Roberto Concina, known professionally as Robert Miles, was an Italian record producer, composer, musician and DJ. His 1995 composition “Children” sold more than 5 million copies and topped the charts worldwide.
It was first released in Italy in January 1995 as part of the EP Soundtracks on Joe Vannelli’s DBX label, but it did not chart. Vanelli brought the track to a nightclub in Miami where it was heard by Simon Berry of Platipus Records. Berry worked with Vannelli and James Barton (of Liverpool’s Cream nightclub) to release the song in November 1995 as the lead single from his album Dreamland. The song was Miles’ most successful single, being certified Gold and Platinum in several countries and reaching number one in more than 12 countries.
Miles gave two inspirations for the writing of “Children”. One was as a response to photographs of child Yugoslav war victims that his father had brought home from a humanitarian mission in the former Yugoslavia; and the other, inspired by his career as a DJ, was to create a track to end DJ sets, intended to calm rave attendants prior to their driving home as a means to reduce car accident deaths. The song cost £150 to record.
“Children” is one of the pioneering tracks of Dream house, a genre of electronic dance music characterized by dream-like piano melodies, and a steady four-on-the-floor bass drum. The creation of dream house was a response to social pressures in Italy during the early 1990s: the growth of rave culture among young adults, and the ensuing popularity of nightclub attendance, had created a weekly trend of deaths due to car accidents as clubbers drove across the country overnight, falling asleep at the wheel from strenuous dancing as well as alcohol and drug use. In mid-1996, deaths due to this phenomenon, called strage del sabato sera (Saturday night slaughter) in Italy, were being estimated at around 2000 since the start of the decade. The move by DJs such as Miles to play slower, calming music to conclude a night’s set, as a means to counteract the fast-paced, repetitive tracks that preceded, was met with approval by authorities and parents of car crash victims.
In the United Kingdom, BBC Radio 1 did not play the song on its daytime playlist at first, though Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong did play it for three weeks in a row on his Essential Selection program in 1996. Tong’s appointing it Essential Tune of The Week each week for three weeks in a row culminated in a frenzied bidding war amongst UK major record companies. Meanwhile, Kiss FM was among the first to play the song, even using it in one of the station’s minute-long television commercials. “Children” reached the number two position on the UK Singles Chart prior to promotion and marketing, and became the year’s eighth best-selling single.