Giorgio Moroder – his 20 greatest songs, ranked!

As the 78-year-old producer embarks on his first ever solo tour, we rate his greatest work – including a No 1 that is still the sound of the future

20. Giorgio
Son of My Father (1972)

Before he dived fully into electronics, Moroder was an architect of bubblegum pop. He began by mixing the two in 1972, re-recording one of his German compositions in English, and adding a Moog synthesiser; Chicory Tip’s cover of this became a UK No 1, and a football terrace staple. Moroder’s facility for melody and novelty was established.

19. Giorgio Moroder
(Theme from) Midnight Express (1978)

Only six years after his first hit, Moroder wrote an Oscar-winning full film score. The theme to Alan Parker’s 1978 drama showed that Moroder had always understood the sadness breathing in machine music, with a poignant, synthesised woodwind melody.

18. Japan
Life in Tokyo (1979)

An early Japan single, co-written by Moroder, full of the same icy British pop pluck as 1979’s nascent electronic star, Gary Numan. It finally became a hit in 1982. Here, stuttering synths augment a lyric evoking “A sound of distant living / Locked up in high society”, especially in the disintegrating final minute.

17. Coldplay
Midnight (Giorgio Moroder remix) (2014)

This electronic dance-influenced remix was so good that Coldplay re-released it as a single. Giorgio adds a pounding EDM pulse, house piano and himself on vocoder in the middle-eight, speaking about how much love he can give – in French.

16. Giorgio Moroder
From Here to Eternity (1977)

The rolling, cosmic basslines, cascading Moog effects at the ends of phrases and synthesiser stabs helped invent the “space disco” sound, aided by supremely cheesy, space-themed lyrics, which Moroder sings: “From here to eternity / That’s where she takes me”.

15. Giorgio Moroder & Raney Shockne
611 Time Out (2016)

Moroder and Raney Shockne’s 2016 soundtrack to the Tron Run/r video game is full of addictive, deep, dark techno. This is the best track, the sound of metal-on-metal and runaway velocity. On the full soundtrack, Autechre add a remix to boot.

Donna Summer
Donna Summer. Photograph: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

14. Donna Summer
Hot Stuff (1979)

Moroder, British co-producer Pete Bellotte and Donna Summer met in Munich in 1974, where she was singing after leaving a touring production of Hair. Five years later, they incorporated rock into their well-established brand of disco-pop and Moroder co-produced this still-brilliant, international smash hit.

13. Einzelgänger
Good Old Germany (1975)

This experimental electronic pop album as Einzelgänger – Lone Wolf – helped flex Moroder’s muscles for the future. This is the best track: playful and melodic, full of fluttering riffs and stuttering vocals.

12. Giorgio Moroder
Valley of the Dolls (1980)

A lost nugget of electronic funk from Adrian Lyne’s 1980 coming-of-age film, Foxes, about teenage girls growing up in the disco age in Los Angeles. A menacing, strutting minor-key bassline conjures up the mood of the city, before breaking into disjointed sequences of mechanical shimmers, Salsoul strings, and punchy brass.

Giorgio Moroder
Giorgio Moroder performing live in 2015. Photograph: Don Arnold/WireImage

11. Giorgio Moroder
74 Is The New 24 (2014)

A late-period banger from Moroder’s comeback album, recorded after Daft Punk brought his huge influence back to the mainstream with Giorgio by Moroder on 2013’s Random Access Memories. The vocoder effect stating the title – reclaiming one’s free bus-pass years with renewed energy – is an absolute joy.

10. Donna Summer
Love to Love You Baby (1975)

Moroder, Bellotte and Summer’s first co-written disco hit, featuring 22 simulated orgasms. In a 2009 interview, Moroder said they got the green light when record executive Neil Bogart wanted a longer version to soundtrack his orgies. Stretched to 16 minutes to fill a whole side of an album, its effects still call for an open window.

9. Berlin
Take My Breath Away (1986)

Moroder has said several times that the epic ballad from Top Gun is his favourite composition. Its power steams up from the synth-bass, heavy with chorus and reverb. Moroder wrote the song’s music first, before Tom Whitlock added his fittingly feverish lyrics. The combination was so potent that the film’s director Tony Scott filmed extra love scenes.

8. Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer
No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (1979)

The attitude shift in this song, one minute and 45 seconds in, is pop’s greatest ever plot twist, and Moroder’s sounds match. We move from misty dreaming about a man who lets a woman down, to feminist self-empowerment in a flash, with disco as the ultimate enabler. On the dancefloor, as with Streisand and Summer, the women come together.

7. Irene Cara
Flashdance (What A Feeling) (1983)

Co-composed and produced by Moroder, this song defined the 80s movie power-ballad template and nailed the lived experience of teenage emotion, as well as the effects of music on the soul. Notice the synthesisers bubbling anxiously behind the lyrics about fear and sadness at the beginning, before we hear the music and feel the rhythm. Then everything transforms.

6. Giorgio
Utopia – Me Giorgio (1977)

Moroder’s solo work is at its best when it’s not dive-bombing into excess, as on his overblown Metropolis soundtrack, but using just enough sparkle to give his ideas heavenly ballast. This appropriately named track nails it, with massed voices meeting propulsive rhythms, together approaching perfection.

Blondie
Blondie. Photograph: Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images

5. Blondie
Call Me (1980)

American Gigolo’s theme song could have been a collaboration with Stevie Nicks if she hadn’t turned Moroder down. Debbie Harry took the commission instead, writing the lyrics and music about Richard Gere’s murder-suspect male escort in a few hours. Moroder produces brilliantly, lifting Harry’s vocals up and creating one of the greatest electronic middle eights ever.

4. Sparks
The Number One Song in Heaven (1979)

Moroder’s flighty madness becomes majestic when he’s in the company of eccentrics. He worked well with Nina Hagen and Sigue Sigue Sputnik too, but genius explodes in these seven minutes with Sparks. The tempo slows and the skies open three minutes in, and you whirl down a rabbit hole only two minutes later, the synthesisers carrying you in. Glorious.

3. Giorgio Moroder
Chase (1978)

Some may remember the slightly syrupy Love’s Theme from Midnight Express best, but this is the track from the Alan Parker drama that has truly endured. A minimal, machine-made minor-key masterpiece, it slowly phases and builds; electro and techno five years ahead of its time.

2. Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder
Together in Electric Dreams (1984)

The pinnacle of Moroder’s achievements in heart-expanding, epic pop melancholy. Its best moments are the falling melody at its start, like glistening rain on a window pane, and one of pop’s greatest choruses of all time, soaring high before quietly, sadly subsiding, then trying with all its might to soar again.

1. Donna Summer
I Feel Love (1977)

Pop’s paradigm shifts often happen peculiarly. Summer was making a historical pop concept album with Moroder and Bellotte, 1977’s I Remember Yesterday, transporting listeners from 1940s jazz through 60s girl groups and 70s funk to an imagined future. Then the song representing the future became the future. I Feel Love still stuns. There is unrelenting power in those pulsing, relentless synthesiser arpeggios. Those washes of Moog are like the Doppler effect from a passing supersonic train. The double stabs at the beginnings of bars also anchor us back to the dancefloor, and the possibility of what our new present could be – both now, and for ever.

Contributor

Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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