Snap!’s “Rhythm Is a Dancer” Sampled the Synth in Newcleus’ “Auto Man”
From an outsider’s perspective, the early 90s were the best of times for German Eurodance group Snap!. Founded by Frankfurt producers Luca Anzilotti and Michael Münzing — who worked under the pseudonyms Benito Benites and John “Virgo” Garrett III — Snap! had a promising track record of early success. Riding the coattails of their 1990 hit “The Power”, the group released “Rhythm is a Dancer” in 1991 to international acclaim, breaking into the top five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and hitting number one on the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart.
But inner turmoil bubbled beneath the surface as “Rhythm is a Dancer” became a club sensation. Not long after she replaced former Snap! member Penny Ford on “Rhythm Is a Dancer”, singer Thea Austin would leave the group.
And rapper Turbo B, who hated “Rhythm” and fought to prevent it from becoming The Madman’s Return’s lead single, left Snap! while the song was still charting. “They wanted me to write my lyrics, do vocals and videos and then sit at home and wait for them to call me to do TV appearances and so forth,” Turbo said of Anzilotti and Münzing during a 1992 interview with The New York Times. “I had to pay for my own tours; I got no tour support from the record company.”
“That song opened the vortex for me. It has helped me in so many ways, and it’s been a blessing.”- Thea Austin
The constant turnover of singers and performers in Snap! indicate that Turbo wasn’t the only artist to take issue with the German production duo, but Anzilotti disagreed with the rapper’s grievances. In his opinion, studio work and production outweighed the importance of touring. “He sees himself more as a rock star than a dance-music star,” Anzilotti told The New York Times. “He felt his touring was much more important than getting tracks right in the studio, which we believe is the essence of success.”
For Anzilotti and Münzing, part of their “essence of success” came from studying dance records as DJs before they started producing their own music. They seemed to have an affinity for American electro and rap records from artists like Mantronix and Chill Rob G, both of whom were sampled for Snap!’s hit “The Power”. (Read Robbie Ettelson’s great article on “The Power” for more info.)
While the sampling on “The Power” is pretty obvious, Anzilotti and Münzing used another electro sample as the driving force for “Rhythm is a Dancer”. This time they pitched the original synth sample down to a speed that rendered it unrecognizable. To hear the origins of “Rhythm”, take a listen to the opening of Newcleus’ under-appreciated 1984 record “Auto Man”.
“They wanted me to write my lyrics, do vocals and videos and then sit at home and wait for them to call me.”- Turbo B
Sample explorer DJ Akeen has a nice YouTube video showing the level of manipulation needed to rework The Newcleus original. As such drastic pitch reductions were difficult to achieve without significant distortion in the pre-Ableton days of production, one has to wonder how Anzilotti and Münzing were able to pull it off.
Whatever their secret, the Frankfurt duo produced a massive success that has seen several resurgences in popularity since its initial release. And while the success of Snap! peaked over 20 years ago, the group members now seem to be grateful for the opportunities the song provided them.
Thea Austin, whose singing at the beginning of “Rhythm is a Dancer” helped make the song the hit that it was, feels blessed she was able to be a part of it. “That song opened the vortex for me,” she said in an interview with the website Dallas Voice. “It has helped me in so many ways, and it’s been a blessing…I still hear it in elevators, at aerobics class, in salons, or even in Old Navy. People still seem to be interested in hearing and celebrating the song.”