*Time magazine published an article titled “Sex Rock” in its December 29, 1975 issue.
It was in reference to Donna Summer‘s second single and first hit record; the pulsating, orgasmic, Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte-produced disco anthem, “Love to Love You Baby.”
Time wrote: “Donna’s message is best conveyed in grunts and groans and languishing moans. Her goal is to make an album ‘for people to take home and fantasize in their minds.'”
Rumor had it that the source of Summer’s grunts, groans and moans came from real orgasms that she reached while laying on her back on the studio floor. According to a tally by the magazine, “Summer could be heard enjoying 22 orgasms” in the nearly 17 minute song.
Indeed, Moroder was not happy with Summer’s groans while singing the traditional way, so he had her sing while lying on her back. Also, Summer insisted that the lights be turned way down because she didn’t want the other folks in the studio watching while she simulated orgasms.
As for touching herself, Summer would later say that she was touching nothing more than her knee at the time, but was thinking about her boyfriend, Peter, to make the moans convincing
Summer said that her Christian upbringing made this song a challenge to sing. She told Time that to write the lyrics, co-penned with Moroder and Bellotte, “I let go long enough to show all the things I’ve been told since childhood to keep secret.”
The Time article reportedly strengthened existing opposition to sexually suggestive songs. “Love To Love You Baby” was banned by the BBC in Britain. In the US, the Rev. Jesse Jackson used his group Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) to rail against this song and other sexually suggestive tunes at the time, claiming they led to an increase in teen pregnancy.
Even Summer, herself, was concerned about what the song was doing to her image, and had a hard time listening to it back. But its success couldn’t be ignored, and Summer not only learned to embrace its bold sexuality, but made it the centerpiece of her subsequent tour, complete with dancers simulating sex and Summer squatting over a bevy of men.
She toned it down somewhat for TV performances, like these sensual, choreographed, co-ed routines from the Dutch show “Toppop” in March 1975, and “The Midnight Special” in 1976.
In the interview below, Summer explains how she came up with the “Love to Love You Baby” title, her “Marilyn Monroe” approach to nailing the vocals, her initial refusal to release the song, and how Moroder’s trickery overseas caused the record to be released – with her vocals – without her knowledge.
Summer’s pre-“Love to Love You Baby” material was — well, pop?
Here’s her very first single, “The Hostage,” from her 1974 debut album “Lady of the Night” (released only in the Netherlands).
“Love to Love You Baby,” from her follow-up 1975 album of the same name, was the track that got the ball rolling toward her “Queen of Disco” title, aided along the way by the likes of “I Feel Love,” “On the Radio,” “Last Dance,” “MacArthur Park Suite,” “Heaven Knows,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.”
So why is the full version of “Love to Love You Baby” 16 minutes and 50 seconds? The head of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, called Moroder after he’d sent over a 3 minute edit. The producer recalled to Redbull Music Academy: “He called me at 3 a.m., and asked me to extend the song. He said that he had a party at his house and he was playing the single version and that people wanted to hear it over and over again. He thought that was a great idea – and so did I. That was the key element for the song to become a hit.”
After first being released in the Netherlands as the single “Love to Love You” in June 1975, it was released worldwide in November 1975 as “Love to Love You Baby” and went on to become one of the first disco hits to be released in an extended 12″ form.