Not to be confused with “Popcorn” which was the title of a 1969 instrumental featuring the popping staccato sounds of a synthesizer, we are talking here about a very popular, very dance-able style of music that was produced between the late 1950s to the mid 1960s. This music sub-genre had a certain feel. A lot of R&B and pop recordings fell into this category.
Although these recordings originated in America and Britain, it took Europe’s Belgium to subsequently identify them with a name: Popcorn (sometimes Belgian Popcorn or Popcorn Oldies) is a style of music and dancing established in Belgium in the 1970s and 1980s. It is characterized by a slow or medium, rather than fast, tempo. The style has been described by musician and writer Bob Stanley as “possibly the last truly underground music scene in Europe”.
For all Instrumental POPCORN lovers!!!
Examples of popcorn music include:
- “You Beat Me to the Punch” by Mary Wells
- “The Tingle” by Jackie Weaver
- “Where Was I” by Phil Colbert
- “La Tanya” by Jay Abbott
- “Um Um Um Um Um Um” by Major Lance
- “Comin’ Home Baby” by Mel Tormé
- “Twine Time” by Alvin Cash
- “Please Mister Postman” by The Marelettes
- “The Monster Mash” by Bobby”Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers
- “Any Way You Wanta” by Harvey (Fuqua)
Origin of the name
The Popcorn music scene first developed from dances held at the Groove discotheque in Ostend (a Belgian coastal city and municipality, located in the province of West Flanders), where DJs played popular mid-tempo soul and ska music in the late 1960s.
In September 1969, a café, De Oude Hoeve, opened in a converted farm barn in the small village of Vrasene near Antwerp, and began holding dance competitions on Sunday afternoons. Soon up to 3,000 people began attending each week, dancing in a “slow swing” style to soul and funk records. The café was renamed the Popcorn – after the James Brown hit “Mother Popcorn“.
Following the Popcorn club’s popularity, other clubs sprang up playing music in a similar style. The scene in Belgium in many ways paralleled the Northern soul scene in Britain, but with a slower swing style of music, rather than the fast dance styles characteristic of Northern soul.
In some cases, DJs slowed down records, by pitch control and by playing 45 rpm discs at 33 rpm, to achieve the desired tempo and rhythm. The range of the music also broadened, to include some British and Italian pop music from the early 1960s, and eventually local bands were formed to emulate the style.
A few years later, music lovers and dancers come from all over Belgium, France and The Netherlands to enjoy this unique music, which they refer to as ‘the Popcorn sound’ or ‘Popcorn Oldies’.
After a period of mainstream popularity in Belgium, and to a lesser extent in France and the Netherlands, the Popcorn dance scene retreated to smaller venues and specialist clubs, while retaining a core of aficionados.
By the 1990s, the style was beginning to be known and appreciated at soul music clubs in Britain, Germany, and the US, and its level of recognition has continued to increase. At least 30 compilations of American and other R&B and pop music in the Belgian Popcorn style have been issued in Europe.