Friday, February 27, 2015

Hot Butter – "Popcorn" (1972)

Each 2 or 3 lines usually begins with a quote from the lyrics of the featured song.  But last year's "29 Songs in 28 Days" broke new ground by featuring only instrumentals, and I've decided to include one in the 2015 version of "29 Songs in 28 Days" as well.

"Popcorn" was one of the first hit singles to feature the Moog synthesizer.  It reached #9 on the Billboard "Hot 100" singles chart in 1972, and was even more popular in other countries.  ("Popcorn" was the #1 single in Norway for six weeks, in Australia for eight weeks, and in Switzerland for ten weeks.  It sold almost a million copies in France, and is the 131st best-selling single of all time in that country.)

The mother of all Moog synthesizer records was Switched-On Bach, which was one of the oddest hit albums ever recorded.

Released in 1968, it consised of Moog synthesizer performances of various Johann Sebastian Bach pieces by Wendy Carlos.  (Wendy was born Walter Carlos, but began to live as a woman shortly before Switched-On Bach was released.  In 1972, she had sex reassignment surgery.)

Wendy Carlos
The album was one of the best-selling classical records ever recorded and won three Grammys.  

Hot Butter was an instrumental cover band that was fronted by Stan Free, a jazz keyboardist, composer, and arranger.  Free had previously been a member of the First Moog Quartet, a group that was formed by Gershon Kingsley, who had composed "Popcorn" and recorded it in 1969.

Stan Free
A friend of mine who knows a lot more about science than I do recently sent me Jenny Rood's article about the physics of popping popcorn, which appeared in the online edition of The Scientist on February 11.  Here's an excerpt:

When popcorn pops, it displays similarities both to explosively flowering plants and to animal muscles, according to a study published this week . . . . High-speed video stills captured by a pair of researchers in France revealed that popping begins with the sprouting of a starchy “leg” that causes the kernel to jump when it comes in contact with a hot pan.  The popping noise, the researchers explained, is likely caused by the release of water vapor.

Capturing images of popping kernels at 2,900 frames per second enabled the team to observe the speedy transition from kernel to fluffy flake.  Once the kernel begins to fracture, the “leg” forms within 14 milliseconds and the popcorn jumps 6 milliseconds later. . . .

The scientists also determined the ideal temperature for popping by heating kernels in an oven for five minutes while raising the temperature in 10°C (18°F) increments.  They found that only 34% of kernels popped at 170°C (338°F), while 96% transformed at 180°C (356°F).  At that temperature, the pressure inside the kernel is 10 times stronger than atmospheric pressure at sea level, causing the kernel to fracture and pop.

Here's Hot Butter's "Popcorn":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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