I Feel Love by Donna Summer, Casablanca Records 1977.
In the vast solar system of Electronic Dance Music, I Feel Love is probably The Sun. Giorgio Moroder’s wholly synthesized backdrop to Donna Summer’s ethereal, otherworldly vocal, lights up the night sky as brightly as anything has before or since.
By the time of I Feel Love’s release. Giorgio Moroder was already five albums deep into his own personal electronic odyssey, working with lyricist Pete Bellotte and getting into experimental music while living in Berlin before going on to set up his stall in Munich. Donna Summer had found herself in Germany in the early seventies through touring with the musical stage show, Hair. She met Pete Bellotte and the pair put together an idea for what eventually became ‘Love to Love You Baby’. They took it to Giorgio, who recorded the demo and sent it over to Neil Bogart, head of NY disco label Casablanca. The tune was signed, became a club smash, eventually reached number 2 in the Billboard chart and earned the team of Moroder, Bellotte and Summer a deal with the label. In 1976 they put together the album I Remember Yesterday, on which I Feel Love was the lead single.
Released as a 12” single in 1977, I Feel Love stood out aesthetically against the still predominantly electric, but not yet synthetic, black American funk and disco that was getting played by the DJs at the time. Emotionally, the track has a different type of yearning to it too: the sad, humanized robot compared to the more soulful, over aught, battling-against-the-odds themes prevalent in most of the club music of the time.
Moroder apparently jacked in the synths pretty much raw. The production is tinny, and absolutely massive at the same time, seemingly defying sonic sense. It sounds like one synth doing everything – the phasing hi hat, the chords, the kick and snare, the percussion and of course, the boss of the whole outfit, the bass line; it all yolks together beautifully. And then there’s the treatment of Donna’s voice, a cavernous operatic glaze of reverb, all soft focus at first before rising to a rasping fever pitch as the chorus kicks in.
The juxtaposition between the fluidity of the vocal melody (which is accentuated by the lyrical theme of free falling in love), and the cold, rigid stiffness of the underlying instrumental, creates an emotional dislocation. The song feels druggy, rushy, and almost incoherent: seeming to amble off and almost disappear before Donna - crazy, mad, in love - comes lapsing back into view. Out of it all comes a new, modern form of bittersweet melancholy. It’s Fire and Ice.
And that, as much as anything else, is I Feel Love’s lasting legacy: the introduction of a different emotional nuance to the spectrum of the dance floor, thus ensuring its reputation as the night world equivalent of a Jazz standard.
Plus, one last special disco IBS bonus: Patrick Cowley’s monster remix, clocking in at nearly 16 minutes of cosmic clatter, is a great record to play when you’re Djing and need a shit.
Next week J as in Jammy Dodger
By Joe Evans