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Dance Music

Italo disco


Cover of the ZYX Music compilation album. Cover of the ZYX Music compilation album.

Italo disco is a musical marketing term introduced in 1983 by Bernhard Mikulski, the founder of ZYX Music. The term applied to Italian electronic dance music of the 1980s and to music from other parts of Europe and from North America that imitated the sound thereof. A typical Italo-disco song had contrasting verse-chorus form, had synthesizer based accompaniment and was usually sung in English by European artists.


Origins, 1978-1985

Electronic dance music started to develop in the late 1970s when traditional sounding disco bands began to experiment with synthesizers and other electronic effects. This early form of electronic dance music is unofficially called "space disco" due to its odd sounds and sci-fi stylings. One of the main influences during this period was the producer Giorgio Moroder, as well as the cynical styles of such electropop acts as Telex, Devo, and Gary Numan, and the early Hi-NRG albums released by San Francisco producer Patrick Cowley with such singers as Sylvester and Paul Parker.

By 1982, Italo appeared as a fully developed form in Italy and other parts of Europe, with artists releasing completely electronic songs using drum machines and other equipment. Synthpop, New Wave and the New Romantic genres were the foundations for Italo taking off, as these became very popular around the world at this same time during the early 1980s. Typical songs were simple, with catchy melodies, and were often sung using vocoders and overdubs. Much of the genre featured love-song lyrics sung in English with heavy Italian accents. English was more often than not the artists' second language, creating lyrics that were often considered to be almost nonsensical. Along with love, italo disco themes deal with robots and space, sometimes combining all three in songs including "Robot is Systematic" (1982) by 'Lectric Workers and "Spacer Woman"(1983) by Charlie.

1982 and 1983 saw the releases of the irony-laden "Dirty Talk," "Wonderful," and "The M.B.O. Theme," three track cited as influential in the development of house, by Klein & M.B.O., a side-project developed by Davide Piatto of the Italo disco duo N.O.I.A., with vocals by Piatto and Rosanna Casale.

Many see 1983 as the height of Italo, with frequent hit singles and many labels starting up around this time. Such labels included American Disco, Crash, Merak, Sensation, and X-Energy. The popular label Disco Magic released more than thirty singles within the year. It was also the year that the term italo disco was reputedly coined by Bernhard Mikulski, the founder of ZYX Music (Germany), when ZYX released their first volume of "The Best of Italo Disco" series.

Derivative styles, 1982-1989

During the late 1980s Italo began fading away and some groups moved into the Hi-NRG genre, which combined high-paced Italo and house. This style is evident in the productions of such artists as Divine, Roni Griffith, Tony Caso, and the Flirts, all of whom were produced by Bobby Orlando, as well as many Stock-Aiken-Waterman, notably those of Sinitta, Stacey Q, Samantha Fox, and Dead or Alive.

Canada, particularly Quebec, produced several remarkable Italo disco acts, including Trans X (Living on Video), Lime (Angel Eyes), Pluton & the Humanoids (World Invaders), Rational Youth (City of Night), and Purple Flash Orchestra (We Can Make It).

In Germany, a style of Italo disco known as Discofox developed. It was characterized by an emphasis on melody, exaggerated overproduction, and a more earnest approach to the themes of love; examples may be found in the works of Modern Talking, Fancy, Bad Boys Blue, and Lian Ross.

Also during the mid-1980s spacesynth developed as a sub-genre of italo. This style of Italo was mostly instrumental and focused more on space sounds than the earlier pop-oriented songs, as exemplified by the sounds of Koto, Proxyon, Rofo, Cyber People, Hipnosis, and Laserdance.

Revival, 1993- (Electro)

Italo disco developed a cult following in the early 1990s, and electro releases in 1993 by I-F, in 1998 by Legowelt and Tobias Bernstrup, and in 2000 by Jeans Team, Bangkok Impact, and Hong Kong Counterfeit were among those that fuelled renewed interest. I-F's 2001 Italo-cum-electro mix Mixed Up in the Hague was equally important to the reintroduction of the genre.

As of 2005 several online radio stations stream the genre and underground clubs are playing the records widely again. Its renewed popularity is inspiring re-releases and new mixes on many of the record labels that released the genre initially. ZYX records has released many new CD mixes since 2000. Labels like Panama Records and Radius Records have gone through great lengths to find the original artists of obscure italo tracks for re-release on vinyl.

The German group I-Robots has released several mixes incorporating obscure Italo disco tracks, and in 2006 released a German-language cover of Charlie's "Spacer Woman" called "Spacer Frau."

Italo disco artists

Some popular artists and their hit songs include:

Albert One - Turbo Diesel
Alexander Robotnick - Problemes D'Amour
Atrium - Weekend
Azoto - Exalt Exalt, San Salvador
Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
Blocksystem - Don't Leave Me
Bruce & Bongo - Geil
Carrara - Shine On Dance
Cyber People - Void Vision, Polaris
Den Harrow - Dont Break My Heart, Bad Boy, Future Brain
Denise & Baby's Gang - Disco Maniac
Dharma - Plastic Doll
Doctor's Cat - Feel the Drive, Gee Whiz
Edyta - ABC Letters of Love, Be slave of my heart, Come back, Loosing my religion
Tony Esposito - Papa Chico, Kalimba De Luna
Finzy Kontini - Cha Cha Cha
Fun Fun - Happy station, Colour My Love
Gazebo - I Like Chopin
Hipnosis - Pulstar
Italian Boys - Midnight Girl
Ivŕn - Fotonovela
Joe Yellow - Take My Heart, Lover to Lover
Kano - Another Life
Klein & M.B.O. - Dirty Talk
Koto - Visitors, Jabdah, Chinese Revenge
Ken Laszlo - Hey Hey Guy, Tonight, Mary Ann, Don't Cry
Laserdance - Laserdance, Shotgun (In the Night)
Lime - Angel Eyes
'Lectric Workers - Robot is Systematic, The Garden
Malcolm & the Bad Girls - Shoot Me
Martinelli - Cinderella
Michael Bedford - More than a kiss, Tonight
Miko Mission - How Old Are You?,
Mr. Flagio - Take a Chance
My Mine - Hypnotic Tango
N.O.I.A. - Stranger in a Strangeland, Looking for Love
Sandy Marton - People from Ibiza
One System - Life is Very Short
P. Lion - Happy Children, Dream
Phaeax - Talk About
Silver Pozzoli - Around My Dream
Linda Jo Rizzo - You're My First, You're My Last
Primadonna - Angel You
Radiorama - Desire, Aliens, Fire
Righeira - Vamos a la playa,No tengo dinero
Ryan Paris - La Dolce Vita
Sabrina - Boys, Sexy Girl, My Chico
Savage - Don't Cry Tonight, Only You, A Love Again
Scotch - Disco Band, Take Me Up, Mirage, Man to Man, Penguin's Invasion, Plus Plus
Taffy - I Love My Radio
Topo & Roby - Under The Ice
Trans X - Living on Video
Valerie Dore - The Night, Get Closer, Lancelot
Wish Key - Orient Express, Last Summer

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