How Giorgio Moroder & Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” Created the “Blueprint for All Electronic Dance Music Today” (1977)

House, trance, techno—any DJ play­ing a four-on-the-floor groove can drop Don­na Sum­mer and Gior­gio Moroder’s “I Feel Love” into a set and instant­ly mes­mer­ize the crowd. It has been hap­pen­ing since 1977. The dis­co hit doesn’t just hold up as a clas­sic moment of nos­tal­gia: it’s still one of the great­est dance tracks ever pro­duced. “‘I Feel Love’ was and remains an aston­ish­ing achieve­ment,” Jon Sav­age writes at The Guardian. “A futur­is­tic record that still sounds fan­tas­tic 35 years on. With­in its mod­u­la­tions and puls­es, it achieves the per­fect state of grace that is the ambi­tion of every dance record: it oblit­er­ates the tyran­ny of the clock.”

DJ Jim Stan­ton puts it this way: “It is safe to say [‘I Feel Love’] was the blue­print for all elec­tron­ic dance music today. It still has a mas­sive impact every time I play it.”

The song was not only a “rad­i­cal break­through” at the time but it was explic­it­ly meant to be one, an exper­i­men­tal stu­dio col­lab­o­ra­tion between Moroder, Pete Bel­lotte, drum­mer Kei­th Forsey, and engi­neer Rob­by Wedel, who was clas­si­cal com­pos­er Eber­hard Schoener’s assis­tant and was hired because he was the only one who knew how to work Schoener’s bor­rowed Moog Mod­u­lar 3P. Wedel cooked up the bassline and Moroder and Bel­lotte pieced the track togeth­er from twen­ty to thir­ty-sec­ond snip­pets, since the Moog “would go out of tune every few min­utes,” Moroder remem­bered. “It was quite a job.”

Bel­lotte and Sum­mer wrote the lyrics and Sum­mer, fresh off an impor­tant call with her astrologer about her love life, “turned up to the stu­dio,” Bill Brew­ster writes at Mix­mag, “and deliv­ered the song in one take.” Upon hear­ing “I Feel Love” on its release, dur­ing the Berlin ses­sions for David Bowie’s Low, no less a shaper of the future than Bri­an Eno imme­di­ate­ly real­ized its poten­tial, run­ning into the stu­dio to pro­claim, “I have heard the sound of the future. This is it, look no fur­ther. This sin­gle is going to change the sound of club music for the next fif­teen years.” He was not wrong.

“Until ‘I Feel Love,’” Brew­ster writes, “syn­the­siz­ers had either been the province of seri­ous musi­cians like Kei­th Emer­son, Jean-Michel Jarre or Tan­ger­ine Dream or used as a nov­el­ty prop in throw­away songs.” They had gained respect in the clas­si­cal world, thanks to Wendy Car­los’ Switched on Bach, and by the late sev­en­ties they popped up in the mix of rock and funk often. Moroder’s cre­ation, how­ev­er, put the instru­ment at the cen­ter of a dance track for the first time. “‘I Feel Love’ was a rejec­tion of the intel­lec­tu­al­iza­tion of the syn­the­siz­er in favour of pure plea­sure.”

The song killed on Soul Train and “went to No 1 in the UK dur­ing the high sum­mer of 1977, and stayed there for four weeks—filling dance floors every­where,” writes Sav­age. “Like David Bowie’s Low and Heroes, and Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express, it was also the secret vice of those punks who were already tir­ing of sped-up pub rock, and it sowed the seeds for the next gen­er­a­tion of UK elec­tron­i­ca.” It didn’t chart in the U.S. but became “an all-time gay clas­sic,” and hence a sta­ple of the pre‑A.I.D.S. house music era. Remix­es appeared imme­di­ate­ly, includ­ing Patrick Cowley’s psy­che­del­ic 15-minute ver­sion, “which real­ly does go on for ever and ever with­out trashing—even enhancing—the con­cept of the orig­i­nal.”

Indeed, “I Feel Love” is as near a pure arche­type of the dance track as we’re ever going to find, so time­less it oblit­er­ates time, stretch­ing out to 30 min­utes in the “Dis­co Purr­fec­tion” ver­sion below, the first song to “ful­ly uti­lize the poten­tial of elec­tron­ics, replac­ing lush dis­co orches­tra­tion with the hyp­not­ic pre­ci­sion of machines,” and ush­er­ing in the age of New Order, Depeche Mode, and count­less clas­sic house and tech­no records from Chica­go, New York, and Detroit, none of which hold up as well Moroder and Summer’s slick, sul­try “I Feel Love.”

via Messy­Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Ishkur’s Guide to Elec­tron­ic Music: An Inter­ac­tive, Ency­clo­pe­dic Data Visu­al­iza­tion of 120 Years of Elec­tron­ic Music

The His­to­ry of Elec­tron­ic Music Visu­al­ized on a Cir­cuit Dia­gram of a 1950s Theremin: 200 Inven­tors, Com­posers & Musi­cians

A Soul Train-Style Detroit Dance Show Gets Down to Kraftwerk’s “Num­bers” in the Late 80s

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (7) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (7)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Paul Allatson says:

    Great piece, thanks. But the claim that I Feel Love did not chart in the USA is incor­rect: it reached no 6 on the BIll­board Top 100 in the week of Novem­ber 12, 1977. Cheers

  • Wayne Dickson says:

    I feel Love did in fact make #6 on the Bill­board Hot 100 and #9 on the Hot Soul Sin­gles chart. It just did so after it had pret­ty much been a hot every­where else in the world.

  • Paul says:

    I will nev­er for­get being a teenag­er in a UK club, stand­ing in front of a huge speak­er and feel­ing my chest being com­pressed by the base­line. ❤️

  • Sybil61 says:

    I remem­ber sneak­ing into the dis­cos and boo­gied to this song too. I was also about 16 years old. So fun…

  • professormouse says:

    Because Jur­gen Kop­pers said, “This But­ton adds a delay…”

  • John Sullivan says:

    You are spot on to say that it was a secret vice for punks, but it was­n’t just punks. I was play­ing funk and rock, but I was mes­mer­ized when I first heard it. Funky­town was the sec­ond elec­tron­ic dance hit that blew me away. Then came Blue Mon­day, and that opened the flood­gates. What a great era for dance and alter­na­tive music.

  • Martin says:

    The album this song was on was very instru­men­tal. Like 1920’s music through the 70’s. This song is the tem­plate of most dance music we lis­ten to today.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.