Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

Whatever did pop do before sampling? The history of recordmaking is the history of an increasingly efficient process, its end result maximum excitement for minimum effort. So you had records which were generally exciting and had excellent bits in them, and then you had hip-hop, which took some of the excellent bits and looped them, factoring up the excitement and transforming the way everybody thought about what music could do along the way. A well-used sample is a time machine – it could rewrite history, annihilating the original track from pop’s fickle memory. But the point of an excellent bit in a song is sometimes that the quality comes from context and anticipation. I could listen to the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving” until my ears rot just because of the way Levi Stubs, utterly adrift, croaks “But lately, I’ve been losing sleep“. Loop that, though, and it’s impact would evaporate entirely.

What the hardcore of the early 90s found was the perfect delivery system for the sample, a heart-quickening mess of supertense beats in which a snatch of melody or song could act as euphoric release or jolt of thrilling recognition. So when the John Barry sample in Acen’s “Trip II The Moon” comes on like a black sun rising in your head, it’s one of the most stirring moments in all of pop. All it is, is the melody from “Space Theme (Capsule In Space)” sped up a bit, but I’ve listened to both a hundred times and Acen’s masterpiece quite simply does its job better and makes your hair stand higher. If there were people who cavil at the simplicity, let alone the piracy, of “Trip II The Moon”, who say it’s Barry who’s the genius here and not Acen Ravzi – well, I might find it tough to argue with them on rational grounds, but I’d still walk away doubting their inner understanding of pop, and I’d still reach for this awesome record when I got home.