“I think you’ve got to slow down,
before you start to blow it.
I think you’re headed for a breakdown,
so be careful not to show it.”
A Little History:
Gloria was originally an Italian Pop song recorded by Umberto Tozzi, in 1979. Branigan covered it on her debut album, Branigan. The song was written by Tozzi with the Italian composer Giancarlo Bigazzi. The Canadian songwriter Trevor Veitch, who wrote some of Sheena Easton’s hits, worked on Branigan’s version.
Branigan’s version earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. She lost to Melissa Manchester’s You Should Hear How He Talks About You.
This song was very popular in many countries. In Germany, Branigan’s version was # 1 while the original Italian version was # 2.
The song was also recorded by Sheila B., in French. Interestingly, each version of the song (the original Italian, the Laura Branigan version and the Sheila B.) all have somewhat different lyrical meanings, and are not literal translations.
Umberto Tozzi himself made the first recording of Gloria in 1979. That summer Tozzi’s recording entered the Italian Top Ten for a stay of sixteen weeks, six of them at # 2. It spent four weeks at # 1 in both Switzerland and – in a translated version – Spain. That same year saw Tozzi’s Gloria achieve hit status in Austria (# 4), Belgium (# 3 on the French chart), the Netherlands (# 21), France (# 3) and Germany, where the track reached # 8 despite a cover version by Gerd Christian.
The original version of Gloria was a love song as was the first English rendering of the song cut by its lyricist Jonathan King to reach # 65 UK in November 1979: Umberto Tozzi himself made a cover version of the Jonathan King version.
In 1980, a Czech rendering of Gloria entitled Dívka Gloria was a local success for Vítězslav Vávra; also in 1980 an Estonian rendering of Gloria was recorded by Mait Maltis.
The song Gloria would attain its highest profile via a re-working featured on the 1982 album release Branigan, the first released album by Laura Branigan. After Atlantic Records shelved Branigan’s planned debut album, the label’s managing director Doug Morris suggested that Branigan work with producer Jack White, and it was White – a native of Germany – who suggested Branigan record an English version of the Umberto Tozzi hit Gloria. Branigan would recall that on hearing the Tozzi track:”I went hmmm, because it was so soft and so European sounding. But we gave it the American kick and rewrote the lyrics and off she went.”
Branigan’s remake of Gloria was co-produced by White with Greg Mathieson who had been arranger and keyboardist on the Umberto Tozzi original: Mathieson was also keyboardist on the Branigan album.
Branigan would tell People Weekly Magazine that she and her producers at first attempted an English version of Tozzi’s Gloria in the romantic mode of the original, changing the title to Mario, but this seemed ineffective. Ultimately Branigan would record an English re-invention of Gloria as a character study of – in Branigan’s words – “a girl that’s running too fast for her own steps“, the lyrics being written by Trevor Veitch who was the contractor for the Branigan album to which he contributed guitar work; in the Atlantic Records Radio Tribute Show, Branigan would state: “I was involved in it [ie. the lyric writing] but [Veitch] really wrote them.”
Although another selection, All Night With Me, was chosen as Branigan’s lead-off single, Branigan also performed Gloria during her promotional TV appearances at the time of the album’s release in early 1982 and that track was released as a single in the Summer, first becoming a disco favorite and gradually accruing radio support to debut on the pop charts. The single debuted at # 84 on the Hot 100 in Billboard dated July 10, 1982. A 4 1/2 month climb brought the single to # 2 on the Hot 100 for the three weeks ending November 27 through December 11.
Gloria was denied the # 1 position first by Lionel Richie’s Truly for two weeks, then by Toni Basil’s Mickey for one week: Mickey shared Gloria‘s co-producer Greg Mathieson whose production collaborator on Mickey was Gloria‘s lyricist Trevor Veitch, and both Mathieson and Veitch were session players on both Gloria and Mickey (Mathieson on keyboards, Veitch on guitar). Gloria remained in the Top 40 for 22 weeks: its total Hot 100 residency of 36 weeks established a new record for a single by a solo female act. Cash Boxwould rank the track as # 1.
Certified platinum for sales of two million in the US alone, Branigan’s Gloria was also an international success, most notably in Australia where it held the # 1 position for seven weeks from February 7 to March 21, 1983. Gloria also took Branigan to the Top Ten charts in the UK (# 6), Ireland (# 4), New Zealand (# 6) and South Africa (# 9). In Italy Branigan’s Gloria reached # 36.
Gloria earned Branigan a nomination for the Best Pop Vocal Performance Female Grammy Award for the year 1982. The song appeared the following year in the musical drama Flashdance, although it was not included on the movie’s soundtrack album.
In 2003 Branigan characterized Gloria as “really [not] my biggest hit, but it certainly is my signature song. And I always get the same reaction wherever I go and whenever I perform it … I have to end every show with that song and people just go crazy. ‘Gloria’ was just a great girl!”
A Little Memory:
At thirteen the things that I was obsessed with the most were my record collection, a big blue eyed son of a preacher man (yes, really), and going roller skating with my friends. I was in junior high and was right in the midst of that awkward stage of being barely a teenager. All those overwhelming emotions, all the pressures and cruelties of that time of youth, and all the heart-pounding burst of romantic wanting that I was not so sure what to do with, that was me when this song came out.
I was naive despite the things that were happening in my home life. The way the world worked was still such a surprise to me. Back then I honestly expected that a boy I liked would like me back, that if I showed up with a smile to the roller rink someone would ask me to “couple’s skate“, and that everyone loved music the way I did, enough to write stories about songs, and to find oneself within them.
Gloria was a character in my head with long red hair and designer jeans who ruled the roller rink. She was also a spy who traveled the world on “very important” missions, like a cooler, female version of James Bond, with a hefty dose of Wonder Woman and all three Charlie’s Angels thrown in. All the boys adored her, followed her around, worshiped her, chased after her to ask for each and every “couple’s skate“. I wanted to be her something fierce.
I do think I missed quite a bit in my translation, though my “version” of the song still makes me smile.