The Forgotten Arm: Hot Butter

You might not realize it, but you could probably hum one of the earliest electronic hits.  The metronomic plink of “Popcorn,” performed by the mysterious group Hot Butter, was written by Gershon Kingsley who, along with frequent collaborator Jean-Jaques Perrey, sought to make electronic music palatable to the mainstream in the late 1960s.  Up until then, electronic music was a vehicle for experimentalists and avant-gardists, best exemplified by the works of Edgard Varèse and Erik Satie.  Kingsley later found an acolyte in Stan Free, a session keyboardist and sideman who had performed with The Monkees, The Association and Kingsley’s own First Moog Quartet.  However, Hot Butter landed him his only real hit after a few failed attempts to go solo.

Aside from “Popcorn,” Hot Butter were a pretty standard instrumental cover band.  They took songs from other, more legendary groups like The Ventures and The Shadows and arranged them for a Moog-based lineup.  The results are pretty fascinating for their time.  In just two LPs, Free re-imagined “Apache,” “Telstar,” “The Syncopated Clock” and other instrumental favorites.  The band had a handful of originals, though the real intrigue was the use of the iconic Moog.  Hot Butter’s music layered synth lines to create a complex textures while still remaining bubbly and poppy.

Of course, electronic music would blossom thanks to Kraftwerk and the new wave boom of the ’80s, but all of that was thanks to the streamlining and cleaning up that was done by visionaries like Stan Free.

Listen: Hot Butter – “Apache”


~ by E. on January 11, 2010.

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