okay, let me start by saying that synth never really disappeared after the 80's, it just decided to morph itself into other forms that made it pretty awful at times throughout the 90's. we saw the birth of some absolutely dreadful genres like bubblegum dance and eurodance. i mean think about it, the 90's had some truly awful music made with the synthesizer...'vengaboys' and 'aqua' come straight to mind. I like to think of this decade and the first half of the noughties as a mere hibernation period for what was to come in 2007...the second coming of synth!
most people think that commercial synthpop was conceived in the late 70's, and it's easy to see why. this is when we truly began to see the resistance of classic rock and punk music broken by the beautiful instrument. in 1979 a big upturn in the release of synth music from acts like; 'gary numan and tubeway army', 'the human league', 'sparks and 'japan'. as soon as 1980 hit, the world was flooded with material from 'orchestral manoeuvres in the dark', 'ultravox', 'Depeche mode' and 'eurythmics' (who I've never really appreciated like everyone else and I still can't for the life of me work out why).
The birth and rebirth of synth
we have to go back to 1972 to discover the first commercially successful synthpop track, and i'm pretty sure you've heard it in some format at some point in your life. 'popcorn' by 'hot butter' was a massive hit and spent weeks at number 1 in any European countries like germany, Netherlands and Norway. in fact for france and Switzerland, not only did it reach number 1, it was also the biggest selling track of 1972!
a certain mr stan free was responsible for recording this track...or should I say re-recording...(ooo what a cliff-hanger)
to go back to the true origins of what is considered to be the birth of synth, we have to the mind of an Italian...Gershon Kingsley. and we even go back a decade further...the swingin' 60's. would you believe that the original version of 'popcorn' was produced in 1969?! need evidence? here's the clever little bugger with his moog synthesizer and other analogue bits 'n' bobs...
To understand just how extraordinary this song was for its time, there is a cracking video of the song being played on 'top of the pops' where the audience back then merely danced to whatever songs were played to them. let's just say it doesn't look like any form of dancing I've ever seen, they must have been completely awe-struck by it. watch the video for yourself:
in 1971, Kingsley would go on to re-release it with his band 'first moog quartet. and if that wasn't enough, he released another version under the name 'the popcorn makers. and as mentioned before, stan lee who was also a member of 'first moog quartet' went on to release what is commonly the most recognisable edition of the track. sounds to me like a bunch of intellects knew they had a winner on their hands. and they were bang on the money too, it's a track that is still regularly heard on albums and radio stations the world over...nearly five decades later.
so there we have it, a genre that gave way to house, techno, electro, dubstep, acid and other forms of EDM...is from an incredibly ancient source. but I don't care for them, really i'm just grateful that it led to synthpop, which led to nu-disco, which led to outrun, which led to synthwave. and who knows, there might be a 'so on and so forth'. mr kingsley, you're my hero.