(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Pump Up The Volume” | M|A|R|R|S | 1987.

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

4ADIn 1987, the London electronic band Colourbox teamed up with the East London alt-rock band A.R. Kane for a side project.  Both bands had been involved with the ultra-cool 4AD record label, which at one time or another also featured some of my favorite bands, like Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Pixies, Modern English, Throwing Muses and Mojave 3.  

The one-time Colourbox and A.R. Kane collaboration was touted as a dance and acid house act titled M|A|R|R|S, an acronym created by using the first letters of the first names of each of the 5 members involved with the project (3 from Colourbox and 2 from A.R. Kane). 

pump up the volume“Pump Up The Volume” got its inspiration from Long Island Hip Hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, who had just released their album and single, PAID IN FULL.  Even the name “Pump Up The Volume” is sampled from a song on the PAID IN FULL album, “I Know You Got Soul.”  Released in a number of U.K. and U.S. mixes, “Pump Up The Volume” contains an astounding amount of nearly 30 samples of songs ranging from artists like James Brown, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool & The Gang, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., and even a bit from the trailer for the 1967 sci-fi film, MARS NEEDS WOMEN.


Released in August 1987, it would become a global sensation, spending 2 weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. and New Zealand, 4 weeks at No. 1 in Canada, plus No. 1 rankings in Holland and Italy, and reaching the Top 10 hit in at least 7 other countries.  Here in the U.S., it spent 3 weeks at No. 13 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in February / March 1988, was certified Gold, and spent a couple of weeks at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Dance chart.  It also appears on the soundtrack to the Michael J. Fox film, BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY.

Fun fact about “Pump Up The Volume”:  it has sold more copies of any 4AD single released – combined. 

I have loved this song from the moment I heard it, loved playing it in the clubs where I’ve DJ’d, always love playing it on STUCK IN THE 80s, and if I ever drag my ass back to a club to dance one day, and if the DJ plays “Pump Up The Volume,” watch out – I’m gonna hog the dance floor as soon as he puts that needle on the record, and the drumbeat goes like, well, you know…M|A|R|R|S


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