(Steven Gaines, Circus
2, 1978. Pages 26-28)
Transcript by Alice DiJoseph
It was 1975 and the Bee Gees were in trouble. Once one of the world's most
popular groups, the three Gibb Brothers hadn't had more than a random hit
in three years, and even those sounded nothing more than an empty echo of
the music that had made them famous in the Sixties. The group toured with
an old-fashioned big orchestra, putting loyal but aging fans to sleep with
a show that was so tired and rehearsed it was just like watching
Steve and Eydie at Caesar's Palace.
According to brother Barry Gibb, it never occured to the Bee Gee's that
they were preparing for the glue factory. "We were doing the same
thing for so long there was no overview of what was happening to us,"
Barry remembers. "We were nearly in oblivion by the time we realized
we were in trouble."
Then came the disco craze, and although rock purists would probably had
rather seen the Bee Gee's in Vegas, it was disco music that revitalized
their sagging career, brought new, young audiences to concerts and put
them on the top of radio playlists. Although the Bee Gees yearning, pop
classical sound seemed the furthest from visceral dancing music, since
1976 the Bee Gee's have authored no less than six million-selling singles,
including "Jive Talking," "Nights on Broadway" and
"You should be dancing," along with the two biggest, platinum
albums of their career, Main Course and Children of the world.
With this golden ear for disco music, it wasn't surprising that the Bee
Gees were asked to write several new songs for the movie soundtrack of Saturday
Night Fever (RSO), especially since this new movie starring John
Travolta is produced by rock impressario Robert Stigwood, who also manages
abd records the Gibb brothers on his label, RSO.
"At first we were a little hesitant to get involved in the
film," Barry Gibb told CIRCUS Magazine. "As it is a lot of
journalists are trying to label us as a disco group, and we really habe
veen doing all kinds of music for the last ten years. A lot of people keep
asking us, 'Why don't you aim for FM airplay?' Well, what's the
difference? We're not doing it for the money any more; we're writing to
reach the majority of people for their enjoyment. It doesn't matter to us
whether we get played on AM or FM."
Although the Bee Gees were offered a script to read, they preferred to
write the movie music blind. "Robert Stigwood just told us: 'We're
making a film about a bunch of guys who raise hell on Saturday nights.' He
said it was a love story and that they wanted five songs, which we wound
up writing in about a week and a half. You know, you can write a flop in
four weeks or you can write a hit in ten minutes. The song called 'Stayin'
alive' took the least amount of time to write and it's the strongest dams
song in the whole lot."
Of course the Bee Gees have had a lifetime of writing practice, having
authored a dozen hits by the time they were teenagers. Born in England,
twins Robin and Maurice and older brother Barry moved to Australia with
their family as infants. They began performing when the twins were seven
and barry nine. In the early Sixties, before the Beatles reared their
heads in London, the Bee Gees were the biggest group in Australia with a
series of Top 10 hits [not too accurate]. When the English top
explosion brought shock waves to Australia, the three brothers moved to
England in 1967 and signed a management and recording contract with
As the story goes, the brothers were waiting on the front steps of
Stigwood's office for him to arrive while they wrote a tune called
"New York Mining disaster -1941." The rest is recording history.
From then until 1969 they had a giant string of multi-million hits,
including "Holiday," "I can't see nobody,"
"massachusetts," "I started a joke" and
yet even in the best of families there are internal squabbles and fame,
power and success caused such dissension in the group they split up at the
height of their success in 1970. Robin Gibb made an ill-received attempt
at a sola career. For a while no one, not even the brothers, were sure
what they were going to do. In 1971 they managed to hold it together long
enough to record two singles, "Lonely days" and "How can
you mend a broken heart?," just to show that the old power and talent
was still there. But even as 1972 brought "Run to me," it was
becoming obvious that the Bee Gees were growing stale.
"In 1975 when we started to work with Arif Mardin," maurice Gibb
explained, "everything turned around for us. As a producer Arif
turned out to be new ears for us and changed the chemestry of the whole
Mardin, a house producer for Atalntic Records, is responsible for dozens
of hit albums, including Bette Midler, Manhattan Transfer and the Average
White band. Mardin was able to turn the Bee Gees on to a straightforward,
slickly commercial sound. Then came an ironic turn: Robert Stigwood
switched the Bee Gees' distribution to Polydor, which is like defecting to
a foreign nation. Although diplomatic relations continue between Atlantic
and the Bee Gees, miracle worker mardin was ruled off limits to the
brothers. When it came time to record follow-up albums, the Bee Gees
managed to successfully lift Mardin's sound and recreate it.
For Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees wrote five new tunes. They
recorded three of them at the Chateau Recording Studios in France shortly
before brothers Barry and Maurice moved permanently to Miami,
Florida to be closer to Criterion Sound, their "favorite
recording studio in the world." Brother Robin still lives in England,
according to Barry, with a picture of Winston Churchill on the living room
wall. The two other songs the Bee Gees wrote for the movie, "If I
can't have you" and "More than a woman," were recorded by
Yvonne Elliman -this year's favorite "newcomer"- and Tavares -
the Boston brothers act- for the picture.
Although it's an exciting disco package, be forewarned that the Bee Gees'
five tunes are only a small part of the film's soundtrack, which includes
incidental music written for the movie by David Shire. The two-album
package produced by RSO Records president Bill Oakes, includes
"Boogie shoes" by K.C. and The Sunshine Band, the Trammps'
"Disco Inferno", "Calypso Breakdown" by Ralph McDonald
and "Open Sesame" by Kool and the Gang.
Naturally, the three tunes the Gibb brothers dashed off and recorded are
by far the best on the album, which just goes to prove that a decade
later, in a new musical environment, the Bee Gees are still one of the
greatest talents in the pop business.
"We could never say that Arif Mardin didn't do 50% of the groundwork
for the hits we have today," Maurice says candidly. "Everyone
knows what a great producer he is. We don't pretend to produce like Arif
now but we've learned to write our own music more like he would produce
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