Writer(s): Barry Gibb/ Robin Gibb/ Maurice Gibb (see lyrics here)
First Charted: December 10, 1977
Peak: 14 US, 14 CB, 16 GR, 16 HR, 16 RR, 28 AC, 4 RB, 4 UK, 14 CN, 17 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.6 UK, 5.77 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 889.2 video, 635.81 streaming
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About the Song:
Robert Stigwood was born in Australia in 1934. He came to England in the 1950s and became an agent for actor John Leyton. When Leyton had dreams of making it in music, Stigwood took on the role of music producer as well. He became a manager working with Cream and the Bee Gees. In the 1970s, Stigwood had moved into film and television production as well. One of his projects was a movie based on an article in a New York magazine about the club scene in Brooklyn. RS500 He asked the Bee Gees to contribute some songs to the project.
The movie, Saturday Night Fever, was about “a vigorous subculture of working-class kids, mostly from European immigrant backgrounds, who loved to dance.” TC It was “a low-budget film with a gritty, not particularly romantic story.” TC Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees “confidently predicted [it] would flop in the face of the rising tide of punk.” TB
The movie was introduced with a “largely unmemorable” TB trailer in December 1977 that was mostly a close-up of the feet of the leading man, John Travolta, strutting down a New York street. The song that played was “Stayin’ Alive,” “a first-rate piece of falsetto” DM with “a pounding dance beat.” SS It “brought the trailer vibrantly to life,” TB perfectly complementing the character; both were “confident, cocky, streetwise and upbeat.” LW Surprisingly, the Bee Gees had never seen the script or a rough cut of the movie. SS Robin Gibb said it was “a very straightforward song about survival in the city.” TC
When Stigwood first heard it, he asked why the group wasn’t singing “Saturday Night, Saturday Night.” Maurice Gibb explained that “It’s corny; it’s a terrible title.” FB “There are so many blood records out there called ‘Saturday Night.’” FB The Bee Gees won out and, for better or worse, few songs are more associated with disco than “Stayin’ Alive.” BB The Bees became superstars on the level of the Beatles because of the massive success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which sold 25 million copies worldwide, making it the biggest album of all-time until Michael Jackson’s 1982 Thriller album. FB
“Stayin’ Alive” was not intended as a single, but after fans saw the trailer they swamped radio stations and RSO Records with calls for the song. WK The fans were appeased when the song was released as the second single after the blockbuster ballad “How Deep Is Your Love.” Those songs, as well as the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You,” gave the soundtrack four #1 songs and gave the brothers Gibb bragging rights to having penned four chart-toppers in six months. However, Barry could boast an even bigger accomplishment. He shared writing credit on all three of younger brother Andy’s #1 songs from July 1977 to July 1978. This gave Barry seven trips to the pinnacle and a total of 29 weeks in the pole position as a writer in a year’s time.
First posted 1/6/2015; last updated 4/12/2023.