TRAILER: Apple Music Releases 808 Documentary On The Synthesizer That Revolutionized Dance Music

Via Esquire:

Though even diehard fans of the music it inspired are largely unfamiliar with its story, the 808 is revered within the industry. The documentary, which premieres Friday on Apple Music, includes commentary by everyone from Lil Jon, to Pharrell, to the Beastie Boys, to Rick Rubin, to Afrika Bambaataa himself. “You get all of these guys, these big, big names throughout music, and they were all willing to give us time to talk about a drum machine,” says Dunn. “That’s the most amazing thing.”

The only artist whose insight Dunn and Noyer coveted but weren’t able to get was Kanye West, whose 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak represents the majority of the public’s exposure to the actual name of the machine responsible for 30 years of iconic beats. As Noyer notes, though, there was no way they could have painted anything close to a complete portrait of the 808’s influence in a single documentary. “Have we covered it all?” he asks. “No. Are there more storylines? Hell yes.”

My personal favorite 808 track is 1982’s Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop), by NYC-based gay dance pioneer Man Parrish, who still spins the occasional bear party.

  • Xiao Ai

    I want my MOOG!

    • greenmanTN

      NC has a MOOGfest every year…

      • pj

        bet pats not going

        • greenmanTN

          I hear he’s in a pretty bad moog these days. (Sorry, bad pun.)

  • EweTaw

    But what do Ella Fitzgerald, McCoy Tyner, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Ron Carter, Pat Metheny, John Coltrane, et al think about it?

    • KarenAtFOH

      “Seems like a lot of buttons for a metronome”

    • Canadian Observer

      I think Gene Krupa might have a beat or two to contribute to the conversation.

      • greenmanTN

        Krupa in the movie Ball OF Fire, “Drum Boogie.”

      • EweTaw

        My mother still talks about her deep crush for Krupa. In the 30s and 40s SLC was a major stop for all big bands of the era. Salt Air Resort boasted the largest ballroom in the country (larger than a football field) with four separate band stands. The horny and hip took trains from SLC to the Great Salt Lake to dance and play hanky panky along the beaches.

    • another_steve

      Lady Ella — Queen of the Universe — and her contemporaries did their thing before Auto-Tuning.

      I don’t know if any artists today record that way.

      • PickyPecker
        • another_steve

          Love that, PP. Thanks. πŸ˜‰ There are so many of her generation who rely solely on their incredible, incredible voices.

          In my dotage I’ve rediscovered Ella Fitzgerald. Arguably the finest female vocalist that the United States of America has ever produced.

          I can’t get enough of her.

          I’m obsessed.

        • pj

          the best

        • Jerry

          I love most anything Postmodern Jukebox does.

          • PickyPecker

            They are a remarkable troupe, agreed. Love them. Many times I actually can hear/learn lyrics to some of the modern songs. lol

    • djcoastermark

      Oh Pat Metheny, If you have never seen him live in concert, it is a must do. Seen him several times and The Pat Metheny Group has never failed to amaze me.

      • EweTaw

        I’m a big fan of Matheny. He’s a regular performer at Kingsbury Hall (well, once every four or five years regular) here in la Ciudad de Lago Salado. I keep several of Metheny’s CD in my Jeep for soothing my nerves when driving late at night or up and down the canyons. Friends riding with me always ask “Who is that?” and I’ll tell them. Then they’ll tell me that they’ve never liked his music, but “That stuff we just heard is good.” That’s when I usually say something profound such as “Well, duh.” πŸ™‚

  • Gustav2

    Picture it, 1968 in middle school chorus, brought Moog Synthesizer ‘Switched on Bach’ in for everyone to hear.
    They didn’t get it.

    • BearEyes

      One of my all time favourites. Too bad your chorus didn’t get it – missed opportunity. Or maybe it was the geek in me that got exited πŸ˜‰

      • Gustav2

        “This is so cool! This so cool!”

        I guess it wasn’t. lol

    • Treant

      Wasn’t that done on a Moog?

      ETA: I say that because my parents owned that album and I used to listen to it back in nineteen seventy-cough.

      • Gustav2


      • Waarki

        I was 10 when I found the Silver Apples lp in my parent’s collection hidden between the Justin Wilson and pipe organ music. Not 808 and not quite yet Moog but i definitely got a headstart on Can,The Mothers, Fugs, Walter/Wendy Carlos…

    • Sam_Handwich
    • ChrisMorley

      In Britain, Air on a G string, means a run of classic ‘Hamlet is a Mild Cigar’ ads.
      2nd up in this showreel is a Brit in a bowler hat spoof of Nick Kamen / Levis in a launderette

      • pj

        i miss short shorts…and speedos

    • Chucktech

      That was amazing, wasn’t it?

      And, to show how geeky/ill-informed I* was at the time, my first experience with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was a version by a guy named Gershon Kingsley playing it on a Moog syntehsizer. I had no idea what this music was, just that it was some guy named Gershwin and I was in love with it!

      Years later, working in a high end stereo store as their service tech, I heard some standard version of RinB (probably Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic) coming from one of the sound rooms. I ran out of the “lab”, as we called it, and frantically asked, “WHAT MUSIC IS THIS???” Everybody looked a little shocked and said, “Why, it’s Rhapsody in Blue, of course!”

      But all I had known was “Gershwin Moog.”

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    • agcons

      Our music teacher brought it in for us. She thought it was marvelous and so did some of us. Those who didn’t disliked it mostly because it was Bach, not because it was MOOG.

  • bkmn

    If you get the chance there is a series on PBS called Soundbreaking that is very good. It was produced by the guy who produced the Beatles and features a wide variety of artists. It is either six or eight episodes, all of which deal with a different aspect of the music business.

  • m_lp_ql_m

    How many drummers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    None. They have machines that do that now.

    • Matt

      Yawn! Gah Faw.

  • txstevo

    Great interview about the film on KCRW’s “Press Play with Madeleine Brand”

  • another_steve

    On behalf of all survivors of The Plague, here’s to the disco music of the 70s.

    Long may we all dance to it.

  • bkmn

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  • MrRobotoLA

    Anyone who has ever heard Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” is familiar with the 808 drum machine sound. They just don’t realize it.

  • AaronD12

    YMO didn’t use an 808. The song highlighted here predated the 808.

  • Lawerence Collins
  • Lane

    Tale of my own ignorance: When I first heard about 808 State in the 1990’s, initially from David Bowie vs 808 State “Sound+Vision” and next from 808 State vs UB40 “I am the One in Ten” (clearly a gay anthem to me as a baby gay!), I assumed they were from Hawaii because of the area code.

  • Max_1

    Techno group of the late ’80s and ’90s… 808 State

  • fuzzybits

    Love 808 State.

  • Oh’behr

    Joe, thank you for including 808 State – Pacific State, I recall the song from many years ago and liked it then and still now.

  • Piona O.

    And of course you can now buy digitized versions of every drum machine and guitar stomp box ever made….

  • Matt

    Who gives a crap if Kayne West is in the film. He’s a crazy ass hack who has had zero influence on the greatness of the 808. He just jumped on the bandwagon once 808 drums were the hot thing to use in dance music again in the 2000’s, He’s follower, not a leader.