The fourth single to be taken from Daft Punk’s Discovery, Harder Better Faster Stronger, was released on this day (13 October) in 2001.
Built around a bad-ass funk riff, lifted from Edwin Birdsong’s Cola Bottle Baby, the track would go on to be sampled by Kanye West on single Stronger, bringing the self-styled robots to an even wider audience, while it also became a live favourite during the Alive 2007 tour (a live version of the track would go on to be released as a single in its own right).
Here are a few interesting factoids you might not have known about the track:
Pharrell Williams’ Neptunes provided a downtempo groove version of the track on the B-side
The Neptunes, the production project of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, were riding high in 2001 on the back of the success of Britney Spears’ I’m A Slave 4 U, which they produced, as well as Lapdance, the breakthrough single for their NER*D project.
For the B-side of Harder Better Faster Stronger, the duo provided a stripped-back funk exploration of the track, with Williams rapping about flying to Paris, “the city in the bubble”.
Of course, Williams would go on a decade or so later to front Get Lucky, the first single off 2013’s Random Access Memories.
The LA-born artist that provided the riff for the track passed away in January of this year
Edwin Birdsong’s 1979 track Cola Bottle Baby may not have been top of the list when it came to memorable 70’s funk riffs, but it would go on to form the backbone for Harder Better Faster Stronger, placing its creator in the spotlight some twenty years on from the close of his career.
As the Los Angeles-based keyboard player explained in a 2016 interview, “I recorded it 30 years ago, and here come some guys from France. I asked them, ‘Where did you find the music?’ And they said, ‘I was going through bins and it popped out.’”
Birdsong, who also worked alongside Stevie Wonder and Roy Ayers during his decade-long career, died on January 21 at the age of 77.
The ‘Daft Hands’ version of the track is the most popular Daft Punk-related meme ever
Back in 2007, YouTube was still only a pup, and the idea of ‘going viral’ was something that probably required a doctor.
But the same year that gave us Charlie Bit My Finger spawned another delightful video, Daft Hands – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger; two hands ‘spelling out’ the words to the song in one glorious take.
Since it was uploaded, the video now has more than 70 million views, and close to 100,000 comments; continuing to crop up in ‘recommended video’ lists 12 years on from its release.
Daft Punk were delighted with how Kanye West’s version of the song turned out
Kanye West’s single Stronger, from 2007’s Graduation, owes more than a debt of gratitude to Daft Punk (and of course Mr Birdsong), and as the group’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo told Billboard in 2007, the duo first heard it on a Los Angeles radio station while waiting for a flight… and were ‘thrilled’ with the results.
“The DJ had made an edit of our song at the beginning and then it turned into his song,” he explained. “Our song had a good sound, but when he put Kanye’s record on, the sound was really fat. It sounds really big.
“It’s not a collaboration in the studio, but the vibe of the music we do separately connected in what he did with the song.”
A Norwegian metal version of the track was released in 2013
Norwegian actor, musician and singer Per Fredrik Åsly, who appeared in the country’s version of X Factor in 2010, released a metal version of the track in 2013, channelling his inner Ronnie James Dio in the process.
It shouldn’t work, but it does…. ‘Our work is never over’ indeed!