Killer (Adamski song)

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Single by Adamski
from the album Doctor Adamski's Musical Pharmacy
  • "Bassline Changed My Life"
  • "I Dream of You"
Released21 March 1990 (1990-03-21)[1]
Adamski singles chronology
"The Space Jungle"
Seal singles chronology

"Killer" is a song by British acid house DJ and record producer Adamski. Written by Adamski and British singer-songwriter Seal and produced by Adamski, "Killer" was Adamski's breakthrough single but is now more notable for featuring Seal as a vocalist. A major hit in the United Kingdom, it reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, spending four weeks at the top in May and June 1990. In total, the single sold over 400,000 copies in the UK, earning it a Gold certification from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). The song also peaked at number one in Belgium and Zimbabwe and at number two in the Netherlands and West Germany.


Concerning the origins of "Killer". Adamski recounted that Seal saw him perform in 1989 at an illegal rave called 'Sunrise 5000' at the Santa Pod Raceway. Seal afterwards handed a demo tape to Adamski's MC, Daddy Chester, with which both were impressed. Seal had previously been singing in blues bands but a year spent travelling in Asia had recently changed his view of life and he had since become involved in the rave scene.[3]

Adamski and Seal later happened to meet on New Year's Eve 1989 at a club named Solaris in London, and Seal was invited to work on one of a number of pieces that Adamski was performing at that time. Adamski had an instrumental track he called "The Killer" because he felt that it sounded 'like the soundtrack to a movie murder scene'. According to Adamski, Seal's vocals were recorded against this track on 27 January 1990: coincidentally the same day that 10,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square (not far from the studio where they were working) for the 'Freedom to Party' demonstration against a government crackdown on rave culture, which Adamski himself attended.

Musically, the song is characterized by a distinctive opening bassline and keyboard melody during the chorus. The track makes use of only two instruments – Ensoniq SQ80 Synthesizer and a Roland TR-909 drum machine – and occupied only eight tracks of a 48-track mixing console.[3]

The relationship between Adamski and Seal later soured due to their record company wanting to promote the record as solely being by Adamski, despite the fact that Seal had both written and sung on the track. The production of the record and subsequent feud was documented in the Britain's Channel 4 programme Top 10: 1990, broadcast ten years after the record was first released.


Both Adamski and Seal recalled that they were in financial trouble at the time of recording. Seal was almost penniless and was living in a squat. Although Adamski had his own following as a DJ and was enjoying success with his previous single "N-R-G", he was on a government scheme which paid his rent and allowed him £40 a week. Both Adamski and Seal were struck by the popularity of "Killer" following its release on 21 March 1990. The song went to the top of the UK charts, reached the top ten in many European countries, and sold strongly across the world. Adamski recounted his surprise at people singing the memorable bassline to him in the street and, in particular, at hearing the track played at a wedding in a hotel at which he stayed following a performance in Cambridge. Seal recalled, "within a week, I went from being a relative nobody – this weird guy at raves, with silver bits in my hair – to a household name."[3]


Seal explained that the words he provided for "Killer" were intended as an exhortation to freedom and overcoming; that "the lyrics are about transcending whatever holds you back".[3] The song's line "Racism in amongst future kids can only lead to no good, besides, all our sons and daughters already know how that feels" was re-used in Seal's 1991 song "Future Love Paradise". The introduction to the Seal version also contains the line "It's the loneliness that's the killer", which does not occur in the Adamski version.

Critical reception[edit]

John Bush from AllMusic stated that the songs like "Killer" "still have an inkling of the freshness they must have possessed back in 1989".[4] Bill Coleman from Billboard said that "enchanting techno-hip-house charmer from the keyboardist's "Liveandirect" project sports a languid vocal to complement the instrumentation."[5] Tom Ewing of Freaky Trigger commented, "What was startling about the record in 1990 – and what lets it keep its charge now – is that the music simply refuses to get out of Seal’s way. In fact, if you only knew Seal from the rolling smoothness of his latterday career “Killer” would come as a real shock: here he is, making his debut not as a highfalutin’ loverman but as an isolated paranoid battling through a tangle of wires and buzz. Adamski is truly as much the star here, putting together a tense, crisp piece of house music which doesn’t actually need his singer to be memorable (though surely needed him to reach number one)"[6] David Giles from Music Week called it a "strange release", adding, "It sounds as though a bluesy soul vocalist has become trapped inside a throbbing piece of machinery; it actually takes a fair while to warm up into the familiar pace of house rhythm." He also stated that "Adamski seems to be plotting a move towards the soul world but is still overawed by technology."[7] Tom Doyle from Smash Hits noted the song as "a bit of surprise" and complimented Seal, "who turns in a fine soul-singing". He added that it "builds up from a slow Depeche Mode-sounding beginning into a full-blown "rave" record and then drops down for the moody bit again at the end. A complete success."[8]

In 2020, The Guardian ranked "Killer" number 87 in their list of The 100 greatest UK No. 1s.[9] They added:

"Every part of Adamski’s production is perfectly designed: the sad chords, the funkily interrupted alien transmission of the synths, the prodding bassline with its edges almost imperceptibly corroded by acid. Most beautiful of all is Seal: half activist, half oracle."

UK chart history[edit]

"Killer" debuted in the UK Top 40 at number 39 on 14 April 1990.[10] Although the track was credited solely to Adamski by the Official Charts Company, various publications credited Seal's contribution to the song as a featured artist. It eventually reached the Top 10 in its fourth week on the chart, before reaching number one on 12 May. After enjoying a four-week run at the top, the track fell one place to number two, being replaced in pole position by "World in Motion" by New Order (credited as England New Order). Whilst at number one, "Killer" withstood strong competition from "Dirty Cash (Money Talks)" by The Adventures of Stevie V and "Better the Devil You Know" by Kylie Minogue. It spent 16 weeks in the Top 40.

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Killer" was directed by Don Searll.[11]

Track listings[edit]

7-inch, cassette, and mini-CD single[12][13][14]
2."Bass Line Changed My Life"3:53
UK 12-inch and CD single[15][16]
2."Bass Line Changed My Life"4:39
3."I Dream of You"4:45
UK 12-inch remix single ("Killeremix")[17]
1."Killer" (remix)6:27
2."Bassline Changed My Life"4:50
3."The N-R-G Symphony in F. Minor"8:27
US and Canadian 12-inch single[18]
1."Killer" (remix)6:27
US cassette remix single[19]
3."N.R.G." (12-inch mix)6:22
4."The N.R.G. Symphony in F. Minor"8:27

Charts and certifications[edit]

Seal version[edit]

1991 7" UK single
Single by Seal
from the album Seal
  • "Hey Joe" (live)
  • "Come See What Love Has Done" (live)
Released4 November 1991
  • 4:17 (radio version)
  • 6:33 (single version)
  • 6:21 (album version)
Producer(s)Trevor Horn
Seal singles chronology
"The Beginning"

"Walk On By"

"Killer 2005"

"A Father's Way"

In 1991, British singer-songwriter Seal re-recorded "Killer" for his eponymous debut album, produced by Trevor Horn. The single release of Seal's version peaked at number eight in the United Kingdom,[44] squeezed onto the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 100,[45] and peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart with a remix by William Orbit.[46]

The music video for Seal's version was produced and directed by Don Searll, and used computer-generated science-fiction themed imagery, largely built around a partial re-creation of the M. C. Escher print Another World. The song won British Video of the Year at the 1992 Brit Awards.

A new single release of "Killer", containing new remixes of both this and another Seal hit, "Crazy", was released in January 2005. This brought the single back to the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, where it reached number one.[46]

Track listings[edit]


Chart (1991) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[47] 95
Europe Dance (Music & Media)[48] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[49] 6
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[50] 75
UK Singles (OCC)[44] 8
UK Dance (Music Week)[51] 15
Chart (1992) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[52] 100
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[53] 9
US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales (Billboard)[54] 14
Chart (2005) Peak
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[53]
P. Rauhofer/Morel/DJ Monk/J. Albert Mixes
US Hot Dance Singles Sales (Billboard)[54] 3

George Michael version[edit]

"Killer" / "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
George Michael Killer.jpg
Single by George Michael
from the album Five Live
Released10 April 1993
  • 5:58 (full)
  • 4:15 (single)
Producer(s)George Michael
George Michael singles chronology
"Somebody to Love"
"Killer" / "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
"Jesus to a Child"

In 1991, British singer-songwriter George Michael performed "Killer" live at the Wembley Arena in a version that was released on the 1993 EP Five Live. "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" was also recorded and released on the same album. The two songs were blended together in the live performance, then remixed several times. The P.M. Dawn extended and radio remix for the "Killer"/"Papa" combination was released in 1993. Michael shot a video for the release, in which he did not appear personally. The video was directed by Marcus Nispel.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Killer/Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (English edit)
  2. "Killer/Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (Ligosa Mix)
  3. "Killer/Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (P.M. Dawn Remix)


Chart (1993) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[55] 19
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)[56] 4
UK Dance (Music Week)[57] 56
US Billboard Hot 100[58] 69
Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[58] 5

ATB version[edit]

"Killer 2000"
Atb Killer.jpg
Single by ATB
from the album Movin' Melodies
Released31 May 1999 (1999-05-31)
ATB singles chronology
"Don't Stop!"
"Killer 2000"
"The Summer"

German DJ ATB recorded a version of "Killer" in 1999, released as a single on 31 May 1999 in Germany and on 19 September 2000 in the United States. Featuring vocals by Drue Williams, it was the producer's first fully vocal-based song under the ATB name. The song uses elements from both Adamski and Seal's versions, updated with more contemporary production techniques. The UK radio edit differs from others in that it includes ATB's signature guitar sound. This version of "Killer" peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart and number 36 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

The song featured on the acclaimed[59] 2000 mix album CreamLive.

Track listings[edit]


Chart (1999) Peak
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[60] 16
Germany (Media Control Charts) 31
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[61] 22
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[62] 25
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan) 24
Chart (2000) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[63] 33
Europe (European Hot 100 Singles) 20
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100) 36
UK Singles (OCC)[64] 4
US Hot Dance Music/Club Play (Billboard)[65] 36
US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales (Billboard)[65] 32

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1999) Position
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[66] 134

Usage in media[edit]

"Killer" was featured in the film Miami Twice, based on the TV comedy series Only Fools and Horses. It has also been used in video games DJ Hero 2 (as a remix by Tiësto) and Forza Horizon 3 (on the in-game radio station "Bass Arena"). A short fragment of the song was played in the first scene of the first episode of Bancroft. It was also used in a May 2018 episode of ITV soap opera Emmerdale, playing on the radio in Charity Dingle's car, and triggering memories of when she was raped at age 14 by Detective Inspector Mark Bails in 1990. Most recently, it has been used by BT in a 2018 advertising campaign.

The music video for the George Michael version of the song appeared in an episode of Beavis and Butthead, called "The Trial".

Other versions[edit]

"Killer" has been recorded and performed by numerous other artists over the years:

  • The power metal band Angel Dust include a version of the song on their 2002 album Of Human Bondage.
  • It featured as a B-side to the 2003 Sugababes single "Shape".
  • Scottish garage rock band Sons and Daughters recorded "Killer" as a B-side to their 2007 single "Gilt Complex".
  • Northern Kings recorded a cover for inclusion on their 2008 album Rethroned.
  • A version by Nina Hagen features on her 2011 album Volksbeat.
  • UK alternative rock band 2:54 used the song as a B-side to their 2012 vinyl single "Sugar".[67][68]
  • British pop rock band Bastille recorded an electronic heavy cover of "Killer" in 2013 on their second mixtape Other People's Heartache Part 2.
  • German electronic producer Boys Noize recorded a cover of "Killer" in 2018 with vocalist Steven A. Clark which they released as a single.
  • Ex-Reuben frontman Jamie Lenman covered the song for his 2019 album Shuffle.
  • Swedish singer/songwriter Jonas Capring released his cover version in 2019.[69]
  • In 1995, polish electronic collective Millennium recorded a cover of "Killer" in 1995 with lyrics sang in polish. Song was released with their debut album A teraz Polska (Now Poland).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BPI > Certified Awards > Search results for 'Adamski'". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  2. ^ Simpson, Interviews by Dave (11 March 2013). "How we made Killer, by Seal and Adamski". Retrieved 26 August 2017 – via The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b c d "How we made Killer, by Seal and Adamski". The Guardian. 11 March 2013.
  4. ^ Bush, John. "Adamski – Liveandirect". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  5. ^ Coleman, Bill (30 June 1990). "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. p. 79. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  6. ^ Ewing, Tom (14 December 2010). "ADAMSKI – "Killer"". Freaky Trigger. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  7. ^ Giles, David (31 March 1990). "Singles" (PDF). Music Week. p. 23. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  8. ^ Doyle, Tom (4 April 1990). "Review: Singles". Smash Hits. p. 53. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  9. ^ "The 100 greatest UK No 1s: 100-1". The Guardian. 5 June 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  10. ^ McAleer, David (2009). The Virgin Book of Top 40 Charts. UK: Virgin Books. pp. 605–610. ISBN 978-0-7535-2200-4.
  11. ^ "Killer - Version 2 (1991) by Adamski feat. Seal". IMVDb. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  12. ^ Killer (UK 7-inch single vinyl disc). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. MCA 1400.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  13. ^ Killer (UK cassette single sleeve). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. MCAC 1400.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  14. ^ Killer (Japanese mini-CD single liner notes). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. WMD5-4034.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  15. ^ Killer (UK 12-inch single vinyl disc). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. MCAT 1400.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  16. ^ Killer (UK CD single liner notes). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. DMCAT 1400.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  17. ^ Killeremix (UK 12-inch remix single vinyl disc). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. MCAX 1400.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  18. ^ Killer (US & Canadian 12-inch single vinyl disc). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. MCA-24049.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  19. ^ Killer (US cassette remix single sleeve). Adamski. MCA Records. 1990. 903172021-4.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  20. ^ "Response from ARIA re: chart inquiry, received 5 June 2015". Archived from the original on 5 June 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015 – via Imgur.
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  23. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 7, no. 24. 16 June 1990. p. IV. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  24. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  25. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2021). "Adamski". Sisältää hitin - 2. laitos Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla 1.1.1960–30.6.2021 (PDF) (in Finnish). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 10. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Killer". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
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  29. ^ "Adamski – Killer". Top 40 Singles.
  30. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
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  36. ^ * Zimbabwe. Kimberley, C. Zimbabwe: singles chart book. Harare: C. Kimberley, 2000
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  43. ^ "British single certifications – Adamski – Killer". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  44. ^ a b "Official Charts > Seal". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
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  47. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  48. ^ "European Dance Radio" (PDF). Music & Media. 23 November 1991. p. 26. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  49. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know > Search results for 'Seal' (page 1)". Fireball Media. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  50. ^ " > Seal - Killer... On The Loose" (in Dutch). Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  51. ^ "Top 60 Dance Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 16 November 1991. p. 22. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  52. ^ "Seal Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  53. ^ a b "Seal Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard.
  54. ^ a b "allmusic > Seal > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 22 December 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  55. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2207." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  56. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (12.04.1993 - 18.04.1993)" (PDF) (in Icelandic). Dagblaðið Vísir - Tónlist. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  57. ^ "Top 60 Dance Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 5 June 1993. p. 20. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  58. ^ a b Killer/Papa Was a Rollin' Stone - George Michael. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  59. ^ Rated 4.5/5 stars by AllMusic
  60. ^ "Atb: Killer". Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  61. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40, 7 Augustus 1999/Week 32 (Dutch)". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  62. ^ " - atb - Killer (Dutch)". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  63. ^ " > ATB - Killer 2000". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  64. ^ "The Official Charts Company - ATB - Killer". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  65. ^ a b "allmusic ((( ATB > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
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  67. ^ "It's All Indie: 2:54 cover Seal's 90's classic 'Killer'". Retrieved 31 May 2014.
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  69. ^ "Killer". Spotify. 12 June 2019.