10 Samples That Changed The World By Simon Power
1. ‘Collage No. 1’ – James Tenney (1965)
In a time before samples and sampling, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and weird hairy men spliced tape with razors, there came unto the World a strange and wondrous sound, not unlike the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, head down in a blender. This was the sound of ‘Collage No. 1’, a quirky avant garde workout that earned its place in this list by being the first known example of copyrighted material being ‘sampled’ to make an entirely new composition.
It could be argued that this was merely the climax to the years of experimentation that had come before.
That the primal scream of ‘plunderphonics’ had been reverberating through most of the century.
That politically active art movements like the Dadaists and the Futurists had used ‘found sound’ techniques as early as 1910.That the Musique Concrete radio broadcasts of the 1940’s had performed ‘scratching’ 40 years before the Bronx turntablists began to par-taee.
And it’s true. That all this and more, directly or indirectly led to James Tenney eventually producing this quirky little avant-garde workout called ‘Collage No. 1 (Blue Suede)’.
So this is where we begin our search.With James Tenney.
A trained pianist, theorist and computer programmer who’s electronic compositions included ‘Collage No. 1 (Blue Suede)’, ’13 Ways to Look at a Blackbird’ and ‘Hey, When I sing these 4 Songs, Hey, Look What Happens.’
This is where we begin the exciting adventure of the 10 Samples that Rocked the World of Music.
With the first sample: from ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Elvis Presley.
2. ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ – Brian Eno (1981)
‘Ghosts’ set out to illustrate the essence of the Bible Bashing USA during the early days of Reaganomics.
The tracks were crawling with samples of Lay Preachers and Evangelists spitting venomous diatribe over African Rhythms and Frippertronics (floaty, repetitive guitar loops) dreamt up by ex-King Crimsonite, Robert Fripp.
Talking Head, David Byrne and Mutant Disco Diva, Bill Laswell leant a hand, too, laying synth and bass lines over the dripping tap of American radio’s eerie psychobabble.
So far reaching was the album’s influence that it read like an instruction manual for dance and ambient music for the rest of the century.
Records like ‘No Sell Out’ (sampling the speeches of Malcolm X), ‘We’ll Be Right Back’ (radio ads) and ‘The Enemy Within’ (Trade Union speeches) soon followed in the wake of ‘Ghosts’. And the music of the Orb, Moby and the Aphex Twin, all owe a passing nod to the inventiveness of Brian Eno, who once described sampling as squeezing a tube of paint and, instead of cobalt blue, ‘you get Cézanne’.
However, samples of Algerian Fundamentalists meant that the album almost wasn’t released at all. Muslims everywhere were not amused by its apparent irreverence and the first pressings were junked.
The Word of God, it would seem, is copyrighted material.
So, the second sample that (nearly) changed the course of music?
Those anonymous Algerian Muslims chanting The Koran on 1981’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’.
3. ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel – Grandmaster Flash (1981)
Joseph Saddler grew up in the South Bronx. In the early 70’s he began perfecting his Djing style which included highlighting and repeating funky rhythm breaks using two turntables. The complexity of his sets coupled with his manual dexterity earned him the nickname, Flash. Later adding ‘Grandmaster’ after one of his Djing heroes.
After extensive live performances, and a clutch of record releases in the mid 70’s, Grandmaster Flash was noticed by Sugarhill Records boss, Joe Robinson Jnr.
Joe Robinson’s label had already produced a massive breakthrough single.
The sublime Rappers Delight byNew Jersey’s Sugarhill Gang with its interpolation of Chic’s Good Times (played by session musicians, Positive Force) was a massive international hit. But it was Grandmaster Flash who produced the first ever hip-hop record to use extensive sound piracy.
That record was ‘Wheels of Steel’.
‘Wheels of Steel’ was a raw record. A sexy record. A fun record.
A proud display of vinyl manipulation. A tribute to the ever-growing popularity of the DJ as a cult figure. Mercilessly stealing sound sources to build an irresistible groove, it plundered Nile Rogers thumpin’ bassline from Good Times and the entire intro from Queen’s Another one Bites the Dust before slipping into a cosy night time chat between a father and his two sons (or possibly a dodgey scout master. You decide). The whole thing was peppered through with horn breaks, percussion loops and string stabs from records like ‘8th Wonder’ (Sugarhill Gang), ‘Monster Jam’ (Spoonie G.) and ‘Birthday Party’ (The Furious Five, which also featured as the original flip side).
But this tune was way funkier than the sum of its parts, and at the time of its release, it was nothing short of Iconoclastic. Mixes like this had never been put out on vinyl before, and it still remains a lasting tribute to the brilliance of the Sugar Hill label.
Like his follow up single, ‘The Message’, ‘Wheels of Steel’ gave to the World a lasting message that was indelibly etched into its every groove.
A sample that becomes our third sample in the search for the 10 samples that changed the face of music:
from Blondie’s ‘Rapture’…
‘Flash is fast, Flash is cool’.
4. ‘Duck Rock’ – Malcolm McLaren and the World Famous Supreme Team 1982)
"Two manual decks and a rhythm box is all you need. Get a bunch of good rhythm records, choose your favourite parts and groove along with the rhythm machine. Using your hands, scratch the record by repeating the grooves you dig so much. Fade one record into the other and keep that rhythm box going. Now start talking and singing over the record with your own microphone. Now you're making your own music out of other people's records. That's what scratching is."
(Sleeve note on Malcolm McLaren's 'B-Bu-Buffalo Gals,' produced by Trevor Horn 1982).
Then, in 1982, along came Duck Rock.
Duck Rock is the story of when Trevor Horn (big spectacles wearer who wrote a pop song called ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’) met Malcolm McLaren (former Sex Pistols Svengali and celebrated ‘wierdo’).
Malcolm McLaren had a singular ability to predict trends in both fashion and music.
Trevor Horn, on the other hand, was a genius at turning musical vision into reality.
Malcolm McLaren had a musical vision. A vision of ‘World Music’.
He dreamt of bringing together the rhythms of the Zulu Nation, the ethnic sounds of the Appalachian Mountains and the urban grooves of New York City.
Trevor Horn, on the other hand, had just been on tour with prog-rockers Yes. This turned out to be a disaster and he was searching for new and exciting projects.
The two meet. The result was Duck Rock, an album of technical and idealistic brilliance.
Duck Rock was a cornucopia of rehashed traditional rhythms and new styles, meshed together with ‘found sound’ transmissions from the World Famous Supreme Team hip hop crew demonstrating the art of “scratchin” to a new Anglo Saxon audience.
The album was crawling with sound piracy and digital sampling. Add to that list inroads into ambient and World Music and it’s easy to see how this collection sired four hit singles:
Buffalo Gals inDecember 1982, Soweto inFebruary 1983, Double Dutch in July and Duck for the Oyster, possibly the albums low pointonly managing to reach number 53 in December 1983.
So, the fourth sample in our search for 10 Great Samples is peppered throughout this album and also managed to introduce a new phrase into the Nation’s consciousness…
“All that scratchin’ is making me itch”
5. ‘Alone Again’ – Biz Markie (1988)
Novelty rapper, Biz Markie (Marcel Hall) never had a major hit, but carved out a niche in the history of sampling when he recorded a track called ‘Alone Again’ for his album, ‘I Need a Haircut’. The chorus features 8 bars of music sampled from the 1971 hit, ‘Alone Again, Naturally’ by UK singer/songwriter, Gilbert O’Sullivan. The sample wasn’t cleared before release and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s publishing company decided to sue.
The result was a court case that changed the sampling laws for good.
The jury went in favour of Gilbert O’Sullivan and his publishers, and in summing up, Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy famously quoted one of the 10 commandments; ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’.
Since the court hearing, Warner Brothers have demanded that every sample used should be cleared prior to release and all other record companies were quick to follow suit.
Biz Markie’s follow up album was aptly named, ‘All Samples Cleared’!
So, the sixth sample that changed the course of sampling sampled samples has to be…
‘Alone Again, Naturally’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan.
6. ‘Accapellas Anonymous Volume 1’ – Various Artists (1989)
This album infringes many copyright laws and probably a number of State and Federal ones, too. But, like the Great Train Robbers, the story of ‘Accapellas Anonymous’ is now so legendary that its dodgey background is all but forgotten.
The white sleeve and yellow label did nothing to betray the riches that lay dormant in its shallow, black grooves. A whole album of passionate soul-drenched voices from 70’s and 80’s disco anthems like ‘Love and Happiness’, ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’, ‘Love Sensation’ and ‘Touch and Go’, all featured here without the instrumentation that normally anchor performances to a particular period in time.
Lifted from post session tapes, some even stolen from commercial releases, this ‘DJ Toolkit’ kick started the House Music revolution of the late 80’s as turntablists and producers plundered hooks, moans and soulful wails to use on their own recordings.
Choruses, verses, sometimes entire songs were given the piano, drums and bass treatment as bedroom mixing met disco fever in a head on collision of bombastic proportions.
As an example, Track 2, ‘Love Sensation’ is now better known as the hit, ‘Ride on Time’ (Loletta Holloway actually sings ‘Right on Time’ but this was misinterpreted by its Italian producers, Daniele Davoli, Mirko Limoni and Valerio Semplici whose production skills were perhaps better than their command of the English language!)
I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love from Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded’, ‘Touch Me’ by The 49ers, JX’s ‘Son of a Gun’, Cappella’s ‘Take Me Away’ all featured lead vocal lines lifted from ‘Accapellas Anonymous’.
But, perhaps the most famous steal was the one that launched a thousand imitations, becoming our fifth sample in the list of 10 Samples that caused a big sensation.
From side B, track 6, ’Love’s Gonna Get You’, the line that gave Snap their biggest hit…’I got the Power’.
7. A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld’ - The Orb (1990)
From the album, ‘Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld’, this 22 minute plunderphonics meisterwerk paved the way for chillout and ambient music forever and ever. Amen. The ingredients are as follows…
A 4-note synth line and gated choir voices; seemingly random sound effects (sprinkled liberally); and, finally, massive dollops of the song, ‘Loving You’ by Minnie Ripperton (replaced by a ‘sing-a-like’ in later versions due to problems with copyright). This was some feast, and, although owing plenty to Stockhaussen, John Cage, Phillip Glass and Brian Eno, this was definitely a taste of something new.
All that you could expect from an outfit with such pedigree.
Former PIL bassist, Jah Wobble, former Gong-ite guitarist, Steve Hillage, former KLF co-founder Jimmy Cauty, former youth, Youth, and behind it all, the somewhat blissed-out and ludicrous DJ and producer and EG records A&R man, “Dr.” (Duncan Robert) Alex Patterson.
This outfit went on to produce other eccentricities like the 39 minute ‘Blue Room’ and the epic ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ featuring samples of Rikki Lee Jones waffling about the colour of the skies in Arizona. But nothing perhaps as wilfully charming as ‘Centre of the Ultraworld’ which provides us with sample number 7 in the 10 sublime samples list…
‘Loving You’ by Minnie Ripperton
8. ‘The Music Sounds Better With You’ – Stardust (1998)
Stardust’s greatest achievement was to capture the Zeitgeist of the late 90’s with such razor sharp precision that the rest of the century was pebble dashed with mere copies, doppelgangers and imitations.
It has to be said that the complexity involved in making something sound so simple is quite staggering. But producer, Thomas Bangalter made it sound…Well, easy. Bangalter and co-producer Alan Braxe recorded the track for their own Roule label in 1998.
The heavenly guitar lick, filtered drums and soulful vocal line totally blew away the Ibiza dance crowd that summer and after Virgin licensed it for release it was a big hit in the autumn.
Though the label offered Bangalter three million dollars to produce an LP, he decided instead to make it a one-off, turning ‘Music sounds better With You’ into a glorious martyr for inspired sampling.
Bangalter went on to fuel the late 90’s French revolution in dance music as Daft Punk.
But it’s Stardust that gives us number 8 of the 10 most celestial samples, those chords from ‘The Music Sounds Better With You’, sampled from…
‘Fate’ by Chaka Khan.
9. ‘Play’ by Moby (1999)
If you didn’t actually buy a copy of this CD, by the end of 1999, you would have almost definitely absorbed most of it through cultural osmosis. It was everywhere. Inescapable. Selling everything from Volkswagens to toilet rolls (probably). And if you tried to hide in a dark room like a cinema, it would follow you there, too, appearing on countless movie soundtracks. ‘Play’ became ‘Played’ became ‘Over-Played’ and in the process turned a hyper active Christian vegan from Harlem into a household name.
‘Play’ uses several samples from musicologist Alan Lomax's ‘Sounds of the South’ CD box set that was given to Moby at a dinner party. Moby took these recordings of prisoners and field hands and created new compositions around them. The Alan Lomax Archive negotiated a buyout and received a flat fee for royalties. Based on past sales of his work, this album was only expected to sell 150,000. It sold a cool 10,000,000 copies World-wide after his agency targeted movie producers and ad agencies who hijacked the music for film and TV.
Moby has said that he wanted to produce an album with multi-utilities. Music, after all, was having to adapt to a new social climate and a technical revolution. But in doing so, he perhaps unwittingly produced an album that became just a marketing toy, a Duracell bunny, that after relentless usage had little energy left in it.
That’s not to say this wasn’t (isn’t) a remarkable album. It was, and still is, a hiatus point in the history of sampling.
It was a cultural success.
It was what the World wanted, when the World wanted it.
The time was right, the ingredients were right.
The Blues imbibed vocal hooks, lilting rhythms and dynamic instrumentation that shared direct lay lines with Soul II Soul, ‘Sacred Spirit’ and even the insane ramblings of Joy Division, gave to music that ‘end of the century’ renaissance feeling that it craved so badly.
And just when it looked like everything that could be sampled had been sampled, ‘Play’ put digital sampling back on the map.
Many albums had tried to be ‘Play’, but only ‘Play’ was ‘Play’. And for that it will be remembered as the 9th sample that altered the course of post modern culture. From Alan Lomax's ‘Sounds of the South’…
‘Why does my heart, feel so bad?’
10. ‘A Little Less Conversation’ – Elvis Presley VS. JXL (2000)
Nike sought permission to remix ‘A Little Less Conversation’, a Mac Davis and Billy Strange song that had recently resurfaced on the ‘Oceans 11’ soundtrack, for the 2000 Football World Cup Theme.
The subsequent Junkie XL version by producer Tom Holkenborg was an irresistible big beat bonanza. Largely over-dubbed and replayed, but with the original vocal lines (re sampled so they ran in time), this endearing treatment was laced with horns, synths, chipmunk backing vocals, a big cowbell and an even bigger Elvis P. at his charismatic best.
It was a massive hit in 9 different countries, portraying how, by the turn of the century; sampling has now fully dovetailed with the subtle art of music production.
Anything more would have been too much.
Anything less, not enough.
So here we are at sample number 10 in the list of 10 samples. And coincidentally back where we began. With Elvis Presley.
Wondering, perhaps, what he might have made of it all.
What Elvis would’ve thought about the art of sampling?
Breaking the law. Bending the rules. Playing the fool?
Hasn’t music always done that?
Borrowing, poaching, stealing?
A lick, a solo, a riff?
Terraforming a new sound for every generation?
‘All this conversation ain’t satisfactioning me’ singsElvis.
10 records that didn’t make the list of the 10 records with the 10 samples that changed the World
1. ‘19’ - Paul Hardcastle
2. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ – The Avalanches
3. ‘Thunder in My Heart Again’ – Meck
4. ‘S’Express Theme’ – S’Express
5. ‘Another chance’ - Roger Sanchez
6. ‘Slip into Something’ – Kinobe
7. ‘Out of Space’ – Prodigy
8. ‘Pump up the Volume’ – MARRS
9. The Rockafeller Skank - Fatboy Slim
10. ‘Paid in Full’ – Eric B. and Rakim (Coldcut remix)
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