Peter Godwin: But I wasn’t really imagining Italo-Disco when I made any of those records. It was more that those records fitted in with that sensibility, which is why they were well received there. Also, my songs of that time had strong melodies with quite a romantic emotion, even if it was a darker emotion at times. And I have to say that those Peter Godwin tracks did well for me not only all over Europe—for example, in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, South America, and Japan because Polygram released them all over the world—but also in the US, as you know. “Baby’s In the Mountains” was #4 in the Billboard Dance Chart when Madonna was #1 with “Holiday.”
Actually, I had an interesting night at The Funhouse in New York, watching kids from the Bronx break-dancing to back-to-back mixes of the different versions of “Emotional Disguise” at a “Peter Godwin Night” put on by John “Jellybean” Benitez. I was in interesting company, too. Madonna was there—she was produced by Jellybean at that time and they were a couple. Also, and this has a nice irony for me, so was Ralf Hütter from Kraftwerk.
This takes me back to the music I was listening to when I made tracks like “Emotional Disguise.” As I mentioned before, when I started making records with Metro, I was already listening to Kraftwerk, as well as many other acts that I mentioned. I realize, as I said I would, that I left some major influences out of that list.
Well, one of course, was early David Bowie: and we liked a lot of the same things, even then, like Jacques Brel and Brecht and Weill—songs by both of whom he recorded, quite early in his career, in English. For example, “My Death” (Brel) and “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” (Brecht and Weill). And when Bowie started showing his affection for Kraftwerk in albums like Low and Heroes—his Berlin albums— and also the two with Iggy Pop at that time—The Idiot and Lust For Life (I loved Iggy, too!)—that already had an influence on the second Metro album New Love.
Also, New York bands like Television and Talking Heads (the Heads were our “label-mates” on Sire Records) impressed me a lot, too and gave a different edge to New Love and the third Metro album Future Imperfect.
By the time I went solo, it was partly because I wanted to move in a new musical direction, especially in terms of the sound, using more synths and fewer guitars. I’d been listening to many “electronic” bands and artists other than just Kraftwerk. For example, The Normal (Daniel Miller’s band), Holger Czukay (from Can), Brian Eno’s solo albums (already I loved his work with Roxy Music and David Bowie), Einstürzende Neubauten, La Düsseldorf, early Human League, early Ultravox (with John Foxx singing), and Telex. By the time I’d recorded “Images of Heaven” and “Emotional Disguise” there were new bands forming, doing electronic music with their own idiosyncratic approach, like Dieter Meier’s Yello from Switzerland and Fad Gadget (an English guy whose real name was Frank Tovey).
Also Depeche Mode and Simple Minds started releasing records around the same time as “Torch Songs for the Heroine,” “Emotional Disguise,” and “Images of Heaven.” It’s a bit confusing because those tracks were released later in the US, for example, than in the UK. But those bands were really contemporary with my early solo career.
A lot of these people I knew: some were my friends, we went to the same clubs at the time, socialized together, ran into each other in television studios all over the world. It was a movement of like minds in some ways. Exploring new soundscapes and new ways to make records, all adding our own flavours. Midge Ure, the solo artist and lead vocalist with Ultravox, when they were at their most successful, actually produced my first solo single “Torch Songs for the Heroine.” Ultravox would play it at gigs before they went on stage, because Midge liked the track. Warren Cann from Ultravox played drums on “Images of Heaven.” So lots of musical incest going on!
. . . More that scene than Italo-Disco, if you see what I mean. But there are always many threads to a tapestry and you can’t always see where they begin and where they end. . .
So I wrote “Emotional Disguise” with an avant-garde electro-Latino pop vibe, listening to Krafwerk and flamenco and kids ended up break dancing to it, alongside Afrika Bambaataa (who in turn was borrowing from Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express on “Planet Rock”) and early hip hop. Then I wrote “Baby’s In The Mountains” a couple of months after, having danced to a lot of Marvin Gaye (I met him a couple of times), and I think I’m making post-modern soul music. Well, three years later traders and models are grooving to it down at Studio 54 and they think it’s British New Wave.
You have to love the beautiful madness of it all!
Click here to read more from Peter Godwin on. . .
Setting The Scene
Cult Following and Italo-Disco
Benitez, Bowie, and Electronic Music
French and Spanish Inspirations
Producing and Writing
The English and European Aesthetic
Working with Steve Winwood
Off The Map
Working with Others
Forays Into Acting
More On Acting