What Was the First Song to Contain a Sample?

Everyone samples everyone these days.  But who was the first?  What was the first track to feature a surgically excised bit of another song in its construction?

According to no less than the people at the Guinness Book of World Records, it was a track called “He’s Gonna Step on You Again,” a 1971 track by South African John Kongos.  A portion of the song is based on tape loops of African drumming.

However, it’s possible that they made a mistake.  Some believe that the Guinness people confused “Step On” with “Burundi Black” by British musician Mike Steiphensen, which was out at around the same time.  That song features a tribal rhythm made by 25 drummers of the Ingoma tribe in Burundi that originally appeared on an album entitled Musique du Burundi, which was issued by the Ocora album out of France in 1968.

Steiphenson excised that bit of drumming and looped it on a tape, adding guitars and keyboards on top. The resulting album, Burundi Black, sold 125,000 copies in the UK.

This is the A-side of the original 7-inch single of the album’s title track.  It’s history!

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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3 thoughts on “What Was the First Song to Contain a Sample?

  • That can be debated like crazy. Steve Reich's 1966 composition, "Come out to show them" contains looped voice snip-bits, but that isn't from another musical piece. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody during the Musique Concrete era might have sampled from other musical compositions….

    • I believe Faust to be the first band to use a sample of another artist’s music. On their eponymous debut, they sample both the Beatles and the Stones on the opening track ‘why don’t you eat carrots’.

  • What about “Turn Up Your Radio”, by the Masters Apprentices? 1966, and it has a sample of Rock Around the Clock.

    What about the Beatles? They sampled their own songs – Revolution Number 9, at least.


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