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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Duran Duran (Sept 2019) > Rise of the Machines

Rise of the Machines

The LM-1, DMX, TR-808…not an extract from a trainspotter’s logbook but, in fact, a list of some of the most important players in pop history. This is the tech – the synthesisers, sequencers, samplers and drum machines – that facilitated the 80s’ most memorable pop masterstrokes, including When Doves Cry, Don’t You Want Me and the unstoppable Blue Monday. We showcase the classic devices that shaped the decade’s defining sounds


When synthesisers first arrived in the late 60s and early 70s, they were colossal pieces of kit – huge rackmounted modules shrouded in metal and wood, teeming with wires, valves and buttons. Typically custom-built, at huge expense, they more closely resembled the Enigma code-breakers’ command centre than anything that might be confused for a musical instrument. Getting a sound out of them was another matter entirely. Just creating a simple sequence in the pre-digital days (something we can now all do on a smartphone) was an operation of military precision.

“For my generation of cash-strapped kids”, explains ex-Human Leaguer Jo Callis, “the guitar was the most accessible instrument for those of us with delusions of grandeur…When early synthesisers began to appear, they were mysterious, complex looking machines and prohibitively expensive. But we were fascinated by them, they were new and futuristic.”

The 80s made the technology considerably cheaper, more portable and hence more accessible, putting these exotic sounds into the hands of ordinary people. You no longer needed a king’s ransom, a cavernous outbuilding and a computer science degree in order to purchase, install and then actually figure out how to play them. “You suddenly had these new, affordable synths which you could get great sounds out of fairly quickly”, says his bandmate Ian Burden, “and that’s how The Human League began.”

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About Classic Pop

In the latest issue of Classic Pop we have a world exclusive interview with Duran Duran who reveal all about their forthcoming new studio album and the iconic show they played for NASA to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. A candid Gary Numan talks to us about his 40 years as a ground-breaking icon of electronic music and Kim Wilde explains why it’s taken her 38 years to release her first live album, plus we also chat to Metronomy’s Joe Mount about his band’s ambitious new studio LP.

For our latest album-by-album feature we examine the amazing back catalogue of Blur and we also look back at the technology that drove the electro revolution with the help of members of the Human League and Landscape. 

Our classic album is Prince’s Sign O’ The Times and we also meet his collaborator Cat Glover to hear about her recollections of the project.

Our packed new album reviews section includes Charli XCX, Kim Wilde, Bon Iver, Keane, Chrissie Hynde, The Brand New Heavies and more. On the reissues front, we serve up a selection including Prefab Sprout, Goldfrapp, Janet Jackson, Jimmy Somerville, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. In our live reviews section, we check out shows by New Order, kd lang, Stevie Wonder, Jenny Lewis and more.

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