Three decades after collaborating on some of the biggest movie themes of the 1980s, 74-year-old production and songwriting legend Giorgio Moroder is back, releasing his first solo record since 1985 last year. To celebrate his return — and this weekend’s Academy Awards — we caught up with the man himself, to discuss two of his Oscar-winning compositions… and one song that probably should have been an Oscar contender.
“Flashdance… What a Feeling,” Irene Cara (Best Original Song winner, 1983)
Moroder had a feeling, all right — a bad one. “The word about Flashdance was not great; nobody knew what kind of a movie it [was],” says Moroder of the film that gave him his first Best Song Oscar. “So when [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer asked me [to contribute a theme song], I said, ‘Yeah, but I would like to see the movie.’ So I got the video, and I [told] my girlfriend, ‘OK, you look at the movie, then tell me what you think. If you don’t like it, I don’t think I want to do it.’ At the end, she was crying: ‘What a great movie! So romantic!’ So I said, ‘I definitely want to do it.’”
“Take My Breath Away,” Berlin (Best Original Song winner, 1986)
Martha Davis of the Motels was the first to take a stab at the love theme from Top Gun. “She did a good job,” says Moroder, who got to hear her rendition again recently when Davis released the demo via Pandora. However, Moroder says Jerry Bruckheimer, who also co-produced this film, didn’t like it. So next he tried for Aimee Mann, who at the time was riding high with ‘Til Tuesday.
“Supposedly [Aimee] was interested,” Moroder remembers, “but then I gave her the songs and I didn’t hear anything back.” Ultimately, it was Terri Nunn, the petite powerhouse singer from the band Berlin, who got to record Moroder’s second Best Song Oscar-winner. “She has a pop voice, but she’s really good at high notes, too, and she sang it with a believable attitude.”
“Call Me,” Blondie (1980)
Moroder’s collaboration with Blondie — a song for the movie American Gigolo starring Richard Gere — wasn’t up for an Oscar, but it was one of the most iconic movie hits of the decade. It gave Blondie their biggest chart single ever, and it was in fact the highest-charting song of the year 1980.
“[Debbie Harry] came up with the title, and she wrote the lyrics, which fitted the movie so well,” says Moroder, who’d reteam with the singer for another film track, “Rush Rush,” from Scarface. Of “Call Me,” Moroder says: “It’s quite a difficult song, actually — especially the high note — but she was ready.”
Drummer Clem Burke took longer to get it right. “He was a great drummer, but too vital,” Moroder says. “We would start the song, [and] every two, three seconds he would do a fill. The whole song was one big drum fill! I said, ‘We have to slow down. Let’s make a deal: You can have a fill every eight bars.’ He was miserable, but finally he did it.”