09 March 2008

Saturday Night Fever

Can You Feel The Fever?
by Kristin Battestella

Saturday Night Fever is not easy album for me to review. Although it has several of The Bee Gees most popular and successful songs, this 1977 smash is one of my least favorites. My Bee Gee buddy Clint asked me to review Fever, and honestly I've been mulling over it for months. This album both made and unmade the Brothers Gibb.

You must forgive me while I ignore all the other disco staples found on the soundtrack. I don't really like them or the film. I will say Saturday Night Fever is a quality film deserving of your time, however the suits and dancing and hairstyles are too much for me. I had a good laugh recently, when Robin confessed on the Keppel Road DVD that he's never seen Fever all the way through!

Everybody who's anybody knows Stayin Alive. (Previously reviewed Here.) The song's placement at the beginning of the film sets the symbolism about the daytime struggle and the night life release that we all strive for. For as popular as it is, no one seems to understand the songs lyrics, which are the best part. Unfortunately, the song has come to represent the strut and all things disco. For better or for worse, an important staple for The Bee Gees and the culture of the time.

How Deep It Is Your Love may very well be the penne ultimate love song. This Gibb staple launched the soundtrack and the film to the stratosphere. Robert Stigwood's decision to release the soundtrack before the film was unheard of in 1977. After How Deep's success, this has become standard industry practice. Barry’s delivery is from the soul, and again the refrains tug on your heart strings differently each time. This song is the pinnacle of emotion and lyrics and artistry.

If I Can't Have You is a great and under-appreciated song. Yvonne Elliman's version showcases the brothers ability to write for others while maintaining their songwriting. The brothers own version, released on the flip side of the Staying Alive single, shows the versatility of the song and Barry's range. Women can sing along with Yvonne's version and feel the female heartache, and yet the masculine don't quit comes through with Barry's falsetto vocals. Brilliant.

Again we come to another of my least favorite compositions. Jive Talkin (Also reviewed on Main Course) I must admit is a catchy danceable tune and thus fitting for this soundtrack. The acoustic versions of this and Staying Alive heard on Storytellers in 1993 is shocking when compared with the original releases.

The Tavares' More Than A Woman cover is used in one of the more famous scenes from the film. John Travolta and Karen Lyn Gorney practice their routine and bond to these incredible lyrics that fit their relationship in the film perfectly. The Tavares' lyrics are easier to understand that Barry, Robin, and Maurice's high singing, thus we get a feel for the relationship that's developing. Everybody related and started doing this dance. My sister used to try and lift me. It didn't work.

Personally, I don't think Night Fever has any statement in its lyrics. You got an itch? Scratch it! What’s the big deal? Vibe baby, yeah! It’s incredibly catchy to dance to and everyone can enjoy the easy rhythm and feel good tune. Remember Sprint's Nickel Nights commercials playing Night Fever? Everyone has to at least tap their foot to this one. We used to have a Philadelphia station that played ‘Gold’ music and every Saturday at 7 p.m. they played Night Fever. My dad and I would nod our heads like the guys in A Night At The Roxbury. Odd that Fever had such a backlash, yet how many times has it been spoofed or snipped or heard for another film?

Can anyone ever forget You Should Be Dancing and its place in this film? I think not. Travolta's dance and white suit launched a phenomenon that is still often emulated today. The song is genius in its simplicity. What else is there but dancing? The lyrics and vocal arrangements are fittingly over-the-top. (Please see our Children of the World review.)

The Bee Gees introduce their version of More Than A Woman for the film's big song and dance. Not only have we seen the story of the film progress and advance and come full circle, we've also seen two totally different versions of the same song, not compete but strengthen each other. Our boys' falsetto sounds raised not only the height of the song, but the climax of the film. The second verse of this song just feels like bliss.

Saturday Night Fever is not for everyone. The soundtrack is truly a companion piece to the film, and if you don't like to dance or don't like the 70s, this film is not for you. However, music and movies as popular as Fever were take on a life of their own. They transcend pop culture, and today's generation obsessed with retro is looking at The Bee Gees with an entirely different perspective, free of stigma and backlash that the excesses of the era brought about. I recommend SNF because you can't be a Bee Gees fan without having an opinion on it. Whether it may good or bad, Fever is like the Yankees. Love it or hate it, there is no in between.

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