From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Italo disco refers to an entire genre of dance music that evolved mysteriously and very quickly during the early 80's in Italy and other parts of Europe. Italo Disco music was and still is considered to be quite futuristic and spacey in regards to the massive effects created with the first generation of true synthesizers, drum machines, and vocoders. From the standpoint of a true Italo disco enthusiast, a true and authentic italo disco song is Italian produced on an Italian record label. Anything similar but produced outside of Italy can be described as Euro disco. The name 'italo disco' originates from the Italo Boot Mix series, created in 1983 by Bernhard Mikulski, the founder of German-based, ZYX Music - a megamix featuring Italian produced disco music. Prior to 1983, the genre was simply referred to as 'disco music'.
- 'I Need Love' by Capricorn
- 1) The Creatures - Believe in yourself
- 2) Cyber People - Dr.Faustu's
- 3) Doctor's Cat - Feel the drive
- 4) Duke Lake - Dance tonight
- 5) Fabian Nesti - Heigh-ho
- 6) Paul Sharada - Florida (move your feet)
The name "Italo disco" originates from the Italo Boot Mix series - a megamix featuring Italian and German produced disco music - created in 1983 by Bernhard Mikulski, the founder of German-based ZYX Music. Prior to 1983, the genre was simply referred to as 'disco music' or 'dance music' from Europe. The presenters of the Italian music show Discoring (produced by RAI), usually referred to the Italian productions of what later would became Italo Disco as "Rock Elettronico" and "Bailandi Discoteka" (disco dance). This first version of Italo Disco sounded like a down tempo version of Space Disco, a short lived Eurodisco instrumental style with futuristic sound effects and lyrics heavily influenced by David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars band.
Technically speaking, Italo Disco was simply the 80s version of Eurodisco. Today, the term 'Euro Disco' refers to all disco music produced in Europe during the 70s and the 80s. But during the 1980s this term was used to describe the 1970s and early 1980s European disco productions, especially those from Germany (Boney M, Eruption, Dschinghis Khan, etc).
In the mid 80s, the Stock Aitken Waterman team created a commercial music genre in the UK labelled as "Eurobeat". Those first hits (Dead or Alive, Bananarama, Jason Donovan, Sonia, Kylie Minogue, etc) were heavily based on how Italo Disco sounded to the Brits. Once arriving in the USA, the Eurobeat hits helped the evolution of New York's "Freestyle". In USA, eurobeat was marketed as Hi-NRG.
The term Eurobeat also used in Japan (around 1987) to describe all Italo Disco and Eurobeat imports. Italo Disco became very successful in Japan and when 80s Eurodisco ended and the music switched to Eurohouse and New Beat, "Super Eurobeat" produced especially for Japan's market, as a kind of Japanese successor of the Italo Disco (called "Eurobeat" by the Japanese fans). During the 90s, another spinoff successor appeared called Eurobeat Flash. Both the Super Eurobeat and Eurobeat Flash genres are virtually unknown outside Japan.
During the 90s, disco polo created in Poland heavily based on the Italo Disco sound.
- The vocals of early Italo disco productions usually contained English lyrics and were performed by non-native English-speaking singers. After 1985, other European languages became common, especially Italian, Spanish, French and Greek. At the same time, most of the German-produced Italo disco songs had both English and German-speaking versions.
- The German variant of Italo disco, very popular during the 1980s, was often danced to in the discofox style. In European countries where German was spoken, this variant of Italo disco was often played on dancefloors with German schlager music, which around 1988 began to sound similar. Around this time, older Germans, Austrians and Swiss, started referring to Schlager and the German Italo disco productions as "Discofox" after the style of dance which often accompanied both types of music.
- Later Japanese productions (often called Super Eurobeat) frequently had incomprehensible lyrics.
- Despite the fact that the music is called "Italo disco," it has never generated significant popularity in Italy.
Electronic dance music started to develop in the mid/late 1970s when traditional sounding Disco bands began to experiment with synthesizers and other electronic effects. This early form of electronic dance music had 2 flavors: The North American one (Hi-NRG disco) and the European one (Space Disco). The second one was a short lived Euro Disco variation and took that name due to its odd sounds, the sci-fi styling looks, the space (new age) related themes and to the overall (non sexual like Hi-NRG) dance feeling: This kind of music seems to expand the listener's surrounding to a very large space with the utilization of new music shaping technologies by the artists. This "expansive" characteristic combined with dance hall's lighting display provide a new experience to the listeners and also to the dancers. One of the main influences during this period was the producer Giorgio Moroder and Didier Marouani, followed by a couple of hits by the French drummer Cerrone, as well as the cynical styles of such electropop acts as Telex, Devo, and Gary Numan, and the early Hi-NRG albums released by San Francisco producer Patrick Cowley with such singers as Sylvester and Paul Parker.
By 1982, Italo appeared as a fully developed form in Italy and other parts of Europe, with artists releasing completely electronic songs using drum machines and other equipment. Synthpop, New Wave and the New Romantic genres were the foundations for Italo taking off, as these became very popular around the world at this same time during the early 1980s. Typical songs were simple, with catchy melodies, and were often sung using vocoders and overdubs. Much of the genre featured love-song lyrics sung in English with heavy Italian accents. English was more often than not the artists' second language, creating lyrics that were often considered to be almost nonsensical. Along with love, italo disco themes deal with robots and space, sometimes combining all three in songs including "Robot is Systematic" (1982) by 'Lectric Workers and "Spacer Woman"(1983) by Charlie.
1982 and 1983 saw the releases of the irony-laden "Dirty Talk," "Wonderful," and "The M.B.O. Theme," three tracks cited as influential in the development of house, 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.
Many see 1983 as the height of Italo, with frequent hit singles and many labels starting 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 was reputedly coined by Bernhard Mikulski, the founder of ZYX Music (Germany), when ZYX released their first volume of "The Best of Italo Disco" series.
Derivative styles, 1982–1989
During the late 1980s Italo began fading away and some groups moved into the late 80s Hi-NRG genre (a speeded up version of Eurodisco with Eurobeat elements) and Italo NRG (a.k.a Italo House) which combined high-paced Italo and house. The Hi-NRG style is evident in the productions of such artists as Divine, Roni Griffith, Tony Caso, and the Flirts, all of whom were produced by Bobby Orlando, as well as many Stock Aitken Waterman acts, notably those of Sinitta, Hazell Dean, Kylie Minogue, Mel and Kim, Sabrina Salerno, Samantha Fox, and Dead or Alive (see Eurobeat).
Canada, particularly Quebec, produced several remarkable Italo disco acts, including Trans X ("Living on Video"), Lime ("Angel Eyes"), Pluton & the Humanoids ("World Invaders"), and Purple Flash Orchestra ("We Can Make It"). Those productions called "Canadian Disco" during 1980-1984 in Europe and Hi-NRG disco in USA.
In Germany, a variation of Italo disco under the nickname Discofox developed, early 1984. It was characterized by an emphasis on melody, exaggerated overproduction, and a more earnest approach to the themes of love; examples may be found in the works of Modern Talking, Fancy, Bad Boys Blue, Joy, and Lian Ross.
Also during the mid-1980s spacesynth developed, mostly as a sub-genre of italo. This style is the crossover of Italo disco and Space Disco and it was mostly instrumental, with a focus on space sounds than the earlier pop-oriented songs, as exemplified by the sounds of Koto, Proxyon, Rofo, Cyber People, Hipnosis, and Laserdance.
Evolved and inter-related genres
When Italo Disco hits lost their popularity in Europe, the Japanese market forced Italian and German producers to evolve the sound to what end up under the term "Eurobeat" and later Super Eurobeat and Eurobeat Flash. Those music styles, under the term Eurobeat, are sold only in Japan due to the Para Para culture there. Italian producers are still producing songs for the Japanese (super) Eurobeat market in 2007. This evolving sound of Italo disco, involves a much higher BPM, as well as more rapid synth-lines and faster vocals. The genre itself upped the BPM in the late 80s, all the way into the 2000s. While the genre has seen many recent releases with slower BPM, the sound still remains true to what the Japanese fans call "the Eurobeat style". The two most famous labels of this genre include A-Beat-C Records and Hi-NRG Attack. Two record labels that produced Italo Disco in the past, S.A.I.F.A.M. and Time, now produce Eurobeat music for Japan.
Around 1989, the Italian scene of Italo Disco, evolved into italo house, which fused with other parts of Europe and eventually lead to euro house music, marketed in U.S.A. during the mid 90s as "Eurodance", a term that existed before and used as a short for the "European Dance Charts". The Italian Italo Disco artists began experimenting with harder beats and the "house" sound, which fans believed made Italo Disco sound dated and it was the reason the German production stopped around 1989.
In Poland, a variation called disco polo appeared during the early 90s. It was characterized by an emphasis on melody, exaggerated overproduction, and a more earnest approach to the themes of love; examples may be found in the works of Modern Talking, Fancy, Bad Boys Blue, Joy, and Lian Ross. This music is also labeled as Euro Disco, and Italo Disco in the USA (labelling all non American Hi-NRG dance tunes as Italo Disco).
During the mid-1980s, spacesynth developed as a sub-genre of Space Disco / Italo Disco. This style existed in Scandinavia, but grew immensely popular in the Netherlands. It was mostly instrumental and focused more on space sounds than the earlier more pop-oriented songs, as exemplified by the sounds of Koto, Proxyon, Rofo, Cyber People, Hipnosis, and Laserdance.
Revival, 1993– (electro)
Italo Disco developed a cult following in the early 1990s, and electro releases in 1993 by I-F, in 1998 by Legowelt and Tobias Bernstrup, and in 2000 by Jeans Team, Bangkok Impact, and Hong Kong Counterfeit were among those that fuelled renewed interest. I-F's 2000 Italo-cum-electro mix Mixed Up in the Hague was equally important to the reintroduction of the genre.
A big comeback of the German variation of Italo Disco, began in 1998, when Modern Talking re-united. Various German italo-disco artists (C.C.Catch, Bad Boys Blue, Fancy, Sandra etc), Italian italo-disco artists (Gazebo, Savage, Ken Laszlo, etc) and countless other italo-disco artists from all over Europe, remixed in a late 90s eurohouse style all there biggest italo-disco hits, giving new life to them and a new fan base, especially in East and South Europe. Rete4 channel in Italy and Prosieben channel in Germany, start airing from there archives 80s recording of those hits, followed by Spanish TVE's "Nostalgia" channel and the late MTV Classic in Poland (now replaced by VH1 Polska). German music channels like "hits 24" and "Goldstar TV" air lot's of 70s and 80s italo-disco hits, so "Melody" from France and MCM Pop (mainly on the "MCM Kitch" specials). This has caused new interest in eurodisco in general, since most of these videos were very rarely seen, even back in the 80s
Greece seems to have the biggest revival in italo-disco music, with 3 terrestrial radio stations airing Italo-Disco hits in Athens in 2007 (Blue Space, Radio Boom Boom and Free FM) and many Discoteques re-open after decades of non existence in most Greek Cities (Among them 4 in Athens (Disco Nightclub, Vinilio, Dizzy Discoclub, Boom Boom Discoteque) 2 in Salonica (Blue Space, Figaro) 2 in Volos (Velvet, Queens), 1 in Drama (Velvet), 1 in Patra and 3 in Creta). Italo-Disco based parties take place twice a month in Athens and the 80s eurodisco music as a whole can be considered as "mainstream" in dance clubs.
As of 2005 several online radio stations stream the genre, and underground clubs are playing the records widely again. Its renewed popularity is inspiring re-releases and new mixes on many of the record labels that initially released Italo Disco. ZYX records has released many new CD mixes since 2000. and labels like Panama Records and Radius Records have gone through great lengths to find the original artists of obscure Italo tracks for re-release on vinyl.
The German Master Blaster group, released in 2003 an album called "I love Italo Disco". Many hits of that group are italo-disco covers with an uplifting house twist. In the UK, that twist seems to lead to "Scouse house"
The Swiss artist Harre Money (pronounced Àrmani, like the world wide famous Italian stylist) released in 2006 an album called The Picture of Dorian Gray, which included many Italo Disco like tracks. His shows are also characterized by a theatrical performance remembering the 80s odd-style.
Freemasons (band), a British based Group, remix popular hits to italo disco style. The latest hit of Beyonce - Green Light, in the "Freemasons mix" (broadcasted in MTV Dance, Flaunt and other British music channels) are a perfect example.
Chicago artist, Solo Projekt, has recently been fusing the dark romantic sounds of Italo with hard hitting electro/techno passages that stir emotions of man's struggle to survive, nostalgia, and the mystery of the human mind. As of yet, he is quite unknown publicly aside from his first and most recent live performance on 7.7.07. A fan's bootleg video of this show was made and can be found on "MyspaceTV" when you search under this artist's name.
Contemporary artists influenced by Italo Disco:
- Savas Pascalidis — "Fly With The Wind" (remix of Peter Jacques band's song with the same title)
- Alden Tyrell
- Metro Area
- Bangkok Impact
- Japanese Telecom '
- Orgue Electronique
- Smith n Hack
- Bimbo Boy
- Hong Kong Counterfeit
- Michael Mayer
- Sally Shapiro
- Mount Sims
- Solo Projekt
- Harre Money
Authentic related styles
- Euro Disco
- Electro Funk
- Chip Wave
- New Wave
- Electronic body music
- Belgian New Beat
- Spacesynth (Synthdance, Spacedance)
- Space Disco
- Afro/Cosmic music
Reaction, Revival, and inspired by: