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Giorgio Moroder

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A unique figure in the annals of popular music, GIORGIO MORODER can lay claim to being the founding father of disco, and by default the progenitor of the various dancefloor sub-genres which followed in its wake. He’s also been afforded a healthy respect from the wider music community, not least because of Oscar-winning film scores like 1978’s `Midnight Express’. It’s hardly being over generous to say that MORODER’s four-to-the-floor, computer-generated approach was precocious in its prediction of house and techno, while his production credits span the spectrum of 70s/80s American pop/rock royalty, from DONNA SUMMER to BARBRA STREISAND, to BLONDIE to SAMMY HAGAR.
Born Giovanni Giorgio Moroder, 26 April 1940, Urtijei, South Tyrol, Italy (near the Austrian border), he grew up also speaking fluent German. A move to Berlin in the mid 60s led to GIORGIO – as he was then monikered – releasing a couple of Euro singles that encompassed Italian, German, Spanish and English languages respectively; Page One Records in Britain issued `Full Stop’ in ’66, and `Bla Bla Diddly’ in ‘67. Very much in the BEE GEES mould, GIORGIO duly adopted the novelty pop factor at the turn of the 70s, having released THAT’S BUBBLE GUM – THAT’S GIORGIO (1969) {*5}. From `Looky Looky’ to US Top 50 hit `Son Of My Father’ (glam-rock fans of the UK chart-topping CHICORY TIP might recognise it), the name of pop composer GIORGIO MORODER was filtering through to the mainstream; one has to hear the corresponding 1972 set, SON OF MY FATHER {*7}.
His mid-70s period paralleled that of Greek keyboard maestro VANGELIS, as project after project (from the SPINACH 1 (1973) {*5} – with Michael Holm – and EINZELGANGER (1975) {*6}) couldn’t quite get an audience from beyond the Euro scene. While KNIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN (1976) {*4} basically fell on deaf ears, at least his work with Pete Bellotte was flourishing.
Part KRAFTWERK minimalism, part post-funk groove, the man’s futuristic, Hi-NRG vision inevitably found a receptive audience in the frozen nosed, hedonistic club landscape of the mid-late 70s which MORODER – together with studio partner Pete Bellotte and protege DONNA SUMMER – both sound-tracked and revolutionised via hits such as `Love To Love You Baby’ and `I Feel Love’. The latter’s throbbing, bass-driven insistence (plus the masterful solo set FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977) {*8}) turned the head of film director Alan Parker, who, at the time, was making a movie about the plight of a tourist caught in the brutality of a Turkish prison. While the title track monster hit mightn’t have been an obvious cue for such grim subject matter, Parker heard something which caught his imagination and which MORODER subsequently channelled into his evocative electronic score for the aforementioned MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1978) {*7}, a Golden Globe as well as an Academy award winner (Best Original Score). Masterminded by MORODER and German studio boffin Harold Faltermeyer (of “Axel F” fame), the unforgettable, proto-techno pulse of the Top 30, 8 minute-plus `Chase’ remains one of the most compelling non-orchestrated themes in cinematic history. Charged with creating an aural document of the film’s bleak subject matter and save for a couple of vocal tracks (`Istanbul Blues’ and `Theme From…’) by such obscure singers as David Castle and Chris Bennett, the bulk of the album consists of MORODER’s instrumental synth excursions.
Not withstanding GIORGIO & Chris’s LOVE’S IN YOU, LOVE’S IN ME (1978) {*5} and another OST, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978) {*5}, it inaugurated what was to be the first in a long line of successful film projects as MORODER – now operating independently of the dissoved Bellotte/SUMMER team – became enamoured with the genre’s creative possibilties. But that was after the KRAFTWERK-meets-Latin disco set, E=MC2 (1979) {*7}, the “first electronic live-to-digital album” – as embedded on the sleeve.
Famous for its chart-topping BLONDIE theme tune and Richard Gere debut, AMERICAN GIGOLO (1980) {*6} was MORODER’s next (Golden Globe-nominated) soundtrack success, scored in similar if not quite as arresting style to “Midnight…”. Swapping long-time foil SUMMER for new wave siren Debbie Harry was another feat of chemistry engineering, digitising her organic rock-erotica and genetically simulating that Noo Yoik mystique. Call Me’s melody still evokes top-down cruising a quarter of a century later, and MORODER made sure he didn’t waste it: he recycled it no less than three times, as all-out dancefloor squelch (`Night Drive’), as an air guitar ‘n’ bells job (`Palm Springs Drive’), and finally as decompressed elegy (the haunting `Night Drive – Reprise’). The clunky `Love And Passion’ (co-written with director Paul Schrader) was another collaboration, although Cheryl Barnes comes from the Branigan/Benatar school of 80s melodrama. Never backwards at being audacious, GM even adapted a Mozart concerto, that comes out sounding like `The Wedding March’ as if played by BRIAN MAY. All of which means that this is a soundtrack based on one great song, nothing unusual in itself. Fans of “Midnight…” will probably enjoy `The Apartment’s JOHN CARPENTER-esque pulse, but overall the OST turned one Armani-outfitted 80s rawk trick too many.
If his soundtrack to Jodie Foster vehicle, FOXES (1981) {*5}, reinforced his strategy of supplying material for big name artists – in this case SUMMER (who scored a hit with `On The Radio’), CHER and JANIS IAN – Giorgio took a break from Hollywood with his work on Hungarian political drama, `Egymßsra Nqzve’. He was soon back on familiar ground with Paul Schrader’s erotic horror update, CAT PEOPLE (1982) {*5}.
With its salaciously cliched tagline and cover shot of a dripping wet, come-hither Nastassja Kinski, this promised much more than it delivered, and delivered much less than the movie. BOWIE’s suitably dark and claustrophobic title theme was a microcosmic case in point, tempting with a sensuous intro before fobbing you off with a plodding synth-metal dirge that could be a BAUHAUS B-side; no surprise it was one of David’s poorest performing singles of the early 80s. Even GIORGIO MORODER took a while to warm up here, noodling through the sentimental, Parisian Boulevard vibe of `Irena’s Theme’ and laying off the disco-robotics till at least halfway through. `Jogging Chase’ wasn’t the most auspicious subtitle for an action cue but when GM fired up his snare pad and an electro-analogue arsenal listed as including Synclavier, Minimoog, Polymoog (eh?), Roland Jupiter, Wurlitzer Piano and Fender Rhodes, that MORODER throb was as glamorously oppressive as ever, tarted up with tasteful piano. In terms of the man’s soundtrack record, this “Cat” could almost be viewed as his jazz score; subtle, not quite ambient, with more ivory-tinkling than he’d previously been prone to. Two blokes called Scott Mathews and Ron Nagle supplied some disturbingly sub-human noises on `Night Rabbit’ and BOWIE reappears on the `The Myth’, humming his cockney hum over a portentous mist of synth and hissing drum machines. The memorably titled `Bring The Prod’ was also worthy of mention, shape-shifting synth, insect-swarming strings and Gulag rhythm which, as an intimation of things that go miaow in the night, would’ve been more effective as an opener. And then it’s all over bar the scratch marks, leaving surprisingly little trace.
Yet as dance music continued to evolve, MORODER became more of a stylist than an innovator, translating his digital-inspired impulses into ever more commercial hits. While his soundtrack to Joel Schumacher comedy, `D.C. Cab’ (1983) featured various artists, the Italian innovator subsequently created one of the most successful productions of his career in the form of Cara’s `Flashdance… What A Feeling’.
A massive, transatlantic hit theme to Adrian Lyne’s `Flashdance’ (1983), the song’s campy exuberance netted MORODER a second Oscar, while the soundtrack – the first of MORODER’s cheesy, archetypally 80s sounding efforts – gathered together an even wider cast of performers. Almost erased into the background for “not” being a soundtrack work, GIORGIO MORODER & JOE ESPOSITO’s SOLITARY MEN (1983) {*5} was typically 80s, all power-ballad with a re-tread of The MOODY BLUES’ `Nights Of White Satin’.
Although the formula was repeated with his (now even more dated) soundtrack to `Scarface’ (1983), it wasn’t enough to replicate the success of the earlier BLONDIE collaboration. And while no soundtrack was released for the man’s work – including material for CHAKA KHAN – on `Superman III’ (1983), MORODER was back in the headlines for his controversial re-edit of Fritz Lang masterpiece, `Metropolis’ (1984), on which he superimposed a glitzy, uncharacteristically rock-centric hit-maker soundtrack featuring the likes of ADAM ANT, FREDDIE MERCURY, PAT BENATAR, BONNIE TYLER and JON ANDERSON.
Together with KLAUS DOLDINGER (ex-PASSPORT), he was also credited on half the score to Wolfgang Petersen’s fantasy adaptation, THE NEVERENDING STORY (1984) {*4}, GM’s title theme of which supplied ex-KAJAGOOGOO man LIMAHL with a Top 5 hit. Ex-HUMAN LEAGUE singer Philip Oakey was a more unlikely collaborator, yet he was the public face of one of the few MORODER productions where the Italian took top billing. The sentimental theme to a British computer comedy, the similarly-titled `Together In Electric Dreams’ was MORODER’s biggest UK hit (excepting `Flashdance…’) and in many ways the end of an era; the `Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’ of 1985 featured further collaborative hits.
While he won yet another Oscar for his contributions to `Top Gun’ (1987), specifically for BERLIN’s transatlantic No.1, `Take My Breath Away’, his subsequent synth-rock soundtrack work, on the likes of the Sylvester Stallone-scripted `Over The Top’ (1987) – featuring SAMMY HAGAR, KENNY LOGGINS and BIG TROUBLE, respectively, was a far cry from his pioneering electro of the late 70s. Given this eventual embrace of all that was creatively stale about the mid to late 80s, it was probably a wise move to exit cinema when he did. While MAMBA (1988) {*5} – or “Fair Game” – was the last movie to generate a MORODER soundtrack, the man’s final score to date was for Italian feature, `Cybereden’ (1993).
Alongside occasional remix work and themes for global sporting events, the former studio pioneer subsequently put much of his energies into multimedia art and digital photography (contributing images to the 1996 Charles Bukowski exhibition in London’s Soho) and, in 2004, was inaugurated, alongside SUMMER, BARRY WHITE and the BEE GEES, into the Dance Music Hall Of Fame.
Thought to have signed off with the James Last/Stars-on-45-like FOREVER DANCING (1992) {*4}, one thought that one’d heard the last of the MORODER man. While he’s no DAFT PUNK (although he contributed `One More Time’ to 2013’s “Random Access Memories”), the solo credited but sprawling collaborative “comeback” DÉJÀ VU (2015) {*6} was as suspected, draped and laced in disco. Showcasing KELIS (`Back And Forth’), KYLIE (`Right Here, Right Now’), BRITNEY (a cover of SUZANNE VEGA’s `Tom’s Diner’) and FOXES (`Wildstar’), the surprise packages were for magma-tised `Diamonds’ by material girl CHARLI XCX and the title track by SIA. If `74 Is The New 24’ (as pointed out in the track), then GIORGIO MORODER had his day here. A grand send off for one of disco music’s giants.
© MC Strong 2008/LCS-BG outtakes // rev-up MCS Jun2015

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