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More Popcorn than you can stomach
May 30, 2007 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Hear them all...... The most famous version of the early synthesizer hit "Popcorn" was played in 1972 by a studio group called Hot Butter, led by legendary session musician Stan Free. Few people know that the song was actually written by electronic music pioneer Gershon Kingsley. If you'd like to hear excerpts of Kingsley's original version, along with scores of cover versions, here ya go.
posted by metasonix (47 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
This song has always given me nightmares. NIGHTMARES, I tell you! The soundtrack for which then extending into another song where horrific visions of lit up princesses chase me all over the place. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

[hides in the closet. shivering.]
posted by miss lynnster at 7:35 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


A song that's close to my heart. I tried to talk The Harvey Girls into doing a banjo-driven cover a while back, but they didn't bite.
posted by cortex at 7:39 AM on May 30, 2007


Good god almighty. Are you some sort of earworm agent. Wasn't that Eurobeat stuff enough! GET OUT OF MY HEAD. Nice post.
posted by tellurian at 7:39 AM on May 30, 2007


Well I never! I really had no idea that 'Popcorn' had been covered so many times. I enjoy both the Herb Alpert and the Banjo versions.
posted by ob at 7:40 AM on May 30, 2007


I'd never heard the original version before -- it's much better than all the rest, if not such an earworm. Actually, the original sounds more modern to my ear than any other version, with its echoes and overlaps. That version Boards of Canada or Odd Nosdam could cover.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:41 AM on May 30, 2007


How to drive your spouse to the brink of divorce:

1) Go to a crowded Target in a suburban area full of screaming children

2) Whistle the beginning of "Popcorn" over and over again

3) Laugh hilariously when he unconsciously begins humming it.

4) Dodge.
posted by mckenney at 7:43 AM on May 30, 2007


Nice. I think I liked the version by The Marimba Band of Fairfax High School the best. Mmmm marimbas.
posted by benign at 7:47 AM on May 30, 2007


That song is in just about every YTMND these days... they tell me.
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:50 AM on May 30, 2007


Our music teacher used to put this on in kindergarten and we'd all dance around like robots and pretend to push invisible buttons on invisible button consoles.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:53 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's Time for the Percolator.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:59 AM on May 30, 2007


Hadn't thought of Popcorn for years. LOVE IT! Very lotto-esque. One of the greatest songs of all time.

Unfortunately, I done think we killed dot kelder net. I got the Popcorn Songs title to load, but that was about it.

Thanks in advance, though, if it comes back up ...
posted by mrgrimm at 8:06 AM on May 30, 2007


I have never heard this song in my life. Where on earth did you all encounter this thing?
posted by shmegegge at 8:08 AM on May 30, 2007


This and Spanish Fly have been alternating as my earworms for many years. I blame Salty Sam.
posted by gubo at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2007


Great song. I have a bunch of different versions of it, all of them get seriously annoying after a few listens.

But I will always remember this song from public school in the '70's when go to the gym and do that thing where all the kids grab onto the edge of a big parachute and raise it up and down, make waves, run under it, etc. etc. The teacher would always put on this album with a groovy cover, and it had Popcorn, Up Up and Away, and Spinnin' Wheel on it.
At least I think these things happened, it may be some kind of crazy hallucination I'm remembering.
posted by chococat at 8:22 AM on May 30, 2007


Pollo -- Green Velvet's got a great new track out, too:

Shake and Pop
posted by empath at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2007


I seem to recall reading about a whole sub-genre of music centered around the song "Popcorn." Somehow, James Brown was involved.

Did this really happen, or did I dream about it or something?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:44 AM on May 30, 2007


/personal anecdotage/ I once hung out with this guy Chris, playing around with his MIDI keyboard. Following sudden inspiration brought on by a particular preset, I played 'Popcorn' on his MIDI keyboard. Only he was trying to do Deleuze-inspired deconstructionalist minimal electronic music on his Mac at the time, with a program called 'Reaktor'. He gave me this really dead serious look (practised no doubt by reading years of WIRE magazine) and said "stop it." This thread totally makes up for that though...
posted by yoHighness at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


The best bit about the hot butter version is the drumming - particularly the bit when the drums come in. About 30 seconds after that the fun is pretty much over and it is really time to move on to something else.

In the 70s UK TV was a much more leisurely paced affair than it is now and I remember first hearing this on the minute or so of "countdown time" between one children's programme and the next. It also scared the crap out of me - no idea why.
posted by rongorongo at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2007


Why didn't you just shit directly into my brain?
posted by ColdChef at 9:00 AM on May 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


I've got the original Hot Butter version on a 45, bought it when it first came out.

Afroblanco, James Brown had "The Popcorn," "Mother Popcorn," and "Let A Man Come In And Do The Popocorn (Part 1)."

And Orville Redenbacher had Gourmet Popcorn. ;>
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:01 AM on May 30, 2007


Afroblanco - perhaps you're thinking of James Brown's "Mother Popcorn", which was inspired by the dance The Popcorn.

yeah, what oriole said...

Also, Gershon Kingsley is James Brown's uncle.
posted by hellbient at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2007


Afroblanco writes 'I seem to recall reading about a whole sub-genre of music centered around the song "Popcorn." Somehow, James Brown was involved.

'Did this really happen, or did I dream about it or something?'


It's a Belgian typology, IIRC, that usually describes soul oldies -- a bit like the UK Northern Soul scene.

http://www.popcornoldies.be/
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2007


Gershon Kingsley wrote a concerto for 4 Moog Synthesizers and Orchestra, which was performed by the Boston Pops. I recorded it off the air and it was one of my favorite tapes when I was in high school.

For their encore they performed "Popcorn".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:36 AM on May 30, 2007


Nice. I "covered" this song back in the day when I was learning to use Buzz tracker. Too bad they didn't have that one on there.
posted by Clamwacker at 10:09 AM on May 30, 2007


This song was randomly playing in the bar last nite, i got all excited...

and now i must apologize for the self-reference- my band did a glitched-out circuit bent cover of popcorn recently. It's here. Second mp3 listed at the bottom of the post.

There was a wave of giddy joy that spread thru the crowd when they realized what song we were playing.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 10:41 AM on May 30, 2007


This song has always given me nightmares. NIGHTMARES, I tell you! The soundtrack for which then extending into another song where horrific visions of lit up princesses chase me all over the place. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Well, Miss Lynnster, that figures -- the scary princesses song is a tune Kingsley did with Jean-Jacques Perrey called Baroque Hoedown.

How sad is it that I know this? They also wrote the theme to The Joker's Wild and another one I remember from Wonderama. All I know is my 20-month-old nephew loves their stuff.
posted by Opposite George at 10:51 AM on May 30, 2007


I wish I could favorite this post 100 times.
posted by serazin at 11:08 AM on May 30, 2007


SmileyChewtrain writes "Our music teacher used to put this on in kindergarten and we'd all dance around like robots and pretend to push invisible buttons on invisible button consoles."

That was actually an early form of job training for the tech industry.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2007


but seriously, was this song on the radio at some point, or in a movie soundtrack or what?!

how on earth has anyone ever heard this song?
posted by shmegegge at 12:31 PM on May 30, 2007


Wow, awesome - thanks Oriole Adams, hellbient, and Peter McDermott. You guys totally nailed it.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:48 PM on May 30, 2007


I first heard it in the movie Dick, and for awhile after that I was hearing it everywhere. I might be the only person who liked that movie, though.
posted by bluishorange at 12:49 PM on May 30, 2007


This is fun and made me think of one of my favorite bits of pop culture ephemera shown here.

*wanders off humming viral tune to self*
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:20 PM on May 30, 2007


Ah, thanks for reminding me why I hate synthesizer music with a vengeance.
posted by sour cream at 1:36 PM on May 30, 2007


shmegegge writes "how on earth has anyone ever heard this song?"

I heard it in grade school. Most other gen-Xers I know did, too. It was one of the earliest examples of purely synthesized music that was musical and novel.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:08 PM on May 30, 2007


sour cream writes "Ah, thanks for reminding me why I hate synthesizer music with a vengeance."

I used to. Then I realized that was shutting out a lot of creative work that was worth hearing. Not all music on synthesizers is good, but not all of it is bad, either. Of course, there's no accounting for taste (speaking of my own) ...
posted by krinklyfig at 2:09 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shmegegge,
"Popcorn" by Hot Butter was a Top 40 hit back in the day. I think it was Casey Kasem still chiseled the Billboard list onto a stone tablet. Anyway, it got a lot of radio airplay at one time. Later, many TV stations used it to introduce their lottery drawing, because the "popping" sound effects seemed to go with the bouncing numbered balls in the lotto machine.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:10 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


back when Casey Kasem still chiseled, that is. (D'oh! "Preview" is my friend....)
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:11 PM on May 30, 2007


shmegegge, I have no idea what they're all on about either. I'm doubly perplexed, as I was raised on a steady diet of Kraftwerk, Suzanne Ciani, and Jean Michel Jarre. It seems that I'd at least be peripherally aware of it.
posted by lekvar at 2:23 PM on May 30, 2007


cortex: I believe there would have to be a Latin American style coup involving deaths and disappearances in order for this to happen.

shmegegge: I heard the Hot Butter version on Incredibly Strange Music Volume 2 many years ago. I think the song is horrible, but I love Perrey and Kingsley's The In Sound from Way Out, especially the fact that it's spliced together from hundreds of separate pieces of tape. Although, truthfully, it's much the same sort of percolatingly crazy moog stuff.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:53 PM on May 30, 2007


The 1992 Zaadnoordijk version is strangely similar to the kind of thing you hear piped into Chinese grocery stores or in the background of the weather report, except more high tech and orchestrated. Occasionally you will hear something that sounds like Popcorn played on the three-piped gourd flute. If you've ever been to Lijiang in Yunnan this will send you into immediate convulsions.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:31 PM on May 30, 2007


Man, that banjo version rocked! Man, and it was just getting good when it faded out...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:34 PM on May 30, 2007


Oh, ok, who's the man? The full fucking banjo version.

Yes, I rule.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 PM on May 30, 2007


To "Coen" who left a comment about this on my blog:

You may have included an email address in the comment entry form, but you also put a URL in, and that takes precedence. I can't tell what your email address is. (Otherwise I would have emailed this to you.)

I do not have that tape any longer, so I doubt there's anything I can do for you.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:49 PM on May 30, 2007


I first heard Popcorn in an episode of an awesome Soviet cartoon and as the background music to Digger.
posted by parudox at 11:11 PM on May 30, 2007


metasonix, By any chance did you read my question on the Eurobeat thread? Or id this just a coinkidink that the Popcorn tune came up twice this week in MetaFilter?


beaucoupkevin's reply: "Popcorn" by Hot Butter?

My ecstatic (and badly spelled reply, can't believe I wrote "Get's up" instead of Gets up, frenzied with excitement I guess) reply.

Loved your post and the additional info about the song/composer. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 4:47 PM on May 31, 2007


Man. It's one thing to overthink a plate of beans, but how about overdoing a bowl of Popcorn? I can't believe there are that many versions of that dumb old song (the original of which of course I loved, way back when).

May the 'corn never grow stale.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:17 PM on May 31, 2007


CD, you do rule indeed. Thank you.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:44 AM on June 5, 2007


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