Whoever ran the advertising campaigns for Volkswagen in the 90s deserves a lot of love. Not only did they sell more records for Nick Drake than in the previous 20 years combined (some unknown ad exec deserves sainthood for this), they also managed to revive an obscure hit from 1982 recorded by the aptly named German trio, Trio.
Trio formed in 1980 as part of the Neue Deutsche Welle (or New German Wave) movement. The three members of the band, however, preferred to see themselves as originators of their own movement, the wonderfully named Neue Deutsche Fröhlichkeit (or New German Cheerfulness). Trio’s style involved making the most basic music possible, using only a few chords, simple, repetitive lyrics, minimal production, and almost no instrumentation. This style was easy to accomplish on “Da Da Da” since all they needed—aside from a snare drum and a guitar—was a small rectangular box.
In the late 60s and early 70s, synthesizers were large, heavy, and difficult to program (they looked a bit like old-fashioned telephone switchboards with all kinds of cables and jacks and knobs, and only three people on the planet knew how to make them work). Also, these electronic beasts were prohibitively expensive, so only the biggest bands traveled with one. However, as with most technology, the years passed, the scientists did their science thing, and synthesizers quickly became smaller, cheaper, and easier to use.
In 1980, Casio released the VL-1, a $150 synthesizer you could almost fit in your back pocket, specifically aimed at the general public rather than professional musicians. Aside from its price, the great thing about the VL-1 was the ability to set a rhythm pattern and then play over it with a variety of sounds (albeit monophonically — you couldn’t play chords) and record all of it.
It also had a calculator in case you felt like doing some basic math (or—if you were a junior high boy—spelling out BOOBS).
Trio set their Casio to the Rock-1 rhythm preset and proceeded to sing their simple song of love gone wrong. In the US, “Da Da Da” only made the lower reaches of the Dance Charts, but it went Top 5 in the UK. Although the group had a few more hits in Germany, they never again charted outside of their home country.
After disbanding in 1985, all three members eventually focused on non-musical pursuits (guitarist Gert Krawinkel set a Guinness World Record for long-distance horse riding) until Volkswagen brought them once again into the musical limelight.