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Jun 08

DONNA SUMMER – “I Feel Love”

FT + Popular169 comments • 8,787 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. 121
    AndyPandy on 20 Apr 2009 #

    Bit late in the day but I’ve just seen the BBC’s ridiculous “Top Ten dance tracks” linked to on this thread.
    Just the kind of pigs ear that you’d imagine the BBC would make of such a task. They might “get” rock but you just know when it comes to “dance” they might as well forget it…

    Alison Limerick!? as someone said “WTF?!” – is it a coincidence that this figured high in the appalling ‘Mixmag”s top dance tracks from the mid-90s which they had temerity to bar readers from voting on. As I think I might have said before I can only think that a couple of their editorial staff came up on their first pills whilst this mediocre rubbish was being played one night as there’s no other reason for remembering it years later.

    And I agree with the bewilderment about the Northern Soul track (owing to some friends who were Scooter Boys/Mods I like to think I have a pretty broad knowledge of NS and I’ve never even knowingly heard this track…did they pick it because in their ill-informed way they thought NS was ALL about obscurity so they went and picked a track that was pretty obscure even on the NS scene?

    And why no hardcore/rave…?

    well at least we should have been thankul for small mercies- I’d half thought that knowing the kind of people who come up with these things it’d be full of ‘student techno’ eg Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Underworld, post-Firestarter Prodigy etc…

  2. 122
    thefatgit on 9 Oct 2009 #

    This is a stonewall 10 for me. A tune that can make you physically drop what you’re doing and listen and feel the groove and dance. Or at least jiggle about a bit and nod your head. In ’77 when this was #1 it was the start of the school hols. Quite a weird summer after the mad heatwave of ’76, with the Silver Jubilee fresh in everyone’s mind. The Sex Pistols and The Clash were not quite on my radar, although I was aware of them, but Donna Summer…WOW! This was like nothing I had heard before, a mesmerising single. Ahead of it’s time. Not really understanding why until much later. To me this felt like the start of something much more engaging than disco. A heart-pumping groove like rock but supersonically faster. Incredible. After that…nothing. No mad grooves, no thumping beats no spacey synths. Nobody picked up the baton and ran with it until 1987! Why?

  3. 123
    Spectre5299 on 2 Apr 2010 #

    Every commenter before me has given great insight into why this particular record is so groundbreaking and amazing, but I will still chime in for it. I Feel Love is my favorite pop single of all time. It’s all about the paradoxes of the song and production to me. The pulsating bassline and mechanized beats pointing towards the future of pop music, while it’s production clearly grounds it to the 70’s. The coldness of the music contrasting with Summer’s warm, sexy cooing of the lyrics. And I would hesitate to call them “lyrics”. More like fragments of an untapped wonder of senses. I Feel Love has always evoked images of a emotionless android awakening to sexual ecstasy, or the euphoric feeling of love. A thing of processed thoughts now for the first time feeling something new. Something that cannot be sent through a processor, but only felt through the body. The intertwining of sex and dance. A set in stone 10.

  4. 124
    abaffledrepublic on 5 Jun 2010 #

    More on the extended Cowley remix. It was around in 1977, but as an unofficial bootleg rather than an official release, so I imagine that disco DJs, if not radio stations, would have given it plenty of airplay. It wasn’t given a ‘proper’ release until five years later, by which time Summer’s career had moved in a different direction and the commercial disco boom had long since gone bust.

    Can anyone shed any light on why this wasn’t a 10?

  5. 125
    Matt M on 31 Dec 2010 #

    OK – Really nothing new to add except to stress the contrast between Moroder’s robotic rhythmic grid and Summer’s breathy vocals that are both ethereal and sensual at once. It’s not really a disco track. It’s a Krautrock-Soul hybrid that was easily mistaken for a disco track.

    I think it’s the greatest pop track ever bit each to their own.

  6. 126
    Paulito on 3 Dec 2011 #

    Rather disappointing to see that only 75% of voters on Popular ’77 have given this a 6 or over. Clearly, not everyone here is as discerning as I thought…

  7. 127
    punctum on 17 May 2012 #

    worst news possible:

    http://www.tmz.com/2012/05/17/donna-summer-dead-last-dance/

  8. 128
    will on 17 May 2012 #

    Awful news. The deaths of famous people don’t usually affect me but this is really saddening. I have so many personal memories associated with her music, all of them positive, and 63 just feels far too young.

  9. 129
    Lazarus on 17 May 2012 #

    I had no idea she was ill to be honest. And for that reason this news is somehow even more shocking than Whitney. Just very, very sad.

  10. 130
    thefatgit on 17 May 2012 #

    Very sad to lose such a beautiful voice. I’m shocked because IFL is high on my list of all-time faves.

  11. 131
    Alan on 17 May 2012 #

    Currently topping the ft reader scores chart with an AVERAGE of 9.4, with Beach boys 2nd at 9.05

    That’s a clear lead

  12. 132
    thefatgit on 17 May 2012 #

    This seems appropriate…

    http://youtu.be/lEV7TrhkZUk

  13. 133
    AndyPandy on 17 May 2012 #

    As someone else said the deaths of famous people don’t usually affect them but this one did because her music was there at important times in their life.I agree completely. I didn’t even know she was ill so this is totally out of the blue. I haven’t felt so shocked since Michael Jackson passed away.

  14. 134
    Rory on 17 May 2012 #

    The first thing I thought of on hearing the news was that 9.4 reader score. That’s some testament.

    I’m reading another long obituary thread at MetaFilter, where this comment in particular appealed. Another linked to Sound on Sound’s Classic Tracks dissection of IFL.

  15. 135
    swanstep on 17 May 2012 #

    Yikes. Damn, she was in great voice (and basically looking great too) on Jools Holland’s show only a couple of years ago, e.g., here. Definitely made one think that it was insane that nobody from the electronic dance world had collaborated with her recently (I mean – really – what *has* William Orbit been doing the last ten years when he could have been working with DS?). The First Lady of electronic dance music absolutely.

  16. 136
    swanstep on 21 May 2012 #

    Blondie doing I Feel Love (Live) in 1979.

  17. 137
    Cumbrian on 13 Jul 2012 #

    So it’s Britain’s Favourite #1 on ITV this weekend. Any bets on how high I Feel Love (the current FT #1) will feature?

    ETA: Actually scratch that, having been to the website, I see it’s not even in the top 10 for voting. Indeed they didn’t even have a number from 1977 on the long list to start with. Numerous bunnies on the list, so I won’t bother copying and pasting.

  18. 138
    punctum on 13 Jul 2012 #

    What a boring fucking voting list. Nothing from the fifties, one from the sixties, three from the seventies, one from the eighties, three from the nineties, one from the noughties and one from this decade. You wouldn’t need Derren Brown to predict what they are or indeed which one will win.

  19. 139
    Mark G on 13 Jul 2012 #

    Well, to be scrup-fair, that’s presumably what got voted after the 12 pop experts (who?) chose the 60 to vote from.

    OK, maybe “Baby Jump” would not in all conscience make a ‘memorable’ list because of history having proved otherwise.

    But.

    Boring list, not voting, not watching.

  20. 140
    punctum on 13 Jul 2012 #

    My guess as to the twelve pop “experts”:

    Una Healy of the Saturdays
    Myleene Klass
    Phillip Schofield
    Alan Halsall (Tyrone Out Of Corrie)
    Justin Lee Collins
    Sir Trevor McDonald
    Sarah Davies, ex-bassist with Hepburn
    Trinny Out Of Trinny And Susannah
    Darren Hayes DARREN HAYES OUT OF SAVAGE GARDEN EVERYONE
    Ex-Busted guitarist Ki McPhail
    Darius Danesh
    Angie Bray MP

  21. 141
    Mark G on 13 Jul 2012 #

    I’d have expected better of Sir Trevor.

  22. 142

    i heard he liked seapunk

  23. 143
    Mark G on 13 Jul 2012 #

    Was there a seapunk number one?

    Sealand doesn’t count.

  24. 144
    swanstep on 22 Sep 2012 #

    Blue Man Group doing a rocked out, drummed up version of IFL (in a ridiculously large stadium).

  25. 145
    Brendan on 22 Sep 2012 #

    I can’t believe that by far the 2 most innovative and brilliant number 1 records ever (this and ‘Good Vibrations’) were only given 9 when the mediocre likes of ‘These Boots…’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ get 10 (I’d have given them both a 7 if I was feeling generous).

  26. 146
    Alan not logged in on 22 Sep 2012 #

    Brendan – http://freakytrigger.co.uk/populist/3/ shows yr in tune w Popular readers on Donna, BBoys and Nancy, but way off on your ABBA

  27. 147
    Brendan on 22 Sep 2012 #

    I like SOS, Take a Chance on Me and The Winner Takes It All very much. But, like 1 or 2 others pointed out, Dancing Queen just doesn’t move me as it does so many others.

  28. 148
    swanstep on 10 Jan 2014 #

    2013 was a strong year for Giorgio Moroder generally, but IFL in particular was used in (’70s disco scenes in) two superior 2013 films: Behind the Candelabra and American Hustle.

  29. 149
    swanstep on 16 Apr 2014 #

    The Sound Opinions podcast has Giorgio Moroder for the hour this week. Download available here: http://www.soundopinions.org/show/437

  30. 150
    www.lingotto-parts.com on 4 Jul 2014 #

    What’s up, its understandable paragraph along with this YouTube video; I can抰 think that one can not understand this trouble-free article having with movie sample.

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