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KEXP Documentaries: Pop Goes Electronic

Recent episodes:
#1: Tangerine Dream
#2: Kraftwerk
#3: Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder
#4: Bowie and Eno
#5: Gary Numan
#6: Human League


1950’s science fiction films were the first place electronic music was heard by most music fans. Inventors had played with electronic instruments since the 1890’s but it wasn’t until films like 1958’s “Forbidden Planet” started showing that music made by computers was finally heard by a large number of people in the US and UK.
The first truly popular electronica came out of post-war Germany in the mid 70s. Young Germans were looking for an identity that had nothing to do with Hitler. Groups like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk were the first to hit the pop charts. Their futuristic sound took them not only out of their war torn country but the outer space sounds took them out of this world.
Pop stars David Bowie, Donna Summer and Gary Numan collaborated with electronic artists like Eno and Giorgio Moroder to bring the German electronic sound into charts and onto dance floors in the UK and USA in the late 70s.
In the early 80s, a new club culture seemed hungry for electronic sounds. The Human League, Depeche Mode and Art of Noise all rocked the charts by mixing melodic vocals with undeniable dance beats. In the final step of electronic music’s trip into popular culture - Manchester band New Order married electronic music to pop forever when they rocked the charts in 1983 with the single Blue Monday.
#1: Tangerine Dream
Tangerine Dreams 1974 Album Phaedra Was The First Electronic Record To Hit Pop Charts
Tangerine Dreams 1974 Album Phaedra Was The First Electronic Record To Hit Pop Charts


Tangerine Dream Still Play Today and Have Released Over 100 Records - From Myspace
Tangerine Dream Still Play Today and Have Released Over 100 Records - From Myspace



Inventors, artists and musicians had experimented with electronic sound since the 1890’s, but it was Berlin’s Tangerine Dream that were the first electronic band to hit the pop charts with “Phaedra” in 1974. Influenced by the improvisational nature of free jazz and the rebellion of hippie music, this group created a sound that still resounds today.

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#2: Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk Still Perform Today - From Myspace
Kraftwerk Still Perform Today - From Myspace


The First Band to Use Robots Instead of Performers - From Myspace
The First Band to Use Robots Instead of Performers - From Myspace



Kraftwerk added lyrics to create the first electronic pop single “Autobahn” in 1974. In this episode member Karl Baudaus tells the secrets of the band whose music inspired not only other electro-pop but also the creation of hip-hop, jungle and house music.

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#3: Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder
Giorgio Moroder And His Moustache - From Myspace
Giorgio Moroder And His Moustache - From Myspace


Donna Summer Ruled The 70s Dance Floor - From Myspace
Donna Summer Ruled The 70s Dance Floor - From Myspace



Italian musician/producer Giorgio Moroder tells the story of “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love” - the two electronic singles he recorded with Donna Summer in Germany in the 1970s.

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#4: Bowie and Eno
Hansa At The Wall Studio
Hansa At The Wall Studio - Courtesy davidhardingphotography.ifp3.com and hardman.imagekind.com


Bowie Low Album the First of the Berlin Trilogy
Bowie Low Album the First of the Berlin Trilogy



David Bowie left Los Angeles in 1976 to escape the rockstar nightmare he had created for himself. In Berlin he found fellow Brit artist Brian Eno and their 3-album collaboration “The Berlin Trilogy” would bring electronic pop to new artistic heights.

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#5: Gary Numan
Gary Numan Rock Star - From Myspace
Gary Numan Rock Star - From Myspace


Gary Numan - From Myspace
Gary Numan - From Myspace



Best known in the U.S. for his single “Cars”, British artist Gary Numan had several top-charting electropop hits in the UK. Many say he was just copying Kraftwerk, others give him flack for his outfits and extravagant stage show. Meet the man behind the myth!

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#6: Human League
Human League Before 1980 - From Human League
Human League Before 1980 - From Human League


Bowie Low Album the First of the Berlin Trilogy
Bowie Low Album the First of the Berlin Trilogy



The Human League were a well-known underground band in the UK electronic pop scene. Find out how one of the members, Phil Oakey, became famous after ditching this original band to recruit 2 girls right off the dance floor to sing on the top-charting 1981 hit “Don’t You Want Me”.

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