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Is "I Feel Love" the Most Important Song of the 1970s?

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05 Jul 2017 12:33 #250874 by Michael Barnes
Bored with my job today so I thought I'd start a conversation probably no one will care about or participate in.

Pitchfork Media did a sort of appreciation post about the 1977 Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder disco smash "I Feel Love" last week and it set me off to listen to it. Of course I've heard it a thousand times, it's one of the most well-known and widely referenced songs of the disco genre. New Order was explicitly trying to make a song like it when they wrote "Blue Monday" and there are of course covers of it, the best/most well known being the Bronski Beat/Marc Almond one which wasn't even ten years after the original release. There's also the story Bowie told about Eno rushing into the studio with a copy during the production of "Heroes" and declaring it the future of music.

But this time I was REALLY listening to it. Headphones on, really studying it. It is an almost stupefyingly amazing piece of music and technology. I hate that I can't listen to it in the context of 1977, when it wasn't like anything else out there, but even today it sounds like the future. And it is almost precisely the moment at which the seed of the entirety of 1980s dance music, synthpop, club music, HI-NRG, acid house, techno, industrial and all other electronic music crystallized. Before this song, something so mechanical and synthesized didn't really exist in the context of pop music. It was the song that made sequencers an dance music instrument with that throbbing ostinato and synthetic drums (apart from the bass drum, apparently), and it was also the song that put a hard 4/4 beat front and center with the melody written to it instead of the other way around. It must have sounded so alien compared to other disco songs at the time, and it is really quite a bit more revolutionary than "Anarchy in the UK" or any of the other punk singles of '77 were.

It's easy to point out that Kraftwerk (and others, like Suicide, Silver Apples, or Walter Carlos) were already doing wholly electronic music, but their approach was more, well, Germanic. They were highly compositional, almost classical in their approach. They weren't thinking about clubs. Their music was austere and serious (mostly), suitable for dancing robots but not human bodies. But I think what Moroder and Pete Bellotte effectively did was to bridge the gap between KRAUTROCK and dance music, whether they meant to or not. There are heavy traces of the "motorik" sound in "I Feel Love", but stripped of the jazz inflections that Can were so fond of. It is, however, a logical progression from "Trans-Europe Express".

Listening to the song, it's just exhilarating. When the bassline comes in on the chorus, it's just utterly thrilling. I especially like how some of the remixes will isolate that part. Summer's vocals are ethereally ecstatic, blissed-out, and seem to drift between the contradiction of "I feel love" and the clockwork precision and artificiality of the music. It's a juxtaposition of soft and squishy flesh against cold and relentless machines.

The 70s produced a TON of great music, no doubt, and lots of really important and influential music. But if I had to list the top songs of the era it would definitely be at the very highest tier.
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05 Jul 2017 12:41 - 05 Jul 2017 12:44 #250877 by hotseatgames
What I believe to be the greatest rock song ever produced, Cheap Trick's "Surrender", came out in 1978. So my answer to your query is no.

But the actual answer is probably something by Led Zeppelin.
Last edit: 05 Jul 2017 12:44 by hotseatgames.
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05 Jul 2017 12:55 #250878 by barrowdown
The Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder songs are some of the greatest music ever. You have a much greater love for the children of that collaboration than I do, so I would have a hard time discussing the impact of any of their work to any real depth. I love disco, but a lot of the non-synth-pop electronic music of the 80s leaves me cold (well, a lot of electronic music in general).

I'm curious to hear your arguments for "Surrender" as the greatest rock song ever produced. I love Cheap Trick, but I am not sure that I even would have "Surrender" as the greatest song in their own discography let alone all of rock music.
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05 Jul 2017 13:46 #250879 by Shellhead
Strange coincidence: I listened to "I Feel Love" just yesterday, for the first time in many years, and was equally impressed.

My skittish cat really hates fireworks, so I was on the computer last night with him sitting on my lap. I was surfing and posting a bit, but mostly going through Media Monkey and fiddling around with playlists while listening to music. I saw that I had some Donna Summer songs and went ahead and listened. When I got to I Feel Love, I was surprised and had to look again at my media player to see that it was Donna Summer. I also have both the Blondie and Blue Man Group covers of I Feel Love, and what I was hearing sounded so much like them. Nope, Donna Summer. Looking back, this was an incredibly influential song, years ahead of the industry.

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05 Jul 2017 14:08 #250881 by hotseatgames

barrowdown wrote: I'm curious to hear your arguments for "Surrender" as the greatest rock song ever produced. I love Cheap Trick, but I am not sure that I even would have "Surrender" as the greatest song in their own discography let alone all of rock music.


Maybe "greatest" isn't the right word. But if someone who had no idea what rock music was, asked me "What's a rock song?" Surrender would be my answer. It is the quintessential "this is a rock song" song. In my opinion, of course.

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05 Jul 2017 14:11 #250882 by Black Barney
Ken has a great story about playing that on Guitar Hero II in a Best Buy or something and licking his fingers while a kid watched in bewilderment

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05 Jul 2017 15:53 #250888 by Sagrilarus

Michael Barnes wrote: Bored with my job today so I thought I'd start a conversation probably no one will care about or participate in.

Pitchfork Media did a sort of appreciation post about the 1977 Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder disco smash "I Feel Love" last week and it set me off to listen to it. Of course I've heard it a thousand times, it's one of the most well-known and widely referenced songs of the disco genre. New Order was explicitly trying to make a song like it when they wrote "Blue Monday" and there are of course covers of it, the best/most well known being the Bronski Beat/Marc Almond one which wasn't even ten years after the original release. There's also the story Bowie told about Eno rushing into the studio with a copy during the production of "Heroes" and declaring it the future of music.

But this time I was REALLY listening to it. Headphones on, really studying it. It is an almost stupefyingly amazing piece of music and technology. I hate that I can't listen to it in the context of 1977, when it wasn't like anything else out there, but even today it sounds like the future. And it is almost precisely the moment at which the seed of the entirety of 1980s dance music, synthpop, club music, HI-NRG, acid house, techno, industrial and all other electronic music crystallized. Before this song, something so mechanical and synthesized didn't really exist in the context of pop music. It was the song that made sequencers an dance music instrument with that throbbing ostinato and synthetic drums (apart from the bass drum, apparently), and it was also the song that put a hard 4/4 beat front and center with the melody written to it instead of the other way around. It must have sounded so alien compared to other disco songs at the time, and it is really quite a bit more revolutionary than "Anarchy in the UK" or any of the other punk singles of '77 were.

It's easy to point out that Kraftwerk (and others, like Suicide, Silver Apples, or Walter Carlos) were already doing wholly electronic music, but their approach was more, well, Germanic. They were highly compositional, almost classical in their approach. They weren't thinking about clubs. Their music was austere and serious (mostly), suitable for dancing robots but not human bodies. But I think what Moroder and Pete Bellotte effectively did was to bridge the gap between KRAUTROCK and dance music, whether they meant to or not. There are heavy traces of the "motorik" sound in "I Feel Love", but stripped of the jazz inflections that Can were so fond of. It is, however, a logical progression from "Trans-Europe Express".

Listening to the song, it's just exhilarating. When the bassline comes in on the chorus, it's just utterly thrilling. I especially like how some of the remixes will isolate that part. Summer's vocals are ethereally ecstatic, blissed-out, and seem to drift between the contradiction of "I feel love" and the clockwork precision and artificiality of the music. It's a juxtaposition of soft and squishy flesh against cold and relentless machines.

The 70s produced a TON of great music, no doubt, and lots of really important and influential music. But if I had to list the top songs of the era it would definitely be at the very highest tier.



This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
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05 Jul 2017 15:53 #250890 by Sagrilarus

hotseatgames wrote: But the actual answer is probably something by Led Zeppelin.


No, THIS is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
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05 Jul 2017 16:37 #250893 by OldHippy

Sagrilarus wrote:

hotseatgames wrote: But the actual answer is probably something by Led Zeppelin.


No, THIS is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.


Oh, come on now... you could at least offer up your own choice if you're going to be like that.

I have no clue what it would be personally... I tried listening to that Donna Summer's song and while it is interesting in places I could never put it anywhere near my top ten for the decade. Probably because I'm not as enamored with electronic music as some people around here and certainly not when people like Leonard Cohen had four great albums to choose from. Lists are tough for me though. Clearly the production on that song is interesting and very forward thinking... but it strikes me as more novelty than it does as excellence and the song itself doesn't seem that great.

Often I will judge a song in it's most stripped down form to see what I think. If it doesn't work as just a simple song with an acoustic guitar.. it's not a great song. Production can hide those details but when it's stripped bare it's tough to miss. That's where the great songs really shine. Cohen's tunes have shown time and time again (from how often they are covered by others) that they can handle all sorts of treatments because the tune itself is so robust that the genre doesn't really matter.

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05 Jul 2017 16:45 - 05 Jul 2017 16:46 #250896 by Sagrilarus
Well, first of all "most important rock song" is kind of a hokey category in the first place. If you want to say most influential musically you have something to consider, though Zepplin was derivative as hell. That was my gist for flagging it. The entire industry ignored them at the time, and their reputations with DJs during the time they were playing (I knew a couple that told me first hand) was that they were the best marketed band in the industry. Led Zepplin was the "Dyson" of 70s rock music.

I'll be honest, I think Bowie or Queen were being more innovative than Zepplin, and you can hear the beginnings of disco in Bowie's stuff a couple of years before it took hold. That's where I'd be looking. But again, there's so many veins that I don't see how you pick out someone or one song and say "that's the one!"

I like the Donna Summer song. I liked disco. I was listening to Boston at the time, but I liked disco. I think it was underrated after the curtain came down on it. But I needed a set-up line for the Led Zepplin comment, so Donna became collateral damage. She knew the risks. When you consider the processing power available on that song, and likely an eight-track recording machine to master it, it's that much more impressive.
Last edit: 05 Jul 2017 16:46 by Sagrilarus.
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05 Jul 2017 16:54 #250897 by Unicron
“What’s Going On” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” are the first songs to bubble to the surface in my mind, but it’s my inner punk teenager refusing to hand the crown to a Donna Summer single. Maybe we should give the title to TG’s “Persuasion” and call it a day. It’s no “Rebel Rebel”, but you’ll tap your foot to it eventually, right?

Michael Barnes wrote: It must have sounded so alien compared to other disco songs at the time, and it is really quite a bit more revolutionary than "Anarchy in the UK" or any of the other punk singles of '77 were.


Because Modern Dance is out in '78 and the Slits Cut isn't released until '79 I might agree with you. Don't you think that revolutionary is very subjective though? Music for 18 Musicians, Roxy Music, Bitches Brew, Talking Heads, Antoune Dougbe, Nite Flights and such are all wildly unique.

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05 Jul 2017 17:00 - 05 Jul 2017 17:01 #250899 by OldHippy
I'll give you Queen Sag... I'm still struggling to like Bowie. It's tough coming at him so late in life.

The genre thing bugs me a bit. One of the things I've learned playing bluegrass (which I like but don't listen to that often, yet I play in a bluegrass band anyway... I think I just like the playing part of it) is that genre is largely irrelevant. A song can be pretty much any genre. It is really easy to move a song from one genre to another. Genre is like production... it's just window dressing and doesn't really matter. You can flip them around really easily once you've done it a couple of times. That's why I think you need to strip it down to judge the quality of the song... it's too easy to be fooled by genre, production...hell even technical ability.. all of these things are distractions from looking at the song on it's own. We tend to like songs that are in a genre we identify with or one that was cool when we were in our formative years ... all distractions in my mind. All I want to know is what is the melody, the chords (or harmony if you prefer) and the lyrics.

I'd wager that sheet music is the most pure way to judge it actually.
Last edit: 05 Jul 2017 17:01 by OldHippy.

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05 Jul 2017 17:23 - 05 Jul 2017 17:38 #250902 by Michael Barnes
Here's the thing with Bowie. His influence was IMMEASURABLE. He is the single most important figure in 1970s popular music. Period. With Bowie you are talking about a decade in which he did progressive folk, innovated rock n' roll, dabbled in funk and R&B, experimented with electronics, and practically created genres with everything he did. So when we talk about who was "the most important"- there's no discussion to be had IMO. You might like Queen or Led Zeppelin better, but they just aren't in the same league. Great bands, no doubt. Lots of great songs. Important songs. But nothing with the kind of impact that Bowie had.

Looking at the 70s too, you can easily rattle off a list of monumentally important, influential records and songs. The New York Dolls' LP, "Raw Power", all the Throbbing Gristle stuff, Joy Division (of course, since they are my favorite band), Black Sabbath, "There's a Riot Goin' On". "Superfly"...the list is virtually endless. But what you see in all of that is that the 70s were the era when "rock music" became like an octopus with infinite tentacles. Moreso than in the 1960s, you see the genres start to form and develop. And it sometimes isn't too hard to find even just one song, like "I Feel Love" that is where the genesis lies. And then when you get someone listening to "I Feel Love" and "Persuasion" and they decide to pick up a thrift store keyboard, or some kid in 1978 hears the Buzzcocks and Roxy Music and buys a guitar to play music like them...that's when things start really getting exciting and interesting.

But you also had a lot of regressive, reflective stuff too- like Led Zeppelin. AC/DC, southern rock, early punk. Back to basics rock n' roll. Which was also, in a way, forward thinking for the time.

As for "Surrender", it is one of the great teenage rock songs no doubt. If only for the line "mom and dad were rolling on the floor/rolling numbers/rock and roll/they got my KISS records out". That's such a meta line that encapsulates so much about the youth culture of that era.

"Nite Flights"...good god, the first half of that record is EXTRAORDINARY. The last half...not as much! The Scott Walker side is pretty apparent there.

It's always refreshing to me to hear people openly profess a love for disco. It's such a maligned, misrepresented, and mischaracterized genre. There are some amazing disco records, and some of them even by artists other than Chic. I was listening to Thelma Houston's cover of "Don't Leave Me This Way", that chorus just KILLS. I love the original song too, but it's a great cover and it makes the crossover into disco well. It's well documented that a large part of the negative reaction to disco was homophobic, which is just such a shame. Like any genre, there was tons of crap, no doubt. But some great stuff too. Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, hell yes.
Last edit: 05 Jul 2017 17:38 by Michael Barnes.
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05 Jul 2017 17:57 #250904 by Shellhead
Responses to various remarks upthread:

I was thinking about Bowie as I typed my previous post in this thread, because he was even more ahead of the times than Donna Summer. I don't have much use for some of Bowie's album tracks, but his hit singles are practically a music pantheon for me. Just to pick out one example, Golden Years doesn't sound like a '70s song to me, or even necessarily a rock song, but it has the great, timeless quality.

Surrender is an okay song, but only the chorus sounds like good rock to me. The rest of the song has this slightly weary quality that may be appropriate to the lyrics, but falls short for me. I assume that somebody goofed upthread and meant to say I Want You to Want Me was a legendary rock song.

I saw Saturday Night Fever before I got the memo that Disco Sucks, so I have a certain fondness for at least that sound track, and maybe a few other disco songs. I still go out dancing with friends once in a while, and wouldn't say no to a song like Stayin' Alive.

The concept of genre is somewhat useful when looking for similar music to something that you like, but I also like music that falls between genres. And great music can be found in any genre if you look for it.

While it's true that Led Zeppelin got a lot from older blues influences, I think that they were also pretty innovative. Maybe too innovative, because their influence on subsequent bands never matched their popularity.

Like Golden Slumbers before it, Bohemian Rhapsody is a medley of hooks that never got developed into full individual songs but worked well enough together with a linking melody.

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05 Jul 2017 21:38 #250910 by mutagen

It's well documented that a large part of the negative reaction to disco was homophobic


Nah man, that's totally revisionist. Back in the day, if you tuned into 10 stations, and that was absolutely the only way to listen to new music, 9 of them would be playing Disco. And half of that would be Donna Summer or the Brothers Gibb. Disco was a weed choking out the entire musical scene. If Disco crashed harder than most fades, it was only because it was so wildly successful. I rather doubt everybody just suddenly became homophobic, particularly since the AIDS scare was still a couple of years away. Besides, those of us in High school, and part of the "Fuck, not this shit again" anti-disco movement did not associate it with gays, but fat, sweaty, white males with too much jewelry and dacron. Disco just got old, like those desperate men in the dance clubs, and who the hell wants to dance to old man music.
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