La Historia del Italo Disco
with a little editing from another source which is the myspace site of a great Italo disco radio.
Emerging from Val Gardena, Italy, producer and keyboard player Mr. Giorgio Moroder began to experiment on a new toy in the music world: an electronic synthesizer. He started to create loops and synth-hooks using basic equipment from Moog and Korg. His first LP From Here To Eternity, The Chase and the rest of the score for the 1978 film Midnight Express established him as a popular hitmaker and left a permanent mark in the ears of young Italians who would later go on to create their own electronic music, eventually to be known as 'Italo Disco'.
These Italian producers were also influenced by film soundtracks that used new electronic sounds. Just 2 years earlier in 1976, of John Carpenter started his 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 Precint 13 would go on to become a major influence for many Italians who discovered the power of a drum machine, as heard in the opening theme of the movie.
Around the same time, an Italian band by the name of Goblin emerged and began 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.
... 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 released a series of albums - the most famous being, Supernature and Love In C Minor. Simply outstanding works 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 themselves. 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.
In late 1978, Black Devil, at the time a very obscure act 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 demand today! (see the post about the more recent re-release on labels like WARP where some people even thought that it was an Aphex Twin/Luke Vibert collaboration instead of an old disco classic).
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.
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 and on Zanza Records, Klein & M.B.O.’s release Dirty Talk become cult classics way ahead of their time!
Pink Project debuts with Disco Project a cover version of Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall. Dirty Talk and Disco project become 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. Koto, 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.
The big accomplishment in blending electro with 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 1983 follow up 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.
Is without a doubt the best year for Italo Disco from a true Italo lover's point of view! 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 that set the tone for the perfect song: Cybernetic Love by Casco, a vocoder and synthesizer masterpiece.
But we've only just scratching the surface of the big hits of that 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 version of Mike Oldfield's 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's 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, like for instance by Miss Kittin.
Gazebo makes a string of top hits all over Europe 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 releases 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 cover releases by Hipnosis (Pulstar and Oxygene) and Baby's Gang with 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, from 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 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 were 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 other 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 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 some 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 state: 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.
Fockewulf 190 paves the way with Gitano and Body Heat, two of the most respected Italo songs ever. The Italians behind Fockewulf 190 wouldn't stop there - they made one more song using the alias of Frank Tavaglione called Tumidanda - one of the most sought after Italo songs ever! The original 12 inch 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 alias of RAF (or RAFF in other markets). Both versions topped every single chart in Europe and at a certain point both songs simultaneously held the first and second positions 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 in the 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 has 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 (don't ask me). Scotch released Disco Band, a major arpeggio hit that became a big hit in Germany, actually becoming one of the biggest chart success for a 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! Without a doubt, it was the synthesizer work that Miko did with these two songs that made them so memorable.