From Open Culture: How the 808 Drum Machine Changed Music

by | Posted May 3rd, 2013

Open Culture recently delved into the history of the Roland TR-808 rhythm machine, or the 808 Drum Machine. Released in late 1980, many musicians did not like it at first as the sound was too synthetic and did not sound like any natural noise you could create yourself. Some described it as, “so bad it was good,” and despite its artificiality, its noises began popping up in records such as 1982’s “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye and Whitney Houston’s, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

Nelson George, author and director of the short film, All Hail the Beat, explains that “the 808 has remained a vital element in much of the pop music since the 1980’s, in genres like hip hop, techno, and house.” Drum machines since the creation of the 808 have mimicked the features of this first one, and it has subsequently changed the tune of pop music.

All Hail The Beat | Nelson George from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.