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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hot Butter Popcorn

I've always loved the 1972 Moog classic "Popcorn". You can hear it here in enough versions to make you puke. Written by Gershon Kingsley in 1969 and recorded by associate Stan Free under the name Hot Butter, it pre-dated the guh-oofy Hooked On Classics records but came way after Muzak. It sits alone in music history as an odd little creature neither fish nor fowl, like "Video Killed The Radio Star". I think it's pretty cool and radical for 1972.

It opens with a solid tone neither warm nor cold, like a pleasant emergency broadcast signal. The moogs kick in along with a live drummer who works over his kit like Buddy Rich before he's about to have an organized seizure. Cheesy yet lush strings come in later but I focus on the single note progressions of the popcorn sound, which move up and down the scale like muzak emulating vocals with the piano. At first it's clumsy, like each note is a major effort, but soon Free's hitting each note true. And in muzak fashion I make up lyrics like:

"I love popcorn, yes I do, I love popcorn, how 'bout you?..."

Kingsley was a Moog pioneer: "Kingsley continued to experiment with the Moog, recording two Moog albums for Audio Fidelity. Impresario Sol Hurok, fascinated by Kingsley's work, hired him to lead a Moog quartet at Carnegie Hall in early 1970. There were two catches, however. First, Kingsley had to convince Robert Moog to build the three other synthesizers he needed. Then he had to hire and train four musicians to play them. He ended up auditioning 150 players to find the four he needed, and the group's initial performance drew a range of responses, from an outright slam by The New York Times to an enthusiastic call from Arthur Fiedler. Fiedler asked Kingsley to write a Concerto for Moog that the quartet performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1971."

I bet you can trace a line from "Popcorn" to the Silicon Teens.


Blogger Robert G. said...

It is a weird single, an odd combination of cool production and slapdash execution.

You are totally so not punk.

6:43 PM

Blogger Emerson said...

Like, totally.

4:01 AM


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