The Bee Gees
February 12, 2019
It was this trio’s sound which came to define a craze which swept the United States in 1978. By early January the Bee Gees dominated the Billboard charts. They would go on to have three number one singles that year, solidifying Disco as the ‘sound’.
On February 12th the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive, the song featured in the opening segment of the hit movie Saturday Night Fever, was in the middle of a four week stint at the top. Two months earlier, on December 17, 1977, the movie captured the attention of the country. Soon guys were donning their own white disco suits and gals strapped on wedgy high heels and wore swingy dresses, flooding dance floors everywhere as they gyrated to the catchy beat.
More than the movie, however, it was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that defined the era. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“It remains the best selling soundtrack of all time with over 45 million units sold. In the United States, the album was certified 16× Platinum for shipments of at least 16 million units. The album stayed atop the album charts for 24 straight weeks from January to July 1978 and stayed on Billboard‘s album charts for 120 weeks until March 1980. In the UK, the album spent 18 consecutive weeks at No. 1. The album epitomized the disco phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic and was an international sensation. The album has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress for being culturally significant.”
The Bee Gees, already a successful group, had no small part in the creation of the soundtrack. In all, eight of their original songs are featured. But for the fact that Columbia records refused the producers the rights to use Boz Skaggs song Lowdown, the Bee Gees might never have gotten involved.
Movie producer, Robert Stigwood, contacted Robin Gibb who related the conversation as this:
“We were recording our new album in the north of France. And we’d written about and recorded about four or five songs for the new album when Stigwood rang from LA and said, ‘We’re putting together this little film, low budget, called Tribal Rites of a Saturday Night. Would you have any songs on hand?’, and we said, ‘Look, we can’t, we haven’t any time to sit down and write for a film’. We didn’t know what it was about.”
What happened next is that most of the songs were written in one weekend and the rest, they say, is history.
Although the Bee Gees may have lost an album that year, their place in the annals of musical legends was solidified.
As a 20 year old college co-ed, I was not immune from the disco craze. A student at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, myself and a sorority sister enrolled in a Disco dancing class at Tacoma Community College.
For a number of weeks we attended the class where we learned all the fancy footwork, arm movements and twirls of the dance. I bought a white dress with a handkerchief hem, donned my white wedge sandals, and was soon going out dancing.
Despite my natural klutziness, I managed to dance with the best of them and, in the process, met a recent alumni from one of the fraternities who turned out to be the best dancer I ever knew. Alan knew every step, every move, and was a great teacher and partner. Dancing with him was magical.
At the time I did not appreciate what a unique time or experience it was. By 1979 Disco had faded due – I think – to the reluctance of the majority of the male population to learn the dances. It was soon replaced with moon walking and other forms of dance and then, in the late 1980’s, with the phenomenon of country line dancing. And so it goes throughout history. But for me, whenever I hear Stayin’ Alive or any Bee Gee song of that era, I find myself busting the moves. Just don’t tell my daughter, okay?
A couple of links: