Who: Hot Butter
Label: Pye International
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Surely everyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of early electronic music is familiar with "Popcorn" by Hot Butter? Oft written off as a mere 'novelty' track, or a 'one hit wonder', I've personally played it to death over the years and regarded it more as being a brilliant piece of populist synthpop recorded during the very early winter of that genre's development. The funky rhythms and muddy electro-squelches are actually way, way ahead of their time, and whilst Hot Butter were most certainly not the first experimenters out of the gate, it's possibly the earliest example of the genre to actually click with the public. Bear in mind it was released two-and-a-half years before Kraftwerk's "Autobahn".
Stan Free was the man at the helm of this Danish act, pressing the keys on his Moog keyboard with unsuppressed glee. Sadly, he clearly didn't have lots of new ideas amidst all that new technology - the 1973 follow-up "Percolator" is a classic example of a bunch of musicians with an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Whilst the title of the track makes us believe that they've moved from the stove to the coffee making facilities in their abode - and let's be honest, they could have recorded a whole concept album of kitchen music if they'd wanted, and I for one would have bought it - in reality, it's the same pops and squelches we heard on the debut single. There is a slightly whistling electronic noise on there as well which could be an old fashioned hob kettle if you really wanted to push the boundaries of your imagination, but in reality they should have just called this "Have Some More Popcorn, Why Don't You? - We've Plenty Of It In The Cupboard" and it would have been more honest.
There's a less obvious funk about this single as well, but it's still catchy enough to warrant several listens. The B-side "Tristana", on the other hand, sound decidedly unelectronic, almost BBC Testcard-esque in its nature, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Stan Free had very little to do with it. He's certainly the only member of the band not to get a songwriting credit for it.
Naturally, "Percolator" wasn't a hit in Britain, but it did do some business throughout the rest of Europe - not long after, Hot Butter's star waned, and that was the end of that. Still, not to worry. Plenty of other electronic knob twiddlers were waiting to take things to the next stage.
(Apologies for the incessant background buzz on the recording of "Tristana", by the way - I'm having a few problems with my pre-amp at the moment, and the track is too subtle to really filter the noise out effectively on the software I've got).