KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday –“SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” – THE ORIGINAL MOVIE SOUND TRACK

Artist: BEE GEES (and more)
Album: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER – THE ORIGINAL MOVIE SOUND TRACK

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

My pre-teen self is grimacing at the notion of me writing about an album that turned the already famous Bee Gees into megastars and defined the late-‘70s disco movement, which was anathema to any self-respecting rock ‘n roll fan. I was eleven when Saturday Night Fever (the movie and soundtrack album) was unleashed on the world, so I hadn’t yet chosen a side of that musical battle line. In fact, at my Bar Mitzvah a few weeks prior to my 13th birthday, where the theme was rock ‘n roll, I joined the band for a rousing rendition of “Night Fever.” Well, rousing is how I remember it but stiff & undisciplined was more likely the case. I’m just glad there’s no video footage from that day. Within a year I was a full-fledged rock fan and I proudly wore a “Death Before Disco” button on my denim jacket with the cover of Cream’s Disraeli Gears painted on the back. For a brief time I loved Bee Gees songs before turning on them, like so many others did during the inevitable backlash of their multi-platinum success, and it would be another decade before I reappraised the trio of brothers Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb with more mature ears. There’s no denying that their contributions to the soundtrack are some of the most impressive records of that era, and they’ve stood the test of time. Of course they had already released a dozen albums over the previous decade (Odessa being a particular favorite), with numerous Top 40 singles, so their Saturday Night Fever success was no fluke.

Of the multiple #1 songs here, three were Bee Gees recordings: the aforementioned “Night Fever,” album opener and career-defining track “Stayin’ Alive” and lush pop ballad “How Deep Is Your Love.” They also wrote & performed “More Than A Woman,” which wasn’t released as a single, but the version recorded by Tavares (also featured on the soundtrack) was a hit. Yvonne Elliman, who had been Eric Clapton’s backing vocalist for a few years, scored a #1 hit with the Bee Gees-penned “If I Can’t Have You.” Add in two earlier dance-oriented Bee Gees #1 singles (“Jive Talkin’” and “You Should Be Dancing”) and it’s understandable why the group was so ubiquitous in the aftermath of Saturday Night Fever’s unprecedented success (it was the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time, eventually surpassed by The Bodyguard 15 years later). Composer David Shire contributed three excellent dance floor instrumentals: “Manhattan Skyline,” “Salsation” and “Night On Disco Mountain,” the latter a disco arrangement of a classical piece (“Night On Bald Mountain”) that I performed with an orchestra at around that time. The remainder of the album featured previously-released songs, some of which were already hits and others that subsequently grew in popularity. I bought the single of Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth Of Beethoven” when it was released in 1976, and I still love this disco-fied homage to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. KC And The Sunshine Band were already hit makers, but “Boogie Shoes” didn’t reach the Top 40 until it was featured on the soundtrack. The 1971 near-classic “K-Jee” by MFSB bridges the gap between the steady grooves of most disco songs and the slightly funkier Philly Soul sound from earlier in the decade. Kool & The Gang’s “Open Sesame” already had booties shakin’ in 1976 and was a nice addition to the track listing. Album closer “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps, in its glorious nearly 11-minute extended version, is probably as well-known as any of the Bee Gees’ songs. Ralph MacDonald’s “Calypso Breakdown” is the only inessential track for me. I’ve only seen Saturday Night Fever once and it didn’t make much of an impact on me. In spite of growing up on Staten Island and knowing characters like the ones in the movie, I was too young to appreciate it at the time and it was already dated by the time I checked it out. This has not affected my enjoyment of the soundtrack album. Even if you don’t like disco or any kind of dance music, there’s a lot of great musicianship & harmonizing to appreciate in these grooves. It may be a product of its time but the majority of these songs hold up extremely well after 40 years.

 

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32 comments on “Forty Year Friday –“SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” – THE ORIGINAL MOVIE SOUND TRACK

  1. jcbradleyjr
    April 21, 2017

    Really enjoyed this post. I was a teenager (in High School) when this came out and it was the soundtrack for many a party, get-together, etc. I went to. I absolutely hated this record. Loathed it. It stood for everything I stood against musically back in the day. However, today, 40 years or so I have come to really appreciate it (and dare I say) enjoy it. It really is a marvelous record.

    Like

    • Thanks. It sounds like we’ve had very similar experiences with this soundtrack. Once we got past the “disco sucks” phase it was hard to dispute the greatness of these songs.

      Like

  2. Phillip Helbig
    April 21, 2017

    “KC And The Sunshine Band were already hit makers”

    I am an incorrigible and prolific punster. Thus, my shame is even greater when I realize that it took me a couple of years to get Zappa’s Sheik Yerbouti.

    Like

    • I am also a frequent punster, much to my wife’s chagrin. I always loved the title of that Zappa album. He was a clever bloke, eh? And not a bad songwriter/guitarist/bandleader.

      Like

  3. Phillip Helbig
    April 21, 2017

    I saw a documentary about the Bee Gees where one of them said that he had never listened to this album.

    Like

    • I wonder which Bee Gees member said that. I believe the band weren’t involved in the movie until it was nearing completion, and the producers just fit their songs in whatever scenes were appropriate. Considering half the album were existing songs, I can see why they wouldn’t need to hear the whole thing. They were probably too busy bringing their giant bags of money to the bank to play any records. 😛

      Like

  4. Alyson
    April 21, 2017

    Oh Rich – I am very much in danger of rambling (again) so will keep this short(ish). Some albums just fill you with emotion as you remember “the times” they were from and this was my final year at high school. We were drip fed the singles one by one, then the movie came out, then everyone bought the album. For my Valentine’s Day blog post in Feb I finally was brave enough to come out and admit I was a fan and featured How Deep Is Your Love – Problem was, as you say, that back then there was a backlash and they were mercilessly parodied on TV sketch shows etc. which was very unfair. It was a brilliant album made by a very talented set of brothers in my opinion but possibly ok for a girl to say that rather than rock fan. The film wasn’t great but when I watch it now I just see it as a piece of history being recorded for posterity. You may have been too young but a pretty good portrayal of what life was like for the likes of Tony Manero and Co. in the Brooklyn of 1977. Massive thumbs up for this one Rich.

    Like

    • Hi Alyson. I knew we would have this one in common, but didn’t realize how big SNF was to you. I also wasn’t aware that they released certain singles before the movie appeared (possibly only overseas?). It was certainly easier for a girl to profess her love of Bee Gess music than for a guy, no matter what music he liked. I got over my anti-Bee Gees and anti-disco sentiment by the late-’80s when I was in my early 20s, but I think a lot of people never got over that and still hate them to this day. I should note that I did like them for about a year (without owning the album) but once I discovered rock & roll I had to choose sides.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        April 22, 2017

        Hi – We didn’t see the film here until the summer of 1978 (best summer of my young life to date) but most of the songs that had become singles had already been in the charts from late 1977 onward. You are still very brave to admit liking this one I think as none of the UK bloggers would admit it.

        Like

      • Thanks, but I don’t see anything brave about admitting you like a certain artist or genre. That’s the way everyone should be. I feel bad for anyone who avoids something because it’s “not cool” or won’t fess up to enjoying things for fear of being judged. That was the whole point to my “No Guilt, Just Pleasure” post a couple of years ago. It’s fine when you’re a teenager & trying to fit in, but as an adult you should be free to enjoy anything.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        April 22, 2017

        Yep you should indeed but somehow still hard even as a “grown up” – Still wondering if I need to trash my latest offering about the Pina Colada song but will try and brave it out!

        Like

      • I love that song and always have. I know some people will admit to liking it but only ironically. I have a soft spot for soft rock from the ’70s.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        April 23, 2017

        Hope you didn’t think I was being rude earlier about the being brave thing but I have now read your post on No Guilt, Just Pleasure and agree wholeheartedly. These artists also have given me just so much pleasure over the years but are often seen as being a bit, well, uncool. With long time friends and blogging buddies you can indeed be totally confident about your likes and dislikes but with new friends there is always that capacity to perhaps stall a new relationship before it gets underway, so even as adults we stick to what is expected of our “tribe” until we get to know each other better. Likewise, I wrote about all sorts of artists last year without any fear of redress but then entered that phase of starting to pick up a few followers and didn’t want them to stop dropping by, so I tweaked my choices a bit. I think I am now established enough to get away with posting anything I like as people now know where I’m coming from, so to speak. Like that you were fond of Spandau and Culture Club. Karen Carpenter is one of my all-time favourites although there is such sadness now when you listen to her music because of knowing what happened to her. Mr WIAA was only this morning suggesting that I write about Glory Of Love as it is one of his favourites and there is a story to tell about that one!

        I had promised myself I wouldn’t “ramble” this week on your lovely blog but I have now anyway! Looking forward to next week’s pick.

        Like

      • I didn’t think you were rude, Alyson. I just get a little worked up sometimes when the subject of “guilty pleasures” come up. I understand the concept and I realize some people worry about their “street cred,” but I prefer it when music lovers embrace whatever makes them happy. I actually enjoy some Backstreet Boys songs and had a strong opinion in the Backstreet vs. N Sync battle (Backstreet all the way) and never felt I had to apologize for it. I think the artist I get the most eye rolls about is Peter Cetera (solo & latter-day Chicago…people tend to appreciate his earlier work with the band), but I stand firm in my love of his voice and will defend his artistry to the death (perhaps a slight exaggeration).

        I’m really pleased that you’re not tweaking your writing simply to appeal to what you think your readers want to see. In my 6+ years of blogging I’ve learned that you never know what people will respond to so I just write about what I’m interested in & hope others follow along. My biggest disappointment was the series I wrote on the Al Green discography. I made so many wonderful discoveries while revisiting those albums and was hoping to find other Al Green fans out there, but I think it was my least visited series. I still enjoyed the music and the posts & wrote, so that’s really what mattered.

        Still deciding on this week’s album. My time is severely limited so I might have to highlight an albums I already wrote about in an earlier post.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        April 25, 2017

        Just logged on and saw this reply – Now I feel bad that I not only leave wordy comments every week but you end up having to reply. Yes, best to stick to writing about what you love at the time and not worry about “tweaking”any of it – I often get a massive surprise – Nancy Sinatra and Frankie Valli both went down really well when I wrote about them and didn’t expect that at all. Shame about the Al Green series as a wonderful discography but just goes to show “You Never Can Tell” (RIP Chuck).

        Like

      • You shouldn’t feel bad. I really appreciate your feedback & anecdotes, and it’s only right that I respond in kind. Sometimes I go off on tangents in my replies to short comments, and other times I write a brief reply to longer comments, but it’s all about connecting with fellow music lovers. Nice job with the Chuck Betty reference. (Yep, RIP Chuck)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. keepsmealive
    April 21, 2017

    Holy crap, 40 years? I just had an LP of this come into work yesterday. I won’t buy it, because it’s not my scene, but 40 years? Jeez!

    Like

    • Even though this soundtrack is so date-stamped to that era, it is hard to believe it’s been 40 years. Another item to make us all feel older than we should.

      Like

  6. kevin
    April 21, 2017

    I was the captain of the “Disco Sucks” brigade when I was a kid, but when no one was around I would enjoy a little “Night Fever.”

    Like

    • As is usually the case, we had very similar experiences, Kevin. I had no problem with disco when this album came out, but by early ’79 I was all about rock & roll and vehemently opposed to disco or any dance music. By my early 20s I came to my senses and realized how good some of that music was.

      Like

  7. Jeff Kempin
    April 21, 2017

    I still have the beat up original copy of this album, which my mom bought and played for years afterward. I like most of the music on here and I never got the whole “disco sucks” thing. You like what you like. Most mainstream pop/dance music has strains of this album in its DNA. The Bee Gees knew how to harmonize and knew how to craft perfect pop masterpieces. This album and Star Wars are forever linked in my mind because both were the biggest things going in ’77-’78. I need to see the SNF movie again, because it’s been decades since I last saw it, but I don’t remember it as being bad at all.

    Another good post, Rich.

    Like

    • Thanks, Jeff. A lot of people claim that “disco sucks” was an anti-gay thing, which might have been the case for some people, but for me it was just an “I’m a rock & roller and anything different is bad” kind of thing. It was such a stupid teenage attitude and it wasn’t long before I stopped caring about that and embraced any music I wanted to. I didn’t own the soundtrack until the early-90s when I found a used copy of the LP for $1-$2 (back before vinyl became cool again and everything was overpriced). It just seemed like an album that should be part of my collection after all those years.

      Like

  8. Sarca
    April 21, 2017

    I was too young to appreciate Sat. Night Fever when it was released…my mom, however, loved it. Once I was older, the film and music were laughable to this “connoisseur” of music. Now, I think the Bee Gees are something special. Great tunes and those guys could harmonize!

    Like

    • I enjoyed your different (younger) perspective on this, Sarca. For people in my age group this was a touchstone album, whether or not you liked it. I think no matter when you first hear it or how old you are at the time, eventually anyone with an open mind and open ears would appreciate the songwriting & musicianship that went into these incredible recordings.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Carolyne Allen
    April 21, 2017

    Great post Rich! I was of course about the same age as you when this came out. (Actually it had come out, I moved there in the summer of 1978 but it was still everywhere) I was living in Italy with my family and I can tell you this album was just as big in Europe as it was in the U.S. I wasn’t allowed to see the film now and when I saw it years later I knew why. But I loved the music. What I really remember though was that my Dad, a very good musician and pianist and someone who was almost exclusively a jazz fan at that time and disdained most pop music, bought it on vinhl and thought it was the best pop album and best crafted popular music since the Beatles. (He listened to a lot of late Sixties rock but basically stopped when they did and stuck to jazz afterwards). He thoughts always said a lot of to me about the album over the years- their musicianship, vocal ability and songwriting genius transcends disco and every other musical genre. That, as they say, is what makes their work classic.

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback, Carolyne. It’s easy to believe that this soundtrack (and movie) were huge everywhere in the world. This music was a touchstone for so many people. I think it’s really cool that your dad acknowledged the brilliance of the Bee Gees. They were already a great band with tons of impressive records under their belts, so this was just them tackling disco & doing it as good as (or better than) everyone else.

      Like

  10. DanicaPiche
    April 22, 2017

    I should get this album! Thanks for the reminder and excellent writeup. Do you happen to have a picture of that jacket?

    Like

    • Thanks, Danica. I would imagine you could find a CD copy very easily for a nice price. The 2-LP set might be a bit pricier due to the ongoing vinyl resurgence. I was fortunate to get a copy of the LP in the early 90s for $1-$2 at a used record store. Back then you could find bargains galore. I miss those days.

      As for my denim jacket, I don’t have any photos but I still have it in my closet…and I’m proud to say that it still fits (not that I ever wear it). Not sure how to post a photo anywhere on my blog other than in my posts, but if I ever figure that out I’ll return to this comment & share it with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. 80smetalman
    April 22, 2017

    I was a full card carrying member of the “Death Before Disco” brigade back at the time. In fact, I took great joy when I read a quote from one of the Gibbs stating that he regretted starting disco. With all that, what you say here is true. There are some good artists on here even if I don’t like most of their songs and this soundtrack is an all time classic. I never admitted this til now but I’ve always liked “Disco Inferno.”

    Like

    • The irony is that the Bee Gees didn’t start disco. That genre was already established but they took it to a different level with these incredible songs and stellar arrangements. There’s so much soulless dance music out there but they created great grooves to go with the songwriting & harmonies. Thanks for your admission regarding “Disco Inferno.” You don’t lose any street cred. In fact, no one should have to apologize for liking any music. If it sounds good to you, enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 80smetalman
        April 23, 2017

        It was just I was so in the Death Before Disco camp that I didn’t want to admit it. My older years have made me wiser and I agree with your sentiments totally. If it sounds good, enjoy it!

        Like

  12. mikeladano
    April 23, 2017

    Always loved the movie and soundtrack. Don’t tell my rocker friends 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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