Time machine: 1969

Check out the XXXL Bass Show’s time machine this week – going all the way back to… 1969!

The reason we chose this year, is that one of the most important elements of drum n bass was born in 1969 – the Amen Break.

The Amen break is a brief drum solo performed in 1969 by Gregory Coleman in the song “Amen, Brother” performed by the 1960s funk and soul outfit The Winstons. It gained fame from the 1980s onwards when four bars (5.2 seconds) sampled from the drum-solo (or imitations thereof) became very widely used as sampled drum loops in hip hop, jungle, breakcore and drum and bass—”a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures.”

Neither the performer, drummer G.C. Coleman, nor the copyright owner Richard L. Spencer have ever received any royalties or clearance fees for the use of the sample, nor have they looked for royalties.

By 1990, at the height of British rave culture, the Amen began to appear in an increasing number of breakbeat hardcore productions. A strong reggae and ragga influence emerged in 1991 and 1992, with uplifting piano melody loops or Jamaican reggae samples used at normal speed layered on top of frenetic 150 to 170 BPM breakbeats.

This sound quickly evolved to a point where sliced and diced drum breaks in conjunction with low frequency bass lines became the important features of many tracks. This style was initially referred to as Jungle but later, as it progressed and rhythmic elements were refined, the term drum and bass became more common.

Jungle picked up steam quickly, moving from being non-existent in 1990, transitioning from techno and breakbeat hardcore to “jungle techno” with a first few tracks in 1991, then coming on strong on pirate airwaves and rave circuits in 1992. Things turned legit in 1994, with jungle getting featured on Radio 1, and the press, record industry and legal radio stations like Kiss FM had finally woken up to Jungle.

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