It was 35 years ago Sunday (December 16th, 1977) that Saturday Night Fever opened nationally. The film, which turned actor John Travolta into a global superstar, told the story of Tony Manero, a 19-year-old from Brooklyn going nowhere fast, whose only bright spot is as the weekend king of the disco floor. Saturday Night Fever -- which was so successful at the time that it was eventually released in both "R" and "PG" versions -- showcases Manero's troubled and often comical personal life, highlighted by his Friday and Saturday nights dancing at Bay Ridge's 2001 Odyssey disco, which define his and his friends' otherwise empty lives.
The soundtrack album, featuring music by the Bee Gees, Yvonne Elliman, KC & The Sunshine Band, Tavares, MFSB, and the Trammps, went on to become the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time, selling over 15 million copies to date. The album scored four Number One hits: "How Deep Is Your Love," "Stayin' Alive," and "Night Fever," by the Bee Gees, and Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You." All four hits were actually written by the Bee Gees -- Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb.
Shortly before his untimely death in 2003, Maurice Gibb said that the success of the soundtrack album was beyond the group's wildest dreams: "Fever was a blessing. I mean, I've spoken to other groups and people in that business that would die to have a Fever in their career, and I look at it as something now as more than just a record now. It was a movement -- it was a whole big thing. Y'know, the records are bigger than we are, y'know, than the music is, but that was such a fun time."
The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, three years after they entered the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Shortly before his death earlier this year, Robin spoke to us about the group's cultural impact on music: "The fact is that it had an impact on the culture. And there are people who have hit records and people who have impact on the culture. Fever did, there is no doubt about it. People use the words "Stayin Alive" and the expression with everything. And it is, no doubt, indisputably part of the music culture.
We asked Barry Gibb if the Bee Gees felt hurt or betrayed by the "Disco Sucks" movement: "No, there was no question that it was a little tough for us after (Saturday Night) Fever, but I don't remember anyone complaining at the time (laughs), so, so, y'know, it's all fine for us and we're long over allthat stuff and, y'know, for us it's just pop music. It's pop music and you can put any tag you you want to on it."
In 2007, a deluxe DVD of Saturday Night Fever was released in honor of the film's 30th anniversary.
Interestingly, the Bee Gees originally recorded their own version of "If I Can't Have You" during the Saturday Night Fever sessions, which they offered to ABBA for them to record. ABBA politely declined, stating that they only recorded their own original material. The Bee Gees' version eventually ended up on their 1979 hits compilation Bee Gees Greatest.
The Bee Gees went on to contribute five songs to the soundtrack to 1983's Stayin' Alive -- the critically panned Sylvester Stallone-directed Fever sequel.
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