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Bastard pop

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Bastard pop

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Bastard pop is a musical genre which, in its purest form, consists of the combination (usually by digital means) of the music from one song with the a cappella from another. Typically, the music and vocals belong to completely different genres. At their best, bastard pop songs strive for musical epiphanies that add up to considerably more than the sum of their parts.

The first flyer for Bastard, a regular bastard pop night held at the Asylum club in London. Image courtesy of Douglas Pledger. The first flyer for Bastard, a regular bastard pop night held at the Asylum club in London. Image courtesy of Douglas Pledger.



Bastard pop is known by a number of different names, including:

  • Bootlegs (AKA Boots or Booties)
  • Mashups (or Mash-ups)
  • Blends
  • Cutups (or Cut-ups)

In addition, more traditional terms such as "edits" or (unauthorized) "remixes" are favored by many "bootleggers" (also known as 'leggers).


Though the term "bastard pop" first became popular in 2001, the practice of assembling new songs from purloined elements of other tracks stretches back at least to the '50s, and, if one extends the definition beyond the realm of pop, precursors can be found in Musique concrète, as well as the classical practice of (re-)arranging traditional folk material and the jazz tradition of reinterpreting standards. In addition, many elements of bastard pop culture have antecedents in hip hop and the DIY ethic of punk.



It is difficult to anatomize the practice of musical larceny without undertaking to write the entire history of both classical and popular music, but the appropriation of traditional songs, in particular folk music, has long been a popular pastime among classical composers. Well-known examples include Canteloube's orchestral arrangement of folk songs from the Auvergne region of France, Chants d'Auvergne, and Benjamin Britten's weaving of the ancient round "Sumer is Icumen In" into Spring Symphony. "Variation" (as in "Variations on a theme by ... ") is one of the many names given to this classical form of "remixing", and a popular 20th century example of this is Andrew Lloyd Webber's reinterpretation of a theme by Paganini, Variations. Other modern classical analogues include Gavin Bryars' orchestral embellishment of a "found" impromptu hymn sung by a tramp, Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, and Apocalyptica's chamber reinterpretations of the songs of Metallica. While these examples are not always strictly legitimate, they capture the sense of genre collision (A v B) characteristic of bastard pop.


"The Flying Saucer"

In 1956, Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman caused a musical sensation by releasing the first mainstream bastard pop single (though they referred to it as a "break-in" song, i.e. material from one song would "break-in" to another), "The Flying Saucer". The track, a reinterpretation of Orson Welles' celebrated War of the Worlds mock-emergency broadcast interspliced with musical snippets comically dramatizing the portentous patter of the announcer, spawned a raft of imitations and quickly became a craze, only to pass into oblivion within the space of a year.

Novelty records

There have been a number of novelty records and one-off hits that have included uncleared samples. The song "Your Woman" by White Town features an uncredited sample from a 1932 song of the same name taken from the soundrack of the Dennis Potter series Pennies From Heaven. [1] Other notable one-off bootlegs include DNA's dance remix of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" (1990) and "You Got The Love" by The Source featuring Candi Staton (1991).

In the '80s, Dutch producer Jaap Eggermont produced a series of records which almost constitute the dictionary definition of "novelty" in the form of the Stars on 45 series. These records attempted to cram as many hits as possible into the space of a three and a half minute pop song, and are perhaps more accurately described as medleys. Though these singles have never received critical plaudits, the medley idea would later resurface in a more respectable form (for instance Coldcut's "Beats and Pieces"), and, moreover, the deliberately humorous tone of the "Stars on 45" singles has not entirely disappeared. Many bastard pop songs have been produced in jest, with the emphasis very firmly on satire, "irresistible" puns, or unadulterated throwaway fun.

Frank Zappa

In the 1970s, Frank Zappa developed a technique he called "xenochrony" in which a guitar solo was extracted from its original context and placed into a completely different song -- essentially bastard pop for guitar rather than vocals. His recording engineer referred to this as "the Ampex guitar". The solo in the title song of his rock opera Joe's Garage (1979) is one of the more obvious examples of Zappa's xenochrony.

John Oswald

John Oswald has been devising illegitimate compositions since the late '60s. His 1975 track "Power" married frenetic Led Zeppelin guitars to the impassioned exhortations of a Southern US evangelist at least 10 years before hip hop discovered the potency of the same (and related) ingredients. Similarly, his 1990 track "Vane", which pitted two different versions of the song "You're So Vain" (the Carly Simon original and a cover by Faster Pussycat) against each other, was a blueprint for the contemporary bastard pop subgenre, glitch pop. Oswald coined the term "plunderphonics" to describe his illegitimate craft. In 1993, he released Plexure. Arguably his most ambitious composition to date, it attempted to microsample the history of CD music up to that point (1982 - 1992) in a 20 minute collage of bewildering complexity. The ambition of this piece would later be recalled by the British bootlegger Osymyso, whose "Intro-Inspection" captured the pop-junkie feel of Plexure. Osymyso, who at the time was unaware of Oswald's work, used the same structure of an accelerando (arranging his source material in order from the slowest tempo to the fastest), to link a few bars each of 100 songs, creating a simpler sound than the thousands of overlapping and morphing pop "electroquotations" in Plexure.


Though Negativland are seldom acknowledged as musical antecedents of bastard pop, lacking perhaps the "smile factor" (i.e. sense of fun) many contemporary practitioners seek in their craft, their struggle against various forms of "censorship" (in their terms) and legal coercion (for instance, their single "U2" was one of the first pieces of music to be deemed "illegal" for its use of unauthorised samples) has made them poster children for some bastard pop commentators who approach the issue from a more critical perspective, and with an eye to the complicated cultural issues raised by both accidental and deliberate plundering within music and culture generally.

The JAMs and The KLF

In the wake of these somewhat academic explorations, two British pranksters, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, entered the arena in 1987 with an album of plunderphony which, while still serving as a critical reflection on the nature of pop music and the power and potential of the sampler, upped the ante by being (almost) music one could dance to as well as think about. Their debut album, released under the name The JAMs, 1987 (What The Fuck Is Going On?), was banned (thanks to its raft of uncleared samples, most notably the bulk of ABBA's "Dancing Queen"), and a number of the songs have the same "laptop punk" "anyone can do it" attitude that characterizes bastard pop today. The JAMs morphed into The KLF in 1988 and continued to pursue the same art-prankster agenda, most notably with their number 1 hit (under the name The Timelords), "Doctorin' The Tardis".

Double Dee and Steinski

Though the JAMs grazed the charts and The KLF, for a while at least, practically dominated them, illegitimate pop had remained largely an underground affair since the original "break-in" craze swept the US in 1956.

Working under the name Steinski, New York copywriter, DJ and self-confessed record junkie Steve Stein began (in conjunction with engineer and fellow studio boffin Doug "Double Dee" DiFranco) the next chapter in the evolution of illicit pop by producing a trio of underground 12" singles (entitled "Lesson 1" (1983), "Lesson 2" (1984) and "Lesson 3" (1985)) which exerted a powerful influence on an entire generation of "samplists" and continues to be cited to this day as a landmark in the history of "sampledelica". Indeed one can trace a line from Double Dee and Steinski through Coldcut's "Say Kids What Time Is It?" (which begat Bomb The Bass' "Beat Dis", which, in turn, begat LA Mix's "Check This Out") to DJ Shadow (who paid his dues on a track entitled "Lesson 4") and The Avalanches - and (through M/A/R/R/S' "Pump Up The Volume") to Black Box, whose "Ride on Time" spread the gospel of uncleared sample wizardry far and wide, from the depths of the underground to the top of the charts.

DJ subscription services

In the 1970s, Disconet established the first DJ-only remix service. By the '80s, this had blossomed into a thriving underground scene, and a number of remixers, working for DJ-only subscription services such as X-MiX, Hottracks, Razormaid, Wicked Mix, Mixx-It, Ultimixx, and the DMC (Disco Mix Club), produced a string of white label remixes that layered samples of other songs - and even whole acapellas - over contemporary hits.

Emergency Broadcast Network

In 1995, Emergency Broadcast Network released "3:7:8", the first exclusively video sample based song.

The three Rhode Island School of Design graduates - Joshua Pearson, Gardner Post and Ron O'Donnell - released their self-titled video on TVT Records. It combined video and audio samples of politicians and celebrities in such an artful way that U2, despite their earlier skirmish with Negativland, invited them to accompany them on their Zoo TV Tour as video artists.

Evolution Control Committee

In 1996, the experimental band Evolution Control Committee produced what are widely credited as being the first modern bastard pop tracks. Their "Whipped Cream Mixes" combined a pair of Public Enemy acapellas with instrumentals by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

The 1999 Eminem album The Slim Shady LP served as an early inspiration for the burgeoning bastard pop movement, as the acapella vocals from the track "My Name Is" were combined with the music of many other artists, including "Back in Black" by AC/DC and "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.


2 many dj's and "A Stroke of Genie-us"

Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle", from her debut album Christina Aguilera, provided the vocals for Freelance Hellraiser's "A Stroke of Genie-us" bootleg in 2001. Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle", from her debut album Christina Aguilera, provided the vocals for Freelance Hellraiser's "A Stroke of Genie-us" bootleg in 2001.

The name Pop Will Eat Itself was shamelessly stolen from an NME feature on the band Jamie Wednesday, written by David Quantick, which proposed the theory that because popular music simply recycles good ideas continuously, the perfect pop song could be written by [ combining ] the best of those ideas into one track. Hence, Pop Will Eat Itself. [2]

The movement gained momentum again in 2001 with the release of two seminal landmarks: the 2 many dj's album, by Soulwax's Dewaele brothers, which combined 45 different tracks in a frenzied vindication of the "pop will eat itself" prophesy, and a remix by Freelance Hellraiser of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" which coupled the (then) demure pop princess with the raucous guitars of New York's The Strokes in an infectious concoction entitled "A Stroke of Genie-us". This track became one of the most talked about underground hits of 2001, and was featured in many "best of" lists at the end of the year.

2manydjs is the "nom-de-turntable" of two Belgian brothers, David and Stephen Dewaele, who spent two years clearing the samples for their album, so their landmark was not entirely illegitimate, though they continued to work in the shadowy interzone between legitimacy and copyright "felony".

The Freelance Hellraiser track, in contrast, was never officially released, and indeed most bastard pop songs are only made available (for free) online (i.e. not commercially) in a not-always-successful attempt to avoid "cease and desist" notices from the copyright holders.

Occasionally, however, a song gains so much underground momentum that a commercial release becomes inevitable. The earliest example of this was Richard X (working under the name Girls On Top), whose 2002 track "We Don't Give a Damn About Our Friends" grafted an old Adina Howard acapella onto the music of Tubeway Army's "Are 'Friends' Electric?". The song became so popular that it was released with re-recorded vocals by Sugababes (under the title "Freak Like Me"), though their version was, by design, almost indistinguishable from the "original". The single went straight to number one in the UK charts, making it the first bastard pop crossover hit.

More recently, Go Home Productions has released "Ray of Gob", which splices together Madonna's "Ray of Light" and the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" and "God Save The Queen". The single, which was voted "Bootleg of the Year" in 2003 [3], was cleared by the representatives of both parties and the track even earned the approbation of the Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones.

2001 also saw the release of DJ Z-Trip's mashup project Uneasy Listening Volume 1, an eclectic mix of rock, hip hop, electro, and pop from the '60s to the '90s that melded Metallica to Midnight Oil, Naked Eye to Public Enemy, and AC/DC to DJ Red Alert. DJ Z-Trip had made earlier excursions into the genre with live performances such as 1998's Live at the Future Primitive Soundsession: Vol 2 and Future Primitive 45 Night.

In the same year, Kylie Minogue lent her support to the burgeoning genre by performing Erol Alkan's mashup of New Order's "Blue Monday" and her own hit "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" entitled "Can't Get Blue Monday Out of My Head" at the Brit Awards.

Napster and Audiogalaxy

In the wake of these developments, hundreds of bedroom DJs and songwriters were inspired to make their own "bastard pop" confections. The demise of Napster and Audiogalaxy, while initially making it harder for amateurs to acquire the precious raw materials (i.e. acapellas and instrumentals) cheaply (i.e. for free), quickly led to the birth and meteoric rise of alternative P2P networks such as Kazaa, Limewire, and, more recently, BitTorrent (although the latter is more commonly used to distribute entire albums, rather than individual tracks). Where once music aficionados could trade only MP3s, it now became possible to acquire not only music, but the technology to manipulate that music freely and easily.

Software tools

As a result of this, industry standard tools such as the digital audio workstation Cubase and the sound editors Wavelab, Soundforge and Cool Edit Pro quickly became ubiquitous. Moreover, new tools such as Ableton Live and, most popular of all, Sonic Foundry's (now Sony's) ACID Pro were tweaked to accommodate the needs of this new "scene". Most notably, such features as beat-mapping (a technique which simplifies the synchronization of samples of different tempos) and online previewing (allowing the composer to audition a sample, playing at the right pitch and tempo, alongside their existing composition) made it easy for many people with musical ability but little professional studio experience to knock together new combinations in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional tools, such as the magnetic tape John Oswald (and even Coldcut) slaved over in their early days.

Boomselection and Get Your Bootleg On

Every new scene must have its "water cooler" and its journal, and in the case of bastard pop, Get Your Bootleg On established itself as the former while Boomselection took on the role of "blog of record". Not merely reflecting the scene, Boomselection publicised various challenges which resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of new bootlegs being uploaded to sites around the world (while the scene was and still remains a primarily British phenomenon, there are notable bootleggers to be found in practically every corner of the globe - wherever an Internet connection and a record collection is to be found - including Australia, the USA, Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland).

The name "Get Your Bootleg On" comes from the Missy Elliott track "Get Ur Freak On", which alongside Eminem's "Without Me" remains perhaps the most bootlegged, manipulated, remixed and reinterpreted song of the genre. Other popular artists include Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, and Beyoncé.

The Get Your Bootleg On site (affectionately abbreviated to GYBO) is the main launchpad for new bastard pop tunes, and is the home of a lively community of bootleggers who offer critiques of new songs, tips for newbies, pointers on where to find acapellas, legal advice, publicity for bastard pop events and general discussion of issues surrounding the bastard pop phenomenon.

In early 2005, Boomselection retired itself after a long period of inactivity. The year also marked a series of cease and desist orders brought against a number of bootleg sites, and in early 2006 GYBO received its first such notice. To survive, the site prohibited the posting of direct links to copyrighted material within the forums, but allowed users to post links to their own sites containing such material, the defense being that now GYBO was no more in violation of copyright law than Google. For the most part, the community has rallied around the site, and continues to support it in its new form.

In addition, the scene has a number of other sites which provide downloads, links, podcasts, forums and news.


A vs B

Pitting an acapella against a completely different backing track in order to make a "third song" is the original "mission" of bastard pop, and it is no surprise that, in the wake of "A Stroke of Genie-us", the genre has continued to focus on this basic premise.

Notable "versus" songs include:

Soulwax: "Dreadlock Child" (10CC's "Dreadlock Holiday" v Destiny's Child's "Independent Woman")
McSleazy: "Don't Call Me Song 2" (Blur's "Song 2" v Madison Avenue's "Don't Call Me Baby")
Loo and Placido: "My Favourite Name" (The Cardigans' "My Favourite Game" v Destiny's Child's "Say My Name")
Richard X vs Liberty X: "Being Nobody" (Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" v Human League's "Being Boiled")
Hotei vs Rip Slyme: "Battle Funkastic" (Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor Or Humanity" v Rip Slyme's "Funkastic")

In addition, Lionel Vinyl, Soundhog, Go Home Productions, and Party Ben, amongst many others, have produced a number of critically acclaimed songs in this vein, and in some instances have secured record deals on the back of these exercises, which arguably serve as "demo MP3s" of their songwriting and production skills.

Glitch pop

Glitch pop is a subgenre of the bastard pop scene which marries the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) wizardry associated with Kid 606 and Tigerbeat6 records to the ostensibly familiar contours of pop. Sometimes this is done in a spirit of homage; sometimes it serves merely as a form of ridicule and even vilification; often it is both at the same time.

An example of the "double science" at play in glitch pop is Skkatter's "Dirty Pop", which takes a song that is already an epic of carefully constructed digital micro-malfunctions (BT's deconstruction of *NSYNC's "Pop") and pushes it even further out to the margins of musical mayhem. Similarly, Australian bootlegger and glitch pop co-conspirator Dsico has reworked a number of R'n'B tunes by such artists as The Neptunes and (again) *NSYNC in a spirit that is at once both satirical and steeped in fanboydom. In most cases these remixes render ostensibly mainstream songs avant garde and fresh, sometimes by working against the spirit of the original, but often by leveraging the sugar rush at the heart of much of the best contemporary pop, and adding sonic CGI to its emotional armoury.

In the UK, the most notable exponent of the genre is Poj Masta, a teenage schoolboy whose work has been keenly supported by DJs such as Eddy Temple-Morris and James Hyman of London's Xfm radio station. Their weekly show, The Remix, has played a major role in nurturing new bootleggers and bringing them to the attention of a wide audience.

Notable glitch pop tunes include:

  • Skkatter: "Madonna Is A Filthy Slut"
  • Dsico: "Flash In Herre", "Fuckin Girlfriend"
  • DJ Lance Lockarm: "Bladderwaul"
  • Poj Masta: "Crazy In Love"


Technically, all bastard pop songs are remixes. But while most are made up entirely of plundered material, some bootleggers have fused old acapellas with completely new compositions of their own devising.

The most popular example of this phenomenon is the Björk Remix Web, which contained hundreds of remixes of Björk tunes (for which the acapellas are rarely, if ever, available - the vocals are typically extracted by the application of clever EQing or "phase inversion"). However, the site is currently undergoing "reconstruction" and has been unavailable for several years. (A partial archive is available at the Björk Remix Web Archive.)

Another popular example with fans of Japanese pop is Evil Morning, an album which combines vocal tracks from Morning Musume and their associated artists with new instrumental tracks that rearrange or replay the original music in the style of hard rock or heavy metal.

Bootleg albums

DJ Danger Mouse's critically acclaimed remix project The Grey Album effectively launched a new bastard pop subgenre: the bootleg album. While The Beatles had made appearances on bootleg tracks prior to this album (for instance PPM's "A Life In The Day" and JPL's "Let It Be Missy Elliott (Beatlesmix)"), The Grey Album distinguished itself by being made up entirely of samples from The Beatles' White Album and vocals from Jay-Z's smash hit The Black Album. Reminiscent of Georges Perec's constrained writing exercises (a novel written without the letter 'e'; a 5000 word palindrome), this project has aroused considerable publicity as a result of the apparently heavy-handed way in which it has been suppressed. Many who have listened to it have lobbied for an official release, but EMI has resisted this tide of opinion, insisting on maintaining the sanctity of copyright in a way which some aficionados see as contrary to the spirit of The Beatles, Jay-Z (who presumably sanctioned, if not actively encouraged, the release of the acapellas) and musical expression in general.

Notable bootleg albums include:

The Kleptones: A Night At The Hip-Hopera (Queen)
Various Artists: Always Outsiders, Never Outdone (Prodigy)
Various Artists: Flip The Switch (The Chemical Brothers)
Dean Gray: American Edit (Green Day)
DJ Z-Trip: Uneasy Listening
The Legion of Doom: Incorporated


While there is some overlap between the terms "cut up" and "mash up", the former has increasingly come to refer to pieces that rely on the humour (or pathos) of reconstructed spoken word and video material.

The best known cutups remix political speeches and rallies to satirical effect. Johan Söderberg's "Endless Love", in which George W. Bush and Tony Blair appear to serenade each other like lovebirds, and Chris Morris' "Bushwhacked", a détournement of Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, are two popular examples.

Notable cut up artists include Cassetteboy, Osymyso, Cartel Communique and Evolution Control Committee.

Video Art

Visual artists involved with installation art and performance art closely related to music production have recently taken up the concept of bastard pop in their work.

A noted example is Belgian artist Danny Devos, who mashed up Gordon Matta-Clark's "Descending Steps for Batan" and Dan Flavin's "Icon IV" in his own piece "Diggin' for Gordon".

See also


  • Paul Morley (2003). Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City. Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747557780.
  • Jeremy J. Beadle (1993). Will Pop Eat Itself? Faber & Faber. ISBN 057116241X.

External links



Visual Art



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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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