By Brian Ives
On Minimation, we comb through the archives of legendary New York radio station WNEW-FM and animate interviews with legendary rock artists. This installment is taken from a 1988 interview with the Bee Gees, where they discusses the effect that ‘Saturday Night Fever’ had on their career. This one is a bit bittersweet, in retrospect: Maurice and Robin Gibb do most of the talking (Barry was present, but had a cold). And of course, Maurice and Robin are, sadly, no longer with us. This Minimation was created for Radio.com by Max Werkmeister.
What do you think of when you think of the Bee Gees? The Beatles-eque young lads of “New York Mining Disaster 1941” fame? How about the guys who did the definitive version of “To Love Somebody,” later to be covered by Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin and Gram Parsons?
Let’s be real: you think of the white suits, feathered hair, and disco jams. Today, “Stayin’ Alive,” one of their monster smashes from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is a much celebrated classic that even Bruce Springsteen has covered. But the post-disco era was very much an anti-disco era, and the brothers Gibb were smarting from the backlash.
“We are songwriters, mostly,” Maurice said. “We are performers secondly.”
“And,” he added, “We don’t deal in trends and images.”
Robin noted, “We didn’t even write them for the movie.” The band were recording their next album in France, and Robert Stigwood, their record label head and manager asked to use three of the songs for a film he was producing. “We were R&B,” he said, as opposed to a disco act like Donna Summer or Chic.
Not mentioned in this excerpt was their more ill-fated decision to co-star with Peter Frampton in a disastrous film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. By 1988 when this interview was conducted, the stink was still on them, a decade down the road.
But, years later, all was forgiven. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. And “Stayin’ Alive” was one of the songs they performed at the ceremony.
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