By Markus Schneider
Italo Disco, a 1980s pop and underground club music genre somewhere between Synth-Pop, New Wave and Disco, was played back then in the most influential clubs in Chicago and New York and thus paved the way for House and Techno. Italo Disco is the perfect sound for 1980s nostalgia, no matter whether you lived through this decade or not. (Retrowave, synthwave and vaporwave fans, you will dig this! So enjoy diving deep into real Italo Disco bliss, into times when vinyl, (weird) lyrics, (fun) melodies and (extreme) emotions ruled the space age-styled dancefloors.
About this list:
Following up on the heavily discussed „The 100 greatest disco 12“s of all time“ list by The Vinyl Factory which was published on September 21, 2016, the British book author and DJ legend Bill Brewster released only a few days later on September 25th a personal chart featuring „100 Killer Disco Songs For A Tenner Or Less“.
Both collections inspired me to do “100 Killer Italo Disco Vinyls For Less Than 10 Euros” of affordable yet great and less known Italo Disco vinyls. I hope it helps other vinyl and music lovers to find their way more easily to the real gems that do not cost a lot of money.
The first time I went to a discotheque, at the age of 16, the DJ played totally unknown but great New Wave and Italo Disco masterpieces like Mr. Flagio – Take a chance. It was a truly magical experience and my love for this futuristic, romantic, melancholic, fun, often weird but highly influential genre of underground pop music was born. I learnt that there is a huge parallel musical universe existing with more beauty, creativity and originality than we knew from the charts, full of raw talent, heavy synths and an unbraked freedom of expression. A parallel universe, full of juvenile, ready-for-anything, flamboyant heirs of Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, with an electro-disco boogie in their bones and fat basslines in their portable synths – how cool is that?
Since then, I am a passionate vinyl collector scouring the underground relentlessly, with a focus on Italo Disco and Synth-Wave from the 1980s and Cosmic Balearic Disco from the 2010s. I am also DJing mostly with vinyl as part of The Robot Scientists: with my highschool mate Stefan Maurer we spin „psychedelic ethno-tech, cosmic-balearic disco, chuggy acid, hippie house & deep techno, served with a beautifully melancholic 1980s synthwave touch“, bringing joy to all kinds of places from beach clubs to chilled afterhour clubs to peak-time techno nights. We also run the digital, eclectic, futuristic electronica label Emerald & Doreen together with our friend Eric Schemer. Emerald & Doreen enables us to highlight and bring together upcoming talent from all countries and backgrounds to create something new.
With the Disco revival breaking loose after the release of the I-Robots compilation in 2004 – Eric gave it to me as a birthday present and I had it on my headphones on a weekend trip to New York that year – and Lindstrom’s fantastic „I feel space“ which was released a year later, just at a time when discogs.com and youtube.com started to become more popular, I started digging deeper and got to know a lot of amazing songs which I never heard before. We discovered the instrumental b-sides of the vinyls in our shelves and started with The Robot Scientists, creating between 2007 and 2009 17 mixes called „Musica da Batticuore“ with unknown Italo Disco gems from vinyl. They were downloaded more than 20.000 times as we became quite popular on myspace. In 2008 we started our blog “Mister Italo” where you can find links to more than 1500 italo disco and synth disco gems.
But now on to the 100 best and affordable Italo Disco gems – the big chart hits (at least in Germany) and the superexpensive “holy grails of Italo” are not included in this list. The rules for selection are: tagged as „Italo-Disco“ on discogs.com, 5-10 Euros item price, vinyl VG+ graded, years 1980-1985. Selection date was the 5th of October 2016. I ranked them according to my personal tastes and general significance, sort of, but not really. I also avoided to feature Italo-Disco-ish productions from other countries, but nevertheless I added a handful from Spain, Canada and Germany because they showed up tagged as Italo Disco in discogs. For the first 50 or so, I added some lines of information which I knew or found on the internet, due to time constraints I left the others uncommented. Just jump into the Youtube comments for some good vibes and additional info. And now enjoy the trip into the 1980s.
Btw: right-click on the titles to open a new browser window and to jump to the discogs page where you can get more infos about the songs and buy the vinyl.
One of the most influential 1982 proto-House tunes by Mario Boncaldo and Tony Carrasco that was played in all important clubs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago etc.
The 1983 masterpiece of Italo Disco-producer Raff Todesco with an amazing set of arpeggiated synths and a great punchy production.
In 1984, two years after they released their eternal Italo Disco hit „Mister Game“, Walter Bassani and Naimy Hackett recorded this gem with mind-blowing synth basslines and heavy electro drums – as in most cases, the B-side features the instrumental.
As their second single after the legendary „Feel the Drive“, Aldo Martinelli, Fabrizio Gatto and Simona Zanni launched this futuristic synth-disco gem in late 1983 on the uber-cool „Il Discotto Productions“ label. Felix da Housecat used quite a portion of it in his track „Neon Human“.
Gaznevada started in 1979 as New Wave band with five members and turned more and more into a synth-pop group. This is their most dazzling release, a timeless disco-noir masterpiece.
A definite Italo Disco classic, this spaced-out instrumental from 1983 stands for everything that people love about the genre: futurism, melancholy, melodies, heavy synths and romance. N.O.I.A. had quite a few great singles especially between 1983 and 1985, and this one will not remain that cheap for a long time.
Roberto Zanetti produced this romantic slow-motion italo disco masterpiece in 1983 on Severo Lombardoni’s Discomagic label, the biggest Italo Disco label in Italy at that time, and launched his career with it, making it quite a hit loved in Italy and worldwide.
Fred Ventura is one of the most popular Italo Disco artists and for me, this is his timeless masterpiece. Released in 1985, it features influences of HiNRG which was a popular style especially in the New York underground scene and even some mainstream productions at that time (see Frankie goes to Hollywood – Relax). Fred is still writing, singing, co- producing and co-releasing Italo Disco tracks thanks to the underground Italo Disco fan community around the Dutch „Cybernetic Broadcasting System“ (CBS) and their Intergalactic.fm online radio that launched the (italo) disco revival in the early 2000s.
One of the underground supergroups of Italo Disco, I.M.S. created this timelessly beautiful electro-disco hymn with lyrics that every dance music lover can relate to – and sorry, no weird English, no bizarre vocals, no squawking synths, no punky „just do it and release it quickly“-production as so often found in „not quite made it“-Italo tracks – just a fantastic song. Btw, all their releases are highly recommended, great vibes and tunes with a fantastic production standard. I guess their electro-funk tunes like „Non-Line“ have been played in New York a lot.
This is one of THE Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, space-disco and synthwave influenced electro-disco gems out there. Marzio Dance produced a few 12 inches for the Florence discotheque „Xenon“ where he was the resident DJ – back in the days, many Italian discotheques released their own vinyls – this is the first one for Xenon and it simply is amazingly timeless, an eternal soundtrack for futuristic movies.
Bobby „O“ Orlando was one of the most important producers of synth-disco and Hi-NRG in general in 1983 till 1985 with an amazing output back then under dozens of monikers. I could have listed quite a few tracks from him here but they didn’t show up under „Italo-Disco“ in discogs, apart from this soulful beauty here. For all explorers of the electronic dance music and pre-House music scene, Bobby Orlando needs to be known – and this is a truly magical song.
Franco Rago and Gigi Farina are among the most legendary producers of underground Italo Disco. Most of their original productions on vinyl cost a fortune, even vinyl represses become expensive quite quickly. “No rhyme, no reason” is highly influenced by New Wave and has a haunting touch which makes it sound mysterious and otherworldly, but there is an early House-piano to be heard as well. I prefer the Dub mix, 9 minutes of sonic 80s bliss.
A classic Balearic-Disco record which is still played on Ibiza today with a funky touch, a hot summer vibe and great mood. This has been played by the „Afro/Cosmic“ Djs Beppe Loda and Daniele Baldelli which focused their sets on an eclectic mixture of several styles like Soul, R’n'B, Funk, Psychedelic Rock, African music, Jazz-Funk, early Electronica and Disco, usually leaving classic Italo Disco out of their selection.
Claudio Simonetti was another big name among Italo Disco producers with countless outstanding releases. This track here is a Disco Mix for a horror movie by Dario Argento. There are quite a few darker Italo Disco tracks (which I really love), this is an early one of them from 1982. Another great one in this vein though from Germany is The Splash Band – The End.
15. Capricorn – Capricorn
This is an earlier but equally fantastic Simonetti space disco production from 1980 which was big in New York, trippy Disco Funk at its best with a robotic vocoder voice.
And one more by Simonetti – I think it was quite a big hit in some places in 1981 and not really underground, but as it is such a special, fun and jazzy tune that positivity-oriented Djs like Todd Terje must like, I put it here.
Celso Valli was another big name in Disco from Italy and this track here from 1981 – especially in this remix version – is a massive synth-disco monster in the vein of Giorgio Moroder and Patrick Cowley.
Back in the charts in 1984, there was no room for two Valerie Dore‘s. Angela Carofiglio’s angelic voice and the dreamy, romantic melody of „Your mind“ were not sufficient to make her really successful in 1984, but at least she made it into this list with this wonderful tune.
A wonderfully chilled-out summer tune & cool synth drums.
This actually is a really good song with great lyrics and my favorite one by Den Harrow.
Gazebo’s songs are truly magic (he sold more than 12 million copies) and best of italo disco mainstream. This one here, his first hit, was actually not a big hit in my home country Germany – but as an avid Italo Disco- and 12 inch extended versions lover I must say the 12:45 min for the Instrumental on the b-side are truly worth it, every second.
Fake were a Swedish outfit playing synthpop and synthwave-influenced Italo Disco and this here is simply funny, catchy and the synths are totally awesome.
The Doctor’s Cat team Gatto/Martinelli did it again, this time with a girl and a robot, the classic combination. Heavy synths and a powerful production make this one of my „almost mainstream“ faves from 1984.
The Creatures around top producer Mario Flores were heavily involved in one of the most legendary Italian discotheques, L’Altro Mondo Studios in Rimini, where they performed live with many artists and dancers on stage dressed like spacemen and aliens. „Believe in yourself“ is a really good song with outstanding synth work.
More Spanish than Italo, there are two productions by Vicio Latino and this here, the b-side, is my favorite, a driving synth monster.
Tony Carrasco made this great Dub remix of the 1970s Jazz-Funk original. Italo Disco producers tried to become successful with many cover versions, most of them failed, this one not.
Mirage only made two records, one absolute Italo classic called „Woman“ and this gem here with quite some disco-funk influences on top of the typical synth sounds.
Another electro-disco project of Mario Boncaldo and Tony Carrasco, Baja Imperial was a huge club hit all over the world in 1985. The U.S. Remix is not necessarily better, but a bit cheaper than the original.
A funky masterpiece by Tony Carrasco and Pino Nicolosi, another superstar among the Italo Disco producers that changed the world forever.
A rarely heard, dreamy synth-disco song I love so much for his weird synth bassline and the French chorus.