The Evolution of Electronic Music in 26 Records by Juan Atkins: ADE15

During a one-hour Q&A, Detroit techno legend Juan Atkins took us through the roots of Detroit techno in 26 records. From funk, disco and new wave to 80s floor-fillers, Atkins explained how each track made their stamp on his musical evolution. The list will help you understand why this legend, labeled techno’s Godfather, is known for his musical diversity.

1. ‘Family Affair’ by Sly and the Family Stone (1971)
“This was the first record I ever bought at the age of 10 on the bottom floor of a Motown records store. It’s probably one of the first records where they used the drum machine and I subconsciously heard techno when listening to this song. It stands out because it was really motivating.”

2. ‘You and Your Folks, Me and My Friends’ by Funkadelic (1970)
“This is another group with a similar sound but the first Funkadelic record I’ve heard.”

3. ‘Give Up the Funk’ by Parliament (1975)
“This is a floor-filler that would get played at basement parties I used to throw.

“Going back to my 10th birthday, my father bought me an electric guitar where the amp was built into the case and Garry Shider from Funkadelic, who I met years later, offered to buy that guitar from me. It was crazy that one of my idols wanted to buy my guitar.”

4. ‘Flashlight’ by Parliament (1978)
“This is what I call high tech funk. What was so special about this is that it’s mostly electronic. It’s the first record that’s using synths for the bassline and all of these weird sounds. This was probably the record that really got me to think about electronic music. My mom owned an organ store where they sold synths and S-10s that I then incorporated into my productions.”

5. ‘Showroom Dummies (Remastered)’ by Kraftwerk (1977)
“By this time I was making demos with my KORG and S-10 but my stuff was really loose and hand-played. I was blown away by how precise and tight this song was. This was a time before I learned about sequence.”

6. ‘The Robots’ by Kraftwerk (1978)
This song played on the radio when the radio was glued to my ear all the time. This electronic music started to seep into my Detroit conscience.

7. ‘Trans-Europe Express’ by Kraftwerk (1977)

8. ‘Cars’ by Gary Numan (1979)
“People were going crazy over this record. My record ‘Cosmic Cars’ was partially influenced by this record.”

9. ‘One Nation Under a Groove’ by Funkadelic (1978)
“This brought me back to my funk routes and is one of my all time favourite records. The end of the 70s was the disco era. Funk and the disco were at a tug of war and then intertwined.”

10. ‘Chase’ by Georgio Moroder (1978)
“I call this electronic disco. Growing up in the ghetto in Detroit, dancing was an escape and release. I went to Washington Community College where I met Rick (Davis). He had the DR-55 but all I had was this S-10. When I went to college I played a demo for class and Rick, an ex-Vietnam vet, didn’t want to play with just anyone. During the funk era if you wanted to make music you needed to get people from the neighbourhood to play. But once Rick heard my demo he was down. I went to his house - which was like walking into a space ship. All you could see when the door opened were LED lights. I brought my chord and S-10 and we jammed. The first record we made was ‘Cosmic Rain Dance’.”

11. ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer (1979)
“This is one of the key records that made a difference. Most of the disco came out of New York and none came out of the West Coast.

My parents were of a generation where the auto industry came to prominence. But as technology came in, Detroit went post-industrial and had to die and crumble until technology could take over. I grew up in an era where Detroit was one of the most depressing cities in the world. It was a destroyed industrial city that became a techno city. Art and music all followed suit. We went into the transition so the music progressed subconsciously. Hearing this disco, the Italians got really into it.”

12. 'Dancer’ by Gino Soccio (1979)
“An Italo-disco record that opened our minds. Disco was something that never really lasted and when this record came out, it was like the nail in discos coffin.”

13. ‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’ by Funkadelic (1979)

14. ‘Planet Claire’ by The B-52’s (1979)
“We called this new wave. Funk was back and no-one wanted to hear anymore disco. At the turn of every decade, things started happening so we got into new-wave music in 1981 that happened only in Detroit for some reason. In New York or Chicago you would never hear the B-52s. You would hear this kind of music at a back-yard party in 1981.”

15. ‘Rock Lobster’ by The B-52’s (1986)
“The B52s were the pinnacle of that movement. It totally changed the way people danced and moved - they started swimming. All the cute girls loved this music.”

16. It’s More Fun to Compute’ by Kraftwerk (1981)
“The ‘Computer World’ album was a long awaited Kraftwerk record that did everything everyone thought it would.”

17. Numbers’ by Kraftwerk (1981)
“’Planet Rock’ [by Afrika Bambaataa] ripped off the whole rhythm and the whole electro movement started from this record.”

18. ‘Alleys of Your Mind’ by Cybotron (1981)
“This was my first record which contained all the influences from the above records - you can hear funk and Kraftwerk. I called this techno funk electronic. Mojo dropped this record the second day after we gave it to him and it was a Detroit smash hit. I just made what I thought was hot to do. I was 17 years old when we made this. I thought that if I have longevity in the business, I need a sound that people like and that will be around 10 years later. It was at this point people from Detroit started making music.”

19. 'A Number of Names’ by Sharivari (1981)
“This is Detroit techno. Right around this time, I felt there was a movement. Derrick (May) and Kevin (Saunderson) were my best mates at the time and saw this happening. They started making music and it all snowballed. The warehouse parties wanted to be apart from the snobby parties and everything else that was going on. This typifies what they played at those parties.”

20. 'Planet Rock (Instrumental)’ by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonics (1982)

21. ‘Clear’ by Cybotron (1983)

22. 'No UFOs’ by Model 500 (1985)
This marks the beginning of the Chicago House movement.

23. ‘Nude Photo’ by Rhythim is Rhythim (1987)

24. ‘Strings of Life’ by Derrick May (1998)
“This was so ground-breaking that we started getting calls from London. At this point our records started being exported.”

25. ‘Big Fun’ by Inner City (1988)

26. ‘Techno Music’ by Juan Atkins