Italo disco

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Italo disco (sometimes hyphenated, such as Italo-disco,[1] subjected to varying capitalization, or abbreviated as Italo)[1] is a genre of music which originated in Italy and was mainly produced at the end of the 1970s to mid-1980s. The origin of the genre's name is strongly tied to marketing efforts of the ZYX record label, which began licensing and marketing the music outside of Italy in 1982.[2] An early form of electronic dance music, Italo disco faded in the late 1980s when Italo house eclipsed it.

Italo disco fused Italian and foreign pop and dance music. Initially borrowing from hi-NRG and post-disco (accentuating the sounds of the former), it developed into a diverse genre. The genre employed drum machines, synthesizers, and occasionally vocoders and was usually sung in English.

Terminology[edit]

The term "Italo", a generic prefix meaning Italian, had been used on pop music compilation albums in Germany as early as 1978, such as Italo Top Hits on the K-Tel label and the first volume of Italo Super Hits on the Ariola label.[3]

There is no documentation of where the term "Italo-Disco" first appeared, but its origins are generally traced to Italian and other European disco recordings released in the German market. Examples include the phrase "Original Italo-Disco" on the sleeve of the German edition of "Girl On Me" by Amin-Peck in 1982, and the 1983 compilation album The Best of Italo-Disco. These records, along with the Italo Boot Mix megamix, were released by Bernhard Mikulski on his relatively widely distributed ZYX label. The Best of and Boot Mix compilations each became a 16-volume series that culminated in 1991. Both series primarily featured disco music of Italian origin, often licensed from independent Italian labels which had limited distribution outside of Italy, as well as songs in a similar style by other European artists.

The presenters of the Italian music show Discoring (produced by RAI) usually referred to Italo disco tracks as "rock elettronico" (electronic rock) or "balli da discoteca" (disco dance) before the term "Italo disco" came into existence.

A related term is "Euro disco", referring to all European disco or subsets thereof, especially that which markedly differs from American disco music from the same era.

History[edit]

Origins: 1977–83[edit]

The entry of synthesizers and other electronic effects into the disco genre produced electronic dance music, including America's Hi-NRG and Europe's space disco. Italo disco's influences include Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, French musician Didier Marouani, a couple of hits by the French drummer Cerrone, electronic and synthpop acts such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Telex, Devo and Gary Numan, and the early Hi-NRG albums of San Francisco producer Patrick Cowley with such singers as Sylvester and Paul Parker.

Although disco music was generally reviled and shunned in the English-speaking world during the 1980s with the last major US disco hit being in 1981, dance music was still popular in Europe. Italian disco DJ's desire for new music was frustrated because new songs were imports and therefore too expensive. Italian producers and musicians then began to produce dance music, meeting the demand.

As with all musical styles, Italo disco incorporated different subgenres, overlapped with other styles, and evolved rather than appearing and disappearing, so there are conflicting points of view on what the "first" Italo disco record was and when the genre began. What can be said is that disco music was being produced by Italian producers since at least 1977. Italo disco often featured electronic sounds, drum machines, catchy melodies, vocoders, overdubs, and heavily accented English lyrics. By 1983, Italo disco's instrumentation was predominantly electronic. Along with love, Italo disco themes deal with robots and space, sometimes combining all three in songs like "Robot Is Systematic" (1982) by 'Lectric Workers and "Spacer Woman" (1983) by Charlie.

1982 and 1983 saw the release of three very similar tracks cited as influential in the development of house: the irony-laden "Dirty Talk", "Wonderful" and "The M.B.O. Theme", all by Klein + M.B.O., a side-project developed by Davide Piatto of the Italo disco duo N.O.I.A., with vocals by Piatto and Rossana Casale. Other Italo disco imports to the United States had influenced the Chicago house genre and its producers, such as Doctor's Cat's "Feel The Drive".[4]

Although the genre was successful in Europe during the 1980s, it was never particularly successful in the United Kingdom, although several Italo disco songs did become hits there, such as Ryan Paris's "Dolce Vita", Clubhouse's "Do It Again Medley", Laura Branigan's "Self Control" (a cover of the original by Raf), Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy", Taffy's "I Love My Radio", Spagna's "Call Me" and Sabrina's "Boys". Nonetheless, several British electronic acts such as the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and New Order are said to have been influenced by the genre.[1]

In 1983, there were frequent hit singles and many labels started up around this time. Such labels included American Disco, Crash, Merak, Sensation and X-Energy. The popular label Disco Magic released more than thirty singles within the year. It was also the year that the term "Italo disco" became widely known outside of Italy, with the release of the first volumes of The Best of Italo Disco compilation series on the German record label ZYX. After 1983, Italo disco was also produced outside of Italy.

Derivative styles: 1982–89[edit]

Canada, particularly Quebec, produced several remarkable Italo disco acts, including Trans X ("Living on Video"), Lime ("Angel Eyes"), Pluton & the Humanoids ("World Invaders"), Purple Flash Orchestra ("We Can Make It"), and Tapps ("Forbidden Lover"). Those productions were called "Canadian disco" during 1980–1984 in Europe and Hi-NRG disco in the U.S.

In Germany, Italo disco is known as Euro disco and discofox. In English-speaking countries, it was called Italo disco and Hi-NRG. German productions were sung in English and were characterized by an emphasis on melody, exaggerated production, and a more earnest approach to the themes of love; examples may be found in the works of Modern Talking, Fancy, American-born singer and Fancy protégé Grant Miller, Bad Boys Blue, Joy, Silent Circle, The Twins, Lian Ross and C. C. Catch.

During the mid-1980s, spacesynth, a subgenre of Italo disco, developed. It was mostly instrumental, featured space sounds, and was exemplified by bands such as Koto, Proxyon, Rofo, Cyber People, Hipnosis and Laserdance.

Evolved and interrelated genres[edit]

As Italo disco declined in Europe, Italian and German producers adapted the sound to Japanese tastes, creating "Eurobeat". Music produced in this style is sold exclusively in Japan due to the country's Para Para culture, produced by Italian producers for the Japanese market. The two most famous Eurobeat labels are A-Beat-C Records and Hi-NRG Attack. Two traditional Italo disco labels, S.A.I.F.A.M. and Time, now produce Eurobeat music for Japan.

Around 1989 in Italy, Italo disco evolved into Italo house. Italian Italo disco artists began experimenting with harder beats and the "house" sound.

Revival: 1998–present[edit]

A big comeback of German disco began in 1998, when Modern Talking reunited. Rete 4 channel in Italy, Hits 24, Goldstar TV, and ProSieben channels in Germany, and the program Nostalgia on Spain's TVE channel started to broadcast Italo disco.

Several online radio stations stream the genre. The renewed popularity has inspired re-releases and new mixes by many of the original Italo disco record labels. ZYX Records has released many new CD mixes since 2000. Panama Records and Radius Records have re-released Italo tracks on vinyl. Northern European labels I Venti d'Azzurro (The Netherlands) and Flashback Records (Finland) have produced unreleased demos, new versions of old hits, and new songs. New Italo disco has been contributed by artists such as I-Robots (with their 2006 song "Spacer Frau"), Tobias Bernstrup, Master Blaster (their 2003 album We Love Italo Disco), Harre Money (his 2006 album The Picture of Dorian Gray), Sally Shapiro, Joey Mauro, Karl Otto, Diva, Mark Fruttero, Fred Ventura, George Aaron, Peter Aresti, Neon Game, Amaya and Italove.

Contemporary artists influenced by Italo disco[edit]

Notable artists[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c McDonnell, John (1 September 2008). "Scene and heard: Italo-disco". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Folklore that ZYX boss Bernhard Mikulski coined the term italo-disco in 1983 was long published on Wikipedia, but is unsubstantiated; to date, reliable third-party documentation has not been found to support whether ZYX label boss Mikulski himself named it, or whether ZYX was even the first to publish the term; it could just as easily have been a descriptor people were already using before someone at ZYX picked up on it.
  3. ^ "Italo Super Hits in WorldCat". Retrieved 2014-11-04. 
  4. ^ SPIN Media LLC (December 1989). SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. pp. 104–. ISSN 0886-3032. 

External links[edit]