Thursday, December 10, 2020

"Pump Up the Jam" by M/A/R/R/S

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3343
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  13
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Dance, House

Pop Bits:  The British label 4AD was known for featuring eclectic artists on its roster including ones that dabbled in electronic/experimental music along with post-punk and dream pop bands. In 1987, label head Ivo-Watts Russell thought it would be a good idea for two acts on the label, the duo A.R. Kane and the band Colourbox, to collaborate on a project. The members decided to give it a go with each side working up a track and then trading so the other group could make their contributions. Somewhere along the way, they got the idea to expand the world of sampling from rap into dance music, so they brought along DJs Chris "C.J." Mackintoch and Dave Dorrell to help with sample procurement and construction. In the end, two tracks were created, "Pump Up the Volume" and "Anitina." The songs were assembled into a single and released under the moniker M/A/R/R/S, which was an acronym made up from the first letters of the first names of the collective members. Of the two, "Pump Up the Volume" got the most attention and it took off in the UK eventually hitting #1. That success led to a release in the US where it would top the Dance chart. It then crossed over to R&B (#8) and Pop, where it just stopped short of the Top 10. It would end up being a gold seller and would earn the collective a Grammy nod for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. A big spotlight was put on the creators of the track and it was hoped they would continue the project. Alas, they all chose to keep it as a one-off project and the two tracks would be the only ones to come from the collaboration. A.R. Kane would go on to record their debut album 69, which received critical acclaim. However, it seems everything that came with having a hit took a toll on members of Colourbox and they chose to call it quits.

ReduxReview:  When I learned back in the day that this song was mostly made of samples, it kind of blew my mind. Obviously, sampling had been around for a while but most tracks utilized a very small amount. The fact that someone sat down, found the snippets, and sewed them together in a way that created a catchy, mainstream dance track amazed me. The song was just so cool and of course I bought the single. The infectious track was highly influential and it really should have made the Pop Top 10. All versions of this track are interesting, but the US version (see below) was the one I got used to so it stands out to me. It is hard to find in the digital world, but at least someone put it up on YouTube (above). I still have the vinyl single. I should transfer that to digital for my playlists.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "Pump Up the Volume" is considered one of the first hits that was nearly all created from samples. It has been said that over 250 various samples were used to make the track. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the vocal part that states the title. That was a sample from the a cappella version of "I Know You Got Soul," a track from the 1987 platinum debut album by hip-hop duo Eric B & Rakim. It also served as the LP's third single reaching #39 Dance/#64 R&B. The amount of samples used in the song eventually caused issues regarding permission/clearance for use, which at one point for a few days halted distribution of the single in the UK while it was high on the chart. The legal issues also became a problem for the planned US release, which would be pushed out on the 4th & B'way label. Some samples used in the UK version would be removed while others from 4th & B'way would be inserted. Needless to say, the headaches caused by the samples certainly didn't make the members of M/A/R/R/S excited to do another track.  2) This song was picked up for use in the 1988 film Bright Lights, Big City, which starred Michael J. Fox. By the time the movie was released at the beginning of April 1988, "Pump Up the Volume" had already peaked on the Pop chart a few weeks earlier. That timing didn't help when it came to the soundtrack album, which peaked at #67. It also didn't help that the film received mixed reviews and did not do well at the box office.


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