1980 to 83. That’s it. Three years. Easily the most used, abused, sampled, looped, and heard by all drum machines in history.
Why? The thing sounded like the cheezy beatbox in home organs. Boom chikka chikka. Little filtered analog noise bursts crammed into audio envelopes. Tish tish tish clack boom. I mean Kraftwerk made of it by sampling their own voices and using them as a beat track on Boing Boom Tshack from Electric Cafe…
Except…unlike the CR78 and other drum machines of the presampling era, the 808 had variable tuning. No, not the city in China, but actual pitch up and down on the klacks and booms. If a car has ever pulled up beside you and rattled your windows with low-frequency Boooooooom…. Boooooooom that’s the 808. Stretch and distress and compress that low kick until it never fades and rattles your windows when it goes down the street. A sound, we learned, that keeps an amplifier buried on the power supply rails until it burns up.
People will complain about all the kinds of music that sound brings to mind but be advised, plenty of pop and rock songs were demoed with the 808. And more million-selling R&B than you can shake your booty to, jazz, acid jazz, smooth jazz…everybody incorporated the sounds of the 808. In fact I’ve used 808s widely myself in everything from cover tunes to electronica to synth space fart tracks.
Gain access to a state of chill and some headphones, here’s some 808 in a hippie redux context
Why again? Because I was inspired by the old 60s synth instrumentals and hearing a Muzak version of Jethro Tull (?!) in an HEB Grocery store in Austin, TX and figured, you know, I do that &*^% for a living.
Happy 808 day, even if you’re not all that happy about how it’s found its way into everything music-wise.