Synth Britannia is an essential 2009 documentary about the rise – and rise of synth-based music in the UK. It’s an insightful film containing interviews with the hot and heavies of the early synth era. The stories of Wolfgang Flür of Kraftwerk, Philip Oakey of The Human League and Andy McClusky of OMD (and a host of others) weave the story of a developing scene in which the players didn’t even know other players existed. Truly independent electronic music scenes all over England would try – and moderately succeed for years, and thankfully their patience and virtue would become a great reward which would change the blueprint of how pop music would be made forever.
The film takes a casual look at the stepping stones of the growth of a genre from Kraftwerk’s first appearance on UK soil to Gary Numan’s dark horse entry (1979’s “Cars”) which brought many scenes together. Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and even some early Human League followed the Punk aesthetic with cold, industrial sounds. But when Vince Clarke, Daniel Miller and Bernard Sumner saw Gary Numan on Top of the Pops, the idea that pop music could be written and performed entirely on synthesizers – and be commercially successful – was a turning point for the UK’s music scene.
Britannia moves quickly in its 90 minutes, concentrating primarily on successful milestones. However, the interviews with well aged superstars of the past (and some present) paint an accurate picture of how bands – then and now, and of any genre – need a combination of luck, patience, persistence and most of all uniqueness to leave their mark. Thanks to our dear friend Andre for pointing us toward the full length documentary.
You can see The Human League, OMD and more of these artists on tour this summer! Check your local listings…