Comments by Rockner

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Written on The Bee Gees: 'Saturday Night Fever' (1977):

Thanks for your piece on the Bee Gees. Ironically, for an article attempting to re-evaluate and praise the Gibbs, you fall into the same traps and assumptions that have led to their astounding career being misunderstood in the States.

This is summed up by your final sentence: "Saturday Night Fever is not challenging, innovative or groundbreaking." Challenging I'll concede, because it is perfect, accessible pop and hits you on the first listen. But do any reading on how they came up with those songs and you'll see the groundbreaking innovation.

For example, the songs were all written by the Bee Gees in less than 2 weeks in France without having seen nor heard of the film. Instead, they were making songs for their next album. This means that songs like "How Deep Is Your Love" and "More Than A Woman" weren't tailor-made for the film, nor are either of them about dancing as you suggest. They are love songs written in the R&B vein the Gibbs adored, inspired by the likes of Delphonics, the Stylistics, Earth Wind & Fire and the Temptations.

"Night Fever" might sound like nothing but ear-candy, but listen to it with headphones on and hear the layers of classical strings topped with way-wah pedals melded with falsetto and natural-voice harmonies. The harmonic structure of the voices alone in songs like this is far more complex (and yes, innovative) than most people realize with Barry in falsetto, Maurice on high harmony, Robin on low harmony, Barry and Robin overdubbed in natural voice unison etc etc.

But the clincher for "Night Fever" is the song's structure. The Bee Gees hooks were so huge very few rock critics realized the song has one of the strangest structures in pop music history. Listen to it and hear how it goes:

Verse 1
Bridge 1
Chorus
Verse 2 (with a completely different melody to Verse 1)
Chorus
Verse 3 (back to the same melody as Verse 1)
Bridge 2 (same as Bridge 1)
Chorus
Verse 4 (same as Verse 2)
Chorus and then fade.

This is so unusual for not just a pop song, but for any song. In fact you could argue, an odd structure like this is stranger and more innovative on a pop song because the song still has to be accessible.

One last point. "Night Fever" was recorded before "Stayin' Alive" and during the recording of "Stayin' Alive" the Bee Gees drummer had to return to the UK to be with an ill family member. Literally cutting the tape, the Bee Gees found a few bars of drumming from "Night Fever" and looped it for "Stayin' Alive." So it is a real drummer, but one of, if not the first, drum loop in music history.

Add to that the arrangement of the harmonies (which won them one of their 9 Grammys), the use of the violins and that Stevie Wonder inspired riff and you have one helluva song. And a clever one at that.

Kindest regards.

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