#OldSkool - Synth Britannia: A Brilliant BBC Documentary About 1970s/1980s Synth Movement

It was the end of the 1970s, guitar music was on its way out and on its way in was a new type of music, influenced by sci-fi and Kraftwerk: synth pop!

This pretty damn awesome documentary from the BBC follows the post-punk music makers whose god was the electronic sounds of the synthesiser.

Inspired by Kraftwerk and JG Ballard, musicians like the Human League, Daniel Miller and Cabaret Volatire were dreaming up the sound of the future against the backdrop of the bleak, Brutalist high-rises of late 1970s Britain.

From the experimental fringes, electronic music would go mainstream and birth what came to be known as EDM.

The crossover moment came in 1979 when Gary Numan’s appearance on Top of the Pops with Tubeway Army’s Are Friends Electric heralded the arrival of synthpop.

There’s lots of crazy hair and make-up, too, and, sweetly, the girls from The Human League recall asking permission from their headmaster to go on tour.

When asked about their influences, nearly every contributor in Synth Britannia enthused about German electronic music of the mid 70s. Bands such as Neu!, Faust, Cluster, Tangerine Dream and, of course, Kraftwerk were their primary inspiration.

Inspired by punk and the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, economics almost stopped the movement before it had started. The first synths cost the same as a small house.

The use of synthesizers was a statement of intent, like an act of artistic subversion.

Related articles: