Legend has it that when electronic pioneer Brian Eno first heard Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, he burst into David Bowie’s Berlin recording studio touting it as the “sound of the future. […] This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.”
He wasn’t wrong, although fifteen years was arguably a bit of an understatement.
Recorded in Musicland Studios in Munich, and produced by legendary duo Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte, I Feel Love was a worthy follow-up to the sexually-charged Love to Love You Baby, released the previous year, which pushed the nascent disco sound to new, albeit controversial levels (Time magazine counted some 22 simulated orgasms during the 17 minutes of the track).
For I Feel Love, however, Moroder was arguably more influenced by the emergence of fellow West Germans Kraftwerk, whose Trans Europe Express had been released in March of 1977, or his own Einzelgänger album project from two years previously, which teemed with ‘pitter-pattering drum machine beats and unsettling processed vocal-stutters’, according to a 2017 Pitchfork article.
The cornerstone of the track, however, was the Moog Modular 3P synthesizer, which forms the hypnotising, arpeggiated backdrop to Summer’s sultry vocals.
“I had already had experience with the original Moog synthesisers,” Moroder told NME in December 1978 (as quoted by The Guardian), “so I contacted this guy [classical composer Eberhard Schoener] who owned one of the large early models. It was all quite natural and normal for me. I simply instructed him about what programmings I needed.
“I didn’t even think to notice that for the large audience this was perhaps a very new sound.”
Schoener’s assistant, Robby Wedel, also played a crucial part in the formation of the track, showing the producers how to synchronise the song’s various elements around an internal click track; a feature that even Moog founder Bob Moog was reportedly unaware of.
According to Belotte, speaking to Sound On Sound, the track – which was to be the final number on Summer’s I Remember Yesterday LP – was recorded in just two to three hours.
“First, we [recorded] a reference pulse on track 16 of the tape, and from that we [locked] in the Moog so that the rest of the tracks are perfectly synchronised,” he explained.
“Once this was done and Giorgio had laid the basic track down — we’d use other Moogs later on, including the Minimoog, but nothing ever had the strength of that particular bass, which is like a giant’s hammer on a wall — every other synthesized sound locked in absolutely solidly with the original tempo. We had entered another world!”
Some 42 years later, it has lost none of its impact.