"I have heard the sound of the future. This is it, look no further. "
June 27, 2017 12:12 PM   Subscribe

 
Right on the heels of "I Feel Love," Giorgio Moroder also produced the album No. 1 in Heaven for the band Sparks, continuing the same synthetic disco style (with Sparks's distinct wry humor and operatic falsetto).
posted by SansPoint at 12:18 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Always a floor filler and as great now as it was back then.

Donna Summer - I feel love (2005 live from Belgium)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:22 PM on June 27, 2017




"At the time, the king of disco in NYC was The Gallery’s Nicky Siano, who remembers Casablanca’s head of promotion Mark Paul Simon turning up to a hot packed party at the club in Summer 1977 with an acetate of the as-yet unreleased single and asking him to play it. “Everyone knew DJs didn’t play anything at a packed club without previewing it first,” says Nicky, who agreed to listen to it on his headphones. “I took a deep breath and put the heavy disc on my third turntable. I put my ear up to the headphone expecting the usual very good Donna Summer/Giorgio production. But it was not. I heard a syncopated synth line that was fresher than anything I had heard in years. It wasn’t a new record, it was a new style of production. I trusted my instincts and mixed into it. Rarely a crowd dances to a record so enthusiastically on the first listen. The room exploded and I experienced a sound that would change club songs forever."


OH MY GOD CAN YOU FUCKING IMAGINE BEING THERE AT THAT MOMENT? I CAN TRY AND IT IS MAKING ME SCREAM!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:34 PM on June 27, 2017 [25 favorites]


I don't know how I missed Donna Summer's passing in 2012. :(
posted by JanetLand at 12:46 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


I have always been convinced that America, once so exceptional, so great, began its slide downhill with the Death of Disco...scorned when it was popular by malcontents and misfits, perhaps they think better of their rash hatred now that other, cheaper, alt music has pushed aside what was at one time America's pride and glory.
posted by Postroad at 12:50 PM on June 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


After the breathy make-out music of "Love to Love You Baby" that made my eyes roll more than any other physical reaction, "I Feel Love" was, to me, a moog enthusiast, a very fresh sound, a novel experiment in mainstreaming electronic music. But it gave no preparation for the Donna Summer who would emerge with a totally different formula, starting with a slow soulful vocal intro that ran over a minute (longer than most), then shifting into "disco gear" with full orchestra for at least five minutes. After "Last Dance" and "On the Radio", I realized "damn, that gal can really sing!" then looked at the label credits and realized she could write the songs too. But when she stood her ground in a duet with Barbra Streisand, she established herself at the top of my favorite singers list, only to be taken down a notch by Anita Baker in the mid-80s.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:51 PM on June 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


Sound On Sound classic tracks article

I heard a syncopated synth line that was fresher than anything I had heard in years.
Did he mean ostinato? The synth bass line is not really syncopated; it's hammering the crap out of the downbeats.

posted by thelonius at 1:11 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


I thought that Giorgio Moroder couldn't possibly look any more seventies with his general Guido Sarducci look, but then there's the picture where he's wearing a razor-blade necklace.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:13 PM on June 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


So then Robby says, ‘OK, do you want to synch the next track?’ We didn’t even know what that meant. So he says, ‘I’ve laid down a synch tone from this Moog so that anything we record on the next track is going to lock it into that’. When we put in the next track it was absolutely spot-on. It was a revelation for us. The most astounding thing about Robby Wedel, who is the unsung hero of all of this, is that Robert Moog himself didn’t even know about this – he had no idea that this synching was even possible.”

Can anyone explain this bit?
posted by stinkfoot at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


but not before being banned by Radio 1 for being too sexy.
"too sexy for Radio 1" is something that should be printed on the record sleeve, because it's too good for a sticker.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:19 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Can anyone explain this bit?

Just a bit:

When different musicians play "real" instruments live, they have to keep themselves in sync with each other (usually with the help of a drummer, or a conductor.) When they play different instruments at different times -- perhaps as part of a multitrack recording session, where the drummer might record their part in the morning and the guitarist their track in the evening -- they might rely on an audible "click track", which is simply a click noise made on the recording that keeps the beat, so the musicians can listen to it as they play, to keep themselves synced with the intended tempo of the song (and thus with each other.) After the recording is finished, the click track is muted so it doesn't end up on the final recording master.

Early electronic instruments (synthesizers and whatnot) had the means to play back sequenced patterns, but not to keep themselves in sync with other electronic instruments (or in the case of multitrack recording, in sync with the intended tempo of all tracks.) Presumably this particular engineer had jerry-rigged a "click track" of sorts (here called the "synch tone") that allowed the synthesizer they were using to keep itself in sync with the intended tempo, and so each new pattern they programmed it to play would be played in perfect sync with the other pattern tracks they'd already recorded. Eventually, the MIDI standard was developed for this purpose.

Hope that helps.
posted by davejay at 1:31 PM on June 27, 2017 [26 favorites]


Yeah, analog synthesizers often have a simple "gate" or "trigger" input that plays a note when it receives a pulse. Which particular note gets played is controlled with either the keyboard or a "control voltage" (CV) input, where a range of notes is mapped to a range of input voltages. With a combination of those two you can automatically play a synthesizer using tape recording equipment (or control one synth "live" using another). This was basically the only way to do it until MIDI came along in the mid-80s.

It seems the engineer's innovation here was laying down a track of eighth-note (or whatever) pulses and syncing everything against that. Basically the analog equivalent of a MIDI Sync signal.

The old analog way of doing things seems to be coming back a bit -- I can do this with my modern Arturia Microbrute, too.
posted by neckro23 at 2:28 PM on June 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure how much it is syncopated, but the synth bass line is actually two synth bass lines that are mixed separately to the L and R channels. Here's the original 1977 extended mix. Listen to it on headphones. The L channel carries the more familiar version on-beat bassline version, the R channel carries a more bubbly version with a different rhythm and some delay maybe.

There's a couple of points where you can here it very clearly. Check out about 5.15 on where the other tracks are faded out. Switch between your L and R headphones.

This is genius; I still have no idea what the R channel is doing, and how it interacts with the L channel. There is however a totally funky call and answer between them. If you were in a club with a good sound system in 1977, and heard this for the first time, I can imagine how it would blow your mind.

And then come the drops for the off-beat snare, and then the proto-hi-hat, from about 5.35 on, which still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. (The proto-hi-hat is also split between two channels.)
posted by carter at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2017 [16 favorites]


Currently listening to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories with Giorgia's track Giorgia by Moroder. My introduction to Giorgia. Good stuff.
posted by jgaiser at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


I heard an extended interview with Moroder. He said Summer was religious, and sort of shy, so he had to kick everyone out of the studio to get her performance right. Obviously she wasn't being exploited or doing porn, but she was uncomfortable being a disco "sex" star and vocalizing like that in front of other people
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


"‘I Feel Love’ was a rejection of the intellectualisation of the synthesiser in favour of pure pleasure."
THIS.
posted by prismatic7 at 3:34 PM on June 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


This is one of the very few records where I can remember exactly when I first heard it. It was in my bedroom, I was 13, I had just been fixing up a vintage wireless (Kolster-Brandes ER-30, the memory is that exact) and was tuning around to test it out. I came across this thumping away - those old radios have decent speakers and bass - and was transfixed.

It was the first song ever to give me an erection, and it was one of those boners that happens so quickly that you're not even aware of being aroused before the autonomic systems kick in. If you've been a 13 year old boy, you know the score.

Wow, I thought. Music can do that? And it can sound like this?

Later, I taped it off the radio and worked out the bass sequence on the family upright; a friend at school had a synth, I had a VL Tone (dah dah dah!) Casio and another had one of those disco synth drums that goes pew-pew-pew when you trigger it (as in the opening of No 1 In Heaven): we got into the school AV lab, which had a four-track Revox, and recreated the song in a... well, it was amazing to us. You can phase the hi-hat pseudorandom tsssss on a VL Tone by multitracking it with very slight delays - did you know that?

I am with Eno on this one, it was a song that changed everything and anyone who was paying attention. I can't believe that there was anyone involved in making it who thought it was filler on an LP packed with superior songs.

I can't remember who said that electronic dance music was the sound of humans and machines making love, but this darn track is the proof specimen.
posted by Devonian at 4:10 PM on June 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


I remember when this song first came out people liked it, and a lot of people said that it reminded them of Kraftwerk. We didn't think it was exactly the future of music back then, Eno said that but he said that about a lot of things, he just happened to be right in this case.

Debby Harry rehearsed a cover of this song with Robert Fripp around 1978/79, but her record company refused to sign off, with some grumpy muttering from this Fripp in the press at the time.

Also, Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time is really excellent if you might like 20th Century English Literature. It's funny, subtle, bittersweet, and delightful.
posted by ovvl at 4:24 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


There's something really simple going on with the bassline that is utterly magical, which is the main thing -- other than Donna Summer, obviously -- that elevates It from Cheesiest Arpeggio Ever to mindbending awesomeness that changed music forever: The bassline is hard-panned into left and right channels, with the right channel a double of the left channel, an eighth note later. A simple stereo delay effect. I makes the whole thing all spinny, like you're dancing already. But go listen to just the right side and wonder what today's music would be like if the DJ had only previewed that.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:40 PM on June 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Currently listening to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories with Giorgia's track Giorgia by Moroder. My introduction to Giorgia. Good stuff.

ಠ_ಠ
posted by Sys Rq at 4:47 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's okay for people to have not heard of things, and that's a really nice track.
posted by Artw at 4:50 PM on June 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


Can anyone explain this bit?

Another explanation: Moog's synth-beast could send out a sync pulse to other synth-beasts for live performance, if you could afford to get more than one together in the same room. Engineer Robby Wedel made a brilliant educated guess that the sync pulse could be recorded onto a separate track on multi-track tape, so that the engineers could go back and then layer & tinker with different synth takes over top of each other at their leisure. So the one synth becomes many. Genius.

Giorgio Moroder also produced the album No. 1 in Heaven for the band Sparks, continuing the same synthetic disco style...


I think on this album Moroder used tape-loops of his studio recordings of disco drumming. It was just a year or so before the first expensive Linn Drums became available, I think he might have liked that instead if it was an option.
posted by ovvl at 4:51 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


ovvl I think on this album Moroder used tape-loops of his studio recordings of disco drumming.

Yup. Loops of live drums by Keith Forsey
posted by SansPoint at 4:58 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Eno said that but he said that about a lot of things, he just happened to be right in this case.

The secret of a career in punditry. No joke.
posted by Devonian at 5:59 PM on June 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


from Robert Fink's Repeating Ourselves:

I Remember Yesterday was Moroder and Summer’s first disco concept album, and, as
the title might suggest, it was constructed as a chronological yet “discofied”
survey of popular music styles from the 1940s on. Successive tracks
fuse disco with swing (’40s), doo-wop (’50s), and Motown (’60s); then
there are several straight disco numbers for the 1970s. “I Feel Love” is
the final track, its cold computerized repetition assigned to the next
decade, the uncharted 1980s. It is a self-conscious attempt to forecast
Zukunftsdisko—the Dance Music of the Future.

Which it was. Disco + Minimalism = Techno. (Two separate collections
tracing the prehistory of electronica nominate “I Feel Love” as the
Urpflanze from which techno, rave, jungle, and ambient all sprang.)
The development of electronic dance music into the dominant art music
of the twenty-first century is hardly a foregone conclusion—but the
eventual dominance of 1970s-style “repetitive music” seems all but certain.
We are all destined—privileged—to boogie on, and on, and on . . .


And to add to carter's comments on the track's R + L bass lines:

Actually, “I Feel Love” is technically closer to Steve Reich’s early phase pieces: Moroder achieved a freaky “double-time” effect by panning the bass line hard right and left and then
using tape delay to put it a half-beat out of phase with itself. The throbbing stereo
effect was distinctively futuristic—but, as DJs soon found out, almost impossible
to dance to.

posted by tenderly at 6:39 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


I came here thinking that somehow, some way, Nile Rogers had to be involved with this, but I was completely wrong. Good post.
posted by 4ster at 7:15 PM on June 27, 2017


It's okay for people to have not heard of things, and that's a really nice track.

If that's a response to my ಠ_ಠ, I'll blame your misunderstanding on this crappy font that switches to ambiguous-looking one-storey a's in italics.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 PM on June 27, 2017


The Fink piece also refers to a Donna Summer interview with Rolling Stone, in which she refers to Giorgo's Moog tracks as 'popcorn music.' Maybe she meant the Hot Butter track?
posted by carter at 7:30 PM on June 27, 2017


I have always been convinced that America, once so exceptional, so great, began its slide downhill with the Death of Disco

I disagree. The release of Blazing Saddles in 1974 was the peak of American Civilization. It's been downhill since there.
posted by mikelieman at 12:10 AM on June 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


Moroder achieved a freaky “double-time” effect by panning the bass line hard right and left and then
using tape delay to put it a half-beat out of phase with itself.


Yeah, I was listening to the original mix track closely last night on headphones, trying to get inside that bass stereo interplay. I couldn't quite convince myself that it was just a short delay across the channels, but try as I might I couldn't say what it was. I think the phasing effects disguise the simplicity of it.

As for dancing to it, I normally lapsed into some bizarre robot twitch. Definitely only to be indulged in if you're too far gone to care if anyone else is looking...
posted by Devonian at 5:44 AM on June 28, 2017


Currently listening to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories with Giorgio's track Giorgio by Moroder. My introduction to Giorgio. Good stuff.

Tangentially: If you like electronic music tracks about electronic music history, which both tell their stories and demonstrate the sounds thereof, there's a whole album along those lines here.
posted by acb at 5:58 AM on June 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


That's a great album, ACB. And bonus John Foxx too - ambassador, you spoil us!

The track about EMS in Putney reminds me - I've just read, and can highly recommend, Thomas Dolby's the Speed Of Sound, wherein he mentions how he got his first synthesiser by dumpster-diving a broken Transcendent 2000 from the back of the EMS labs.
posted by Devonian at 6:45 AM on June 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


« Older Learn More About Where You Live   |   Coastal Canadian corvid continues campaign of... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments