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August 2015

Welcome Back, Giorgio Moroder!

Giorgio.moroder Giorgio.moroder.oldWhen I reminisce about the Classic Disco era it's sometimes a bittersweet experience because it brings to mind those stars who are no longer with us, such as Sylvester, Loleatta Holloway, Dan Hartman, Glenn Hughes (the Village People's leather man), Patrick Cowley, and Donna Summer.  (My parents likely experienced a similar sentiment when they thought back to the Big Band era.)  Happily, a legendary producer of the era, Giorgio Moroder, is still with us, and he recently released his first CD in more than 25 years, Deja Vu.  Now 75 years old, Moroder is a contemporary of Italy's other world-famous Giorgio, 81-year-old Giorgio Armani


I particularly like four tracks on this new CD (so much so that I bought them on iTunes):  Two of them, Right Here, Right Now (featuring Kylie Minogue) and Tempted are pop-oriented while Diamonds and Wildstar are dance-oriented.  Other artists who he collaborated with GM were Britney Spears, Sia  and Kelis.




In my mind GM's name is forever linked with that of Donna Summer because he produced her string of double albums in the late 1970s.  However, he's also worked with a roster of other artists as well.  What follows are my favorites tracks that he's either had a hand in producing, writing or both.  Some were the biggest hits of their time while others are obscure gems (which somewhat adds to their appeal).


TROUBLEMAKER - Roberta Kelly (1976)

Moroder wrote this.  Great energy.




TRY ME, I KNOW WE CAN MAKE IT - Donna Summer (1976)

18 minutes of languid disco without the moaning featured in Love to Love You Baby.



I FEEL LOVE - Donna Summer (1977)

A song throbbing with the heat and ecstasy of sex.




FROM HERE TO ETERNITY - Giorgio Moroder (1977)

The quintessential disco track.  With synthesized pulsing and swooping orchestral flourishes, this may be my favorite Moroder number.  And the song was further enhanced when hearing it play at The Saint.




I'M LEFT, YOU'RE RIGHT, SHE'S GONE - Giorgio Moroder (1977)

From the same album as From Here to Eternity, it has the catchiest title of any on this list, and also the most downbeat storyline.  Never has despair been so danceable.




I LOVE YOU - Donna Summer (1978)

A beautiful, exhilarating song about two people experiencing love at first sight.




THE CHASE - Giorgio Moroder (1978)

An electronic instrumental from the Moroder-produced soundtrack for the movie Midnight Express, it won the Oscar for Best Original Soundtrack.  Although it was ubiquitous on TV shows and sports programming of the time it rose no higher than #33 on Billboard's Hot 100. 


HARMONY - Suzy Lane (1979)

Brings back memories of prowling the corridors of the Club Baths where music from disco station WKTU was piped in.





LUCKY - Donna Summer (1979)

Recounts an experience many of us had on more than one occasion, i.e., the realization that the trick you thought might be the "one" was just a one-night stand.  This track is from Summer's Bad Girls double LP.




CALL ME - Deborah Harry (1980)

Moroder's biggest hit, this track (from the movie American Gigolo) made New Wave palatable to the masses.  It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and was ranked as the top song of 1980.



From the smash movie Flashdance, this was another huge hit, the third most popular song of 1983.  Moroder co-wrote it and won an Oscar for Best Song.


RUSH RUSH - Debbie Harry (1983)

This light and bouncy number belied the violence of the movie it was part of, Scarface.  It was released as a single but failed to make the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at an embarrassing 104.  I liked running to this song.





The instrumental, Machines, and the songs Here She Comes (Bonnie Tyler) and Love Kills (Freddie Mercury) come from the soundtrack to Fritz Lang's remastered 1927 movie classic, Metropolis.  The melding of Moroder's musical style to a black & white silent film was largely met with derision. 




CARRY ON - Donna Summer (1992)

Returning to his dance roots, this won Giorgio and Donna won a Grammy for Best Dance Track - five years after it was first released in 1992.



The Dilemma of Having a 'Gay' Voice

DoISoundGayRecently I saw the documentary Do I Sound Gay?, which explored the anxiety the doc's director, James Thorpe, had over his voice.  Although it was amusing, I found it curious that a gay man in his 40s living in New York City in 2015 had a hang-up about his voice being too gay.  The film follows him as he seeks to change his voice to one, as I interpreted his goal, devoid of any personality.  In my mind this dilemma was a good example of "white people problems".  And his visits to a speech therapist brought to mind a form of gay reparative therapy.  (By the way is there a stereotypical lesbian voice?)


Besides discussing his concern with speech therapists, linguists and acting coaches, the director also discussed the phenomenon of gay-sounding voices with gay personalities such as Dan Savage, Tim Gunn and George Takei.  For me, one of the highlights of the doc was finally getting the chance to meet author David Sedaris' husband, Hugh.




While viewing the documentary I thought of a high school classmate, Mark, who had a very gay-sounding voice.  We were friendly, but at the time I wasn't aware that I was gay so there was never any discussion about it (this was in the mid-1970s), but I think, subconsciously, it was why we were friendly.  He was also obsessed with Cher, so that, more than his voice, should have been the giveaway that he was gay.  I was curious to see if I could find Mark on Google, and my search proved successful.  Sadly, though, it turned out he had died in 2006.  His obituary mentioned his male partner.




As for me, although I was teased a little bit in high school about being a "fairy", I wasn't bullied and I didn't dread going to school.  (And the teasing  ended when I was named editor of the yearbook.)  As an adult I never had issues about my voice sounding gay, but I was always surprised when I was told I didn't sound gay.  However, about ten years ago I went to see a speech pathologist to see if she could help me make my voice more commanding in a business setting since I found it challenging to break through  chatter at meetings whenever I wanted to ask a question or make a comment.




Despite it being entertaining as well as instructive, apparently Do I Sound Gay?  wasn't compelling enough for moviegoers as it played in just 17 theaters and grossed less than $100,000 (paltry even by gay indie film standards).