Friday, May 18, 2012

Donna Summer - My favourite pop idol dead at 63.

 MOOD:  Sad

 Well with me, it's a case of going to bed every night and sleeping as heavy as a rock.  That's why when I awoke at 3:40 this morning, something was amiss. 

With my radio tuned to ABC Newsradio, they have the BBC on over night, which can get shit boring, but its better then any of the alternatives, but that's another story for another day.  I awoke to the music of Donna Summer's "I feel love", and I thought for a moment, Newsradio playing music overnight, that is different. 

Then it came, like someone throwing a rock into my head, "Donna Summer, the queen of disco has died at the age of 63".  Oh, my god!, what?  By the time I was fully awake, the BBC were carrying on about another sad case story from Africa, but then within 10 minutes, the full story came, and I couldn't believe it.

So I guess with this I would take this opportunity to share with you, what Donna Summer meant to me as a kid in the 70s early 80s.  My first memory of her music was "Love to love you baby".  I remember hearing this on a family trip down to the south coast around the spring of 1975.  I still remember the somewhat overcast September day, and wondering what the hell this music was.  All I knew as a six year old that it sounded awesome, but I don't even think that word was yet in my vocabulary,

Through 1976 I was often picked up by a taxi, for taking me off to Charmer's Road school for special needs children in Strathfield.  The taxi driver always had 2UW on, and the trip always took around an hour.  With this I remember hearing "Could it be magic" being played heaps, along side other tracks as Abba's "Fernando", Cliff Richard's "Devil Woman", Sherbet's "Howzat", and Harpo's "Movie Star".

By 1977 2UW played "I feel love" often, but 1978 saw me go to a new school, with a new taxi driver, and of course him listening to 2SM.  This was the year when I got a transistor radio, the time when Donna Summer's "Last dance" was played to death, but it would be 1979 that would be her first impacting year.

In March 1979 I started compiling my own top 40 music charts every week.  By June "Hot Stuff was at the top of my charts, followed by "Bad Girls" in September, and "Sunset people in November 1979.  Though not a single, "Our love" was so good I charted it in February 1980, it came from her "Bad Girls" album.  At this time I was going to Tempe Primary School, and in late May, "On the Radio" would be her next charting single.  This track topped my chart the week when Tempe Primary School opened up its entire new section.  I can still remember all the new bright green carpets, orange and yellow decor, and mainly the concept that a school from the 1870's had been turned into school from the future, everything looked so modern.  September 1980 saw the release of the Pete Bellotte produced album "The Wanderer"; the title cut got to #4 on my charts during this time. 

It was at this time when I was regularly watching Countdown, and remembering the great teaser of 1981; Molly Meldrum hinting that she was about to release a new album.  As we know in hindsight, the album was cancelled, and eventually released several years later.  On an edition of Countdown Friday in early July 1982 I was again amazed.  Her next big hit, well at least for me, "Love is in Control" reached #2 in my charts, only to be locked out of the #1 position by Charlene's "I've never been to me".  She had some pretty heavy competition at the time as Goombay Dance Band's "Seven tears", Bucks Fizz's "My camera never lies", Tight Fit's "Fantasy island", and Ray Parker Jr's "The other woman" were all fighting it out in the top 5 portion of my chart.  

For someone that could have been easily written off as a disco "has been", her musical punching power was still right up there.  She then followed with "The woman in me" in October 1982 reaching #1 in my chart in early November.  "State of independence" is just another one of those tracks with a strong fond memory.  The first time I heard it was the day I moved bedrooms on Sunday 10th April 1983, when it was played on Donnie Sutherland's Sounds Unlimited.  Again though not an official single, the Springsteen penned "Protection" was another great track that charted in my top 40, reaching #13 in early June 1983.

August 1983 was another exciting time; it was when my family and I went on holidays.  We were visiting my parent’s country of birth and father's side of the family in the Netherlands for just over a month.  The day before we left, I heard Donna Summers "She works hard for the money" for the first time.  It was played on 2UW's Wacka MaCartney evening show. 

Reaching #2 in late October, "Unconditional love" was her next big hit on my charts; it featured musical youth as backing vocals.  It was kept from #1 by Taco's "Dancing cheek to cheek", and was facing heavy competition from the likes of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature", Bucks Fizz's "The rules of the game", Michael Sembello's "Maniac", Tim Finn's "Made my day", and Australian Crawl's "Reckless".  Not a single, but also appearing on my charts was "Stop look and listen" in December 1983, and "Love has a mind of its own" in March 1984.

Late 1984 saw the release of "Cats without claws", which was an album that rapidly saw the great talents of Summer going down the hill.  The album was shockingly boring, and this is from a true fan.  "All systems go" was released sometime in late 1986, possibly 1987, but by this time, she was completely off my charts, and off the radar of mid 80's pop culture, it seemed at this time she was definitely finished. 

She would have another few surprises in store, when in August 1989 she released the album "Another place and time".  It gave her another #1 hit on my top 40, "This time I know it's for real", and "I don't want to get hurt" which reached #9 in late November.  The album including these two tracks was produced by Stock Aitken and Waterman.  As I confess to being an S A W fan, even the mixture of my favourite producers and artist could not unfortunately save the rest of this album from being very lack-luster. 

The last piece of musical brilliance came in February 1993, when she once again teamed up with her old producer, Giorgio Moroder with "Carry on".  It was a smash on my chart, reaching #1 for three weeks.  It was refreshing to hear that 80s disco sound, when early 90s alternative and hip-hop was destroying top 40 music.  

Sometime around late 1994, she released the moderately enjoyable "Melody of love", but it was at this time when Summer's talents were best looked upon as in retrospect, rather then a contemporary.  By this time, mid nineties dance like The Real McCoy, E-Rotic, JX, Jocelyn Brown, Motiv8, Gina G, Culture Beat, and similar sounding Euro-dance artists were filling my charts, and the 70s 80s disco sound was long retired.

So with a lifetime of memories and music behind her, I say "Rest in Piece" Donna Summer.  She was the inspiration that first got me into liking pop music in 1975.

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