Why I love “Love to Love You Baby”


Simon Gage looks back to 1975, and how Donna Summer invented New York City for him, in Romford, from Munich

Donna Summer Love to Love You Baby

Imagine – if you can bear to – an almost teenage boy, lying on bright yellow sheets from Brentford Nylons under a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (who knows what all that was about!?) in a council house, out where London turns its back on Essex. He’s listening to the radio and hearing Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” for the first time.

God knows where I had found it. I knew from my dad’s Sun that it had been banned by the BBC for including no fewer than six orgasms. I wasn’t quite sure at that time what an orgasm was, but I was all for them. I knew that my life was going to have six or more orgasms before I was finished with it. Minimum!

And there were those orgasms – the song almost starts with one – and a little disco wacka-wacka and classical-sounding strings and that breathy, baby voice and “do it to me again and again, you put me in such an awful spin, in a spin, in [… off to orgasm]”.

This was my future life unfolding right there in that nine-foot-square bedroom.

I don’t know why I associated all this with New York City – it was recorded in Munich by Italian producer Giorgio Moroder and released before Studio 54 had even got its tax evasion systems in order. But I did. For me “Love to Love You Baby” was what New York was all about, all the things I dreamed of: glamorous music, discos, girls in white dresses, late nights, alcoholic drinks, silver shoes, NO shoes, baby breath in big Afros, long white cars, dirty streets, dirty non-nylon sheets, hoop earrings… and orgasms.

This was the soundtrack of what my life was going to be when my life got its act together. It was sophisticated and sexy in exactly the way that I was going to be.

Years later, I saw Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, the suburban drama about the apparently monstrous Beverly and her social-climbing ways set in Romford, a short ride on the 174 bus from where we lived. And what record was she listening to as she got ready for an evening’s cocktails done up in a long red décolletage dress like the one my mum used to wear for School Meals Social Club dinner’n’dances?

Yes, “Love to Love You Baby”.

Bad old, aspirational old, hard-to-please Beverly in her common tarty dress and silver shoes and hoop earrings was setting the scene for a night of sophisticated sexy glamour with that record, probably dreaming of all the same things in New York City I was dreaming of, if only her boring suburban husband would keel over with a heart attack.

You know what, sometimes dreams do come true. C


Simon Gage is a celebrity journalist, founder of The Soho Collective and oversees Jake, the gay networking group