Saturday Night Fever
The Original Movie Soundtrack
Released: November 1977
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 120
Certified 11x Platinum: 11/7/84
While the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever is generally uninteresting, the Bee Gees are an exception. The brothers Gibb not only have the best falsettos in the business, but also the keenest sense of disco's potential for transcendence.
The Bee Gees have everything going for them: lyrics that don't insult, a band that can open up and utilize each and every electric and/or acoustic possibility without sounding overproduced, great harmonies, superb dance music. Indeed, "You Should Be Dancing" comes as close to disco perfection as anything I've heard, save perhaps Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Bad Luck" and Labelle's "Lady Marmalade." The Bee Gees are very busy on Saturday Night Fever. They perform six of their own songs (four new, two old) and wrote the record's only other worthwhile track, "If I Can't Have You," sung by Yvonne Elliman, who sounds authentically resonant enough to give it the necessary poignancy.
Generally, however, this double album is irritating when it's supposed to be exciting, funny when it's supposed to be dramatic. "Night on Disco Mountain," adapted by David Shire (who did most of the scoring) from Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, is but one example of high hilarity, while K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Tavares and MFSB are better represented by their own LPs.
Though Saturday Night Fever is more dross than gloss, it winds up being saved by the grace of the Bee Gees. God bless 'em.
- Susin Shapiro, Rolling Stone, 3-23-78.
Being fundamentally suspicious of any film advertised heavily in the subway, I have so far refrained from seeing Saturday Night Fever, though some cinema addicts have judged it the harbinger of an emerging blue-collar chic. But after listening to this stunning two-record set, with its unrelenting disco rhythms, I think I'd enjoy the move whether or not John Travolta really is a new and more agile Marlon Brando (as some claim).
- Phyl Garland, Stereo Review, 5/78.
An all-star lineup, spearheaded by the Bee Gees, join forces on this two-record soundtrack from the forthcoming flick starring John Travolta. The Bee Gees perform on six tunes including its fast-rising "How Deep Is Your Love" while penning five new ones, one performed by Yvonne Elliman. The other contributors are Tavares, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, the Trammps, Kool & the Gang, Walter Murphey, Ralph McDonald, M.F.S.B. and David Shire. The music contains something for everyone, from disco to soft jazzy instrumentals to out and out boogie to ballads and rockers. Singularly, the Bee Gees are the standouts and nucleus, yet collectively this album is filled with bundles of talent. Best cuts: "How Deep Is Your Love," "Staying Alive," "If I Can't Have You," "More Than A Woman," "Night Fever," "Boogie Shoes."
- Billboard, 1977.
So you've seen the movie -- pretty good movie, right? -- and decided that this is the disco album that you're going to try. Well, I can't blame you. The Bee Gees side is pop music at a new peak of irresistible silliness, with the former Beatle clones singing like mechanical mice with an unnatural sense of rhythm. And the album climaxes on a par-tee even non-discoids can get into, beginning with the best of David Shire's "additional music," then switching almost imperceptibly to something tolerable by MFSB and revving into all 10:52 of the Trammps' magnificent "Disco Inferno." But I find the other two sides unlistenable, mostly because the rest of Shire's additions are real soundtrack-quality stuff -- he even discofies Moussorgsky without making a joke of it (compare Walter Murphy on side two). And there's one more problem. While you're deciding to buy this record, so is everyone you know. You're gonna get really sick of it. Maybe you should Surprise Your Friends and seek out Casablanca's Get Down and Boogie instead. B+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
One of the biggest-selling albums of all time, this double-disc soundtrack features the Bee Gees hits "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever," and "How Deep Is Your Love," Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You," and a selection of popular disco hits by Tavares, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, and others. This wasn't only the soundtrack to a film, it was the soundtrack to an era. That era is over, but it's evoked by the music. * * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
In 1977 music critics were too busy flopping around the dressing rooms of punk bands who were softening into immensely disappointing "power pop" acts to notice the year's true music revolution. The very word, "Disco," was so unhip that many of the poor fools had taken to wearing embarrasing "Disco Sucks" lapel badges. The general premise was that Disco was big, commercial and phony... that it wasn't real music. This ludicrous attitude prevailed in the British music press until, in late 1978, some bright spark at New Musical Express dusted off a copy of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and actually realized what the general public had known from the outset. This was a fresh, vibrant, intoxicating sound that latched onto the heartbeat. It was fun. It was sexy. It was funky. At the time, Saturday Night Fever was probably the most critically underrated album in popular music history -- witness The Trammps pulsating "Disco Inferno," Tavares' sublime "More Than a Woman" or even K.C.'s hilarious "Boogie Shoes." Every single track has retained that surging sexual freshness. This was the soul of the 70s. True, the album was dominated by The Bee Gees who, with Robert Stigwood's guidance, climbed to the top of the disco pile. But "Stayin' Alive," "How Deep Is Your Love," "Jive Talkin'" and "Night Fever" have equally grown in stature over the years.
- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.
Disco might forever be remembered as mere kitsch if we didn't have Fever to remind us that is was also the unlikely music of emancipation. Whether at a Brooklyn ballroom or Studio 54, disco delivered participatory escapism, and it hardly mattered who provided the beat. Fever did boast stars, of course, in the Bee Gees, who were busy reinventing themselves as R&B titans just as surely as Travolta became a new dude when he put on those duds. But if "Stayin' Alive" was a reason to live, even the lesser lights on this double LP gave us happy feet. "Disco Inferno" still makes us want to wear white after Labor Day.
- Entertainment Weekly, 2001.
Grab your white leisure suit, get out that disco ball and boogie down to the disc that launched the craze. "Seminal" doesn't do justice to the soundtrack that epitomized the '70s when the Bee Gees were at their height, pumping out the hits for John Travolta to dance his way to stardom in those tight polyester bell bottoms. Barry, Robin, Maurice and a host of smooth contributing artists transport you back to shake your booty, baby! * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
A gritty commentary on urban escapism and class struggle, Saturday Night Fever follows the ever-cool Tony Manero (John Travolta) from the backstreets of Brooklyn to the nightclubs of Manhattan on a quest for dance-floor supremacy and social dignity. In striking contrast, an ebullient string of now-classic DJ faves like "Night Fever," "Jive Talkin'," and, of course, "Stayin' Alive" provide devil-may-care bravado and hip grinding groove to the rush of images. The film and soundtrack effectively ushered the disco era into the mainstream and helped make household names out of Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, better known as the Bee Gees. Decked out in tight white pants and open polyester shirts revealing carefully preened chest hair, the brothers' saccharine vocal harmonies and irresistibly catchy melodies helped the Saturday Night Fever double LP become the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time.
Thirty years later, everybody still aspires to be as swaggery as Tony Manero, even as the songs of Saturday Night Fever remain perennial favorites and ensure that the Bee Gees will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Saturday Night Fever was voted the 57th greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.
- Nevin Martell, VH1's 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.
In the mid-Seventies, the Bee Gees swept away the arch pop of their Sixties hits and applied their silvery-helium harmonies to the creamy syncopation of disco. They made great albums in their new incarnation (such as 1975's Main Course) but none bigger or more influential than this soundtrack. In the past quarter-century, Saturday Night Fever has sold 30 million copies worldwide, and its musical worth justifies the numbers. The Bee Gees dominate ("Stayin' Alive" is the pulse of the picture as well as the album), but the Trammps' hot-funk assault "Disco Inferno" affirms disco's black-R&B roots.
Saturday Night Fever was chosen as the 131st greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
Just a few years before Saturday Night Fever hit the screens in 1977, the Bee Gees' music had so fallen out of favour that Atlantic, their record company, refused to release one of their albums. Yet the Bee Gees' soundtrack to the movie was so commercially successful that, until the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1982, no album could match its sales. Saturday Night Fever dominated the US album chart for the first half of 1978 with 24 weeks at Number One and also reached Number One in the UK.
The album that still defines the sound of disco spawned one US and UK Number One single for the Bee Gees ("Night Fever"), two US Number Ones ("How Deep Is Your Love" and "Stayin' Alive") and a Number One for Yvonne Elliman with the Bee Gees-penned "If I Can't Have You." It also included previous chart-toppers "Jive Talkin'" and "You Should Be Dancing."
As of 2004, Saturday Night Fever was the #5 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
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 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 othes 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."
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
The definitive disco album, heavy on latter-day Bee Gees hip-shakers: "Stayin' Alive." "Night Fever." "Jive Talkin'." Polyester melts, but this Fever still burns.
Saturday Night Fever was chosen as the 95th greatest album of all time by the editors of Entertainment Weekly in July 2013.
- Entertainment Weekly, 7/5/13.
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