The Birth of Acid House

Publication Year: 
2008

Image retrieved from synthmuseum.com on October 2nd, 2014.

Producers in both Chicago and Detroit used the same hardware and even collaborated on projects and remixes together, and clubs in both cites included Detroit techno and Chicago house tracks in their playlists as club-goers lapped up the cross-pollination. This musical melange blended with Ecstasy in the brain to create a heady brew that was to become known as “acid house.” The origin of the term appears to have been lost in the mists of people’s brains. Some claim that it was prompted by the fact that people put LSD in the water at the Music Box. Others argue that it was because the music was like a simulated trip, or that it reminded them of acid rock from the 60s. Whatever the reason, the name was to stay for good.
The key to the sound of acid house was a magical little box known as the 303. The Roland TB-303 Bass Line, to give it its full title, was a synthesizer with built-in sequencer made between 1982 and 1983 by Roland, the company behind the already popular 808 and 909 drum machines. The TB-303 (Transistor Bass) was originally made as a bass accompaniment for guitarists when practising alone. Only 10,000 units were ever made. In the mid-to-late 80s, Djs Marchsall Jefferson and Nathaniel Jones (a.k.a. DJ Pierre) were playing around with a 303 in Chicago and produced a track they later released under the name Phuture: “Acid Tracks.” It provided the seminal sound of acid house.
The subsequent demand for 303s was so great that many small synthesizer companies began to produce their own TB-303 hardware clones. In order to cash in on the popularity of the machine, Roland, the original TB-303 Manufacturer, eventually released its own TB-303 “clone” in 1996, called the MC-303 Grove box. The design was flawed, though, and lacked the charisma of the original.
There was something about the sound that the 303 made that fed into a brain under the influence of Ecstasy. It brought the highs, lows, breaks, and builds into a crystal clarity that bound the dancing masses into one huge seething, breathing, dancing organism. Fatboy Slim even paid homage to this marvel of mechanical music with his club anthem “everybody needs a 303,” a Top Forty hit in Britain in 1997. The defining sound of the movement had been found. The snowball was rolling downhill fast and would soon become an avalanche of new music.

pp. 83, 84 E The Incredibly Strange History of Ecstasy by Tim Pilcher (2008)

Roland TB-303
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