Now, how old are you?
Where is your harbour?
Have many things to do
Open the door
Yes I love so true
Without my 'loh-ver'
But tell me if the sky is blue
How old are you?

Miko Mission -- "How Old are You?"

My God...if ever there were an indicator that I was born a decade too late and on the wrong side of the Atlantic, this is it.

Italo Disco, or Italo for short, was a term originally used simply to designate Italian dance music, but it ended up evolving into a whole sub-genre by the 1980s, its popularity extending beyond Italy to all of continental Europe.

By 1980 much of the Anglo-American market had reached its saturation point with disco music, which led artists to pursue more progressive directions in what would later be known as New Wave, Synth-pop, and even House. This didn't happen in Europe, at least not with the same kind of fevered intensity, and consequently there has since been a bit of a dissonance between how Americans and Europeans see synthesized dance music.

Let me try your love
Yes babe, I'm waiting, please don't stop
Hey hey guy all your love forever

Ken Laszlo -- "Hey Hey Guy"

In view of these opposing paradigms and the uncertainty to which one the reader might belong, you're left to draw your own conclusions about Italo. It might be the most soulful display of musical and lyrical virtuosity of the English language to have ever been produced, or it just might be cheesy, amateurish, schmaltz that makes a mockery of good taste in general.

Once you get past the fact that the singers seem to be delivering their lines phonetically with no idea of the meaning behind their words, the music's really not that bad. Italo can be moody, over-pretentious, vibrant, or just plain silly, depending upon how much of the song you actually understand.

Oh, oh, riding over mountains
Oh, oh, loving all the night
Oh, oh, dancing near the mountains
Holding a graceful lady

Valerie Dore -- "Lancelot"

In stark contast to its somewhat-disowned American sibling, Italo is not meant to possess either of two attributes: excess and funk. There's a tight, stripped-down, minimalist aesthetic to it that keeps songs moving straight ahead with melodic, poppy, but robotic precision -- a blue-eyed, Teutonic kind of rhythm, lacking a sense of self-consciousness of its own lack of coolness. Picture Michael Myers from SNL's "Sprockets" and you'll get yourself on the right track.

Need your passion
Need control
Sweet possession of your soul
The voodoo that you do is magic dejavu

Sweet Connection -- "Need your Passion"

In this sense, Italo has much more in common with New Order than Lipps, Inc. Musicians were just beginning to learn how to harness the power of synthesized instruments to produce commerically viable music, and Italo paved the way for synthesized pop throughout the entire world. Despite its lack of exposure 'o' this half' of the world enjoyed tremendous popularity for the first few years of the 1980s, and became recognized as the first completely electronic dance music to become successful on the popular market.

As featured on the Everything2 Podcast, Season 2, episode 6.


Although the name suggests that Italo Disco was Italian, several other European countries had hits from this genre - such as Germany and Spain. (Some of Jean-Michel Jarre's work was vaguely Italo Disco, and he was, of course, French.) A lot of Italo Disco can still be seen today, such as in works from Kylie Minogue and Eiffel 65.

Early Italo Disco began emerging in the mid-to-late 1970s, as electronic synthesisers began to appear, so too did people who played with them, such as pioneer Giorgio Moroder, using Moog and Korg instruments. From there, Italo just grew. It had clearly peaked in the early-to-mid 1980s with labels like Discomagic Records and Il Discotto Productions, and from these, artists such as Jo Jo and Bo Boss. Cover versions of old songs were being done too, with Pink Project releasing a cover of Another Brick In The Wall, by Pink Floyd. (This has also been done by recent house music master Eric Prydz, under the title "Proper Education".)

1983, according to Italo Disco fans, was "the best year for Italo Disco music"1, with such hits as "Incantations" by G.A.N.G., "Young Man" by Nite Lite, "Run Away" by International Music System, various works by Amin Peck, and productions by the mysterious Den Harrow. As an aside, 1983 is the name of a recent house hit by Paolo Mojo, which is clearly a tribute to this year.

The LP considered to be the rarest ever is that of "Over And Over" by Fantasy Life, released in 1985. "The mp3 is quite easy to locate, but it's the original 12" record that fetches 600-700 dollars regularly on eBay."2 Around this time, Italo Disco took over the airwaves and there was a noticeable surge in the Italo Disco market, simply because it was very easy to make Italo Disco. Despite this, however, its popularity began waning in 1986, when house genres like Acid and Chicago began surfacing.

Since about 1993, however, there has been somewhat of a revival of Italo Disco. There are online radio stations that stream the genre, CDs being released of Italo Disco mixes, and underground clubs are playing the records widely. Newer releases in the Italo Disco genre have made use of the magical Vocorder, so they are quite easy to identify.


See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italo_disco
http://www.myspace.com/italodisco1
http://www.di.fm/edmguide/edmguide.html


In case you're wondering, Ishkur's Guide To Electronic Music has this to say about Italo disco:
"There was a big backlash to everything Disco in America in 1980. In Europe, this didn't happen, so disco naturally progressed over there to what it had been hinting at for several years: a stripped down, mechanical version of itself dubbed Italo Disco for reasons unknown as very few of the artists were actual Italians. But they all sang in english (sic), which is odd because english (sic) was universally a second language to them, as evidenced by the fact that the lyrics make no sense and the vocalists have thick accents of indeterminate origin. Still, despite these shortcomings, the music kicks ass, and is recognised as the world's first completely electronic commercial dance music, predating House, Techno, Electro, and just about everything else. The music is seriously stupid good fun once you get past its dated, tinny sound. I (Ishkur) now have ten times more of this music than any other genre. And I might very well start spinning it too. No, I'm serious. You don't believe me, do you?"

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