I must be one of the few lucky ones to own this amazing track on a 12-inch record. I believe only few thousand copies were pressed back in 1984.

Where was I when I’d bought the record?     Ah yes!     It was sometime in late October 1985, after school, at Starsounds record store on Young Street in Toronto. Starsounds was a great record store that sold only 12-inch records of every genre, especially to DJ’s. At that time, I was looking for synth/techno/pop tracks when Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer was hot. Flipping through Starsounds’ bin of old/unsold records, my fingers came to a stop at this one particular vinyl with gloriously colored luminous-orange sleeve: Section 25.

I held the record up in a tilted-angle closer to my eyes just to read its center label. It was hard to read, because the words and fonts were ultra moderno that were printed with light, shiny luminous colors. Yeah… a record looking great in graphic-design but lacking in function (such as reading its textual content).

Even though I had no idea who Section 25 was, my gut said: This the record you’re looking for, buddy! Just the words 45 A Factory Record and Restructure From Fact 90 on the center label were enough to convince me the record was INDEED an electronic one that was meant for me. Still in my formal shirt/tie/jacket school uniform, I bought the record with my only $20-Canadian. Going home in the subway (the TTC), I was staring at the record and second-guessing what it might sound like. Once I got home, I ran to my room and dropped the needle to the record. The usual at the start of any record: few seconds of crackles, scratches and pops…

…And then there was music!

The track on Side-B starts with reverse tom-tom drums followed by reversed-&-gated 808 claps in 1/16th-note progression. Then –BAM– the beat drops like a cyber-atomic bomb: → Heavy industrial baseline → Synth bleeps/zaps all over the stereo-field → Lush synthesizer and Mellotron pads → Cyberpunk female lead vocalsWhispery male backup vocals. Electronic techno industrial pop bliss → → Hands down, an absolute electronic industrial masterpiece!

Section 25 – “Looking From A Hilltop” (Megamix)…

Artist: Section 25
Title: Looking From A Hilltop (Megamix)
Year: 1984
Label: A Factory Record
Media Source: Recorded straight from 12-inch record to enhanced digital.

Section 25 – “Looking From A Hilltop” (Megamix) (mp3)

 

Music Video: Section 25 – “Looking From A Hilltop” (version 2)…

I’m still playing this track since it first came in the late Fall of 1984. It’s that good! Amazing synth-pads and processed power-drums. Lots of dubby layers and one of the first to come up with the stutter-scrub-start/stop-pitch’downs-pitch’ups type of edits in the mix. Very hard to do and accomplish at that time. Only skilled engineers and remixers could’ve achieved those effects in the mix-downs and mastering stages. The later parts of Out Of Touch (Dub) goes through amazing phasing, flanging and delays that may have possibly been done with high-end signal/effect processors like the Eventide H3000 or the Lexicon PCM42. Very tight track that drives from start to finish.

Hall & Oats – “Out Of Touch” (Dub Version)…

Hall and Oats - Out Of Touch (Dub Version)Artist: Hall & Oats
Title: Out Of Touch (Dub Version)
Year: 1984
Label: RCA

Hall & Oats – “Out Of Touch” (Dub Version) (mp3)

 

Thompson Twins – “Doctor! Doctor!” (Long Version)…

Thompson Twins - Doctor Doctor (Long Version)Artist: Thompson Twins
Title: Doctor! Doctor! (Long Version)
Year: 1984
Label: Arista

Thompson Twins – “Doctor! Doctor!” (Long Version) (mp3)

 

YELLO – “Stella” Album & Singles

Yello, Stella Album & Singles, Dieter Meier, Boris Blank

There’s no measure as to how much I love the Stella album by YELLO. Released in 1985, Stella is still one of the most original albums ever to come out, and still standing the test of time. Oh Yeah is probably one of the most recognized tracks ever since being featured in the soundtracks of two 1985 block-buster movies: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Secret Of My Success ….. and subsequently later being featured in countless other movies. But Oh Yeah is not my only favorite track on Stella album. My favorite tracks are all the other ones, such as Dessert Inn, Koladi-Ola, Domingo, Sometimes — practically all the tracks on that album. Stella must be listened to from start to finish. The tracks tell a story in their consecutive order. Boris Blank’s wizardry on the synths, drum machines and the Fairlight sampler is pure sound-design bliss. Every sound and element heard on each track is sublime. Engineered beautifully. Lyrical poetry from the vocals of Dieter Meier. Those two Swiss guys –Boris Blank and Dieter Meier– are masters of their own craft. They are always (as always have been) in total control over everything they do, including producing and directing all their music videos. They simply stand on their plateau through and through.

Play YELLO “Stella” Album…

YELLO- “Vicious Games” (12″ Mix)…

Artist: YELLO
Title: Vicious Games (12″ Mix)
Year: 1985
Label: Mercury Records

YELLO – “Vicious Games” (12″ Mix) (mp3)

 

YELLO- “Desire” (12″ Mix)…

Artist: YELLO
Title: Desire (12″ Mix)
Year: 1985
Label: Mercury Records

YELLO – “Desire” (12″ Mix) (mp3)

 

YELLO- “Oh Yeah” (Dance Mix)…

Artist: YELLO
Title: Oh Yeah (Dance Mix)
Year: 1985
Label: Mercury Records

YELLO – “Oh Yeah” (Dance Mix) (mp3)

 

YELLO- “Oh Yeah” (Indian Summer Version)…

Artist: YELLO
Title: Oh Yeah (Indian Summer Version)
Year: 1985
Label: Mercury Records

YELLO – “Oh Yeah” (Indian Summer Version) (mp3)

 

YELLO- “Let Me Cry” (Extended)…

Artist: YELLO
Title: Let Me Cry (Extended)
Year: 1985
Label: Mercury Records

YELLO – “Let Me Cry” (Extended) (mp3)

 

YELLO- “Blue Nabou” (Bonus Track)…

Artist: YELLO
Title: Blue Nabou (Bonus Track)
Year: 1984
Label: Mercury Records

YELLO – “Blue Nabou” (Bonus Track) (mp3)

 

Some of my YELLO collection…

Click each image to enlarge.

Yello music collection (small image)Yello music collection (small image)Yello music collection (small image)
Yello music collection (small image)Yello music collection (small image)Yello music collection (small image)

The first time hearing this incredible remix of Billy Idol’s Flesh For Fantasy in 1984, I did not pay much attention to it for no reason at all. I’ve always loved the original LP version, but my brain failed to register Below The Belt Mix. It had all the elements which I craved in any given track in those times: drum machines, samples of stuttering vocals and guitar stabs, synthesizers, etc.  Tight programming and blending of electronic synth, pop and rock music, produced by Keith Forsey who had worked extensively with Giorgio Moroder (go figure Below The Belt Mix sounding electronic!) — the godfather of electric disco, also notoriously known for his mind-blasting The Chase theme soundtrack of Midnight Exress motion picture!

The day which Below The Belt Mix floored me and left me breathless was at an all-nude strip bar near LAX airport, early one Summer afternoon in 1993. The place wasn’t packed. I was having a few drinks and watching the dancer peel off all her clothes on stage while listening to the loud music. Below The Belt Mix came on next. And she cirque-du-soleil’ed nude to it deeply into the flesh, heart & spirit of the song, as if it was her last dance in the world.

Billy Idol – “Flesh For Fantasy” (Below The Belt Mix)…

Artist: Billy Idol
Title: Flesh For Fantasy (Below The Belt Mix)
Year: 1984
Label: Chrysalis Records.

Billy Idol – “Flesh For Fantasy” (Below The Belt Mix) (mp3)

 

Music Video: Billy Idol – “Flesh For Fantasy”…

Another great Tears For Fears 12″ single. This track was recorded and released in the UK charts in 1984, well before the release  of their 1985 LP/album release Songs From The Big Chair. It showcased the group’s edgier sound, intricate production and, most importantly, the creative use of sampling. Beat Of The Drum Mix was clearly one of the earliest remix tracks with sampled vocals, loops and snippets as well as loops, that were sequenced and arranged together on top of all other synths and multi-tracked layers of instrument/vocal performances recorded by the band. For example, the string-hits at the beginning Beat Of The Drum Mix were sampled from a Barry Manilow track; James Brown vocal snippets near the end; and the other samples were real ambient noises, drum shots/rolls, orchestral and horn stabs, ambient and weird noises, guitar strums/chords, and Tears For Fears’ own vocals.

All the sampling were done with the Fairlight CMi-2 which was, at that time, the most sophisticated and highly advanced sampling/sequencing/digital-editing workstation.  It featured a mainframe computer, large keyboard-instrument controller, computer monitor and a light-pen.  Watch this video demonstration of the Fairlight. Also watch this other video of the Fairlight being demonstrated by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.

The meaning of Mothers Talk stems from two ideas:

  1. Something that mothers say to their children about pulling faces; they say the child will stay like that when the wind changes; and
  2. The inspiration by the anti-nuclear cartoon book When The Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs.

Tears For Fears – “Mothers Talk” (Beat Of The Drum Mix)…

Artist: Tears For Fears
Title: Mothers Talk (Beat Of The Drum Mix)
Year: 1984, 1985, 1986
Label: Mercury Records; Polygram; Phonogram; Vertigo
Media Source: Recorded straight from 12-inch record to enhanced digital.

Tears For Fears – “Mothers Talk” (Beat Of The Drum Mix) (mp3)

 

Tears For Fears – “Mothers Talk” (US Remix)…

Artist: Tears For Fears
Title: Mothers Talk (US Remix)
Year: 1984, 1985, 1986
Label: Mercury Records; Polygram; Phonogram; Vertigo

Tears For Fears – “Mothers Talk” (US Remix) (mp3)

 

Fairlight CMi demonstration by Greg Sneddon…

http://youtu.be/D-aWWcw2pL0

Fairlight Cmi demonstration by Nick Rhodes & other artists…

When The Wind Blows…

In 1983, Malcolm McLaren released two singles, Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch, both of which becoming worldwide top-10 smash-hits. Those two tracks hit the international music charts before his LP Dutch Rock was released. Dutch Rock album proved to be highly influential, bringing hip-hop to a wider audience, especially in the UK.

Giacomo Puccini, Madam Butterfly operaIn 1984, Malcolm changed his tune to opera on his next maxi/EP single release of Madam Butterfly which was an electronic, synth-pop modern-classic track, based on Giacomo Puccini’s 1902 classic-opera Madam Butterfly’s“Un Bel Di Vedremo” final aria (watch videos below). For those of you who are not familiar with Puccini, perhaps you might recognize his “Nessun Dorma” aria from his Turandot opera (which is still part of today’s popular culture). Nessun Dorma has achieved pop-status by Luciano Pavarotti’s recording of it, used as the theme song of BBC’s television’s coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup soccer in Italy; and it subsequently reached #2 on the UK singles music chart (the highest placing ever by a classical recording).

Malcolm McLaren’s Madam Butterfly is arranged with a drum-machine, atmospheric synthesizers and spoken/sung R&B verses (with opera backup vocals). The production on Malcolm’s Madam Butterfly is stellar. The track was produced by Steven Hague who settled for nothing but the best in overall production. I know for a fact that a Fairlight CMI-2 was used, because Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo) starts with the Fairlight’s famous factory sound-preset ”aah” voices coming in slowly and rising gradually in amplitude, serving as a bed/pad sound layered in the background throughout the track. Watch music video below to hear that sound. I know all the Fairlight sounds inside-out, because I’ve heard them millions of times since 1980 when the Fairlight beast of a sampler/workstation instrument was used on countless of tracks by other famous artists and groups in that era (for it’s unique sound, powerful sample/sound processing engine and music sequencer). Watch this video of the Fairlight being demonstrated by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. As for the chord melody in Madam Butterfly, it is a sound of an upright-harp with softer/slower attack transient; though there’s no telling what synthesizer or sampler brand used for it. It could’ve been a custom-sampled harp sound for the Fairlight, or a factory-sample bank coming from a then-popular E-mu Emulator-II, but my guess is that the harp and the bassline-sound were factory-preset patches from a Yamaha DX7 synth. Watch this YouTube demo of the DX7. Harp sounds from synths and samplers sound almost exactly the same and very difficult to distinguish them apart. Also, the drum-machine used in Madam Butterfly is an Oberheim DMX (which was just as popular as Roland TR-808, LinnDrum and E-mu Drumulator and SP-12 drum-machines at that time).

Attention new music producers: I have compiled and categorized .wav samples of almost every classic drum-machine and electronic drum-kits made by man.  Download drum_kits.zip

I used to own the 12″ vinyl of Madam Butterfly which I bought in 1984 from Our Price record store in Uxbridge town center (Hillingdon, Buckinghamshire, UK). But I gave it to my friend Mister P-Body (Arizona) in June 2001 (just before I moved back to West Vancouver, BC, Canada, on July 1, 2001), as I had already owned a copy of it on CD-single which I’d purchased in 1988. To this day, I’m still playing the track over and over again. I have never gotten (and still never get) sick of listening to Madam Butterfly — takes on me on long mind trips each time.

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (Un Bel Di Vedremo)…

Artist: Malcolm McLaren
Title: Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo)
Year: 1984
Label: Virgin Records; Charisma Records

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (Un Bel Di Vedremo) (mp3)

 

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (On The Fly Mix)…

Artist: Malcolm McLaren
Title: Madam Butterfly (On The Fly Mix)
Year: 1984
Label: Virgin Records; Charisma Records

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (On The Fly Mix) (mp3)

 

Malcolm McLaren – “Death Of Butterfly” (Tu Tu Piccolo)…

Artist: Malcolm McLaren
Title: Death Of Butterfly (Tu Tu Piccolo)
Year: 1984
Label: Virgin Records; Charisma Records

Malcolm McLaren – “Death Of Butterfly” (Tu Tu Piccolo) (mp3)

 

Stage Performance: A preview of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” opera…

Opera Performance: Puccini – “Madama Butterfly” (Un Bel Di Vedremo)…

Stage Performance:
Pavarotti sings “Nessun Dorma” final aria of Puccini’s Turandot opera…

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