire market has just 1 song of many 1000's shoved in their face. You hear this one song over and over and only wish for more songs like it. Little does anybody in USA know that these songs are just a needle in the haystack. And that's what "Tarzan Boy" is to Italo Disco! It was around this time that Radiorama became a major player in the Italo scene. They would get their own label and release a major, major song called "Aliens" in the end of 1986. Alan Barry, Aleph, Alphatown, and many other Italo artists start experimenting with a faster BPM. Slowly, but quickly, the BPM begins to speed up into the 130's, 140's, and so forth. Time Records becomes the leader in the industry at this point, with A Beat C and Asia Records following right behind. The Italo Boot mixes are now in full popularity in Germany and others parts of Europe that weren't able to access all the Italo releases. Italo Boot Mixes were megamixes from the ZYX label, featuring 10-15 songs per mix, usually split into 2 parts each. They usually featured the biggest Italo songs of the time and were quite popular in Germany, where many made the top charts for many weeks.