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Theme from S-Express

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"Theme from S-Express"
Single by S'Express
from the album Original Soundtrack
ReleasedApril 1988
GenreAcid house, Eurodisco[1]
S'Express singles chronology
"Theme from S-Express"
"Superfly Guy"
Music video
"Theme from S-Express" on YouTube
Alternative cover
"Theme from S-Xpress — The Return Trip" cover (1996)

"Theme from S-Express" is an acid house song by British electronic dance music group S'Express, from their debut studio album, Original Soundtrack (1989), written and produced by Mark Moore and Pascal Gabriel. One of the landmarks of early acid house and late 1980s sampling culture, the single was released by Rhythm King and Capitol, and became an instant hit upon its release in April 1988, peaking at number one on the UK Singles Chart for two weeks. It fared less well in the United States, only reaching number 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 but reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. It additionally peaked at number 11 in Australia and number two in West Germany, France and the Netherlands.


The song samples liberally from many other works, including heavy usage of Rose Royce's "Is It Love You're After", and TZ's "I Got the Hots for You", which provided the song's campy hook.[2] The song used the line "Drop that ghetto blaster" prominently from the song "Tales of Taboo" by Karen Finley. The hi-hat is sampled from an aerosol spray.[citation needed] The track's "S express" refrain makes reference to the 42nd Street Shuttle, a line on the New York City Subway. The train sample used is of an InterCity 125. The cover artwork features a cutaway drawing of a British Rail Class 56, a contemporary freight locomotive. For the North American release, some spoken word samples had to be removed due to licensing issues, and were recreated by unnamed voice artists.[citation needed] The female vocalist is Michel'le.[3]

Samples used[edit]

This is a list of samples used in "Theme from S-Express".[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Ben Thompson from NME wrote, "A mad disco travelogue hosted by a spaced-out Michael Rodd, this is probably in the top five already. The cinematic horny bit from Shaft (I think), lots of train noises. 'Uno Dos Tres Quatros' and they're off. All stations to Dartford via Woolwich Arsenal and Slade Green and No Messing; a synthesiser thump catchy enough to be 'AE IOU' by Freeeze says this one cannot fail. If you were down and out and had only one leg this record wouldn't buy you a cup of tea, but I suppose that's not a factor in this day and age."[5] Nancy Culp from Record Mirror named "Theme from S-Express" Single of the Week, adding, "Coming on all Seventies and Cerrone (who could forget 'Supernature'?) Mark Moore's S'Express follows on in fine Rhythm King tradition (can the label do no wrong, I ask myself?). You see, the reason these DJs are making such great dancefloor records is that they know what gets you in the groove, man! With this one, you can have a giggle while you dance, too! It has just the right amount of tack/trendy quota to make sure it follows 'Beat Dis' straight to the top."[6] The magazine's James Hamilton wrote in his dance column, "London DJ Mark Moore leads the Seventies flares fashion with a Rose Royce/BT Express-type buzzing bass synth and hissing hi-hat drive 117-0bpm semi-instrumental, full of samples, quotes and sound effects in current Eighties style, a likely hit."[7]

Impact and legacy[edit]

In 1999, Spex included "Theme from S-Express" in their "The Best Singles of the Century" list.[8]

In 2020, The Guardian ranked the song at number 51 in their list of "The 100 greatest UK No 1s".[9] They added,

"To watch Top of the Pops as 1987 gives way to 1988 is to watch the freaks taking over the asylum: after MARRS and Bomb the Bass’s earlier acid house hits, S-Express’s sample-heavy track affirmed the sound’s chart coronation, making the Stock Aitken Waterman stable look even more square, and stuck one in the eye of London’s throttlingly cool club scene with its euphoric, queer collage."

Track listings[edit]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[41] Gold 500,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[42] Silver 250,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Clover, Joshua (3 October 2023). 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520944640 – via Google Books. "Theme from S'Express" begins with a Eurodisco synthesizer line of the sort pioneered in the seventies by Giorgio Moroder and Jean-Marc Cerrone; member Chilo Harlo intones "Enjoy this trip... enjoy this trip... and it is a trip," like the world's squarest tour guide, and the song is off and racing over a sampled Rose Royce bass line and house's standard four-on-the-floor drums.
  2. ^ Reynolds, S., (2013), Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture, Faber & Faber, ISBN 978-0571289134, Chapter Two.
  3. ^ "Theme from S-Express". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  4. ^ "Les samples de S express". Du-bruit.com. Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  5. ^ Thompson, Ben (16 April 1988). "Singles". NME. p. 21. Retrieved 29 October 2023.
  6. ^ Culp, Nancy (9 April 1988). "45". Record Mirror. p. 29. Retrieved 8 March 2023.
  7. ^ Hamilton, James (16 January 1988). "BPM". Record Mirror. p. 18. Retrieved 8 March 2023.
  8. ^ "Die besten Singles aller Zeiten at home.rhein-zeitung.de". Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2023.
  9. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben; Petridis, Alexis; Snapes, Laura (2020-06-05). "The 100 greatest UK No 1s: 100-1". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  10. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  12. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Dance/Urban: Issue 8546." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 5, no. 24. 11 June 1988. p. 11. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  15. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  16. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 5, no. 19. 16 July 1988. p. 16. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  18. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Theme from S'Express". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 7 June 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "S. Express".
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 23, 1988" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  21. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  22. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  23. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express". VG-lista. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  24. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  25. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  27. ^ "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. 2 July 1988. Retrieved 23 July 2023.
  28. ^ "Dance Singles Sales". Billboard. 23 July 1988. Retrieved 23 July 2023.
  29. ^ "Dance Club Songs". Billboard. 2 July 1988. Retrieved 23 July 2023.
  30. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – S-Express – Theme from S-Express" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 13, no. 21. 25 May 1996. p. 16. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  32. ^ "S-Express – Theme from S-Express (The Return Trip)" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  33. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1988" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  34. ^ "Top 25 Dance Singles of '88" (PDF). RPM. Vol. 49, no. 10. 24 December 1988. p. 10. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  35. ^ "1988 Year End Eurocharts" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 52/1. 1 January 1988. p. 30. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  36. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1988" (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  37. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1988" (in German). Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  38. ^ Scaping, Peter, ed. (1991). "Top 100 Singles: 1988". BPI YearBook 1989/90. London, England: British Phonographic Industry. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-0-9061-5410-6.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Single–Jahrescharts 1988" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  40. ^ "The RM Club Chart of the Year 96" (PDF). Music Week, in Record Mirror (Dance Update Supplemental Insert). 11 January 1997. p. 8. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  41. ^ "French single certifications – S-Express – Theme from S-Express" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved 22 March 2024. Select S-EXPRESS and click OK. 
  42. ^ "British single certifications – S-Express – Theme from S-Express". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 14 July 2019.