Sunday, 13 February 2011
Donna Summer - Love's Unkind (1977/ No. 3/ 13 weeks/ GTO)
"Well I see him every morning - in the schoolyard
when the schoolbell rings
and when he passes in the hallway
well he doesn't seem to notice me
he's got a crush - on my best friend
but she don't care - 'cause she loves someone else
I'm standing on the outside, not the inside where I wanna be"
I've loved this single for twenty years, but I've only realised that its for slightly different reasons than other Summer/Moroder songs. It's a pastiche. Its gloriously fake, which doesn't stop it from being overwhelmingly joyous and affecting to hear.
It really ought to be heard in the context of its parent album, I Remember Yesterday, in which Moroder molds versions of the history of popular music of the previous 50 years into his own relentless disco chassis, climaxing with 'I Feel Love', which will always feel like the future. This is where he emulates Phil Spector.
Donna Summer, a single mother in her thirties, does not make a convincing schoolgirl. The story of this song really is a series of tropes, though admittedly the chain of unrequited love is an authentic evocation of schooldays. What is astonishing is the absolute metronomic precision of the percussion, which never wavers for four and a half minutes, putting the whole thing in a grid. This boxiness and pastiche has the very useful effect of making the blaring saxophone solo an embellishment which the listener can get into the spirit of, rather than a skwarking irritant.
So - the gridlike structure, the rather flat acting, the well-worn school love storyline. What this reminds me of is a photostory! With all of the charm and teenage heart that the best photostory ever could have