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Jul 02 2017

I Feel Love: the future is here and now!

Giorgio Moroder and his Moog system (soundonsound.com)

Giorgio Moroder and his Moog system

 

This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.

Brian Eno, 1977

Preface

The revolutionary I Feel Love was released 40 years ago on July 2nd 1977. Dance music would never be the same again. I clearly remember hearing the song for the first time: the future didn´t seem to be that far away, it was here and now!

Production-team

The song is accredited to Donna Summer and is inseparable from her. The song’s writers are, besides Summer, the producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.

Eberhard Schöner and his Moog (astronautapinguim.blogspot.com)

Eberhard Schöner and his Moog

The importance and influence of this producer-duo can not be over-estimated. Both have been invaluable to (the development of) electronic dance music. They met early in the 1970’s in Munich, Germany, when Moroder was looking for an assistant. Since 1970, Moroder was heavily interested in a new instrument that was used by classical composer, mainly composing ‘musique concrète’ pieces, Eberhard Schöner: the synthesizer. Access to the instrument was not easy, because it was owned by Schöner and he didn’t want to employ his instrument to popular music (snobbery has to become a separate subject for a separate article).

After temporarily leaving Moroder, Bellotte returned in 1974, this time working as his equal.

Love To Love You Baby

Donna Summer - Love To Love You Baby (45cat.com)

Donna Summer – Love To Love You Baby

In 1974 they went to work with a singer, who ended up in Germany due to a role in the musical Hair: Donna Summer. They recorded a fairly unsuccessful album with her, except for The Netherlands, where the song The Hostage became a modest hit. In 1975 work commenced on a song called Love To Love You. Donna Summer agreed to doing a demo of the song, as she wasn’t sure if the song suited her. However, it fit her perfectly. It fit so good that her producers persuaded her to release it under her own name. The song was renamed Love To Love You Baby. Because their regular session-drummer was unavailable, another drummer was used for the recording of the song. However, this drummer could not keep time very well. To correct this, a search was started for a drum machine, that was regularly used by a lot of (mainly Italian) combo’s. It could play 3 or 4 different rhythms. The sound wasn’t that much, but it definitely could keep a beat in time.

The song turned out to be a hit in Europe, despite (or is it thanks to?) a ban on the song for its highly erotic content of Summer’s moaning and groaning (according to Time magazine no less than 22 orgasms are simulated in the song).

Casablanca

Casablanca Records Logo (medium.com)

Casablanca Records Logo

Casablanca owner Neil Bogart played the song at a party at his house and people didn’t stop dancing, so he kept on playing it. He immediately called over to Europe requesting an extended version of the song. He wanted a 16 minute long version of Love To Love You Baby, at the time the maximum amount of time that could be pressed onto vinyl. Thanks to the drum machine and quick editing the remix could be delivered at the Casablanca offices within a week. It became a sensation in the USA. This had some consequences:

  • Casablanca Records was no longer in jeopardy of bankruptcy after releasing it;
  • Casablanca Records would release all Donna Summer albums and singles in the USA;
  • Moroder, Bellotte and Summer moved to the USA and would operate from the West-coast from then on.
Minimoog (audiochocolate.com.au)

Minimoog

I Feel Love

I Feel Love was recorded for the 1976 album I Remember Yesterday. The one person that needs mentioning is a studio engineer, named Robbie Wedel. He was the ultimate technician and discovered a way to program several synthesizers, making them contribute to one song simultaneously in a synchronized way. Next to the, already mentioned, Moog, the Minimoog was also used for the recordings. The technique was so unexpected and new that Robert Moog (the developer of the synthesizers) was more than happy to be brought up to speed by Wedel. After Moroder made clear how the bass had to be and the global structure of the song was decided upon, the sounds were programmed and synchronized. The sound that was produced seemed alien.

The music is by Moroder, the lyrics are by Bellotte and Summer. The actual recording of the song took about two to three hours. Summer’s singing fit the song perfectly. All three persons involved in the making of the song were, initially, not too impressed with the end-result, they thought it was ‘okay’. However, Casablanca boss Neil Bogart immediately recognized the song’s potential and wanted to release it as a single.

Success

Donna Summer - I Feel Love (single) (anycontent.net)

Donna Summer – I Feel Love (single)

I Feel Love became hugely successful. Artistically as well as commercially. The statement at the beginning from this article is from Brian Eno, who came running into the Hansa studio’s with the song, where he was recording Bowie’s so-called Berlin trilogy. Eno recognized the song’s importance early on. That goes for its originality as well as its potential: the clinical electronic bass and drums, combined with Donna Summer´s sensual singing. Away with the heavily orchestrated disco of the time. I read somewhere that the song is a merger between “hardware and heart” and I think that´s a fitting description.

Influence

The influence of Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express is clearly audible within the song. The German pioneers have been invaluable to the (development of) (electronic) music. Just as Kraftwerk’s entire body of work, the song I Feel Love is an important link in the route to house and techno.

I Feel Love was released at a time that remixes, which were already heavily used in the clubs, were getting released to the general public as well. I Feel Love was a perfect song for a remix. Patrick Cowley´s 1978 remix has become equally famous as the original. His version lasted for 15 minutes.

The song is part of a large number of best-of lists:

  • Number 12 in Mixmag’s 100 Greatest Dance Singles Of All Time;
  • Number 76 in VH1’s 100 Greatest Dance Songs;
  • Number 1 in Slant Magazine’s 100 Greatest Dance Songs;
  • One of the 50 key-moments in the history of dance music according to The Guardian.
Donna Summer - I Feel Love (video) (videoobzor.org)

Donna Summer – I Feel Love (video)

Lyrics

Ooh it’s so good, it’s so good
It’s so good, it’s so good
It’s so good

Ooh I’m in love, I’m in love,
I’m in love, I’m in love
I’m in love

Ooh I feel love, I feel love
I feel love, I feel love
I feel love

I feel love
I feel love

Ooh fallin’ free, fallin’ free
Fallin’ free, fallin’ free
Fallin’ free

Ooh you and me, you and me
You and me, you and me
You and me

Ooh I feel love, I feel love
I feel love, I feel love
I feel love

I feel love
I feel love
I feel love
I feel love

© Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte, Donna Summer, 1977

In closing

Donna Summer - State Of Independence (45cat.com)

Donna Summer – State Of Independence (single)

It’s funny to take note of just how many disco classics are accredited to Donna Summer. Songs that had a lasting impact on the development of disco and dance-music of the time, and on the house and techno of the future. Next to Love To Love You Baby and I Feel Love, the songs Last Dance, MacArthur Park, Hot Stuff, Bad Girls and On The Radio, coming from her golden disco era, are all classics; at least within its genre and in many cases even broader than that.

In 1982 she made the underestimated album Donna Summer with Quincy Jones, containing the two singles Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger) and State Of Independence, the latter being one of my all-time favorite songs.

But this article is about I Feel Love, the one song that seemed to predict a completely different world. The sound of the future in 1977. Combined with Bowie’s Sound And Vision that was the most important lesson to be learned from 1977: the future wasn’t that far away anymore, the future was here and now!

 

Compliments/remarks? I´d love to hear them!