“Pump Up the Volume” by M/A/R/R/S was considered groundbreaking when it was released on August 3, 1987, because of its use of samples from other songs. It’s also considered a major influence on British house music, which peaked during the Second Summer of Love (1988–1989). “Pump Up the Volume” topped the charts in the U.K. and charted at #13 on the U.S. Hot 100.
The single was an awkward collaboration by Colourbox and A R Kane, two bands on the independent 4AD label, as they had both approached him (albeit separately) about recorded a commercially oriented dance track. The two groups working styles and/or personalities didn’t mesh well, so they each recorded a track, then turned it over to the other for additional input. The result was Colourbox’s “Pump Up the Volume” on the A-Side and “Anitina (The First Time I Saw She Dance)” on the B-Side. “Pump Up the Volume” ended up being the more popular track.
“Pump Up the Volume” contains samples from various songs by other artists, but the title and vocal bit comes from “I Know You Got Soul” by Eric B. & Rakim. This led to the sampling controversy in the music industry and an injunction from British music producers Stock/Aitken/Waterman who objected to a sample of “Hey!” being wailed at the beginning of their single “Roadblock.” It was subsequently removed from “Pump Up the Volume” before it was released in the U.S. market. (Pete Waterman seemed to have forgotten that he had sampled the bass line from Colonel Abrams’ “Trapped” in Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which had been released at the same time.)
Within a few months, imitation seemed to be the finest form of flattery. Several other sample-patched house songs became hits in the U.K.: “Theme from S’Express” by S’Express, “Beat Dis” by Bomb the Bass, and “Doctorin’ the House” by Coldcut feat. Yazz and The Plastic Population.
Pump Up the Volume 5’07
Pump Up the Volume [Radio Edit] 4’06
Pump Up the Volume [Re-Mix] 6’27
Pump Up the Volume [U.S. Remix] 7’10
Pump Up the Volume [Bonus Beats] 4’49
Pump Up the Volume [Instrumental] 5’04
Pump Up the Volume [Pump Up the Volume [
Anitina (First Time I See She Dance) [Radio Edit] 4’20
Anitina (First Time I See She Dance) 6’39
Anitina (First Time I See She Dance) [Re-Mix] 7’40
As innovative as “Pump Up the Volume” was musically, in contrast, the video is rather forgettable. It consists of footage from NASA space missions and astronaut training.
The first time I ever heard of “Pump Up the Volume” was in a news brief by a V.J. that played between music videos on MTV. (Yes, once up a time, MTV actually played music videos.) A short time later, I was dancing at Club Sparx with some friends when the D.J. played “Pumped Up the Volume.” I knew what it was immediately, because it sounded like nothing else at the time. The percussion, in particular, impressed me. (I also like the sampled voiced that says, “Mars needs women.”) I went out and bought the 45 the next day.
What are your memories of “Pump Up the Volume” by M/A/R/R/S?