Label: Polydor (European Issue)
Year of Release: 1971
This one already featured on the Purepop blog a couple of years ago, but I couldn't not upload my copy on to here for two very particular reasons:
1. The utterly glorious European picture sleeve you see above, featuring Giorgio Moroder and his slightly sinister Basset Hound. Truly, if such a dog-walking sight appeared over the brow of a hill in your locality, you would surely feel at least a bit flustered? If not, you're a less easily alarmed person than I.
2. The B-side "Watch Your Step" is worth a listen in itself.
Also, any chance to wax lyrical about this record is welcome. Way before Moroder developed a career as one of Europe's foremost synthesiser experts, he crafted a number of records which were variable in quality and often not particularly adventurous. In the take-it-or-leave-it corner rests some bubblegum experiments which added little to the world of music, the likes of "Looky Looky" being a head-on collision between The Beach Boys and The Archies without as much of the charm as either. By 1971, however, he'd produced this marvel, a twisted gem of a record which has never really received the full attention it deserves.
"Underdog" is an epic piece of glam pop which tells the tale of an unfortunate rural type who finds himself trying to make a name for himself in the city. Throughout his stay, he finds himself being bullied by his demanding boss, and being rejected by prostitutes who laugh at his very presence in their brothel (even whores have standards, you know). This largely preposterous, exaggerated tale of failure is propelled along brilliantly by the kind of minimalist violin riff later utilised to good effect on many Italian pop records, and a simplistic building structure which, after a period of respite in the middle, begins scaling new heights for the latter half of the record, twisting the whole thing around into a more optimistic and aggressive finale. It's a record that does a great deal with very little, and in many respects reminds me simultaneously of much of The Sparks output (who Moroder would later go on to produce) and also Pulp's "Common People", though in the latter case the differences are great enough to attribute to coincidence. Still, it has wit, ludicrousness, an ambitious amount of power behind it, and it's such a domineering piece of work that from the very first note, it's impossible to ignore. When you combine that with reverb-heavy drums and a fantastic pop guitar solo, you're really in Glam Rock heaven.
Moroder's achievements with electronic music were so astounding that it's unsurprising something like "Underdog" should be ignored by critics exploring his back catalogue, making it perhaps his most appropriately-named single. It doesn't quite fit the Moroder story, as it fails to break any new ground, unlike Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". Despite that, it's still a track I simply can't stop playing, a track which causes me to beam from ear to ear every time it comes on my iPod, and if it's unfamiliar to you, I predict a similar response.
Over on the flipside, "Watch Your Step" doesn't quite have the same effect, but any primitive, punkish glam rock track criticising the police force has to be worth a few spins at least. "Just you cut your hair, and take my advice/ when he passes by try to be so nice" advises our hero in rather hesitant English. It's a double-sided disc of victimhood, this one, but what fun there is to be had in hearing about these misfortunes. Put simply, this is probably one of the best records I've ever uploaded on to this blog.
(Sadly, I've had to take this down as its actually become reavailable - and remastered - on iTunes. So go there to grab it, you won't regret your decision in the slightest).