MARRS was actually two groups, A.R. Kane and Colourbox, whose members’ initials were, you guessed it, M, A, R, R and S. They keyed into the rising genre of hip hop, which at the time relied heavily on samples, and took it to the extreme. Pump Up the Volume was their only hit (and they only made two songs), so in some ways you can say that half their songs went to #1. How many other bands can say that?
The song began with a Rod Serling-ish white man speaking the words, “This is a journey into sound,” and was followed by speaker jumps, scratches, familiar hooks and drum beats from bands like Fab 5 Freddie, Graham Central Station, Fred Wesley & The JBs, Bar-Kays and Kool & The Gang, the familiar voices of Lovebug Starski, Trouble Funk, Afrika Bambaataa the Jimmy Castor Bunch and James Brown, samples of Eric B and Rakim, Public Enemy and Run-DMC, and a voiceover from the trailer of the film Mars Needs Women…..Among other things. It was like the biggest collage ever.
And, of course, the label got sued. Sigh. Which led to edited versions, and all kinds of problems. But the song was still a hit, and really was the first of its kind. (I know Coldcut came first, but they weren’t doing anything near to the complexity of what MARRS accomplished.
THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.