Forty years ago this week, the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever was released. That movie had a lot of nasty scenes in it. It was my first R rated movie and I was much too young to see all of that. My older sister and her friend snuck me in. I’ve been traumatized ever since. But I did like the music (and seeing John Travolta in his little tiny black underwear).
The music for this movie could have been totally different if Columbia Records had agreed to let them use Boz Scaggs’ Lowdown. The dance that Tony and Annette are shown rehearsing was originally choreographed to Lowdown. That kind of sucks for Boz Scaggs but was wonderful for the Bee Gees.
Producer Robert Stigwood got in touch with The Brothers Gibb (Barry, Maurice, and Robin) and asked them to compose music for the movie. They got right to work and wrote all the music in just one weekend. Holy crap. The six songs they penned for the album were all hits. Cha-ching!
The soundtrack sold over 20 million copies and was the top selling album until a young man named Michael Jackson came along. Michael beat the record (no pun intended) six years later with his Thriller album. Saturday Night Fever was the bestselling soundtrack until The Bodyguard in 1992.
It’s funny that The Bee Gees weren’t even involved with the movie until it was in post-production. John Travolta was quoted as saying, “The Bee Gees weren’t even involved in the movie in the beginning. I was dancing to Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs.” FYI, I always dance to Stevie Wonder too. I love him.
- Stayin’ Alive was originally titled Saturday Night. There were already a lot of songs called Saturday Night (including a recent one by the Bay City Rollers – Ian Mitchell is my baby), so the title was changed.
- The album was ranked at number 132 on Rolling Stones magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
- The soundtrack was on Billboard’s album charts for 120 weeks.
- Out of the 17 tracks on the album, at least 10 were hit singles in the US and/or the UK.
- Depending on the source, the soundtrack is considered the 6th highest selling album in the world.
- The album stayed on top of the charts for 24 straight weeks from January to July 1978.
Saturday Night Fever is credited with starting the disco era, but it actually started several years before. KC and the Sunshine Band, the Jackson 5, Donna Summer, and many other artists had disco hits long before Saturday Night Fever came along. The film simply prolonged the painful existence of disco music.