This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #356: Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees from the Original Motion PIcture Soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.
I was thirteen years old when Saturday Night Fever was released. At the time, its’ cultural impact cannot be understated. Disco beats. Lighted Dance floors. Shiny, shimmery clothes. The Disco era had it all. At the epicentre of that era was a movie starring John Travolta called Saturday Night Fever. This movie went on to become one of the largest grossing movies in history (even to this day). The soundtrack that accompanied the movie remains the second-biggest selling movie soundtrack of all-time, too. *(Trailing only Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard.) In order to do this post justice, I am going to talk about the song, the soundtrack, the movie, the BeeGees and Disco in that order. So, put on your boogie shoes and let’s dance!
“Stayin’ Alive” was written and performed by The BeeGees. The original title of the song was going to be “Saturday Night”. However, The Bay City Rollers had just released a song called “Saturday Night” that became a hit so, in order to avoid confusion, the BeeGees changed their song title to “Stayin’ Alive”. The BeeGees wrote this song without ever having seen any clips from the film. All they were given to go on was the bare outline of a story about a working class young man who found his sense of self-importance on the disco dance floor. From that, they wrote this song, as well as “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Jive Talkin'”, “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman”. “Stayin’ Alive” reached #1 on the charts and was a million dollar selling single for the band. “Stayin’ Alive” has been inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Song category.
The movie soundtrack spawned consecutive #1 hits all throughout the year that it was released in 1977. Consequently, it was named Album of the Year. The soundtrack won a variety of awards such as the Grammy Award, as well as the Billboard Award for Best Album. The album has been placed in the US Library of Congress for the cultural impact it has had on America since its release. While the BeeGees are most closely associated with this soundtrack, a number of other artists scored big hits including Yvonne Elliman (If I Can’t Have You), The Tramps (Disco Inferno), Walter Murphy (A Fifth of Beethoven) and KC and the Sunshine Band (Boogie Shoes).
Even though Saturday Night Fever is closely linked with Disco dancing, the overall theme of the movie was the stifling nature of being stuck in a working class lifestyle in NYC. The movie was meant to be gritty and show the many pitfalls that await those who cross the line. There are several scenes involving rape and death so, all is not as glossy and sparkly as the dance scenes would lead you to believe. The song “Stayin’ Alive” was meant to indicate how hard it was to live a happy life under the circumstances that many working class people in NYC find themselves. John Travolta (who was already a TV star based on his role as Vinnie Barbarino on “Welcome Back Kotter”) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor making him the youngest male to be so honoured.
The BeeGees were already a well known and very successful musical trio by the time Saturday Night Fever rolled around. They had many hits such as “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart”, “To Love Somebody” and “I Started A Joke”. Needless to say, their involvement in the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack propelled them into another level of fame. The BeeGees consisted of three brothers: Maurice, Robin and Barry Gibb. They have enjoyed worldwide record sales in excess of 120 million albums. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Maurice and Robin Gibb have recently passed away due to health reasons, leaving Barry Gibb as the only remaining member of the original group.
As for Disco itself……for a brief while during the mid-1970s, Disco music ruled the airwaves and dictated a lot of the fashion trends that are associated with this time in history. I know that for my very first school dance in Grade 7, I wanted to wear a brown silk shirt and beige vest and pants sooooooo badly, all because of the influence of John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever. Looking back, I am glad that I didn’t go down that fashion road but, believe me, I would have jumped into those cool, lightweight, silk and polyester clothes in a heartbeat. As a musical genre, Disco fell into decline as the 1980s progressed and ended up transitioning into associated genres such as Electronic Dance Music, House Music and Raves. But, for one brief, glittery, disco-ball shiny moment in time, Disco was at the centre of a lot of people’s lives. At the centre of the Disco movement was a movie named Saturday night Fever and a song called “Stayin’ Alive” by The BeeGees. Enjoy!
The link to the opening scene of the movie, “Saturday Night Fever” (which features the song “Stayin’ Alive”) can be found here.
The link to the official website for The BeeGees can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their official website can be found here.
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