ReSounds: Donna Summer’s Influential “Our Love”

Cover art pulled from Discogs.
Cover art pulled from Discogs.

Let’s kick off the new year by looking back at 1979, when the 1980s was already bumping along — at least musically.

That year, disco goddess Donna Summer and collaborators Giorgio Moroder and Peter John Bellotte were already known for crafting pioneering, synth-laden dance numbers such as “I Feel Love” and “With Your Love,” and lush cuts like the certifiably epic, 17-minute “Love to Love You Baby.”

All of that was a lot of “love” for sure, but they weren’t done. That April the trio released the Bad Girls LP on Casablanca Records. The album featured “Our Love,” a supremely influential song that would help Joy Division pick up the pieces of their post-Ian Curtis lives to craft two key songs for New Order, their new group with keyboardist Gillian Gilbert.

The double LP, featuring Harold Faltermeyer on several instruments, isn’t known for “Our Love,” though. Most people recall the popular disco-rock cut, “Hot Stuff,” a tight groover with screaming guitars — you know the song, or its doppelgänger, Cerrone’s “Rock Me.” The double LP also has the catchy title track, the gloriously depressing “Walk Away,” and “Journey to the Center of Your Heart,” with a classy synth lead.

But the song that stands out is the downright brilliant “Our Love,” which serves as the template for iconic New Order songs “Blue Monday” and “Temptation.”

New Order have gone on the record over the years saying the rapid-fire kick-and-snare beat of “Our Love” inspired the similar drum pattern on “Blue Monday,” their 1983 hit single and best-selling 12-inch ever. This is evident, especially on the chorus of “Love.”

But 1982’s “Temptation” is in some ways the more obvious offspring of the elements of “Our Love,” from which New Order derived the bouncy backbeat, reminiscence-heavy but spare main riff, and excited synth arpeggiations that are the cornerstones of both cuts.

The synth arrangements are heavily inspired by the Summer-Moroder-Bellotte number, but let’s specifically focus on the drums. If you’ve ever seen New Order perform “Temptation” live — whether breathing their same air or even just hunched over a laptop watching YouTube — you might remember seeing drummer Stephen Morris pound out the song with drum-machine precision (alongside an actual drum machine). Morris actually bounces when he plays it.

Basically, “Our Love” is just another Summer-Moroder-Bellotte number that influenced artists or entire genres. They did that a lot in the 70s.

The Bad Girls LP, produced by Moroder and Bellotte, was Summer’s last album on Casablanca, and last true disco record, before she left for the fledgling Geffen Records and came out as a born-again Christian. The double-platinum-selling release was her most successful until 1983’s synthpop LP, She Works Hard for the Money, a record she wrote and recorded with Michael Omartian. The title track is an 80s classic, of course.

Although there was plenty of bad blood between Summer, her management, and Casablanca during the production of Bad Girls, I try not to let that pollute the importance of the art. The album isn’t just a disco masterpiece. It’s one of the best albums of the latter part of the 20th Century — or, at the very least, one of the most influential. It deserves recognition.

ReSounds is a Vehlinggo column dedicated to older and contemporary classics that deserve another look.

 

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