The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel was not the first hip-hop hit but it was a landmark in the emergence of rap upon its release in 1981 – and the first hit to use scratching.
This song sounds as strange today as it did when I first heard it on the John Peel Show in 1981. It always does. An a capella song eight and a half minutes long, based on an operatic aria from a century earlier, it was the unlikeliest of hit singles. And yet… Such was its unique appeal that it reached No.2 in the UK charts.
This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I never tire of hearing it, with its shimmering echo from speaker to speaker, Green Gartside’s romantic vocal and Robert Wyatt’s syncopated piano.