Popcorn (instrumental)

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For other topics, see Popcorn (disambiguation). For the James Brown instrumental, see The Popcorn.
Single by Gershon Kingsley
from the album Music to Moog By
Released 1969
Format LP
Recorded 1969
Genre Synthpop[1]
Length 2:24
Label Audio Fidelity Records, New York City
Writer(s) Gershon Kingsley
Producer(s) Herman D. Gimbel
Gershon Kingsley singles chronology
"Twinkle, Twinkle"

"Popcorn" is an early synthpop instrumental, composed by Gershon Kingsley in 1969 and first appearing on his album Music to Moog By.

The same year it was released and recorded at Audio Fidelity Records label in New York City. The composition received its title during a meeting between Kingsley and Audio Fidelity; Kingsley indicated the track did not have a title and someone suggested "Popcorn", with 'Pop' standing for pop music and 'corn' for kitsch.[2] Some single sleeves (such as the one illustrated) presents the title as two words, "Pop Corn", but the title is generally presented as one word.

In 1972, Hot Butter's rerecording was a huge hit in many countries. "Popcorn" has since been covered by a great number of artists.

Original version[edit]


Composer Gershon Kingsley (of Perrey and Kingsley) first recorded it for his 1969 album Music to Moog By. In 1971 the song was re-recorded by Kingsley's band First Moog Quartet. Stan Free, member of the First Moog Quartet, rerecorded the instrumental with his band Hot Butter in 1972. The record was one of a rash of Moog synthesizer-based releases that followed the 1968 Billboard pop Top 40 chart success Wendy Carlos had with Switched-On Bach and that characterized electronic music of the mid-1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

The title refers to the short staccato or sharp "popping" sound used. A studio technician may have suggested the name "popcorn" because it was pop music and 'corny', meaning kitsch.[2]

There were two 7" covers, both released in 1972 under Musicor Records and Stateside labels.

Cover versions[edit]

Other cover versions of the song have been recorded, some of which add lyrics (which have been added in at least six languages). Artists who reworked it and made a cover record include:

In 1988 M&H Band made an uptempo cover of "Popcorn" that has subsequently been misattributed to Kraftwerk. The M&H version is also sometimes misattributed to synthpop artist Jean Michel Jarre. There is also a version circulating on the internet that is claimed to have been made by avant-garde group The Residents even though it sounds vastly different from The Residents' usual experimental sound. This version is actually made by the hard house artists called The Rezidents, hence the confusion between the two.

Live performances include that of Muse. The band performed this song live in Teignmouth, UK during their two nights at The Den. The song featured prominent electric guitar along with heavy percussion and bass. A studio version of their cover was released on the 2010 single "Resistance". Faith No More covered the song live in Argentina in The Second Coming Tour.[3]

Hot Butter version[edit]

Single by Hot Butter
from the album Hot Butter
B-side "At the Movies"
Released 1972
Format 7" single
Recorded 1972
Genre Synthpop[4]
Length 2:30
Label Interfusion (AUS)
Musicor (US and Canada)
Writer(s) Gershon Kingsley
Charles Gordanne
Producer(s) Bill Jerome
Steve Jerome
Hot Butter singles chronology
Music sample

Hot Butter's version became the second primarily electronic-based piece of music to reach the American popular music charts, three years after "The Minotaur" by Dick Hyman & His Electric Eclectics. The Hot Butter recording peaked at no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 4 on the Easy Listening chart. The single had great success in Australia where it reached no. 1 for 8 weeks. It was also no. 1 in Switzerland, where it topped the chart for 10 weeks and stayed for 17 weeks in the top 10. In Norway, it was no. 1 for 6 weeks and featured for 21 weeks in the top 10. It was also no. 1 in Germany and reached no. 5 on 22 July 1972 in UK and no. 15 in Canada - October 1972. In France, this version of "Popcorn" is the 131st best-selling single of all time, with about 900,000 sales.[5]

Track listings[edit]

7" single
  1. "Popcorn" – 2:30
  2. "At the Movies" – 2:31

Chart performance[edit]