In 1983, Malcolm McLaren released two singles, Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch, both of which becoming worldwide top-10 smash-hits. Those two tracks hit the international music charts before his LP Dutch Rock was released. Dutch Rock album proved to be highly influential, bringing hip-hop to a wider audience, especially in the UK.

Giacomo Puccini, Madam Butterfly operaIn 1984, Malcolm changed his tune to opera on his next maxi/EP single release of Madam Butterfly which was an electronic, synth-pop modern-classic track, based on Giacomo Puccini’s 1902 classic-opera Madam Butterfly’s“Un Bel Di Vedremo” final aria (watch videos below). For those of you who are not familiar with Puccini, perhaps you might recognize his “Nessun Dorma” aria from his Turandot opera (which is still part of today’s popular culture). Nessun Dorma has achieved pop-status by Luciano Pavarotti’s recording of it, used as the theme song of BBC’s television’s coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup soccer in Italy; and it subsequently reached #2 on the UK singles music chart (the highest placing ever by a classical recording).

Malcolm McLaren’s Madam Butterfly is arranged with a drum-machine, atmospheric synthesizers and spoken/sung R&B verses (with opera backup vocals). The production on Malcolm’s Madam Butterfly is stellar. The track was produced by Steven Hague who settled for nothing but the best in overall production. I know for a fact that a Fairlight CMI-2 was used, because Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo) starts with the Fairlight’s famous factory sound-preset ”aah” voices coming in slowly and rising gradually in amplitude, serving as a bed/pad sound layered in the background throughout the track. Watch music video below to hear that sound. I know all the Fairlight sounds inside-out, because I’ve heard them millions of times since 1980 when the Fairlight beast of a sampler/workstation instrument was used on countless of tracks by other famous artists and groups in that era (for it’s unique sound, powerful sample/sound processing engine and music sequencer). Watch this video of the Fairlight being demonstrated by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. As for the chord melody in Madam Butterfly, it is a sound of an upright-harp with softer/slower attack transient; though there’s no telling what synthesizer or sampler brand used for it. It could’ve been a custom-sampled harp sound for the Fairlight, or a factory-sample bank coming from a then-popular E-mu Emulator-II, but my guess is that the harp and the bassline-sound were factory-preset patches from a Yamaha DX7 synth. Watch this YouTube demo of the DX7. Harp sounds from synths and samplers sound almost exactly the same and very difficult to distinguish them apart. Also, the drum-machine used in Madam Butterfly is an Oberheim DMX (which was just as popular as Roland TR-808, LinnDrum and E-mu Drumulator and SP-12 drum-machines at that time).

Attention new music producers: I have compiled and categorized .wav samples of almost every classic drum-machine and electronic drum-kits made by man.  Download drum_kits.zip

I used to own the 12″ vinyl of Madam Butterfly which I bought in 1984 from Our Price record store in Uxbridge town center (Hillingdon, Buckinghamshire, UK). But I gave it to my friend Mister P-Body (Arizona) in June 2001 (just before I moved back to West Vancouver, BC, Canada, on July 1, 2001), as I had already owned a copy of it on CD-single which I’d purchased in 1988. To this day, I’m still playing the track over and over again. I have never gotten (and still never get) sick of listening to Madam Butterfly — takes on me on long mind trips each time.

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (Un Bel Di Vedremo)…

Artist: Malcolm McLaren
Title: Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo)
Year: 1984
Label: Virgin Records; Charisma Records

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (Un Bel Di Vedremo) (mp3)

 

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (On The Fly Mix)…

Artist: Malcolm McLaren
Title: Madam Butterfly (On The Fly Mix)
Year: 1984
Label: Virgin Records; Charisma Records

Malcolm McLaren – “Madam Butterfly” (On The Fly Mix) (mp3)

 

Malcolm McLaren – “Death Of Butterfly” (Tu Tu Piccolo)…

Artist: Malcolm McLaren
Title: Death Of Butterfly (Tu Tu Piccolo)
Year: 1984
Label: Virgin Records; Charisma Records

Malcolm McLaren – “Death Of Butterfly” (Tu Tu Piccolo) (mp3)

 

Stage Performance: A preview of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” opera…

Opera Performance: Puccini – “Madama Butterfly” (Un Bel Di Vedremo)…

Stage Performance:
Pavarotti sings “Nessun Dorma” final aria of Puccini’s Turandot opera…