st. ulrich

‘Giorgio by Moroder’ is a story told twice. [Analysis]

Today is Giorgio Moroder’s birthday. He was born on the 26th of April, 1940.

“… When I was fifteen, sixteen, when I really started to play the guitar, I definitely wanted to become a musician. It was almost impossible because the dream was so big; I didn’t see any chance because I was living in a little town, was studying…”

He grew up in Urtijëi/St. Ulrich, South Tyrol. In art, music and literature, the phrase ‘living in a little town’ tends to mean ‘living away from opportunities’ or ’being unable to make it big’. This was definitely the case for a while; but for him, it’s true in a literal sense, too. Urtijëi is a genuinely small town with less than five thousand inhabitants.

“And when I finally broke away from school and became a musician, I thought: ‘Well, now I may have a little bit of a chance.’ Because all I really wanted to do is music, and not only play music, but compose music.”

I’m writing this in 2015; he is seventy-five years old today. Thirty years ago was when he released his last album. He’s releasing another in a couple of months, and in the meantime has had countless collaborations, productions and only several different eras of disco/electronic music to be thankful for under his belt. He’s been a very busy man, to say the least.

“At that time, in Germany, in ‘69-'70, they had already discothèques. So I would take my car, would go to a discothèque and sing… maybe, thirty minutes. I think I had about seven, eight songs. I would partially sleep in the car… because I didn’t want to drive home, and that helped me for about almost two years to survive in the beginning.”

This post isn’t so much a lesson on Giorgio Moroder, what his life was like, how his music was crafted, or even about Daft Punk in particular. It’s rather a collection of my thoughts as I listen and reflect: this song was chosen because it’s about Giorgio, it celebrates him in ways that beyond simply including him in a collaboration - he’s had a lot of that already. But ‘Giorgio by Moroder’ is more than that. He tells his own tale; DP retells it in a completely different dimension, and throughout the rest of Random Access Memories keeps on paying homage to it. Giorgio’s presence was melded into this song and that album - he’s everywhere but nowhere, unless one listens carefully.

I like that. Very meta. I guess I’ve heard people saying this song is boring too many times - one notable comment that I remember is that the second half is like ‘Kraftwerk with an old man rambling over Travis Barker on the drums’ - and that isn’t the case for me at all! I might as well explain my feelings and the rationale for why I think that (though I must state that I bring nothing new to the table), and I might as well do it today.

“I wanted to do an album with the sound of the '50s, the sound of the '60s, of the '70s and then have a sound of the future. And I said, ‘Wait a second…I know the synthesizer - why don’t I use the synthesizer, which is the sound of the future?’”

It’s a very playful song, for one. There are many callbacks to Giorgio’s own pieces and techniques - I would say that ‘Chase’ is a major influence in ‘Giorgio by Moroder’, and DP definitely are aware of (and have covered!) that song in live performances. Donna Summer’s ‘I Need Love’ is probably another re: the use of synth. There are some motifs that are started in his narration and carried on throughout the album, like this:

“And I didn’t have any idea what to do, but I knew I needed a click, so we put a click, on the twenty-four track…”

*click, click, click, click, click-* [1:36 mins]

The moment when the metronome clicks were brought in, and when it transitioned out of them, was when I was sold on Random Access Memories proper. It isn’t just a small wink-and-nod to what he said. Much later this exact click rhythm, sped up a little, forms the backbone of ‘Doin’ It Right’. 

“… which then was synched to the Moog Modular. I knew that could be a sound of the future - but I didn’t realise how much the impact would be.”

And neither did I realize, at first listen, how beautifully this would be demonstrated in one perfectly condensed nine-minute package.

“… My name is Giovanni Giorgio, but everybody calls me - Giorgio.”

The era of EDM began.

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