Fabulously Flamboyant Fridays: Giorgio Moroder

Greetings pop pickers and welcome to this week’s Fabulously Flamboyant Friday, our weekly tribute to the rainbow and glitter world of music produced by artistes who are quite simply fabulous darling.

This week we’ll be taking a spandex and sequinned look at the seedy and cheesy dance floor world of Euro-Disco, Electro-Disco and Synth-Pop; and our smooth and slinky entry into this world will be along the salubrious passage that is the work, influence and staggering success of the Italian composer, musician, producer and once-proud owner of the perfect ’70s porn-star moustache – Laydees and Gentlemens, this week’s FFF proudly presents the Godfather of Disco, the Cheese-Meister of Euro-Pop; the one, the only – Mr. Giorgio Moroder!

Donna Summer’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love” was really the only place we could start a Giorgio Moroder article, as for many (including your humble scribe) it was the first time Moroder’s name entered the poptastic ’70s mainstream. However, we are getting way ahead of ourselves as by ’77 Moroder had already been active and successful for quite some time. Originally from Val Gardena-Dolomiti in Italy, Moroder spent his early years in music flogging his way around Europe, paying his dues and honing his compositional skills as a gun-for-hire guitarist and bass player. His first notable success was in 1969 when his single “Looky Looky” was awarded a gold disc in Germany. Absolutely dripping with “please choose me for Eurovision”, it is not a career highlight.

My first exposure to his work (although I didn’t know it at the time) was probably back in the beige and cheesecloth world of 1972, when Moroder’s bubblegum, euro-pop hit “Son Of My Father” was successfully covered by Maidstone’s hardest rockin’ bad boys, Chicory Tip.

Astonishingly, that dreadful version of Moroder’s cheesy composition actually reached no.1 in the UK singles chart. I guess we were all easily pleased back then. However, by the time of Chicory Tip’s first success, Moroder had already been a very busy chap. He had settled in Munich, established himself as an innovative producer and studio boffin and – crucially – had immersed himself in the hugely innovative German music scene that was, at the time, known to all outside of Germany by the somewhat pejorative term of “Krautrock”.

Germans preferred the term “kosmische musik” (cosmic music) for their unique blend of psychedelic, avant-garde and electronic music. Prominent artists operating in this genre included Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Harmonia, Neu! (a band that would have a substantial influence on the UK’s favourite Space Rockers, Hawkwind) and the sublime Amon Düül II.

Despite the dismissive and pejorative nature of the term Krautrock, the huge influence of this scene on the world of club music and the synth-pop environment of the early 80s simply cannot not be overestimated. A pause here for a couple of flamboyantly fabulous examples to illustrate this point can do no harm.

Ed: Playback on websites disabled

Gary Numan – Cars

The Soft Cell and Gary Newman tracks above are dripping with influences absorbed from the German Music scene of the mid ’70s and the influence of German producers and composers. And it was into this environment that Moroder settled, developed his studio mastery, and set about establishing himself as the Godfather of Euro-Disco and a key innovator in the genre of electronic dance music.

Although many artists were busy pushing at the boundaries of what was achievable with the studio-bound analogue synthesizer and sequencer technology of the day, Moroder was probably the individual who did more than any other to move the use of this technology into the mainstream of public consciousness. This was largely achieved – particularly in the US – via his work with Donna Summer, which was easily his most successful and high-profile collaboration during the 1970s.

Additionally, the arrival of his innovative studio work was perfectly timed. The ’70s Disco boom was beginning to fade under the onslaught of the “Disco Sucks” movement and acts that just a few months earlier were at the forefront of the genre were already beginning to look tired, trite and somewhat dated.

And Euro-disco – as fabulously flamboyant as it was – was feeling particularly moribund.

Launched into this environment, Moroder’s high profile chart success, with his string of international hit singles, suddenly felt like something of a paradigm shift. Moroder’s polished production techniques and his now total mastery of the clunky analogue sequencer and synthesizer technology of the day simply moved things on and completely revitalised the dance floor’s favourite genre, just as it seemed to be faltering.

After years of hard work, Moroder was an overnight success and suddenly found himself in the position of being one of the most in-demand producers on the planet. Over the next few years Moroder would successfully create and produce songs with and for an impressive list of high-profile performers, including David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Britney Spears, Irene Cara, Janet Jackson, Blondie, Japan, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Cher, Roger Daltrey, Falco, Chaka Khan, Cheap Trick, Pat Benatar, Kenny Loggins, Coldplay, Phil Oakey (Human League), Nina Hagen, Sparks and Kylie Minogue.

It was during research for an earlier Flamboyantly Fabulous Sparks article that I fell down the Moroder rabbit hole and was bemused to discover the astonishing scale of this chap’s success as an artist, composer and producer. Over the course of his career he has amassed over one hundred (over 100!) Platinum Discs, three Academy Awards and a veritable sackful of Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA, Golden Globe and other sundry awards. This chap is certainly no slouch when it comes to nailing stuff up on his studio walls. And we should probably give his studio a mention here. As Moroder is primarily a producer, his talents needed a suitable canvas. Accordingly, in the early 70s he founded the legendary and hugely successful Musicland Studios in Munich – a recording studio that, over the years, has been used by an impressive roster of artists including Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Electric Light Orchestra, Deep Purple, Queen, Frank Zappa, Elton John, Marc Bolan, Iron Maiden, Rainbow and, of course, Sparks.

As you might also suspect from the plethora of awards detailed above, Moroder has also been a successful composer of film scores and soundtracks. His many film contributions include Top Gun, Midnight Express, Beverly Hills Cop, Rambo, American Gigolo, Superman, Scarface and The Never-Ending Story. However, Moroder is on record saying the film work of which he is most proud is “Take My Breath Away”, which earned him the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song after it featured in the flamboyantly fabulous 1986 film, Top Gun.

However, these Academy and Golden Globe awards were no big deal for our Giorgio. He’d already done the double in ’83 when he picked up the very same awards for his work on the movie Flashdance.

For his work on the American Gigalo movie, Giorgio teamed up with Debbie Harry (after Stevie Nicks apparently turned him down). Here’s the wonderful Ms Harry performing the fruit of their labours with quite possibly the most talented live band with which she ever worked.

At 83, Giorgio is still touring, producing, composing and still trying to “bring a very European aesthetic to black American dance grooves”, so I think we’ll round off this evening with a very nice 2019 live set from Giorgio, recorded at the Lowlands Festival.

And a big ol’ chunk of Morodian Euro Cheese (the perfect soundtrack for a FFF) presented as the good Lord intended – on a mix tape.

Anyway, that’s yer lot for this week’s roller-disco episode of Fabulously Flamboyant Fridays. TTFN Puffins – not ‘arf!






Featured Image: S. Bollmann, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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