Help me identify a 1980s dance track from this brief description?
July 4, 2016 1:38 AM   Subscribe

I heard a great 1980s dance record at an event in 2005 and haven't identified it yet. The DJ replied to my email with a couple guesses, but those weren't it. Here are the song details I still remember.

At this nightclub event in 2005, Safety Scissors played a record that was new to me but sounded like it was from the 1980s. I haven't managed to track it down yet. Here are the song details I recall:

- BPM around 120
- Likely some form of electronic dance music
- Mostly if not entirely in a major key
- Possibly instrumental (otherwise I would've likely recalled some lyrics)
- Featuring a prominent slowly-arpeggiated major chord, maybe on a synthesizer or guitar, maybe lasting 3-4 seconds as the notes are played in ascending order (e.g. C-E-G)
- I wouldn't be surprised if the percussion was from a Roland TR-808 or a LinnDrum
- I would guess it was produced around 1981-1986

Shortly after the event, I emailed Safety Scissors a description of the song I was trying to identify. He named "Being boiled" (Human League) and "Tarzan boy" (Baltimora) as two non-instrumental songs he had played that might match my description, but those weren't it. He said that it might've been something from Sunnyview Records, which I didn't explore at the time beyond listening to a bunch of Newcleus. (I'll hit up YouTube after posting this)

I'm very familiar with 1980s pop radio in the United States, so mainstream acts and their hit singles can be ruled out, especially those featured in the Billboard charts and on MTV. (The likely-instrumental attribute rules them out already.) Most likely not Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jan Hammer, Jean-Michel Jarre,
posted by germdisco to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you remember any of the lyrics at all? The casual listener is probably more likely to notice that then they are beats per minute.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:56 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Honestly in the absence of any other leads I would be trying to find more of the guy's mixes from around the same period. If a DJ is sitting on a banger they're unlikely to only play it once. Frankly I'd be astounded if anyone can ID the track based on the info you've provided. It could describe about a million house songs, even if you did get the dates right (80s nostalgia was in full swing by the mid 00s).
posted by Ted Maul at 7:29 AM on July 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well, I thought of "Theme for Great Cities" by Simple Minds: first your criteria for minor key, slow arpegio, instrumental, 80s.
posted by rongorongo at 8:07 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ted Maul is right, per your current description this is worse than a needle in a haystack. The problem is it could be an 80s track, but that doesn't narrow it down since there are tens of thousands of tracks of synthpop, early house, latin freestyle, italo, hi-nrg, electro, etc. etc. Equally, it could actually be a contemporary track from 2005 since there was a load of electroclash, electro house, nu disco, etc. from that era that sounds very 80s.

I've been a professional DJ spinning 80s dance alongside new tracks, so if there were anything else to work with here I could give it a shot. Some additional helpful info might include: is it a track with a four-to-the-floor kick drum or a break beat? Is it a 909 style beat, an 808, or a Linn drum (note that these are all very different)? Is there anything distinctive about the percussion (cowbells, prominent tom drums, weird hi-hats)? Does it have a real bass guitar, or synth slap bass, or analogue synth bass? Does it have any acoustic instruments? How many layers of sound are there (is it busy like a synthpop track or more minimal like a house track)? etc. If you can find the closest sounding track that isn't correct, that would be a big help.

Otherwise, as Ted Maul says, your best bet is to hunt down mixes from that DJ.
posted by iivix at 2:42 AM on July 5, 2016

Neither "Being Boiled" nor "Tarzan Boy" are super-obscure hits - and both of them are actually from the early 80s. So there there is a possibility that your track might also be from the era and not super obscure either. And there were not so many instrumental synth/electronic hits during the early 80s. I looked at this playlist. From that list Paul Hardcastle's "Rain Forest" is a possible match. So is, from the comments, "Odyssey Pt. 1" by Johnny Harris and (to some extent) some part of Dignity of Labour by the Human League.
posted by rongorongo at 3:24 AM on July 5, 2016

Tracking down the DJs mixes or playlists is a great suggestion and I'll pursue this. There were no lyrics as far as I know (I am currently focusing on instrumental tracks). I played a bunch of Sunnyview tracks on YouTube and it didn't sound like the right style to me. I'm looking for something closer to pop and dance rather than rap and hip hop.

Theme for Great Cities, Rain Forest, Odyssey Pt 1, Dignity of Labour: it was none of these. I would say that the intro to Rain Forest is closest to the track I'm trying to find.

Regarding four-on-the-floor versus breakbeat: that's a tough call. I could honestly imagine either. I can often identify drum machines by ear, and I don't believe it was a 909 because the hihats would've given it away. I would bet a small amount of money that my mystery track features an 808.

I'll look through the linked playlist.

And I agree that it could be a newer track simply sounding like it is from the 1980s. So, I regret that I haven't narrowed it down much, but I appreciate the leads you've provided!
posted by germdisco at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2016

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