Pop Goes The Movies: STAYIN' ALIVE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Pop Goes The Movies: STAYIN' ALIVE

Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you're...
The 1977 film Saturday Night Fever starred John Travolta as Tony Manero, a young Italian-American man from Brooklyn who spends his weekends dancing and drinking at a local discothèque while dealing with social tensions and general restlessness and disillusionment with his life, and feeling directionless and trapped in his working-class neighborhood. The story was based upon "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night", an article by music writer Nik Cohn, first published in a June 1976 issue of New York magazine. However, when the movie went before the cameras, and even after the last shot was taken, the film remained nameless.

It was during this stage of post-production that the Bee Gees manager, Robert Stigwood, was approached to ask the group to write a few songs for the soundtrack. At this point, 'filler' music had been used when the movie was shot. As John Travolta later asserted,
"The Bee Gees weren't even involved in the movie in the beginning ... I was dancing to Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs."
In fact, the disco sequences where he is seen dancing to what was eventually "Night Fever", "You Should Be Dancin'", and "More Than a Woman" sequences were all shot with a variety of different tempo Stevie Wonder tracks.

Working out of Château d'Hérouville studio near Paris, the Bee Gees began recording several tracks, including a Stayin' Alive. As Robin Gibb recalled,
"The subject matter of 'Stayin' Alive' is actually quite a serious one; It's about survival in the streets of New York, and the lyrics actually say that".
Barry Gibb also recalled,
"People crying out for help. Desperate songs. Those are the ones that become giants. The minute you capture that on record, it's gold. 'Stayin' Alive' is the epitome of that. Everybody struggles against the world, fighting all the bullshit and things that can drag you down. And it really is a victory just to survive. But when you climb back on top and win bigger than ever before, well that's something everybody reacts to everybody"
The producer's of Saturday Night Fever agreed and wanted the song to accompany the opening of the movie, but they also wanted a title change so it could share the then-working title of the film, "Saturday Night". Can you imagine?...
Ah, ha, ha, ha, Saturday night, Saturday night Ah, ha, ha, ha, Saturday night...
Nope, me neither. And neither could the Bee Gees as they refused to rewrite the song. As Maurice Gibb explained...
"There were so many songs called 'Saturday Night' even one by the Bay City Rollers, so when we wrote it for the movie, we called it 'Stayin' Alive'"
Legend has it that Stigwood, the Bee Gees manager, suggested they expand the working title of the film to fit the first track the Bee Gees had recorded for the film and the only one completed at the time, Night Fever, and so Saturday Night Fever was born, and the now-classic title sequence was created...

Along with the majority of the other tracks the Bee Gees supplied for the film, Stayin' Alive was finished at Criteria Studios, Miami, but the recording sessions did not go smoothly. The band's drummer Dennis Bryon left the early due to the death of his mother, and the group first looked for a replacement, however when one could not be found they attempted to use an early drum machine, but it did not offer satisfactory results.

The only completed drum track at the time was for the already-recorded Night Fever, so the Bee Gees, along with and producer Albhy Galuten, took two bars from that track, rerecorded them as a recurrent loop on a separate tape (creating the song's constant rhythm), and proceeded with sessions for Stayin' Alive. As Galuten explained...
"Barry and I listened carefully to find a bar that felt really good. Everyone knows that it's more about feel than accuracy in drum tracks. We chose a bar that felt so good that we ended up using that same loop on 'Stayin' Alive,' and 'More Than a Woman,' and then again on Barbra Streisand's song 'Woman in Love.' To make the loop, we copied the drums onto one-quarter-inch tape. Karl spliced the tape and jury rigged it so that it was going over a mic stand and around a plastic reel. At first, we were doing it just as a temporary measure. As we started to lay tracks down to it, we found that it felt really great-very insistent but not machinelike. It had a human feel. By the time we had overdubbed all the parts to the songs and Dennis came back, there was no way we could get rid of the loop."
Later, the Bee Gees jokingly listed the drummer as "Bernard Lupe" (a takeoff on session drummer Bernard Purdie), who then became a highly sought-after session drummer — until it was discovered that he did not exist!

Amazingly, Stayin' Alive was not initially scheduled for release as a single! Rather, How Deep Is Your Love was selected as lead track from the soundtrack album and movie, but fans called radio stations and RSO Records requesting the song immediately after seeing trailers for Saturday Night Fever. The single was eventually released in mid-December 1977, a month after the album, and moved to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in February 78, where it stayed for four weeks, eventual replaced at number one by the group's younger brother Andy Gibb's single, Love Is Thicker Than Water, followed by the Bee Gees' Night Fever for their longest run, seven weeks. This was then replaced by Yvonne Elliman's If I Can't Have You, which was also taken from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Barry Gibb had a hand in writing all four of these songs, becoming the only person in history to write four successive US number-one singles.

As for the soundtrack album it featured on, that quickly became one of the best-selling albums in history, and remains the second-biggest-selling soundtrack of all time, after The Bodyguard, selling over 40 million copies worldwide (with some estimates as high as over 50 million).
In the United States, the album was certified 16× Platinum for shipments of at least 16 million units. The album stayed atop the 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, and Stayin' Alive became one of the Bee Gees' signature songs.

Check out all our Pop Goes The Movies articles here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad