Friday was going to be a different experience of Moogfest for me, since I made the wise decision to take that day off of work. Leaving Yacht after 2:00 a.m. would have left me with insufficient sleep to pace myself throughout this music marathon event. It not only was it the kindest thing I could have done for myself, but it also allowed me to partake of panel events during the day, not the least of which was Giorgio Moroder having a discussion covering his over 40 years of experience in music creation and production. The name Moroder is a holy one in the Record Cell, even though I have relatively few of his productions, simply because with “I Feel Love,” the man created something completely new that has endured and is always fresh in my mind, even 37 years later. If that record were the only one he’d created, he would still be accorded enormous respect.
Giorgio Moroder – Panel Discussion
The panel started with his early solo success, “Son Of My Father,” which immediately resonated with me for the first time in over 40 years! I think the moderator might have played the Chicory Tip cover version, but it was one of those songs that I had loved the few times I had heard it, at the dawn of my top 40 radio consciousness; only to have not heard it at all in the intervening decades. But it remained a killa proto-glam pop stomper par excellence. Hearing it completely relit the fire to hear the full song again, and soon!
I have a passing familiarity with much of his production and soundtrack work, and his seminal “Midnight Express” soundtrack was a pivotal point of inflection in his career. He said that director Alan Parker had heard “I Feel Love” and had wanted that sort of energy for use in his proposed film. With that point, Moroder became the go-to man for movie soundtracks for decades forward, no doubt making his accountant [and agent] extremely happy. I particularly loved the anecdote he told about visiting David Bowie in Montreaux with director Paul Schrader to get a title song for the “Cat People” soundtrack.
Bowie had told the men to come to the studio at 9 am and have breakfast, after which he would record the song, to which he had written lyrics to match with Moroder’s music. Moroder was astounded that any musician would be ready to work before 5-6:00 p.m.! When they arrived, Bowie was in the studio, discussing song direction with Schrader and Moroder, and he nailed the song in three takes. He was finished by 10:45 and Paul Schrader was incredulous! Moroder said that Schrader exclaimed “I sometimes have to do 50 takes of a single scene!!”
Elsewhere, Moroder chatted frankly about the various musicians he had worked with and how the experience was for him. Blondie drummer Clem ‘King of the Stickroll’ Burke was a very talented man, but apparently, he butted heads with Moroder by wanting to insert fills every four bars in recording the 1980 chart-topper “Call Me.” Moroder helpfully noted that he reached a compromise with Burke, whereby he allowed fills every eight bars. “Normally, fills happen every 16 bars,” Moroder laughed. Elsewhere, he was respectful of Freddy Mercury’s talent as a writer, singer, and even pianist, but recalled that the star had been personally difficult to work with.
Eventually, the moment arrived that I had been waiting for, where the moderator discussed and played “I Feel Love,” or more properly, the first half of it. I was in the same room a Giorgio Moroder and the song was playing on a fine sound system, appreciably loud, but not overly so. And then I wept until it had finished. Sobbing in the most dignified way I could manage in the Diana Wortham Theatre. Thinking about it now, I even got a little misty eyed. This was a song that even in the 1978-1981 “please, no more disco” phase I found myself in, I would always set apart from the rest of the pack as the one disco song that was absolutely brilliant.
While they were recording “Low,” Brian Eno famously said to David Bowie “This is it, look no further! This is the record that will shape club music for the next fifteen years!” That was very astute of Eno, but the fact is that it’s 37 years later and as far as I can tell, by listening to contemporary dance music, it’s still shaping club music in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere any time soon. Thank goodness. When I hear contemporary music lifting a snatch of that “I Feel Love” DNA, it elevates whatever it touches. Those sequencers have an unmistakable power that’s not ebbed yet and don’t look to be diminishing any time soon.
Dorrit Chrysler – Theremin
As soon as I left the Moroder panel and exited into the lobby of Pack Place, my ears were caressed by some of the finest Theremin music I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing! Dorit Chrysler was playing a concert out in the public space, and I had just blundered into it, thankfully! I assumed that a Theremin presentation during the day would be an educational/informative event and not a recital by a woman, who frankly speaking, is the next Clara Rockmore!
Ms. Chrysler was a triple threat as she not only had the Theremin rolling over on its proverbial belly for her, but was also triggering a Moog Taurus pedalboard as well as triggering samples, loops, and effects on a conventional array of stompboxes! While singing… beautifully! The music was all over the map, beginning with more conventional, ethereal [almost gothic] sounds, while later veering towards the jazz realm, with side trips to Latin territory for an almost Yello/Señor Coconut quality. All the while, Ms. Chrysler was building up layers of sampled Theremin sound with chorus and loops like I’ve seen guitarists do plenty of times, but the practice takes on whole new realms of sound when a Theremin was used as the sound source.
It was a spell binding half of an hour that I was thanking my lucky stars for having blundered into while leaving the Moroder talk. It was just one of the gifts of serendipity that would present itself this Moogfest and certainly not the last. Anyone having the scantest of interest in the unique Theremin owes it to themselves to take pains to see Dorit Chrysler if she’s ever in your local sphere. She sets a standard of Theremin performance by which all others will be judged… wanting! As it was by then the early afternoon, I took the opportunity to go home for a brief nap. The evening’s music began at 5:oo pm that evening and lasted another nine hours.
Next: …Will it Werk this time?