Celebrating Seniors - Barry Gibb Turns 70, Part 2
Barry Gibb & the Bee Gees Story & Songs, Part 2: Jive Talkin’ to Night Fever (1975-1978)
Right, the Bee Gees circa 1977, with Maurice, Robin & Barry Gibb. (Photo: NBC Television eBay | Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)
Barry Gibb’s story and 7 top Bee Gees & Andy Gibb songs: Jive Talkin’, Nights on Broadway, You Should Be Dancing, How Deep is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, Shadow Dancing.
The Bee Gees moved to Miami in 1975, where the three Gibb brothers all lived within three blocks from each other at one point. Neighbours have included Jennifer Lopez and most recently, Phil Collins.
Their songwriting style began to change from the slower ballad type of songs that had thrust them into fame in the 1960’s, to a newer up-tempo dance and R&B style that was heralding the beginning of the “disco” era embraced by baby boomers. Recorded in Miami, Main Course (1975) was the Bee Gee’s 13th studio album, and last album for Atlantic Records.
Main Course contained several hit singles including the Top Ten songs Jive Talkin’ and Nights on Broadway, and is notable for the discovery of singer-songwriter Barry Gibb’s falsetto singing voice during recording sessions.
Jive Talkin’ (1975) was written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb and was the lead single released from the Main Course album. Featuring Barry singing lead vocals, Jive Talkin’ became a #1 hit for the Bee Gees, their first since 1971’s How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. Jive Talkin’ was included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Below, the Bee Gees performing Jive Talkin’ in 1975.
Nights on Broadway (1975) was released right after Jive Talkin’, in September 1975. Written by the three Gibb brothers – Barry, Robin, and Maurice – the Bee Gees sing their #7 U.S. hit single Nights on Broadway on Burt Sugarman’s The Midnight Special in 1975.
Songs on The Children of the World album were recorded in early 1976 and were produced by the Bee Gees themselves, primarily Barry Gibb in concert with Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten. Almost all of the songs on the album were written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb; an exception was Love Me, written by Barry and Robin Gibb, which became a Top 20 U.S. hit for Yvonne Elliman in September 1976. Whereas formerly Robin and Barry had shared lead vocals equally, most of the songs on The Children of the World album featured Barry Gibb on lead vocals. The Bee Gees had 3 Top 12 hit singles from The Children of the World album.
By the end of 1976, 18-year-old Andy Gibb, who had been trying to break into the music business in Australia, had been signed to RSO Records by the Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood, married his girlfriend Kim Reeder, and moved to Miami to work with brother Barry Gibb on songs.
Kim and Andy Gibb’s marriage was soon over; they separated in 1977 before Kim knew she was pregnant, and their divorce was finalized in 1978 after the birth of daughter Peta Gibb in January of that year.
The first single released from The Children of the World album in June was You Should be Dancing (1976), which was later included on the Saturday Night Fever (1977) soundtrack (it had been used in a scene that was deleted), the Bee Gees third #1 hit single You Should Be Dancing (1976). In a classic scene from the box office blockbuster movie Saturday Night Fever (1976) that ushered in the disco era for baby boomers, John Travolta as Tony Manero dances to the Bee Gee’s singing You Should be Dancing. Barry Gibb sings lead vocals in what later became his trademark falsetto, and Barry’s lookalike youngest brother Andy Gibb joins the Bee Gees in performing You Should be Dancing.
Barry Gibb wrote both I Just Want to Be Your Everything (1977) in a Bermuda hotel room with younger brother Andy Gibb in 1976. Andy would later say that “When Barry writes, it is very hard to collaborate with him, because he is so quick. And before I knew it he was starting to do the chorus of [‘I Just Want to Be Your Everything’], and I thought, ‘Wow what a hook!’. He’s an expert at his craft. Within about 20 minutes, he’d written a number one record.” For his part Barry has said that Andy was his best friend among the brothers. Andy Gibb recorded I Just Want to Be Your Everything in 1976 with Barry Gibb singing backup vocals, and it was released in May 1977, becoming Andy’s first #1 U.S. hit single. Andy soon embraced the pop star lifestyle and began using cocaine.
In early 1977 the Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood had asked the Bee Gees to come up with songs for the soundtrack of a new disco movie he was producing. The result was 5 completely new songs (Stayin’ Alive, How Deep is Your Love, Night Fever, If I Can’t Have You, and More Than a Woman) written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb over a weekend, that made it onto the double album soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever (1977). Saturday Night Fever (1977) became the best-selling soundtrack to-date after the movie’s November 1977 release; this record wasn’t eclipsed until the soundtrack from The Bodyguard (1992) featuring Whitney Houston, was released.
All told, the Bee Gees contributed to 7 songs to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. In addition to the previously recorded and released Bee Gees #1 hit songs You Should be Dancing and Jive Talkin’ which were included on the album, the Bee Gees sang and recorded their new songs Stayin’ Alive, How Deep is Your Love, and Night Fever. Yvonne Elliman recorded their song If I Can’t Have You, and Tavares recorded More Than a Woman.
Although the single How Deep Is Your Love (1977) songwriting credits are Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, it was primarily written by Barry Gibb with a contribution by the Bee Gees session keyboard player Blue Weaver. Released in September 1977, How Deep Is Your Love was the first single released from the Saturday Night Live soundtrack and it spent 17 weeks on the U.S. Top 10 charts, reaching #1 on December 24th 1977. How Deep Is Your Love won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group, and has been featured in numerous movies and television series including Donnie Brasco, Anger Management, Sex and the City, Nip/Tuck, The Simpsons, and Parenthood, among others. In 1996 the band Take That had a #1 U.K. hit single with their recording of How Deep Is Your Love. Below the Bee Gees with a bearded Barry Gibb singing lead vocals in How Deep Is Your Love.
The Saturday Night Fever album was released in mid-November 1977 and the movie was set to hit theaters on December 16. Before the movie was even released, fans that had seen the trailer where John Travolta walks down the street while Stayin’ Alive plays over the opening credits (below), called radio stations requesting the song. Stayin’ Alive was the second new song from the Saturday Night Fever movie soundtrack to be released, on December 15, 1977, and when it got to #1 in the U.S. in February 1978, it stayed there for 4 weeks.
The 1983 sequel movie Stayin’ Alive features the title song at the end of the movie. Below, the Paramount Movies trailer for Stayin’ Alive featured the Bee Gees song and John Travolta.
At the 1979 Grammy Awards, the Bee Gees won the Best Arrangement of Voices Grammy Award for Stayin’ Alive. Stayin’ Alive has 104 beats per minute, and a study on medical professionals showed that chest compression quality (ideally 100-120 beats per minute) was improved when practitioners thought about the song Stayin’ Alive. Stayin’ Alive has been used in American and British medical videos about CPR, and the song was featured in an episode of the medical drama Gray’s Anatomy.
Released in December 1977, Samantha Sang’s #3 hit song Emotion was written by Barry and Robin Gibb, with Barry Gibb providing background vocals and harmony on the song. Emotion was later covered by the Bee Gees in 1994, and it became a Top 10 hit for Destiny’s Child in 2001.
When Stayin’ Alive fell out of the #1 spot, it was replaced by Andy Gibb’s second #1 hit single, the ballad Love is Thicker Than Water, which had been released in September 1977. Although (Love is) Thicker Than Water was primarily written by Barry Gibb in 1976, Andy Gibb came up with the song title, and is credited as co-writer.
The song that pushed (Love is) Thicker Than Water out of the #1 spot on the U.S. charts was the Bee Gees recording of their song Night Fever (1978), released in February of that year. Night Fever was the third Bee Gees single from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and stayed at the #1 spot in the U.S. for 7 weeks. Below, the official Bee Gees Night Fever music video with a beardless Barry Gibb.
The song that pushed Night Fever out of the #1 spot on the U.S. charts in 1978 was Yvonne Elliman’s If I Can’t Have You, also written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb and included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The success of If I Can’t Have You made Barry Gibb the only person to have written 4 #1 hit singles in a row – Stayin’ Alive, Love is Thicker Than Water, Night Fever, and If I Can’t Have You.
In addition to the individual song contributions that won the Bee Gees Grammy Awards and AMA (American Music Awards) from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the Bee Gees shared in the Saturday Night Fever 1979 Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group (1979), Album of the Year, and Producer of the Year. The Bee Gees also won the AMA in 1979 and 1980 for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group.
Andy Gibb’s third single Shadow Dancing was written by all four Gibb brothers – Barry, Robin, Maurice & Andy Gibb – in Los Angeles while the Bee Gees were filming the musical comedy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978). Barry Gibb also produced the Shadow Dancing (1978) album for Andy. Shadow Dancing the single was released in April 1978 and became Andy Gibb’s third #1 hit single in the U.S., staying there for 7 weeks through June/July 1978 and setting a record for a new artist to have their first 3 songs all become #1 hit singles. Other Andy Gibb Top 5 hit singles include An Everlasting Love (1978) written by Barry Gibb, and Desire (1980) written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. Below, Andy Gibb sings Shadow Dancing.
The movie musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was produced by the Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood and featured the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton singing Beatles songs. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in July 1978 and neither critics nor the Beatles liked the movie. However, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band did well at the box office, perhaps no surprise given the popularity of not only the Beatles and the Bee Gees songs, but the numerous other actors and contributing artists who appeared in the movie – Peter Frampton who was at the height of his Frampton Comes Alive! fame, comedian Steve Martin, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, George Burns, and Billy Preston, to name a few.
The soundtrack album for the movie Grease (1978) was the second best-selling album of 1978 in the U.S., only exceeded by the Saturday Night Fever album that year. The title track Grease was written and co-produced by Barry Gibb, and sung by Frankie Valli, with Barry contributing vocals and Peter Frampton playing guitar. Grease the single was released in May 1978 and became a #1 hit single in the U.S. that year as well.
Thanks to baby boomers, the massive success of Saturday Night Fever and their singles from the soundtrack album gave the Bee Gees brothers and band members a lifestyle that included a fleet of cars, houses on different continents, and planes to get there. Unfortunately it also gave them access to all the drugs and alcohol they wanted, and for Andy, Maurice and Robin Gibb, alcohol and drug abuse would destroy their health.
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