100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #51 M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume

Released : 1987

The world of dance music is full of one hit wonders – ask any Northern Soul fan – but few teleported themselves more spectacularly around a newly connecting planet than M/A/R/R/S, a conglomerate made up of DJ’s Dave Dorrell and CJ Mackintosh, brothers Martyn and Steve Young of electro pop auteurs Colourbox and A.R. Kane’s Alex Ayuli and Rudy Tambala.

One of the catalysts was MTV, newly parachuted into Europe. Dorrell had been hired originally to work on the musical inserts for the pilot ads and as he told author Bill Brewster his approach was to “Put as many edits into 15 seconds as possible.”

Using other people’s music had already become the dominant progressive force in hip-hop, if only for three second bursts, due to the technology available. Pump Up The Volume simply took that dynamic and translated into a more uptempo, club ready groove, using samples from amongst many others Eric B & Rakim’s I Know You Got Soul and most obviously Criminal Element Orchestra’s Put the Needle to the Record, which became the track’s mind-mining hook.

All this made for one of the most unlikely number ones of the decade. Here was a stream of consciousness carrying menace as well as danceability, with dropped in phrases such as “Automatic, push button, remote control” that were echoes of the The Normal’s Warm Leatherette and Cabaret Voltaire as much as then contemprary acts like Coldcut. Despite Pump Up The Volume’s huge transatlantic commercial success, it’s makers vowed never to work together again, making it a perfect one take outcome with a permanently blemished legacy.

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