Let’s get the obvious out of the way – the Bee Gees didn’t invent disco. As a style of music, it had been growing in popularity via underground clubs, especially in larger cities like New York and Philadelphia. The Bee Gees weren’t even the first ones to have some chart success with this style of music, but, it’s tough to argue that they weren’t one of the best ones at creating it. After growing out of their psychedelic roots in the early 70s, the band turned to a more pop oriented sound, and churned out some classics that fully featured lead singer Barry Gibb’s falsetto voice, including “Nights on Broadway,” and “Jive Talkin'” in 1975. But, it was “Stayin’ Alive” that’s most indicative of their success, after it was prominently featured at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever in 1977 that signified disco’s full entry into the mainstream.
“Stayin’ Alive” is one of the most recognizable songs in the history of modern pop music and one of the most popular of the disco era mainly because it’s catchy. as. fuck. and danceable. as. shit. Everything about this track screams pop brilliance; the vocal harmonies in the chorus, the funky bass line, the four-to-the-floor rhythm. It brought people onto the dance floors, and the Bee Gees other disco hits from this era kept them there. Not surprisingly, “Stayin’ Alive” hit #1 on the Hot 100 chart on February 4th, 1978, and stayed on top for 4 weeks.
Not everyone at the time appreciated disco, and even now, many think of disco as a wasted era of music, with the over the top drug use, the rainbow dance floors, and the cheesy, synthy pop songs that strayed away from the typical sounds of the A&R fueled “corporate rock” that had dominated the charts in the mid-seventies. But, without a doubt, the disco music of the mid and late 70s fueled much of the pop music of the New Wave era and beyond.
The disco boom ended much faster than anyone could have predicted. By the time the infamous Disco Demolition Night happened on July 12th, 1979, Disco as a form of music was facing backlash from fans who favored more traditional rock or punk. On July 21, 1979, the top six records on the U.S. music charts were disco songs. By September 22, there was only one disco-influenced song on the charts, Herb Alpert’s “Rise.”
Back to the Bee Gees – disco completely resuscitated their careers, and the band played sold out shows into the new millennium. Whatever your preconceived notions of the Bee Gees or disco are, give the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack a listen and try not to tap your foot (or resuscitate someone). You may be surprised at how much you like it.