Turn up the old Victrola

220px-Dim_All_The_Lights_(Holland)On 12 January 1980, “Dim All the Lights by Donna Summer was at #98, its highest position in the 80s.  Its peak position was #2 in 1979. 

What’s with all the filling women up like cups?  We had Crystal Gayle’s “Half the Way“, and now Donna Summer’s “Dim All the Lights“, which uses the same vaguely pornographic metaphor for loving someone to their fullest.  Apart from that, and Donna’s ability to hold notes for longer than most, I really don’t have much to say about this song; at surface it’s your standard disco song, if slightly better than average.

So instead I’ll talk a bit about Giorgio Moroder.  You may not know who he is, but you’ve undoubtedly heard his work numerous times:  he’s a legendary producer of disco and new wave singles, and I have a love-hate respect for him.  I hate him for the disco.  He imported to the US the horrible, most obnoxious traits of European disco:  jaunty, gallop beats, overuse of dramatic key changes, and a blinkered devotion to happy major key compositions even when the lyrics of a song are downbeat or angry, yet with no sense of irony.  Actually, lack of irony is perhaps Moroder’s greatest sin; everything he does is to be taken at simple face value.  When it was disco — particularly with Donna Summer — it was generally bland and uninteresting.  But when he got to playing around with synthesizers — it would be too generous to say he pioneered with them — he found a lush sound sometimes dipped into darker territory.  Sure, he still secreted brainless singles like “Together in Electric Dreams” (with Phil Oakey of The Human League), but he also had the brilliant Midnight Express soundtrack, which included the dark, urgent, and entirely synthesized  “The Chase“.  He produced the soundtracks to Scarface (complete with a single with Debbie Harry) and Cat People (complete with a single with David Bowie), he worked with Berlin and Kenny Loggins on singles from the Top Gun soundtrack,  and every kid of the 80s knows the title song to The NeverEnding Story:  That’s Giorgio Moroder working with Limahl of Kajagoogoo fame.  Not everything he did was gold (I hate the NeverEnding Story theme song, and his reworking of the silent film Metropolis to have an all top-40 new wave soundtrack was predictably unironic to say the least), and he’s certainly not as challenging as Cabaret Voltaire in his use of synthesizers, but he certainly left an indelible mark on the early 80s and left the place rather more interesting than when he found it.

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