The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

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The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.

Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music giant. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador’ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear  rather canny.

Few people can claim to have not merely been part of popular culture, but to have helped shape it themselves. Giorgio Moroder is one of those select few.

Born in South Tyrol, Moroder first pursued the usual path of poverty-stricken musician-for-hire, until he was introduced to the synthesiser in the then flourishing music scene of Munich. This would prove to change not just the course of Moroder’s life, but pop music in general.

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Moroder, a tie and a few switchboards, photo (c) Dance Music NW

First from his underground lair below the coarse monotony of Munich Bogenhausen’s Arabellapark, later from Los Angeles, Moroder defined the sound of music for the ’80s. Having played a crucial role in the establishment of the electronic disco sound, Moroder worked with and for Donna Summer, David Bowie and Freddy Mercury (to name but a very select few), while also leaving an imprint on the movie world through his scores for American Gigolo, Scarface and Cat People (to name but a few).

In 1978, he even received an Oscar for his music accompanying Alan Parker’s Midnight Express, in one of the Academy’s irregular, ill-fated attempts at showcasing its openness to modern trends.

Moroder took the often long-winded and impenetrable musical ideas of contemporaries such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Conny Plank and turned them into something far more accessible. It must be highlighted though that his success wasn’t merely a fact of being in the right place at the right time. Just comparing Moroder’s output with that of some of his pupils – most famously Harold Faltermeyer, of Axel F fame – demonstrates the qualities underlying Moroder’s analogue electronica.

During the ’80s, Moroder was arguably the most influential musician around. And probably among the biggest earners in the industry, as well.

At this point, one of Moroder’s core personal interests inevitably comes to the fore: automobiles. As could be expected from an Italian who spent an extended period of his lifetime in southern (then West) Germany, synthesisers and microphones weren’t the only technical objects that tickled his fancy, just as his aesthetic interests extended beyond sunglasses and white pianos.

Moroder was such a petrolhead/Autonarr/fanatico di motori that he truly put his money were his heart was when he invested in the enterprise of erstwhile Lamborghini engineer, Claudio Zampolli: Cizeta.

Cizeta – or, as it was called for a limited period of time: Cizeta Moroder – was one of the more noteworthy scions of the debt-financed, Reaganomics-induced spending spree that resulted in the launch of all kinds of supercar ventures during the ’80s. Powered by a V16 engine, the Cizeta certainly was far removed from the kit car standards that most of the competition considered good enough.

Its shape was even penned by no less an authority in the field of supercar design than Marcello Gandini, although it must be mentioned that Moroder was furious when he learned that what Gandini had sold to him and Zamponelli was in fact the original design of the Lamborghini Diablo – which had previously been rejected by Chrysler management after their takeover of the Italian brand.

Like the Vectors, Panthers and Isderas, Cizeta-(Moroder) ended up a footnote in sports car history, rather than a game changer. And rather than the man who lent it his name for a while.

Some 30 years later, and with Moroder back in the automotive realm, Alfa Romeo ought to be commended for their choice of ambassador. Unlike Kylie or Victoria Beckham, the connection between Moroder and the product he supports is obvious and needs little explanation. Even the choice of the Stelvio model isn’t as arbitrary as it may appear at first, given the eponymous stretch of road’s location in Moroder’s home region.

Back with a beard, photo (c) Chrisalide Press

The only caveat regarding the coupling of Giorgio Moroder and Alfa Romeo is concerning an overabundance of similarities.

For as the ’80s came to a close, Giorgio Moroder’s grip on the world of pop music didn’t merely loosen, it completely dissipated. There wasn’t even the usual struggle to remain relevant that ageing artists usually inevitably entangle themselves in. Moroder just stopped working and enjoyed the good life, while being relegated to the status of a former game changer whose time had passed.

It was only due to the effort of French electric music duo, Daft Punk, that Moroder eventually returned from obscurity. As part of their Random Access Memories album, a postmodern homage to the disco music age, an altogether new generation of music fans was introduced to a man with a slightly peculiar accent reminiscing about his career before and during the days of the discotheque, in a song named Giorgio by Moroder.

After decades of being considered little more than an anecdote, Moroder had returned. And now he’s lending his regained credibility to another legend whose relevance lies in the past.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out for the both of them.

 

The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at www.auto-didakt.com

Author: Kris Kubrick

Driven To Write Auto-Didaktic Automotive Content

7 thoughts on “The Company You Keep”

    1. Surely not Richard? Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, ‘Electric Dreams’ with the Human League? Should I go on or just quietly fetch my spangly disco coat?

  1. I find myself thinking that Sebaldsbrück boy James Last would have made a splendid “brand ambassador” for Borgward, had they survived the 1961 unpleasantness.

    1. Oh yes! I see a ‘Drive Around The Clock’ event, taking place at the Park Hotel to celebrate the launch of the ’74 Isabella, with the highlight being James Last & His Band playing a concert in front of the Hollersee, right in front of my eyes!

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