You want to credit Kraftwerk for being the pioneers of electronic music? Fine, go ahead. They're not the ones who pioneered electronic dance music, though. The "dance" part is thanks to Giorgio Moroder, who came to the electronic music medium through disco rather than experimental music like Kraftwerk. Giorgio Moroder is the prototype of the super-producer. He was the first one to become a household name with a string of chart topping tracks from the mid-'70s to the early '80s. He has produced for the biggest pop stars of that day, made some of the most iconic movie soundtracks in history, and still had time to produce his own records, which was where he would show off his innovative side. With the announcement his new single "74 is the New 24" with news that he'll be releasing his first studio album in 30 years, we thought now was as good a time as any to reminisce on some of his greatest moments, and for those less familiar, present a primer of sorts to help you understand why everyone talks about him.
Einzelganger - "Good Old Germany"
This one I put in not because it's amazing, but more to show that Moroder started making electronic music pretty close to the same time as Kraftwerk. Their first electronic album (Autobahn) came out in 1974 and the album this one is from, Einzelganger, dropped in 1975. This is in some ways very reminiscent of the Kraftwerk style. I wonder if that was an influence. The album is cool if you like really experimental music, but it's not a really fun listen.
Giorgio - "Knights In White Satin"
This 1976 cover of the track originally by The Moody Blues has a bassline that just won't quit. It's slow, sexy, and one of the best disco songs ever made. It's not 100% electronic, but there is definitely some heavy use of vocoder and other elements. The arrangement is beautiful, and that's the thing about Moroder: he does some of the best damn arrangements in dance music history.
Donna Summer - "I Feel Love"
Well, this had to be on this list, or people would be freaking out; it's the track that everyone likes to say is the first electronic dance music track and is one of the reasons Giorgio is considered to be one of the greatest. Donna Summer, who sadly died a few years ago, was Giorgio's muse and theirs is really one of the most incredible collaborations in dance music history. Her amazing voice and his insane production skills made them an unbeatable during the late '70s.
Donna Summer - "Now I Need You"
This one is well known to people who have decided (like me) to go deeper into the Moroder world, but I feel like it should be better known. It's a really beautiful piece of music that feels like it should be played in a cathedral. You can totally see how it influenced the dance music scene to come, and it dates back to Donna Summer's 1977 album Once Upon A Time.... Crazy.
On the album, it goes straight into the next song called "Working The Midnight Shift," and I feel like they should be heard together so that's why I was delighted when I saw that they were available as a pair on YouTube.
Giorgio Moroder - "From Here To Eternity"
Honestly, I could have just put Giorgio's entire 1977 album From Here To Eternity on here; it's dope all around. I'm sad because I have it on vinyl, but I played it too much during university hanging out with roommates partying and one side has a big scratch. I don't know where the fuck I will find a copy now. Anyway, it's a pretty wild ride with what is perhaps the greatest cover in electronic dance music. That 'stache is unbeatable. It could beat you up.
Donna Summer - "MacArthur Park [Suite]"
I put this one because I find the lyrics hilarious and I think is amazing that they did an epic cover of the original that clocked in at almost 18 minutes long. People don't do shit like that these days, which is kind of sad. The time just flies by listening to this one since, as the title suggests, it's structured like a suite of classical music with different parts, so it keeps things moving and fresh. This is about as awesome as it is possible for disco to get. I dare a contemporary producer to try to make a 18-minute work that is even close to being as consistently awesome as this. I don't think they could succeed. Maybe kids have no attention spans. Yeah, let's blame it on them.
Giorgio Moroder - "The Chase"
"The Chase" is from the soundtrack to the film Midnight Express, which is about being in a 1970s Turkish jail (which is not a great time). This music plays at the start of the film and was, you guessed it, for a chase scene. It's not just the name though; it feels and sounds like a real chase. I want this track playing every time I have to rush somewhere. I could just have it on my Discman, but then if I'm parkouring around it would skip (yeah I live in 1998). Seriously though, this another film hit that translated perfectly to the dancefloor, and has been a key piece of electronic dance history ever since. Oh, I almost forgot, he won an Oscar for this.
Giorgio Moroder - "Evolution"
"Evolution" was made for the original Battlestar Galactica of the late 1970s. I don't know if it was just for the pilot of the show or for the whole series, but they made a soundtrack and this track took up the whole side of one record. It's the side of disco I think a lot of people don't know about. This was a part of the proggy sound in disco, and when I say proggy I mean in the sense like prog rock, which was a genre known to go in many different directions featuring super long tracks. This track was apparently one of the faves at the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan is said to have dropped it on the regular.
The Three Degrees - "The Runner"
The Three Degrees are a girl group who I also only know about because Moroder produced a bunch of their hits. They were doing Philly Soul in the '60s, and I think still exist in some form or another now. Their heyday was during the late '70s when they made some hard-ass disco with Moroder. It's really a toss up for me between this and "Giving Up, Giving In," but I had to make a choice.
The Sparks - "Tryouts for the Human Race"
I only heard of the Sparks after getting addicted to all things Giorgio, and I hunted voraciously for everything I could find. I can't say that I like the stuff that is not Moroder produced, but maybe you will so check them out. Don't always just listen to what I say. This album has any number of tracks that could arguably be on this list, but this one is ace. It's got that great build at the beginning and it just expands in scope as the track goes on. Pay attention to the layers that Giorgio weaved into this track; it's crazy.
Giorgio - "I Wanna Rock You"
This is from the album E=MC² that dropped in 1979. I like it less than From Here To Eternity because he does this high voice thing throughout the whole album. I don't know, maybe he was trying to copy the Bee Gees because they were a big deal at the time? In any case, it's still a great album and this is my favorite song from it. I saw a video that came out while Moroder was working on the album, and it was interesting to see what producing electronic music was like back in 1979. Basically you needed a laboratory.
Japan - "Life in Tokyo (12 Inch Version)"
Japan is a new wave group from England that had modest success in the late '70s/early '80s. I don't really know much about them. I don't really know if there is that much to know about them. All I know is that Moroder produced this one track of theirs in 1979 and I like it. It's got this hypnotic way about it that gets to you without you realizing and next thing you know eight minutes have gone by and you're like "OK, this is good." It kinda just drills itself into your head, just like life in Tokyo, I guess.
Blondie - "Call Me"
Well, this is a big smash hit that a lot of people know. You can definitely hear the style changing and sound way more like the '80s. It's not my favorite collaboration between Giorgio and Blondie's Deborah Harry—that would be "Rush Rush," which appeared on a soundtrack for a little movie called Scarface. Maybe you've heard of it.
The "Scarface" Soundtrack
Label: MCA Soundtracks
The craziest thing about Giorgio Moroder is that because of his work on the soundtrack of this film and it's popularity with rappers, he's had an enormous influence on hip-hop as well. Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Mobb Deep (to name a few) have tracks that very prominently feature samples from the music from this film. It's one of the most influential soundtracks in music and movie history, and is so quintessentially '80s that it has almost come to define the music of the decade.
Limahl - "The Neverending Story"
Label: EMI America
If you grew up in the '80s, you know this movie. You wanted to ride a flying dog beast. I know this track sounds super soft and probably makes me seem super soft, but I don't care. It's awesome. And have you watched that video? This Limahl guy has one of history's greatest hairstyles. I don't know how I would feel discovering his face in an ice mirror in a fantasy world, though. It would be a weird experience. This video is hilarious.
On serious note, this was period when Moroder was straight merking the movie soundtrack game. He won three Oscars for his film work, producing music for Scarface, Flashdance, Top Gun, and my personal favorite: Over The Top.