Producer Giorgio Moroder feels love – and releases first album for 30 years

Architect of Donna Summer’s 1977 hit I Feel Love crafts one of the most remarkable comebacks in pop history

That legendary disco producer Giorgio Moroder has announced his first album for 30 years, complete with guest appearances from Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears, doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The architect of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love has been busy of late, remixing the work of artists including Coldplay and Lady Gaga, and embarking on a new career as a club DJ despite his advanced years: in an allusion to his age, Moroder’s forthcoming album is called 74 Is The New 24.

Its release in January 2015 crowns one of the more remarkable comebacks in pop history. Until last year, Moroder was assumed to have long retired from music. He had sold millions of records and won three Oscars for his film soundtracks, but largely wound down his career in the late 1980s, devoting his time to playing golf and dabbling in art and design: in 1991, he collaborated with a group of ex-Lamborghini employees to create the Cizeta-Moroder V16T, a sports car that retailed for $300,000 (£192,000).

That was before Daft Punk asked him to collaborate on their 2013 album Random Access Memories. To Moroder’s initial bafflement, the French electronic duo didn’t want him to produce or play synthesiser, the instrument he had used to transform disco in the mid-70s, but to record a monologue detailing his life story for a track called Giorgio By Moroder. Random Access Memories went to No 1 in 20 countries and sold 4m copies. If Giorgio By Moroder didn’t exactly reinvigorate interest in his career – despite his retirement, his work with Donna Summer had never stopped being revered by dance music producers – it did serve notice that he was, as he put it, “back in business”: collaborations with dance producers Avicii and David Guetta swiftly followed.

The release of 74 Is The New 24 is an unlikely coda to an unlikely career. Born in South Tyrol in 1940, Moroder certainly did not much resemble the kind of artist who was going to change the face of pop music during his early years as a performer. Based in Berlin, he worked exclusively in the field of throwaway bubblegum pop. His German hits included Looky Looky, Moody Trudy, Reesy Beesy, Bla-Bla Diddly and Doo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo. Another, 1971’s Son Of My Father, went to No 1 in the UK when rerecorded in English by Chicory Tip; it heavily featured a synthesiser, an instrument with which Moroder was becoming increasingly fascinated. He attempted to make an experimental synthesiser album in the vein of Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk called Einzelgänger, but it was by marrying his pop sensibility with cutting-edge technology and the vocals of Munich-based American singer Donna Summer that he found international success. Disco artists had used synthesisers before, usually as an adornment, but Summer’s 1977 single I Feel Love used almost nothing else; at the time, it sounded startlingly powerful and futuristic. The idea that million-selling pop singles rather than the kind of left-field “serious” albums that Moroder had tried to imitate on Einzelgänger could be entirely electronic was both startling and hugely pervasive: it’s a moot point, but I Feel Love may well be the most influential piece of electronic music ever made. It sold a million copies in Britain alone, and its relentless, chattering bassline remains one of the most recognisable and imitated sounds in pop.

Summer and Moroder’s careers soared. I Feel Love’s influence stretched so far that he was able to survive the late 70s disco backlash entirely unscathed, not least because Alan Parker had asked him to come up with something in the vein of his biggest hit for a scene in his 1978 film Midnight Express. Moroder’s score subsequently won an Oscar, and he began a second career as a soundtrack composer, which spawned a series of further hits with David Bowie, Blondie, the Human League’s Phil Oakey. By the mid-80s, Moroder’s work was pop of a significantly less experimental hue than I Feel Love, or his extraordinary 1979 collaboration with Sparks, No. 1 In Heaven, but it was no less commercially successful: he co-wrote Flashdance (What A Feeling) for Irene Cara and Take My Breath Away for Berlin, both of which won the Academy Award for best song.

Moroder continued releasing music fitfully throughout his “retirement” – he worked with Elton John, Enrique Iglesias and Aretha Franklin, among others – but his appearance on Random Access Memories reasserted what had made him legendary in the first place. Audibly influenced by his late 70s recordings, the music on Giorgio By Moroder stopped dead when the producer said his own name – “everyone calls me Giorgio” – as if a hero was announcing himself, as if everyone else in the studio was in awe of him. It is that kind of reverence, as much as the vast success Moroder achieved, that his subsequent career has capitalised on. Whether or not 74 Is The New 24 matches his previous achievements commercially or artistically remains to be seen; either way, his reputation as pop innovator is secure.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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