At the beginning of the 70’s, synthesizers were largely considered a novelty. There were dozens of novelty ‘switched on’ albums, ranging from Switched On Beatles to Switched On Buck.
By the end of the decade, though, Keith Emerson had blown minds with his synth solo on Lucky Man, Kraftwerk had created the template for synth pop and Moroder and Summer had transported dance music into the future with I Feel Love. Synths have had a prominent place in music ever since.
What’s the best synth song of all time? Is it one of the 70’s classics, something from the synthpop heyday or something more modern?
103 thoughts on “Open Mic: What’s The Best Synth Song Of All Time?”
I’d like to hear more about “Switched on Buck”. Synthesizer versions of Buck Owens songs?
Yes. Not exactly Switched On Bach quality arrangements…..
Aphex twin-/Polygon Window- Surfing on Sine waves…
Does it have to be 100% Synth exclusive? If not I am thinking either Arthur Russell “Make,1,2” or SOS Band “your Love” Haha. If it has to be primarily synth than its a battle among “Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia”, “Tin Drum” and “Japanese Whispers”( Lets pretend these albums are just one big song).
Nothing can beat Autobahn. It was great in 74 and nothing has been more important since.
Autobahn is superb indeed, but can’t deny that Pretty Hate Machine by NIN started a new genre by using their “typical” sound, later generously copied by others (not only synths of course ;-)).
I suppose it depends on the definition of “best,” but I would say it would have to be something Kraftwerk. narrowing it down from there is tough, though. The Model, Radioactivity, Europe Endless, The Robots (original version), Autobahn…
YMO “Rydeen” or Edgar Winter “Frankenstein”.
Sooo many landscapes and electrodance… Between a Kraftwerkian Robot and a Tangerinean Stratosfear, we could also enjoy a Visage Fading to Grey, and dreaming on a Vangelian Blade Runner.
I’m not very knowledgable about all the great synth music there is. I always thought Thomas Dolby’s record, “Flat Earth” had some lovely music on it– the title track is really cool. I especially liked that the synths weren’t the center of attention– cool lyrics, harmonically interesting, great melodies.
Such a great album! I Just purchased an immaculate original pressing of it for pennies at a middle of nowhere central Illinois record store. The shop owner could have cared less. He was so eager to buy my Jeff Beck records and even more eager to get rid of Flat Earth. Screen Kiss is wonderful.
Nine Inch Nails – Just Like You Imagined
David Bowie – Crystal Japan
those are my picks :p
Despite all the years, I still like the simplicity of Ballet Statique, from Conrad Schnitzler.
I still also like very much Departure from the Northern Wasteland, from Michael Hoenieg.
Timesteps, from W. Carlos is also à great piece.
On the “pop” side, I still have fun listening to Numbers, from Krafterk.
Depends on how you define “best.”
Best, as is favorite? At this moment is would be Surface to Air by Zombi. (subject to change at mere whim)
Best, as in most influential? Definitely Autobahn by Kraftwerk.
Best, as in most technical? Probably something like Philomel.
Best, as in highest sales? Cher’s Believe (this is a travesty if that is right. I just looked at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_singles and looked for the first one going down that seemed synth heavy).
Best, as in best in most categories of possible bests? So, something I like, that is influential, is technical and sold well?! Um, hmm, I … Oh, wait, Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin. But … that isn’t a very “synthy” song. Ok … how about I Feel Love by Donna Summer. Not very technical. Ok … there has got to be something that fits all of this? No, probably not.
I don’t think there is a best synth song. Just like there is no best guitar song.
We are the robots!
Ah, you mean “Die Roboter”
I always bought the German language versions. They seemed more poignant somehow.
FZ Nightschool, from Jazz From Hell. 1986. Synclavier .
Noise Unit – Firing Line
Always puts me in the mood for making music.
teen angst- M83
The 1st Prodigy Album, The Prodigy Experience
Either Phaedra or Rubycon by Tangerine Dream, or anything from Gong’s Radio Gnome trilogy, with Tim “Moonweed” Blake coaxing those beautiful timbres from his modified EMS set-up.
Also, can’t forget Numan!
Another vote for Wendy Carlos’ Timesteps. The timbrel explorations are always grounded in great musicality.
Many pieces mentioned set certain standards, but both “Timesteps” and Johannes Schmoelling’s “Windblown Reeds” define the fuller range of what a synthesizer can do that other instruments cannot. The range of colors is jaw-dropping. Tangerine Dream’s entire album “Stratosfear” deserves mentioning in that same vein. Not much has come close since then, although Amin Bhatia has released a couple of winners.
My vote too is on Autobahn. Such a beautiful analog oozing synth journey. ( Also, I just got the original 1974 vinyl 2 days ago! )
Wow…so many….but here are the ones that still move me to no end….goosebumps sometims…..
Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran (So Far Away)”
Gary Numan – ” Cars”
Berlin – “The Metro”
The Cars – “Moving In Stereo”
Rush – “Between The Wheels” (Actually….just about every song from Grace Under Pressure
Kraftwerk is out of competition of course 🙂 But beside Kraftwerk I would like no name Icon Of Coil – Faith Not Important and Front 242 – Headhunter (especially nice is Icon Of Coil remix) as well as VNV Nation – Belowed
I’m glad someone named a VNV song as a top. Those guys are brilliant synthesists.
Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
Vangelis – Heaven And Hell
Jean-Michel Jarre – Ethnicolor
Giorgio Moroder – Chase
Peter Gabriel – Shock The Monkey
…And if you were alive in ’83 and Nick Rhodes didn’t blow your mind… You’re frontin’.
Nick Rhodes, my friend. OK, he may not be Oscar Peterson, but the man had some amazing synth parts. Check out practically the entire Seven And The Ragged Tiger album (which is not the best written album in history, granted) and listen to the interlocking grooves he was coming up with, along with Andy Taylor. The same can be said about “Is There Something I Should Know”, and the “Too Shy” single he produced for Kajagoogoo. This is a sound he moved away from on the “Notorious” album, but to me it’s still one of the most awesome periods of creativity for a synth player in a pop band, like, ever.
Seconds by Human Leauge, or Never let me down by Depeche Mode.
I have a soft spot for Being Boiled by The Human League.
The record, that is; not actually being boiled.
Dare is one of the most amazing synth albums – amazingly simple but powerful synth production.
since that video a little while back I’ve been absolutely digging Erik Norlander.. I think it’s hard to say ‘best’ but these songs are pretty rocking: neurostar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyhqfVEJbqA Trantor station: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlrV6QTqtvc
btw- what’s with just listing the songs?? lets have some youtube links to listen to them!
Only You by Yazoo
Vienna by Ultravox
My fave depends on my mood, but close to the top….
Goldrush and Oh Yeah from One Second by Yello
Sweet Dreams from Eurythmics
I really like the Parlaiment synth freak outs, too.
Ah Yello, so easily overlooked these days. Geniuses.
Depeche Mode, Enjoy The Silence
Pink Floyd – Any Colour You Like
VCS 3 in yo’ ass
Tomita’s Snowflakes Are Dancing
Dolby’s Golden Age Of Wireless album
I couldn’t get with the new wave stuff when it was new – the flippant vocal style and the plasticity was a turn off, but I was crazy for Jan Hammer on Billy Cobham’s “Spectrum”. Albums were made back then with “no synthesizers were used” on the sleeves, and I just couldn’t understand why that was supposed to be good! I also loved Jean Michel Jarre, but my absolute favorite synth stuff was Synergy, especially Audion, and Cords, which I have on clear vinyl (i’ll never forget my very first girlfriend, during a moment of pubescent passion, suddenly stopping and saying “what the hell is this music we’re listening to”) Zappa had healthy doses of synth always, and he was a terrific gateway drug to the wonderful wide world of musical riches . . .
I hate to say it–and it’s incredibly dated–but ‘Axel F’ was a serious hit on the radio–and it’s an instrumental all-synth piece. I think only ‘Chariots Of Fire’ can even make the same claim for radio success.
‘Alpha’ by Vangelis is unsurpassed for epicness and musical bravery…recorded (somehow) in 1975.
Tangerine Dream Tangram
Human League Reproduction
Pink Floyd Shine on you ceazy Diamond
I forgot Synergy Chords
The soundtrack to Liquid Sky is absolutely an amazing digital synth album – all Synclavier, I believe.
Another nominee – Tonto’s Expanding Head Band.
Yep: Autobahn for me too. Europa Endlos a close 2nd.
some personal faves:
Marek Bilinski – B??kitne Nimfy
Japan – Taking Islands in Africa
and TONTO of course!
Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again (1983 album) : massive synths and samplers experience
Music for the masses was my fave, but CTA was great as well.
“Best” is too nebulous, I’d vote “Tonto’s Expanding Headband” for their solo album and for their work with Stevie Wonder. Also Pierre Henry’s “Mass for the Present Time” though I am unsure whether that was synth or just generally “electronic”. So far as the UK is concerned, the piece heard by most people most often must surely be the Dr Who theme (again electronic rather than synth per se).
Oh, best “song”! OK, Dr Who theme just for the sheer scale of influence and being ahead of it’s time.
The Chase by Model 500
“The Minotaur” (Dick Hyman)
The “best” is yet to come…
There are just tooooooo many. Asking “whats your favourite song ever?” would be easier to answer.
Your Silent Face – New Order
Bay of Pigs – Destroyer
Glad to see that someone mentioned Synergy. Amongst my favorites: White Rock by Rick Wakeman, Pulsar by Vangelis, Oxygene by JMJ, Stravinky’s Firebird by Tomita,
Atmosphere- joy division, groundbreaking and a great song, with just a string synth featured.
Supernature-cerrone a forgotten classic
Too many to choose one:
Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.”
Devo’s “Jocko Homo.”
Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park.”
Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights.”
Peter Gabriel’s “Games without Frontiers.”
Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant.”
Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.”
Vangelis’ Bladerunner Soundtrack
In no order:
M83 – Midnight City
Max Tundra – Which Song
Aphex Twin – Film
Aphex Twin – Rhubarb
Situation by Yazoo
I have decided. The best synthesizer song is “Ghosts” by Japan. Its astonishing that it reached number 5 on the charts. I havent looked but Im sure it stuck out like a sore thumb among the rest of the lot in the top ten at that time. It has this power to compel me to sing along with it every time i playr it too!
Is ghosts even synthesized? I thought Mick Karn played the other instruments
“Ghosts ” is drenched in Prophet 5 and Oberheim.
The sleeve of “Tin Drum” does credit Mick Karn with African flute and dida though.
Soft Cell by Sex Dwarf
Soft Dwarf by Sex Cell!
Sex Dwarf by Soft Cell
The Prodigy – Voodoo People
How about the entire Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis?
I shall see your “Blade Runner” soundtrack and raise you the “Forbidden Planet” soundtrack!
If I had to pick a single song I would say “Forever Young” by Alphaville.
Rollin’ and Scratchin’ by Daft Punk
Wow tricky to choose the best ever. Here is a few of my faves
Clair de Lune by Tomita (Debussy tune on The Snowflakes are Dancing album)
Acquiring the Taste by Gentle Giant (played entirely on Minimoog I think)
Equinoxe 5 or Oxygene 4 by Jean Michel Jarre
Pump Up The Volume by M.A.R.R.S
Little Fluffy Clouds – The Orb
Rockit by Herbie Hancock
“New Song” by Howard Jones!! 😀 HoJo transmitted me his love for synths!
“Strobe” by deadmau5.. and many of kraftwerk’s songs
I can’t decide. It’s either Tarkus or The Gates of Delirium.
You were expecting maybe Magic Man?
http://youtu.be/7WUb5BkBDQ0 Tim Blake with the album Blake’s New Jerusalem.One of the pioneers making use of the electronics.Still after nearly 45 years a masterpiece.
Funkytown by Lipps Inc.
Giorgio Moroder – I Feel Love is a pivotal point in my opinion 🙂
The photo got it pretty much nailed <3
“Axel F” blew my mind as a kid when I realized it was just one guy and a synth. I’ve been obsessed with synth music ever since! 😀
+1 for Little Fluffy Clouds
Honorable mention for Rockit
Tie between “Little Fluffy Clouds” by The Orb and “Born Slippy .NUXX” by Underworld.
Best synth music ever: “SYMPHONY” by XENON 1984.
Blue Monday : New Order
New Order – Perfect Kiss https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvyA-J02dg0
ooops – this is the correct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcjolqpKR4g
Faith in this Colour – Duran Duran
Wishing – Flock of Seagulls
Blue Monday – New Order
The best synth song of all time????
That is a BIG question!
I just can’t pin it down to one!
“I Feel Love” by Donna Summer with Giorgio Moroder.
“Chariots Of Fire (Theme)” by Vangelis.
“Popcorn” by Gershon Kingsley.
“Funeral Music For Queen Mary (Theme From Clockwork Orange)” performed by Wendy Carlos..
“Theme From Peewee’s Playhouse” by George McGrath, Mark Mothersbaugh and Peewee Herman (featuring Cyndy Lauper on vocal)…
Jan Hammer played synths and drums and composed “Star Cycle” on Jeff Beck’s There And Back. That’s my vote.
I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH by Depeche Mode
Shake the Disease by Depeche Mode! (and many others by them)
Or do samplers qualify as “synths”? (There’s synths in there as well..)
Seems to me they set the high water mark (over and over again) for what you could achieve doing electronic music.
Lots of great songs you all have listed though for sure!
Baba O’Riley, The Who.
In addition, there’s Entangled, and pretty much every other song on Genesis’s A Trick of the Tail. I love ELP and Yes and Rush and a ton of others, but A Trick of the Tail is my favorite melodic and lyrical album.
Überzone: the Brain.
Recently I found out an outstanding synthesizer song on youtube: Right From The Sun by TUSKLE