Gershon Kingsley, composer, arranger and musician wrote his instrumental smash hit "Popcorn" in the late 1960s, recorded first in 1969 by the First Moog Quartet, then re-released by a group called Hot Butter in 1971.
Since then, "Popcorn" has been covered over 600 times until today, mainly by electronic music projects using the staccato lead sound as a signature sound from the original version.
Kingsley used a Moog Modular synthesizer to create the recognizable lead sound. He had a close relationship to Robert Moog.
The Moog Modular, being a very expensive and complicated instrument at the time, could only be used by a few musicians and composers. In popular music, Keith Emerson and Stevie Wonder made the Moog into a central tool of their performances and productions.
The Moog Lead Sound in "Popcorn"
The original version by The First Moog Quartet
The Hot Butter Version 1972
Electric Coconut 1973
M&H Band 1987
Examples of the individual sound
Imitation of the original Sound on a Moog Voyager, Immanuel Brockhaus 2012
Preset of the Roland SH 2000 Synthesizer, the name of the preset is in fact "Pop Corn"
Melody played on the SH 2000
This diagram shows the number of cover versions between 1960 and 2012 and the number of covers using imitations of the original sound. The increase in popularity both of the sound and the song started with the rise of different electronic music styles in the 1990s. The use of the sound does not end in 2012, it still appears in many versions of Popcorn. An interesting fact is that this particular sound can only be found in connection with the song.
The spectragram shows the frequencies of a sound imitation on a Moog Voayger Sythesizer programmed by Immanuel Brockhaus 2012. Because the original sound can not be isolated from the original song (it never appears completely alone), the spectragram could only be useful in comparing imitations of the sound.
The Moog Modular was not able to store sounds, so the original sound programming of Kingsley is lost forever.
Preset Synthesizers like the SH 2000 were popular in the middle of the 70s and often reffered to existing instruments like violins or guitars.