Saturday Night Fever
Ah Ah Ah Ah Still Stayin' Alive
Disco warped the world. It transformed ordinarily rhythm-impaired white people into wriggling masses of flesh, and gave them humiliating dances to do in public (see "The Hustle"). It tantalized club owners, who discovered that suddenly it was possible to fill the room just by hiring a DJ. This put lots of bands out of work, and in many cities permanently changed the live-music climate. Disco weakened the demand for albums by pop craftsmen and singer-songwriters; some executives blame it for the sharp downturn in the entire record business in 1979.
This document, an essential piece of any cultural history of the 1970s, captures the moment when disco was a marginally interesting musical enterprise. It was a very brief moment. Six months before this, the only defensible disco was Donna Summer. Two years after this monster hit, which eventually sold twenty-five million copies, the individual songs had been ubiquitous on the radio for so long, backlash was inevitable.
Heard now, removed from the frenzy, Saturday Night Fever remains striking for the deft shimmer of Arif Mardin's production, and the sharp, hook-atop-hook songwriting of the Bee Gees. The three Australian Gibb brothers, who'd been exploring disco and funk rhythms on two albums before this one, wrote a set of themes (for themselves and others including Tavares) sturdy enough to endure beyond the moment of hotness—including one shining pop ballad, "How Deep Is Your Love." Much was made of the trio's Chipmunkian brotherly harmonies, but few focused on what they were singing—radiant refrains that essentially say, "Even if you never go out in platform shoes and polyester, somehow, some way, you should be dancing."
Released: 1977, RSO
Key Tracks: Bee Gees: "Jive Talkin'," "Night Fever," "How Deep Is Your Love"
F.Y.I.: The working title of the film was "Tribal Rites on a Saturday Night."
Catalog Choice: The Bee Gees: Odessa
Next Stop: Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band: Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band
After That: Various Artists: A Tom Moulton Mix
Book Page: 820