April 4, 2017

"The 808's candy-colored keys, clunky preset sounds, and small size made it seem more like a Fisher-Price toy than a serious instrument."

"But that was part of its enduring genius. There was nothing intimidating about the little Roland machines — unlike most synthesizers and drum machines of the time, which tended to be large, expensive, and hard to program. The 808's distinctive sounds, from its cowbell to the snare hit, became iconic and formed an essential element of the deep language within genres like electro, hip-hop, and house. The 808 model number even became something of a meme in pop culture — a word used in everything from band names (see 808 State) to a Kanye West album title. Recently, the 808 was even the subject of its own feature-length documentary, 808."

From an NPR obituary for Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder Of Roland, who lived to be 87.


Danno said...

Thanks for sharing. I saw the obit somewhere but didn't click on it. Even though I am a fan of certain electronic music, I wasn't aware of the 808.

Laslo Spatula said...

In 'Stop Making Sense', the Talking Heads live film, the movie opens with David Byrne on acoustic guitar playing "Psycho Killer" to an 808.

(It is portrayed as a boombox, but it is actually an 808 through the soundboard).

Psycho Killer with 808.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

When I hear an 808 I instinctively picture Byrne doing his stutter dance to the breaks.

I am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

When I hear of an 808 I think of page not found.

Laslo Spatula said...

Early-to-mid Talking Heads (you know: the Good Stuff) can be seen as an outsider responding to the feelings of paranoia and doom that the Elites created during the Reagan era. Example Number One: "Life During Wartime."

I got some groceries, some peanut butter,
To last a couple of days
But I ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones,
Ain't got no records to play

Why stay in college? Why go to night school?
Gonna be different this time
Can't write a letter, can't send no postcard,
I ain't got time for that now

Listening to this song, you can hear it as a soundtrack to what is going through the heads of today's college SJWs under a President they don't respect: they are part of The Battle, it is Happening Right Now...

On that same album, Fear of Music, the paranoia returns on "Electric Guitar" -- one of the most claustrophobic-sounding songs they ever recorded:

An electric guitar is brought in to a court of law
The judge and the jury (twelve members of the jury)
All listening to records
This is a crime against the state
This is the verdict they reach:
Never listen to electric guitar

Of course, paranoia strikes deep: it is not just politics, it is found in the very Air we breathe:

What is happening to my skin?
Where is that protection that I needed?
Air can hurt you too
Air can hurt you too
Some people say not to worry about the air
Some people never had experience with...

"Fear of Music" is a Time Capsule that, when opened in the Trump Era, provokes Strong Deja Vu.

On the other hand, Byrne also wrote this on an earlier album: "Don't Worry About The Government":

Some civil servants are just like my loved ones
They work so hard and they try to be strong
I'm a lucky guy to live in my building
They own the buildings to help them along

So there is that. Fear in that song, too, if you know where to look.

I am Laslo.

Birkel said...

Sir Mix-A-Lot said "The 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb."

I have no independent conformation.


Danno said...

In following up to my newfound knowledge, I see one of the electronica groups I have been listening to has 808 mixed into much of their sound.

Marian Hill -


Laslo, you'll prolly find lead singer, Samantha really hot.

Balfegor said...

Back in the 90's, I greatly enjoyed my Roland Sound Canvas sound card. I've also had a Roland keyboard with weighted keys for over 20 years. It still works, although I've had to glue the weights back on the keys a couple times (particularly after moving house). A very reliable sound. Decent polyphony. Even today, when I see a Roland keyboard in a shop -- Bic Camera or whatever -- I'll often sit down to try it out. They make good products.

Fernandinande said...

Roland makes some great stuff.

Netflix had a crummy documentary on synthesizers, "I Dream of Wires" which featured ossified synth-dweebs and their old modular synths which nothing new could compare to, nope, no way.

Rick Turley said...

Laslo -

Was on business in Manhattan about 1979-80 with a couple of other people. After work, the woman wanted to go shopping. The other guy wanted to go to Central park and see some group called "Talking Heads." Ok, I'll go with him. Completely blown away by the music. On a side note, it was almost as mind blowing to see people toking up right next to the cops and the cops just standing there listening to the music.

LordSomber said...

I liked the old Roland gear -- Juno 6, Boss Dr. Rhythm, etc. But lost interest once all synths went digital in the mid-80's.
I still play an Acetone Top-5 combo organ. And Boss pedals have always been great.
(Acetone was the predecessor to Roland Corp.)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The 808 sound is legendary and revered by generations of music aficionados.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The Kanye album mentioned but not named is "808s & Heartbreak".


eddie willers said...

When I hear an 808 I instinctively picture Byrne doing his stutter dance to the breaks.

I heard "Burning Down The House" on the radio and went and bought the album. Played it loud and loved it. Saw they were touring and bought tickets to their show at The Fabulous Fox.

However, on the day of the show I had a massive hangover (been sober now since 1999, thank God) and wanted to beg off until my roommate and his girlfriend shared with me a joint and a ride.

So there I was in the balcony of The Fabulous Fox; surly, sick and looking at my watch as they were about 15-20 minutes late.

So there I was grumbling when finally the curtains opened....TO A BARE STAGE!

I went NUTS...."LOOK....they're not even ready now! Holy God!"

Byrne walked out with his boom box and started playing "Psycho Killer" and I settled down a little. As they started building the stage behind them, I finally figured out what they were doing. And for all those who have seen their "Stop Making Sense" concert film, you know what a fabulous show I saw at The Fabulous Fox.

Came out skipping and loving life and looking for a Waffle House.

eddie willers said...

When I hear of an 808 I think of page not found.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guildofcannonballs said...

Well, it's
Fifty cups of coffee and you know it's on
I move the crowd to the break of break of dawn
Can't rock the house without the party people
'Cause when we're gettin' down we are all equal
There's no better or worse between you and me
But I rock the mic so viciously
Like pins and needles and words that sting
At the blink of an eye I will do my thing
It's like a needle in the cartridge when the record spins
Like diggin' down deep in the record bins
Everybody gettin' down make no mistake
Nothing sounds quite like an eight-oh-eight

Money makin', money money makin'
Super disco, disco breakin'
Money makin', money money makin'
Super disco, disco breakin'