Monday, November 08, 2010

"Stayin' Alive" (1977)

41. Bee Gees, "Stayin' Alive" (Dec. 24, 1977, #1, 4 wks.)

This is of course the song that plays as the movie Saturday Night Fever opens and the credits run, with the camera focused close on the rather unremarkable shoes of Tony Manero as he walks, struts, the sidewalks of Brooklyn on an errand for work, stopping for a slice, putting money down on a shirt he likes that he sees in a shop window, but with the camera always returning insistently to the feet. Anyone could have guessed it was going to be a movie about dancing. It's hard to imagine this song would have been quite so successful without the movie but that's neither here nor there. The Bee Gees had hits right along through the '70s even as their style morphed imperceptibly into one of the most recognizable archetypes of disco, all loose-limbed with cascading falsettos and horns and a swaggering rhythm section. Heck, sure, it was easy to make fun—they do kinda sound like chipmunks, don't they? And it's not exactly manly either. But it worked. A decidedly different act 10 years earlier, the Bee Gees made the most of their moment, occupying most of the first side of the double-LP soundtrack and with one or two more songs scattered in there too and then kept pumping it out for as long as they could keep gas in the car, which didn't actually turn out to be that long. They were practically a nostalgia act already by the time Ronald Reagan was entering the White House. But in the winter that this made its mark it was as inescapable as it was welcome, with a simmering excitement to it that unfortunately made promises it could not possibly keep.

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