Pump Up the Volume is a song by British recording act M|A|R|R|S. Despite being the act’s only single, it was a number-one hit in many countries and is generally regarded as a significant milestone in the development of British house music and music sampling. The single was the product of an uneasy collaboration between reggae group Colourbox and alternative rock band A R Kane, two groups signed to the independent art-pop label 4AD. The link-up was suggested by label founder Ivo Watts-Russell after the two groups had independently sounded him out about the possibility of releasing a commercially oriented dance record, inspired by the American house music that was starting to make an impact on the British charts. When the M|A|R|R|S project was first released early in 1987, the popularity of the style of the song had already started to grow. 1987 was also the year this song played as the soundtrack for the movie American psycho and the whole yuppie scene in NY city.
Just as important to M|A|R|R|S in the long run was the underground dance scene which was beginning to emerge in the UK, particularly records such as “Say Kids What Time Is It?” by Coldcut and “All You Need Is Love” by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. These sample-heavy dance records were critically acclaimed, but failed to achieve mainstream success.
The track was released to United Kingdom dance clubs in July 1987, on an anonymous white label with no artist credit. “Pump Up the Volume” entered the UK Singles Chart the following week at number 35, a strong initial showing for an unknown act, especially on 12″ sales. However, what gave “Pump Up the Volume” its commercial edge was the remix released a week later. This remix became the best-known version of the track, transforming it by the addition of numerous samples which provided the record with additional hooks besides its oft-repeated title chant, such as samples of tracks by Public Enemy, Criminal Element Orchestra and the Bar-Kays being used. It was this remix, rather than the original, that was edited down to create the 7-inch version of the track, which began picking up radio play.
As the first big British-made house hit, “Pump Up the Volume” marked a turning-point in the popularity of the genre. Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full”, which entered the top twenty in November, sold on the strength of a Coldcut remix which unashamedly recycled elements from the M|A|R|R|S single. This was a very rapid response indeed, since “Pump Up the Volume” seemed to catch the record industry off-guard. It was not until February 1988, four months after “Pump Up the Volume” reached the top ten, that the floodgates truly opened. Like “Pump Up the Volume”, many of the first major wave of British house hits were on independent labels. Not all of them displayed an obvious influence from M|A|R|R|S, though many did. Among the hits clearly following in M|A|R|R|S’ footsteps were “Beat Dis” by Bomb the Bass, “Theme from S’Express” by S’Express, and “Doctorin’ the House” by Coldcut featuring Yazz and the Plastic Population. These in turn spawned imitators from across Europe and the U.S. The sample montage craze would soon burn itself out, since many of the later records relied heavily on recycling the same samples already heard on the hits mentioned above.
Here is a partial list of samples (there’s 20 of them) used for Pump up the volume :
1) Bar-Kays, “Holy Ghost” : Drums, with moog
2) Criminal Element Orchestra, “Put the Needle to the Record” Vocal sample (“Put the needle on the record when the drum beats go like this”)
3) Eric B. & Rakim, “I Know You Got Soul (acapella version)” Vocal sample (“Pump up the volume, dance”)
4) Original Concept, “Pump That Bass’ Vocal sample (“Pump that bass”)
5) Trouble Funk, “Pump Me Up” Vocal sample (“Pump-pump me up”)
6) Public Enemy, “You’re Gonna Get Yours (My 98 Oldsmobile)” Vocal sample (“You’re gonna get yours”)
MARRS : Pump up the volume [4AD : 1987]
The Bar-kays : Holy ghost [Stax : 1978]
Ramachandra Borcar, also known as Ramasutra is a Canadian musician/composer/producer/DJ of mixed Indian and Danish. He is also known by his alias DJ Ram, and he works into ethnic techno, science fiction vibes and a spaghetti western ethos. His music has a retro-70’s spy fascination. He has recently turned from DJing to film scoring and composing which is really sad cause he hasn’t produced any new downtempo music since El Pipo Del Taxi EP in 2003. Born in Montreal of an Indian father and a Danish mother, he had a diverse musical career. After studying music composition and electro-acoustic music at McGill University, he went on to create scores for film, television, documentaries, commercials and the theatre. Even on his first album you can hear the blissful indian vibes meshed with highly cinematic ambience. If you close your eyes it could very well be music composed by The Thievery corporation or Talvin Singh. But one thing is for sure, he was a very gifted composer with an ear for sultry music and ethnic vibes that never get chessy. The curse of the eye is from the EP from 2003 and uses a vocal sample that sounds quite similar to what this man had to say also back in 2003…
Ramasutra : The curse of the eye (El pipo del taxi – 2003 : Semprini Records)
After a long hiatus the legendary Urban Tribe (Sherard Ingram aka DJ Stingray joined by Carl Craig, Moodymann and Antony Shakir….) returns with this amazingly fast and funky 12″ on Planet E. Insolitology slows things down and wears its German electronica / Kraftwerk influences firmly on its sleeve. A gated, electro beat meets spacey synth lines and intergalactic arpeggios. As a matter of fact, nobody really sounds quite like S. Ingram (aka Urban Tribe), a talent that has moved through various shapes and forms in the Detroit underground with a constant thread of hi-tek electro soul tying all his material together. Urban Tribe is one of the second wave artists from Detroit who is known for his collaborations with Carl Craig, Anthony Shakir and Moodymann. Ingram has been at the forefront of Detroit’s musical history and throughout his recording career Urban Tribe has managed to remain one of the most uncompromising and mysterious producers. Ingram has consistently avoided the mainstream to create a musical world of his own. In recent years he has been best known for his spinning moniker DJ Stingray, representing his brand of hi-speed and frantic electro in a ski-mask. And it makes perfect sense that this track from Detroit’s Sherard Ingram (a.k.a. Urban ) comes courtesy of Carl Craig’s Planet E label; the vintage aesthetic and warm analog timbres are wholly reminiscent of fellow Craig cohort Etienne Jaumet. “Insolitology” takes you on a relatively slow-paced, scenic journey through wavering synth melodies and sparse bits of spacey sonics, all floating along past the song’s elegantly tumbling bassline and steady house beat that carry you the whole way. This is electro music at its finest. I dare you to resist it.
Urban tribe : Insolitology (Planet E : 2010)