Italo Disco

Selling Right Now


Italo Disco was created between 1977 and 1982 from disco, italo pop, space disco and electro funk. no one knows exactly where and when the beginnings of the genre can be found or which producer exactly sparked the italo wave. perhaps the best way to derive development is through licensed songs. ten of them provide here information in chronological order on how and from what Italo Disco was born.

When it all started in 1982 and the first new songs from italy’s disco were played in clubs, a whole new world opened up for djs and dancers: music without real instruments. the rhythms come from the drums, the melodies from the synthesizer. the simple songs have a typical italian signature: the futuristic space atmosphere and the catchy, kitsch melodies in 4/4. the voice is mainly used as a melodic instrument, the lyrics hardly play a role. at best, they stand out for the banality of the content and the not too sparse italian accent, often performed with a dense speech scrambler effect.

Even if the keyboard sounds from today’s point of view at best it often sounds a bit over the top or worst case even terribly cheap, they are way ahead of the time and sound like this. for the dance of 82. community exit towards the future. initially listed under “spaghetti-dance” for lack of a better name, the songs quickly convince with italo’s haunting and clever aesthetic and are very appreciative of the club and disco scene.

1983 was the real and great birth of Italo Disco and for many fans it is the best italo year of all time. the german founder and owner of zyx records, bernhard mikulski, invents the term “Italo Disco” for better commercialization of italian dance music and publishes licensed songs on the double lp compilation “the best of italo-disco vol. 1” . here the term Italo Disco appears officially for the first time, even if it is still hyphenated in this record. in the second part of the series, the triple lp “the best of Italo Disco vol. 2”, which will be released next year, the name can be read without a hyphen and in the characteristic curved letters that continue to be repeated ever since steal the lyrics from the italian series of jazz records, jazz special – i grandi incontri, which are subsequently designed in the colors of the italian flag.

Also in 1983, mikulski made a mix of some of the italo hits authorized by him and released it under the name italo boot mix vol.1, with considerable success. he continues the series until 1991 and part 16 which no longer has anything to do with Italo Disco and even made it to the german singles charts with parts seven to ten. mikulski is largely responsible for the success of Italo Disco in europe, especially of course in the huge german market. he makes huge sums of money from licenses and endless mixes of the best of italo. however, he is advised caution if he believes that he is listening to the best songs of italo with the purchase of the zyx sampler. of course, zyx only releases its own licenses to the market as the best, but not the huge number of songs, some of which never leave italy.

As keyboards and synthesizers have become affordable, it has become easier to produce good productions. suddenly, even non-professional musicians can compose and record simple songs. many italo albums are produced by disc jockeys, very few have musical training. they only produce according to their personal taste, their good taste for dance music helps them. djs and hobbyists start experimenting with drums, slowly playing the melodies on the keyboard with one finger, and then picking up the speed with the help of the computer. of course, very few of them are good singers. some cannot speak a word of english or do not know how to pronounce english words. however, naturally one wants to produce for the international market, english is also considered great, italian is too reminiscent of the bygone era of italo pop. artists are forced to put the texts in the background and try to hide the melody and uncertainty of the text with the help of exaggerated computer and vocoder effects. in extreme cases, this makes it impossible to sing with some lyrics or they just don’t make sense. love songs like gazebo’s Love In Your Eyes can only be described as absurd, lines like you’re just a fucking sequencer, moving to the beat, living with a synthesizer, cold as a repeat can only be understood as a producer.

My personal favorite when it comes to accents is gary low and his 1983 hit I want you which was sampled twenty years later by miss kittin & the hacker on the beach. however, many of the often young italian musicians make a quick buck from their simple songs, which perform very well on the dance floor. due to the simple production and don’t care attitude of the creators, for example, regarding the aforementioned ability to speak english, there is a veritable flood of releases that will soon storm the charts across europe. with the onset of success, of course, many artists from all over europe want to jump on the italo train. in addition to Italo Disco, the term euro disco appears. what is the difference between the two?, how does one become an italo act?, opinions are still divided here today.

Italo Disco acts are not significantly more successful in italy than in other countries, and not all musicians and bands that are generally assigned to the genre actually come from italy. trans-x which shone in 1983 with the brilliant song living on video is a canadian Italo Disco act, others talk about canadian disco here.

Many diehard Italo Disco fans hire all non-italian artists and especially those from germany who produced a similar sound during this time under euro disco and therefore de facto devalued them. Some even do this with italian artists who have published on non-italian labels.

But can you really exclude all non-italians as Italo Disco acts? the german artist fancy, for example, presented two songs with slice me nice and chinese eyes in 1984, which in many respects correspond to the italian production and focus. The exaggerated melody of the songs, the clear accent (in this case german), the more or less meaningless text, the keyboard sounds, which are basically a touch too, but still very cool, of course and even the brand the singers’ exterior similar to miko mission fits perfectly into the Italo Disco scheme.

If you understand Italo Disco as a musical genre and not as a geographical-musical name, there are some more acts belonging to the italo family. in addition to the trans-x mentioned above, these are, for example, the dutch laserdance, stacey q from the usa and mike mareen from l√ľneburg, who had a great late hit on italo in 1986 with Love Spy.

However, there are, of course, gender limits and acts that lie beyond them. modern talking and cccatch by dieter bohlen, as well as bad boys blue and sandra (michael cretu) follow a different and much softer approach for me. you cannot claim the crazy and elegant freshness of Italo Disco. they just lack the punk appeal, the “i don’t give a shit, the main thing” attitude. with these acts there is no involuntary shrug, taken into account, nothing is ever “exaggerated”. they are meticulously thought out and planned, and are consequently gently rinsed and scrubbed with warm water. these artists belong to the euro disco genre, they were heavily influenced by Italo Disco, but they never were and probably never wanted to be.

You have to understand Italo Disco as a musical genre and of course there are artists who produce and work in all genres. however, the pure origin of the musician or even the record label’s headquarters cannot be a serious gender-specific feature in an international form of communication such as music.

1985 – peak time and plate overkill

At the Italo Disco rush hour in the mid-80s, the incredible number of releases is particularly notable. despite the cheap productions, the number of releases and the fact that hardly any artist has the musical substance to remain on the charts for a long time and thus be remembered, Italo Disco achieved explosive success in almost all of europe, through the iron curtain. to russia and later even to asia and south america.

Also due to the high dollar exchange rate and associated high import costs for us registries, italians are flooding the european market with their extremely inexpensive products. in florence, for example, there is no longer more or less dj who does not have a maxi outside. experts speak of more than 3,000 releases a year, submitted by more than a hundred labels!

The relevant producers create dozens of sub-labels and sometimes compose more than a hundred songs a year. behind many projects there are always the same people with different names. the voices of ken laszlo, fred ventura, eddy huntington, rose, tom hooker, joe yellow and albert one can be heard on countless songs by various artists. so many acts don’t put out more than one or two singles before you never hear from them again. to this day, self-proclaimed pundits are baffled and arguing over who could have sung this or that song or which producer is behind one or the other aliases.

One of the strangest cases is probably the den harrow act, played by stefano zandri, a handsome boy who only sings lip-syncing for years. the choice of the stage name den harrow, derived from “denaro”, the italian word for “money” (“do denaro with den harrow.” they say with laughter in the studio), says a lot about the humor in the deal. with the fans. after four million records sold worldwide and the fourth (!) studio singer, whose lips are moved by den harrow, the dizziness finally shoots up because den aka stefano finally wants to sing the songs himself, but can’t keep up. a note. after coming out of the closet it turns out that it was tom hooker who sang den harrow’s most successful hits bad boy – don’t break my heart. he can still achieve success under his own name. in the end, nobody knows. what to say who is den harrow. stefano zandri? producer duo chieregato and turatti? successful singer tom hooker?

In 1986, two songs reached the top 50 of the us charts: paul lekakis with the completely insane number “boom boom (let’s go back to my room)” and, a year after its release, “tarzan boy” by baltimora. a novelty, since the songs of Italo Disco have so far had absolutely no role on the us charts. “tarzan boy” reached number 13 in the spring of 1986, probably due to the fact that the song was used in a toyota television commercial. however, Italo Disco remains an underground issue in the united states until the very end. one tries to market instrumental acts like laserdance and koto under the term spacesynth, because the term disco is considered extremely dated in the mid-eighties in america (among other things, an effect of the july 1979 disco demolition night). but they don’t make the leap into the mainstream either.

However, Italo Disco’s influence on the american underground scene should not be underestimated. frank knuckles has been playing italian productions at the legendary chicago warehouse (after which the house genre was later named) since 1983. he turns them into hits in the local party community, as does larry levan at new york’s cult club paradise garage.

Charlie grappone, from his famous vinyl mania record store just around the corner on the right where paradise garage operates, and described himself as a designated music specialist, has clients who often desperately admit that “no he has no idea “what larry (levan) is doing since i last played fun stuff again at night.”

Grappone reacts to this by hiring two paradise garage djs as buyers and sellers and without further ado opened a second right next to their store, which only sells 12 “dj vinyl, including coveted italian records. the next big deal success agrees.

While the futuristic sound of italy has been shown to have inspired and influenced the chicago house scene, tragically, that’s what ultimately marks the end of Italo Disco. in late 1986, the house wave spread from chicago to clubs in the us, great britain, and finally across europe. in trendy clubs, Italo Disco songs are increasingly emptying the dance floors. they have nothing to oppose the fast 808 and 909 beats of house and acid.

From a commercial point of view, Italo Disco 1987 still works quite well, artistically, the air is more or less out of it. despite some very successful songs, the end of Italo Disco is already in sight and will finally be reached in late 1987 / early 1988. italian artists are trying to make a quick buck again by gearing more towards euro disco, another part absorbs the sound of the usa and is geared towards house for years to come. the songs get faster, the kick louder. italo house was born and made famous by acts like black box and finally culminates in the next big thing in 1990: eurodance.

In japan, however, things didn’t get going until 1987. eurobeat, as the japanese simply call all italo and euro disco productions, is becoming extremely successful and will mutate over the next few years into a faster variant called super eurobeat, which is only created for the japanese market, and the term eurobeat flash appears even later. both genres of music don’t really exist outside of japan. even today italians still produce songs for the local market, albeit with a significantly higher bpm number than they used to be.

Italo Disco has experienced a renaissance for several years. more and more cover versions of old Italo Disco songs are released, the old italo musicians suddenly appear again. many acts from that era have been releasing animated remixes of their greatest hits since the late 90s, some with success. renowned djs and producers such as dj hell, tiga or if incorporate old italo records into their sets and songs and release compilations of their favorite italo hits. new albums are constantly being released with top hits, and the italo sound has continued to have a great influence on many artists in electronic dance music; some current productions almost sound like they were made in 1983.

The mainstream is also discovering the subject for itself: the billboard of the 80s is shown on private television stations, as well as, for example, on the german master blaster. in 2003 they released an album titled “i love Italo Disco” with great success, consisting almost exclusively of high-volume versions of bums’ versions of old italo classics.

In innumerable internet forums, questions on the subject are discussed, records are exchanged, absurd votes are started, time is mourned and, of course, pictures are made. but many Italo Disco songs, which now appear in the top 100 of the fan base, never left the borders of italy at the time of their release. since most of the productions came from the more prosperous northern italy, some of the records were not even available in southern italy, sometimes not even in rome. we don’t even need to talk about airplay.

Thanks to the internet, you can listen to almost anything nowadays, for example, now there are several online radios that only play Italo Disco discs. however, it is not so easy to get the corresponding vinyl originals. many collectors around the world have taken up the theme. some obviously very wealthy fans, often from the us or japan, are willing to pay astronomical sums for rare treasures. you get prices of 500 euros and more for maxi, you can see occasional auctions on ebay that end with bids over 1000 euros. there is talk of over 10,000 Italo Disco vinyls, and some enthusiasts have seriously decided to collect Italo Disco altogether.

Regardless of how you feel about the italo sound, you must give this often-ridiculed genre a permanent place in the history of electronic dance music. it was the first genre to produce purely electronic music that was produced almost exclusively for the dance floor. like today, this music was made by the djs themselves, which was unthinkable until then. they made products that only had to run for a few weeks before the next tune was played on the synthesizer under a new name.

Italo Disco has influenced many of the following styles of music, some, like eurodance, stemming directly from it. along with hip-hop (or electro), Italo Disco is the most important link between the dance music of the late 70s (disco) and the late 80s (house, techno) and, therefore, is decisively responsible for the development of modern electronic music.