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Synth Britannia

Documentary about a generation of post-punk musicians, from The Human League to Gary Numan, who took the synthesiser from the experimental fringes to the centre of the pop stage.

Documentary following a generation of post-punk musicians who took the synthesiser from the experimental fringes to the centre of the pop stage.

In the late 1970s, small pockets of electronic artists including The Human League, Daniel Miller and Cabaret Voltaire were inspired by Kraftwerk and JG Ballard, and they dreamt of the sound of the future against the backdrop of bleak, high-rise Britain.

The crossover moment came in 1979 when Gary Numan's appearance on Top of the Pops with Tubeway Army's Are 'Friends' Electric? heralded the arrival of synthpop. Four lads from Basildon known as Depeche Mode would come to own the new sound, whilst post-punk bands like Ultravox, Soft Cell, OMD and Yazoo took the synth out of the pages of NME and onto the front page of Smash Hits.

By 1983, acts like Pet Shop Boys and New Order were showing that the future of electronic music would lie in dance music.

Contributors include Philip Oakey, Vince Clarke, Martin Gore, Bernard Sumner, Gary Numan and Neil Tennant.

1 hour, 28 minutes

On TV

Fri 6 Sep 2019 23:35

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • Depeche Mode

    New Life

  • Wendy Carlos

    William Tell

  • Wendy Carlos

    Clockwork Orange Main Title

  • 00:03

    Wendy Carlos

    William Tell Overture (Rossini, Abridged)

  • 00:06

    Kraftwerk

    Autobahn

  • The Clash

    White Riot

  • The Normal

    Tvod

  • The Normal

    Warm Leatherette

  • The Future

    4 Jg

  • The Human League

    Being Boiled

  • Donna Summer

    I Feel Love

  • Cabaret Voltaire

    Seconds Too Late

  • Cabaret Voltaire

    Nag Nag Nag

  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

    Messages

  • 00:23

    Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

    Enola Gay

  • 00:26

    Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

    Electricity

  • 00:28

    Joy Division

    Atmosphere

  • John Foxx

    Underpass

  • Throbbing Gristle

    Still Walking

  • 00:33

    Throbbing Gristle

    Hot On The Heels Of Love

  • Fad Gadget

    Back to Nature

  • Silicon Teens

    Memphis Tennessee

  • 00:37

    Gary Numan

    Are Friends Electric?

    Performer: Tubeway Army.
  • 00:38

    Tubeway Army

    Are Friends Electric

  • 00:40

    Gary Numan

    Cars

  • Visage

    Fade To Grey

  • The Flying Lizards

    Money

  • 00:45

    Visage

    Fade To Grey

  • 00:46

    The Flying Lizards

    Money (That's What I Want)

  • 00:47

    Depeche Mode

    New Life

  • 00:50

    Depeche Mode

    Just Can't Get Enough

  • 00:53

    The Human League

    Don't You Want Me

  • Heaven 17

    Penthouse & Pavement

  • Cabaret Voltaire

    Landslide

  • Soft Cell

    Tainted Love

  • 00:57

    The Human League

    The Sound Of The Crowd

  • 01:04

    Yazoo

    Only You

  • Yazoo

    Don't Go

  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

    Maid of Orleans

  • Eurythmics

    Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

  • Ultravox

    Vienna

  • Kraftwerk

    The Model

  • Depeche Mode

    Everything Counts

  • 01:07

    Yazoo

    Don't Go

  • 01:18

    Depeche Mode

    Master And Servant

  • Depeche Mode

    Master and Servant

  • Pet Shop Boys

    West End Girls

  • New Order

    Ceremony

  • New Order

    Blue Monday

  • Giorgio Moroder & Philip Oakey

    Together In Electric Dreams

  • 01:24

    New Order

    Blue Monday

  • 01:25

    Howard Jones

    New Song

  • The Human League

    Don't You Want Me

  • Depeche Mode

    Just Can't Get Enough

Credits

Role Contributor
Producer Ben Whalley
Director Ben Whalley
Executive Producer Mark Cooper

Broadcasts

Featured in...

Synth Britannia BBC Music Playlist

Synth Britannia BBC Music Playlist

Check out the sounds of the synth with the BBC Music Playlist