Italo disco (sometimes hyphenated, such as Italo-disco, subjected to varying capitalization, or abbreviated as Italo) is a music genre which originated in Italy and was mainly produced from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. The origin of the genre's name is strongly tied to marketing efforts of the ZYX record label, which began licensing and marketing the music outside Italy in 1982. Italo disco faded in the early 1990s.
Italo disco evolved from the then-current dance music (including hi-NRG) and developed into a diverse genre. The genre employed drum machines, synthesizers, and occasionally vocoders and was usually sung in English, and to a lesser extent, in Spanish as well.
There is no documentation of where the term "Italo-Disco" first appeared, but its origins are generally traced to Italian and other European disco recordings released in the German market. Examples include the phrase "Original Italo-Disco" on the sleeve of the German edition of "Girl On Me" by Amin-Peck in 1982, and the 1983 compilation album The Best of Italo-Disco. These records, along with the Italo Boot Mix megamix, were released by Bernhard Mikulski on his ZYX label. The Best of and Boot Mix compilations each became a 16-volume series that culminated in 1991. Both series primarily featured disco music of Italian origin, often licensed from independent Italian labels which had limited distribution outside Italy, as well as songs in a similar style by other European artists.
The presenters of the Italian music show Discoring (produced by RAI) usually referred to Italo disco tracks as "rock elettronico" (electronic rock) or "balli da discoteca" (disco dance) before the term "Italo disco" came into existence.
The entry of synthesizers and other electronic effects into the disco genre produced electronic dance music, including America's Hi-NRG and Europe's space disco. Italo disco's influences include Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, French musician Didier Marouani, a couple of hits by the French drummer Cerrone, electronic and synth-pop acts such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Telex, Devo and Gary Numan, and the early Hi-NRG albums of San Francisco producer Patrick Cowley with such singers as Sylvester and Paul Parker.
Although disco music was generally reviled and shunned in the USA during the 1980s, dance music was still popular in Europe. Italian disco DJs' desire for new music was frustrated because new songs were imports and therefore too expensive. So Italian producers and musicians filled the void with their own new music.
As with all musical styles, Italo disco incorporated different subgenres, overlapped with other styles, and evolved rather than appearing and disappearing, so there are conflicting points of view on what the "first" Italo disco record was and when the genre began. What can be said is that disco music was being produced by Italian producers since at least 1977. Italo disco often featured electronic sounds, drum machines, catchy melodies, vocoders, overdubs, and heavily accented English lyrics. By 1983, Italo disco's instrumentation was predominantly electronic. Along with love, Italo disco themes deal with robots and space, sometimes combining all three in songs like "Robot Is Systematic" (1982) by 'Lectric Workers and "Spacer Woman" (1983) by Charlie.
1982 And 1983 saw the release of three tracks cited as influential in the development of Chicago's house music: the irony-laden "Dirty Talk", "Wonderful" and "The M.B.O. Theme", all by Klein + M.B.O., a side-project developed by Davide Piatto of the Italo disco duo N.O.I.A., with vocals by Piatto and Rossana Casale. Other Italo disco imports to the United States, such as "Feel the Drive" by Doctor's Cat, influenced house music.
Although the genre was successful in Europe during the 1980s, it was never particularly successful in the United Kingdom, although several Italo disco songs did become hits there. Nonetheless, several British electronic acts such as the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and New Order are said to have been influenced by the genre.
In 1983, there were frequent hit singles, and labels such as American Disco, Crash, Merak, Sensation and X-Energy appeared. The popular label Disco Magic released more than thirty singles within the year. It was also the year that the term "Italo disco" became widely known outside Italy, with the release of the first volumes of The Best of Italo Disco compilation series on the German record label ZYX. After 1983, Italo disco was also produced outside Italy.
Canada, particularly Quebec, produced several remarkable Italo disco acts, including Trans X ("Living on Video"), Lime ("Angel Eyes"), Rational Youth ("City of Night"), Pluton & the Humanoids ("World Invaders"), Purple Flash Orchestra ("We Can Make It"), and Tapps ("Forbidden Lover"). Those productions were called "Canadian disco" during 1980–1984 in Europe and Hi-NRG disco in the U.S.
In Germany, Italo disco is known as Euro disco and discofox. In English-speaking countries, it was called Italo disco and Hi-NRG. German productions were sung in English and were characterized by an emphasis on melody, exaggerated production, and a more earnest approach to the themes of love; examples may be found in the works of Modern Talking, Fancy, American-born singer and Fancy protégé Grant Miller, Bad Boys Blue, Joy, Silent Circle, The Twins, Lian Ross and C. C. Catch.
During the mid-1980s, spacesynth, a subgenre of Italo disco, developed. It was mostly instrumental, featured space sounds, and was exemplified by musicians such as Koto, Proxyon, Rofo, Cyber People, Hipnosis, Laserdance and Mike Mareen (whose music inhabited the spacesynth-Hi-NRG overlap).
Bands you can listen at the Radio Body Music show “Italo Disco”:
Alan Brando, Aldo Lesina, Anna Jane, Bad Boys Blue, Baltimora, BlackTown Project, Boy Blue, Captain Apollo, Casanova, Casarano, Chito, Den Harrow, Don Amore, Eddy Huntington, Estimado, Fairlight, Fancy, Flash Connection, Fun Fun, Gazebo, Hypnosis, Ivan, Joe Yellow, June Saturday, Kano, Ken Laszlo, Ken Martina, Koto, La Bionda, Lee Marrow, Lian Ross, Martinelli, Mauro Mission, Max Him, Maxthor, Mike Mareen, Miko Mission, Miko Vanilla, Mirko Hirsch, Modern Boots, My Mine, P. Lion, Patty Ryan, Pino D’Angiò, Radiorama, Raggio di Luna, Righeira, Roby, Romantic Avenue, Ryan Paris, Sandy Marton, Scotch, Savage, Silent Circle, Silver Pozzoli, Steely Shuch McDonald, The Twins, Ti.Pi.Cal., Tom Hooker, Tommy Sun, Valerie Dore, Vivien Vee and more.