I Feel Love — still! — for Donna Summer

The first thing I ever stole was a Marathon candy bar. I got caught instantly by my parents, of course — I was a terrible liar, and apparently so dumb that I didn’t think to actually eat the candy bar before I got home — so I had to return to Gibson’s, on foot, and apologize to the store manager, who then called my parents to confirm I had showed up and not, say, tried to run away.

The second thing I ever stole was a Donna Summer record.

I’m sure that Donna wouldn’t have been pleased to hear that. (Especially not after she became a born-again Christian.) In my defense, I only stole it from my sister. Although now that I think about it, she may have had the record on loan from the high school radio department, because it was a 12-inch single featuring the theme from “The Deep” on one side and — be still my childhood heart! — an eight-minute-long version of “I Feel Love” as the B-side. That isn’t the sort of record you could buy off the shelf back then in Missoula, MT … which made it all the more essential that 10-year-old me should have it.

Anyway, if that’s true, then I apologize to Sentinel High School students for depriving them of one slice of their disco fix … although I prefer to cast it as saving the record from its inevitable, ignominious death by public bonfire during the “Disco Sucks!” era.

Stealing a record from a sibling is kind of tough to pull off. Especially a record like that one: “No, of course that’s not your record I’m listening to. This is my own, completely unrelated record featuring an eight-minute-long version of ‘I Feel Love.’ ” So I have a sneaking suspicion that she had a sneaking suspicion what had happened — or, perhaps, she just hadn’t obsessively inventoried her music enough to realize what had been pilfered. But just in case, I hid it in a secret place (among my parents’ country albums) and only listened to it when my sister wasn’t around.

We did listen to the compilation album On the Radio a lot together, though, and you know we parsed every aspect of the outfit she wore on the cover, too. I was fascinated by her downright phosphorescent mules — geez, gay much, 10-year-old Sam? — but had nothing good to say about the setup on the back where she was supposed to be a cabbie.

But the songs! On the Radio might have been my first exposure to an album where the songs blended in a continuous mix, and I loved pretty much every track, except for “No More Tears,” the laborious 10-minute-long duet/diva battle with Barbra Streisand.

“I Feel Love” was always my favorite, though. I held onto that 12-inch single for more than 25 years, and collected pretty much any remix or cover version I could find. I haunted used-CD stores to find the NME double-disc import featuring Curve’s faithful rendition; was delighted to come across a techno/acid-house version by Messiah; even endured classical violinist Vanessa-Mae‘s vocals and a kitschy version by Montefiori Cocktail.

When Madonna released Confessions on a Dance Floor, I instantly recognized the bass line of “Future Lovers,” and when I heard that she opened each night of her sold-out tour with a mashup of “Future Lovers” and “I Feel Love,” I was like, “DAMMIT. Now I have to go.”


As luck would have it, Madonna added a second night in Phoenix, so Mr. Brooks and I ponied up the cash. I had no idea what to expect — certainly not this whole setup, which strung me along so skillfully that I could feel my heart thrumming. The anticipation! Six minutes later, when she kicked into “I Feel Love,” I turned to Mr. Brooks and said, in typical laconic fashion: “I am so happy right now.”

And it’s all thanks to Donna. Let’s have a look at the original, shall we?

WHAT SAM WORE: 5-17-12
The shirt: Long-sleeved cotton button-down, from the J. Crew outlet store in Anthem.
The pants: Vintage khakis by Chip & Pepper, from Last Chance.
The shoes: Trainers by Diesel, from Last Chance.

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