Don’t you love it when those murky, endless swamps of internet spam throw up something that you really enjoy? I’m sure it’s all a co-incidence, as it’s unlikely that Google knows from the number of times I have typed the numbers “808” that I’m a bit obsessed with that machine, is it?
All Hail The Beat is a three minute film by author and journalist Nelson George that’s a great introduction to (and summary of) the history of the Roland TR-808 drum machine. It’s also a neat little follow up to the Bang The Box mix I posted earlier today, which features lots and lots (and lots and lots) of banging’ 808s.
Roland’s Tr-808 Rhythm Composer was first produced in 1980, and has gone on to become one of the most influential machines in modern music. Its sonorous booms and claps are heard everywhere from Afrika Bambaataa and Egyptian Lover to Beck, Lil Wayne, Aphex Twin, Missy Elliot, Talking Heads, Marvin Gaye, Rihanna and far beyond. It’s all over hip-hop, electro, R&B, house and techno, and is the basis of underground dance genres like crunk, booty bass and New Orleans bounce. Kanye West named an album after it and even Madonna can be heard warbling about the wildness of its drum sounds on her latest single (whose production, funnilly enough, featured no actual 808s.)
Nelson George, whose face you’ll recognise from many other music documentaries, here speaks to veterans like Arthur Baker and Juan Atkins about the machine. He sums All Hail The Beat, and the 808, up thusly:
The Roland TR-808 drum machine inspires musicians around the world, even though the device hasn’t been made since 1984 — and most of its avid users have never actually seen one.
Oh how I long to get a real one of these some day…