The First Synthpop Song, Part Two

Published on September 29th, 2008 in: Issues, Music, Pop Culture Holy Grail |

By Less Lee Moore

In the July/August 2008 issue of Popshifter, I attempted to answer the question, “What was the first synthop song?”

Having arrived back at the old “Popcorn vs. Chicory Tip” quandary once again, I figured I’d better find out more about both.

As it turns out, “Popcorn” is something of a cult classic. In fact, not only does it have its own Wikipedia entry, it has its own website. What’s even more astonishing is that the current site is a tribute to the original one,

popcorn song site

The obvious question—why dedicate a whole website to one song?—is answered on the current site’s Questions page: “Because I have no life.” Yet one person’s “no life” is another one’s treasure trove. site also features sleeve art and information on where “Popcorn” can be found in various commercials, TV shows, and movies. lists over 300 versions of the tune (I counted) starting in 1969 (the original Gershon Kingsley version) up through 2007 (with a few versions not attributed to any year). No life? I beg to differ. This is the work of a truly dedicated person!

1972 was the first year that “Popcorn” really exploded (hey, I could’ve said “popped”) with 28 different versions listed. 1974 – 1991 seem to be the lean years for “Popcorn” but in 1993 things start to pick up, presumably due to the popularity of techno and house music in dance clubs. 2005 is the peak year for “Popcorn,” with 35 versions listed.

Would you believe that the site has audio clips of each version? Well, it does. Don’t worry, I won’t describe each of the 300 versions. However, listening to them reveals a fascinating array of styles and provides an intriguing journey through music history.

pattie brooks
Image from

The original Gershon Kingsley version actually sounds less like popcorn and more like traveling through Saturn’s rings, but if you like his work with Jean-Jacques Perrey like I do, you will love it. The First Moog Quartet version (also featuring Kingsley) from 1972 is described as “the basis for all Popcorns to come” and I must agree. Gone are the intergalactic reverb effects; what we have is the bare bones Moog sound. And then, there is the Hot Butter rendition, “the version we all know and love,” where the shuffling drumbeat sound adds a vibrancy and weight to the original.

There’s not much new added to the tune until 1972’s Anarchic System cover which features. . . wait for it . . LYRICS. They’re surprisingly existential and actually make me think of Roy Batty’s speech at the end of Blade Runner.

Despite several more versions of the tune—including reggae, samba, and orchestral variations (by the Boston Pops, naturally) and other sung versions with lyrics translated into different languages—there isn’t much that’s noteworthy until 1977, when Pattie Brooks worked it into a disco medley. It seems strange that this wasn’t done more frequently as “Popcorn” is as lightweight and catchy as any of the other disco hits of the time. 1978 brought a guitar-based version from Ricky King, which seems totally antithetical to the genesis of the tune.

Pages: 1 2

One Response to “The First Synthpop Song, Part Two”

  1. Popshifter » The First Synthpop Song, Part One:
    December 30th, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    […] Popshifter » The First Synthpop Song, Part Two Says: September 29th, 2008 at 10:10 pm […]

Leave a Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.