One day, a drummer sat down and played the Amen Break; a simple and short loop. It was part of The Winstons B Side track, Amen My Brother. This song, more specifically that short loop, was to go on to become the most popular sample ever. This video shows how ubiquitous the break has become, and tells it’s fascinating story.
It describes it’s use in early Hip Hop such as NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, and the part it played in various different genres, sometimes even creating them. I love the way that the video describes it use by people such as Aphex Twin, as:
“tweaking the arrangements beyond the point of dancability and syncopation, and into a realm of pure fetishisation and self-indulgence”
It’s amazing how this one recording has gone on to be used in so many thousands of songs, and indeed spawn whole genres, and whole musical movements.
Did anyone ever pay for it’s use though? Richard Spencer from The Winstons, who owned the copyright to the break, didn’t seem to care. The video suggests he didn’t see potential in these heavily sampled tracks, but maybe he was just cool with it in a creative commons kind of way.
Finally, the break has been sullied by commercialism, with heavy use in advertising, and with some companies actually selling it in compilations of beats, under copyright.