armandoAn early acid-house pioneer while still in his teens, Armando contributed several classics to the Chicago canon during the mid-'80s, including "Land of Confusion" and "100 of Dissin' You." Born on Chicago's south side to Cuban immigrants, he was a star on the baseball field until spinal meningitis forced him out of the sport. To fill his time, he began spinning records and was organizing his own parties at the age of 16. One year later he was on the radio as well, subsituting for Farley Keith on Chicago's biggest dance show, the Hot Mix 5.


One of the only enduring bands to emerge from Manchester, England's acid house scene, 808 State create groundbreaking music and remixes. Paving the way for electronic outfits such as Underworld and Prodigy, the group was initially on the periph ery of what was known as the "Madchester" phenomenon. When the press initially discussed acid house, they usually focused on dance music from a guitar angle. Bands such as the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses received most of the coverage, wh ile 808 State were busy pioneering British techno. Their popularity grew, however, and the group continued to diversify their style. Although 808 State's exposure in the United States has only been moderate, they have had 18 top 20 hits on the Britis h charts alone.

kraftwerkIn the world of electronic music, Kraftwerk are the kings across the water. Despite releasing no new material in over a decade, they continue to wield more influence than any of their Anglo-American peers in the arcane business of bleeps and beats. Scratch a techno whizkid or studio engineer, and nine times out of 10 you'll find a Kraftwerk fan (the tenth will be too busy sampling them to respond). And it's not only in the big studios that their influence is felt; in bedrooms and back rooms all over the globe, autodidact musicians are massively in their debt. Most amazing of all, it's undoubtedly true that without this whitest of white groups, the history of black music in America would have been completely different.

garynumanOne of the founding fathers of synth pop, Gary Numan's influence extends far beyond his lone American hit, "Cars," which still stands as one of the defining new wave singles. That seminal track helped usher in the synth pop era on both sides of the Atlantic, especially his native U.K., where he was a genuine pop star and consistent hitmaker during the early '80s. Even after new wave had petered out, Numan's impact continued to make itself felt; his dark, paranoid vision, theatrically icy alien persona, and clinical, robotic sound were echoed strongly in the work of many goth rock and (especially) industrial artists to come. For his part, Numan just kept on recording, and by the late '90s, he'd become a hip name to drop; prominent alt-rock bands covered his hits in concert, and a goth-flavored brand of industrial dance christened darkwave looked to him as its mentor.

djpierreBesides being a crucial DJ and the production wizard partly responsible for the development of Chicago acid-house, DJ Pierre later influenced the sound of New York's more disco-fied house with his tenure as an in-house producer for Strictly Rhythm Records. Born in the Chicago suburbs, Nathaniel Pierre Jones was influenced by the Hot Mix Five, the pioneering DJ team which lit up Chicago's radio airwaves during the early '80s with dance megamixes. Jones later began DJing himself, though he preferred the sound of Italian disco to the blend of soul and American disco which Chicago DJs like Ron Hardy were playing out. When his friend Spanky brought him to the Music Box to hear Ron Hardy in person though, Pierre was convinced -- he began spinning records more akin to the burgeoning house sound as well. DJ Pierre began recording on the side with Spanky and another friend named Herb J, working on tracks with an old drum machine and synthesizers.

jessesaundersThough others did more in the pioneering of Chicago house during the early '80s, Jesse Saunders deserves mention for being part of the two records which debuted house music on wax. First, as an addition to the band Z Factor, Saunders wrote and recorded the 1983 single "Fantasy" for Mitchbal Records. Later that year, he founded his own Jes-Say Records and released "On and On," the track usually pointed to as the beginning of house music. (Actually, DJs and producers had been recording before this point, but most tracks were played only at the clubs on reel-to-reel tape machines). He maintained his legend status in Chicago despite leaving for the West Coast and a major-label production deal by 1986 (well before the scene exploded around the world). There, Saunders began recording more R&B-oriented projects (like Jesse's Gang) meanwhile remixing and working production for various pop artists.

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