(Steven Gaines, Circus Magazine, February 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 Stigwood.

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 "Words."

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 group."

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 it."

[...]

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