Synth Pop Production: Redux, Part 1

I recently labeled the production of Flash and the Pan’s “Walking in the Rain” thin.

Dan, a drummer, called me on expanding the description to all late ’70s/early ’80s synth pop:

“I’ve been listening to The Human League’s ‘Fascination’ 12″ recently and thinking how fat it sounds (especially the bass line to “Hard Times’). Isn’t it unfair to base a conclusion about a genre on one record?”

What? One case is not a valid sample?

Today I set out to fill in my synth pop sample. Since this started with “Walking in the Rain,” I decided to open with Grace Jones’s cover of the tune:

A much fatter rhythm bed. Not surprising since it was provided by legendary reggae rhythm section Sly (Dunbar) and Robbie (Shakespeare), and produced by Chris Blackwell.

Next up was the Eurythmics’ “Love Is a Stranger”:

Also a lush production style, but the mention of “obsession” in the refrain led me to Animotion:

This song has always been a cheesy favorite of mine, but the synthesized drumbeat is very thin and tinny to my ears. However, this is filled out with the thick synthesized bass rhythm.

Speaking of cheesy “Pop Muzik,” who can resist M?

I began to realize I was focusing on the sound of the primitive syndrums being thin, not the overall production.

In fact, songs by Flash and the Pan, Ultravox, . . .

. . . Visage . . .

. . . and the Passions . . .

. . . use the stark synthesized percussion to their advantage to create an austere setting for their tales of fading decadence, much as Peggy Lee used finger snaps in “Fever”:

Thanks, Dan, for leading me to revisit a lot of good old music.

To be continued . . .


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