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Jun 08

DONNA SUMMER – “I Feel Love”

FT + Popular169 comments • 8,394 views

#409, 23rd July 1977

One of the remarkable things about “I Feel Love” is that it still sounds futuristic now. Not because the effects and techniques it uses remain way ahead of what pop’s capable of, but because it helped fix the idea of what “the future” would sound like: its specific mix of voice and electronics evoking gleaming hedonism, endless clockwork pleasure. “I Feel Love”, like robots and spaceships on sci-fi magazine covers, represents a fixed future we can’t ever quite get past.

But at the same time “I Feel Love” is a thing very much of 1977 – its sounds and beats somehow antique, with the way its internal rhythms often seem to shift out of phase giving the track its mechanical feel. It’s the pop equivalent of Voyager (which launched within weeks of “I Feel Love”‘s release) – the furthest out we’ve ever gone, but powered by primitive late-70s kit.

Back on Earth “I Feel Love” has been refitted and retooled countless times – if not a remix then another track borrowing its pulsing bassline chassis. That’s testament to its success as a pop song as well as a machine age wonder: for all that Moroder’s innovative arrangement suits the tune’s spacey bliss and transforms Summer’s coo into something entranced, “I Feel Love” is still catchy enough to have worked as a much more trad disco or glam-pop record.

The arrangement is what shifts it from good to legendary, though, from the first interlock of bassline and synthesised pulsebeat. It’s Ptolemaic pop, the play of cycles and epicycles: Moroder setting up minutely intersecting circling rhythms and watching as they interact in a music of the spheres that hasn’t stopped turning yet.

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Comments

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  1. 91
    DJ Punctum on 4 Jul 2008 #

    Oh yes, full composer credits and all that, but I think the track comes out of Madonna long before it comes out of “I Feel Love” if you see what I mean.

  2. 92
    SteveM on 4 Jul 2008 #

    a little more reminiscent of ‘I Feel Love’ and just after ‘Ray Of Light’ was the synth bassline on Underworld’s ‘King Of Snake’

  3. 93
    xyzzzz__ on 5 Jul 2008 #

    “Jay-Z was in the audience for Federer’s match yesterday, did the BBC take note?”

    Indeed he was!

  4. 94
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Yeah but yeah but yeah but… the way I remember it, “I Feel Love” was originally conceived as the final song on Donna’s loosely conceptual I Remember Yesterday album. Since other tracks pastiched different periods – the title track covering big band swing, “Love’s Unkind” covering 1960s Spector girl groups etc – it was deemed necessary to conclude the album with a song that sounded as if it had been made in THA FOOOOTURE. And so, in a sense, “I Feel Love” was a novelty song that ended up accidentally inventing THA FOOOOTURE.

    (Not that Moroder was slow to run with his new ideas, of course; his own “From Here To Eternity” and “The Chase” are of course quite wonderful natural follow-ons from “I Feel Love”.)

    Meanwhile, somewhere in San Francisco, an unknown musician called Patrick Cowley was most definitely listening. His 1982 remix of “I Feel Love” actually comes quite close to topping the original, and I had a lot of fun reviving it on my dancefloors over the 1988 Summer Of Acid, mixing the long instrumental breaks with Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech (on the B-side of the MLK Project’s “I Have A Dream” as the acapella mix!), while turning the smoke and the strobes up to max…

  5. 95
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Yeah but yeah but post #3…

  6. 96
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Well, ahum, I thought it was worth underlining the arguable “novelty song” aspect. The placing at the end of the album is in one sense Radical Future Shock – but in another sense, it’s also kinda showbiz hokey: “Well kids, I hope you’ve enjoyed our little look back at the past – but now, let us transport you into THA FOOOTURE!”

  7. 97
    Erithian on 8 Jul 2008 #

    And of course another song that signified THA FOOOOTURE back in 1961, “Johnny Remember Me”, was a perfect mash-up partner for “I Feel Love” in one of Bronski Beat’s many fine outings. I dare say you might have played that once or twice?

  8. 98
    Erithian on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Whoops, nothing meant by the word “outings”!!

  9. 99
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    I still think it works in a SMiLE/”Good Vibrations” sense.

    “Love To Love You Baby + I Feel Love + Johnny Remember Me,” a top three hit for Bronski Beat and Marc Almond in 1985 recorded as a direct response to alleged comments made by D Summer apropos urgent and key 1985 issue.

  10. 100
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    And who could forget Messiah’s 1992 “rave” version, featuring that Precious Wilson out of Eruption?

    Or indeed the 1995 Rollo & Sister Bliss remix, which helped the track back into the Top 10? (I remember them making quite a decent job of it, but then my 1995 dancefloor memories are, cough, not always to be trusted.)

  11. 101
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Who could forget indeed?

  12. 102
    intothefireuk on 11 Jul 2008 #

    The metallic clank of analogue sequencers, mechanised 4/4 drum beats, phased, synchopated hi-hats, swirling synths and effects – familiar enough now but in 1977 ? It wasn’t entirely without precedence though – Tangerine Dream, Can, Kraftwerk et al had been playing with sequencers & synths for years; as had the majority of prog rock bands. The difference here was employing it as a danceable solution (to teenage revolution ? – sorry). Well that and of course Donna’s sultry soulful vocals turning the automated pulse human. Previously heard being amalgamated into a warm discofied, funked up backdrop but now brought into sharp focus by the machines. Beauty & the Beast. It’s not really disco or funk it’s cold, calculating & warm & soothing and I know it’s a significant record but I just can’t love it as much as I’d like to. No, I actually prefer her/Moroders re-invention of Manilow’s ‘Could It Be Magic’ (album version not the castrated single version) from the previous year (which Take Fat would eventually bastardise) which I find a far more sensuous and enveloping record but that did nothing in the chart so what the hell do I know.

    Re: Chris Spedding – still touring with Roxy Music & Bryan Ferry (it all fits !) – he also featured on Ferry’s 1976 version of ‘Let’s Stick Together’.

  13. 103
    mike on 17 Jul 2008 #

    According to the listeners of BBC Radio 2, this is the second greatest dance record of all time (just ahead of “Sex Machine” and, OMGWTF, “Strings Of Life”).

  14. 104
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    To be fair, Donna’s “Could It Be Magic?” did manage to reach #40 in June 1976, but even Barry’s original didn’t chart in Britain until early 1979 (and Barry won’t be bothering us – at least not directly – on Popular either; much loved in the UK but saleswise predominantly an albums artist).

    As for Radio 2 listeners – isn’t democracy a tad overrated (as great a record as the winner is, is it really a “dance” record?)? I don’t approve of the idea of a preordained shortlist but presumably that was a safeguard to ensure that something like “The Birdie Song” or “Agadoo” didn’t come top.

  15. 105
    Mark G on 17 Jul 2008 #

    10. Key To My Happiness
    – The Charades (1966)

    uh, what?

  16. 106
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Northern Soul guv.

  17. 107
    rosie on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Marcello @ 104: It all depends what you mean by “dance”. The notion of “dance” as a distinct genre of popular music comes after my pop time. For many of us wrinklies (who are alleged to form a large part of the Radio 2 audience but me being a cussed so-and-so I confine myself to radios 3 and 4 these days), the primary purpose of *all* popular music was dancing. We may raise eyebrows now that Rock Around The Clock was labelled a foxtrot, but then in 1955 a foxtrot is what would have been done to it in most dance halls where it was played.

    Of course, it depends on what kind of dance you plan to do, how good a track is for dancing to. The top track in that list is a fabulous track for the leroc[*] dancing that was my chosen style before arthritic knees made it difficult. Tracks like I’m Not In Love or If You Leave Me Now are hopeless for leroc but great for smooching and that is also dancing. You can do a terrificly sexy salsa to Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me. My absolute favourite track for lerocing to is was always Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.

    You can tell what a numpty I was when went into Virgin in Bristol in the early 90s looking for music to practice leroc to, and naively went to the section labelled ‘Dance’!

    [*] Leroc is French jiving, that is 50s jiving modified for the less frenetic pop music of the sixties when partner dancing remained dominant while the anglo-saxon world moved away from it. Less flamboyant footwork, more sensuous arm and body movement. I for one regret the passing of partner dancing. It’s almost as if the world became afraid of intimacy.

  18. 108
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    None of this goes any way towards answering my query as to why that record in particular should be considered specifically as a “dance” record.

  19. 109
    rosie on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Duh! Because, as I said very clearly, it’s a cracking track to dance to. Which part of that don’t you understand, Marcello?

  20. 110
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    So are other records. But their embyronic generation is not in dance-intentional terms. It is not a dance record in the sense of “One More Time” or “Must Be Madison.”

  21. 111
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    More pressing: “Where Love Lives” by Alison Limerick wtf?

  22. 112
    Tom on 17 Jul 2008 #

    #108-110: No more discussion of that particular record please!

  23. 113
    mike on 17 Jul 2008 #

    No issues at all with the deserved inclusion of “Where Love Lives” – an absolute classic, and one of those tracks that would always, always drag me onto the floor.

  24. 114
    rosie on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Without discussing any particular record, I continue to maintain that all pop music is, ipso fact, inteded at least in part for dancing to. Regardless either of whether it specifically alludes to a particular dance or of whether it falls into the genre known as “Dance” (much of which, it seems to me, is difficult to dance meaningfully to as it is devoid of any kind of emotion.)

  25. 115
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Have you ever tried to dance to any “Dance” music Peggy?

  26. 116
    Tom on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Yes you’re on dangerous ground here Rosie – everyone who’s been to Poptimism will have seen Marcello glued to the dancefloor all night, glowstick aloft, teeth grinding, raving his bollocks off while the likes of Kat and Lex are forced into humiliating retreats.

  27. 117
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    I’ve no idea what the man’s on about; I’ve not been to Poptimism since February and categorically deny any glowstick (ab)use.

  28. 118
    Mark G on 17 Jul 2008 #

    #106 yeah, but this got number 10 on a radio2 poll? How did that happen? I mean, I know a bit of NS but I don’t know this one. Should listen more, I guess…..

  29. 119
    DJ Punctum on 17 Jul 2008 #

    Maybe the panel of experts all brought different compilation CDs and they just picked the tenth track on each. It’s a good one, though, if very “token NS entry” in a non-poll like this.

  30. 120
    SteveM on 17 Jul 2008 #

    what is meant by ‘dance meaningfully’?! i just dance meanly

    emotional connections to “Dance” Music come all too easily for some of us

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