Oh, Donna

The ever-popular Perception vs. Reality struggle, in the form of an LP jacket:

Donna Summer - Four Seasons of Love

Slinky disco divas were all the rage in 1976, and Four Seasons of Love, with its thank-God-Photoshop-hasn’t-been-invented-yet cover, did its best to sell Donna Summer as the definitive S.D.D. To me, though, this album marks the point where she left the first clues that mechanized proto-Eurobeat wasn’t really where she wanted to be.

I quite freely admit to having bought her early thump-thump stuff: I never did count myself as part of the Disco Sucks camp. But when word of Summer’s passing (at 63, which is too, too young) reached me, this is the song I wanted to hear:

The last of, yes, four tracks on Four Seasons of Love, “Winter Melody” got a smattering of airplay around town, and it took some of her fans by surprise, what with its non-thumpy sound and its utter disdain for the demands of BPM. Ultimately, I listed it as one of the Songs in the Key of Me:

I had no idea what I was getting into: I’d bought the single because hey, it was Donna Summer, and I was still reeling from the seventeen-minute orgasm that was “Love to Love You Baby.” Nominally, “Spring Affair,” a more conventional-sounding number, was the A-side, but “Winter Melody,” sad break-up tune that it was, got all my attention. The official position of hard-line rocknroll types seemed to be that people did this crappy dance stuff because they didn’t know any better; this was the exact point where I decided otherwise. And Donna, three years later, brought out the hard-rocking “Hot Stuff,” about sixteen times tougher than the Stones song of the same name, and I knew I was right.

Both sides charted, which means, unless you’re Elvis or the Beatles, that both sides didn’t chart very high. No matter. I’ve never seen a headstone that quoted Billboard.


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