Bill Oakes, who modified into president of RSO Information in the 1970s, remembers the first time he heard Bee Gees’ demos for the songs that would pause up on the brand’s blockbuster 1977 soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. He and Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees manager and founding father of RSO, had been visiting brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb at the Château d’Hérouville recording studio in northern France as the trio had been mixing a dwell album. Stigwood requested that the Bee Gees give you some new songs for a disco movie he modified into producing, starring an rising actor named John Travolta. Following the assembly, Oakes went to Paris; a rapid timeframe later, he purchased a cassette from Bee Gees’ private manager Dick Ashby.
“I attach it on in my lodge room,” Oakes recalls. “It modified into one after the other — No. 1 records. Even in their demo form, it modified into somewhat obviously a staggering success. It started with ‘More Than a Lady,’ ‘Night Fever,’ ‘If I Can’t Own You,’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and ‘How Deep Is Your Love.’ I talked about to Robert, ‘We’ve got the catch. We’ve got it.’”
Those new songs that the Bee Gees came up with briefly tell catapulted both the movie and the soundtrack to big industrial success, transformed the Gibb brothers into superstars and further popularized disco. Launched 45 years in the past on Nov. 15, 1977, the double album of disco standards is one in all the handiest-promoting soundtracks ever; in the ultimate 5 years, the soundtrack’s songs own racked up 1.9 billion on-interrogate U.S. streams, per Luminate.
“As the years stride on, it makes me extra proud in a vogue,” says Oakes, who’s credited with “album supervision and compilation” in the Fever liner notes. “Anything else that stands the test of time can also merely serene be, by its very essence, rate it. Other issues I’ve done own disappeared and also you don’t in most cases acquire satisfaction, 40 years later, out of what you did relieve then. Nonetheless [the Fever soundtrack] does prolong.”
At some level of his time as RSO Information president, Oakes oversaw a roster that incorporated Bee Gees and Eric Clapton. He modified into chums with the British journalist Nik Cohn, who wrote a 1976 Recent York Magazine story, “Tribal Rites of the Recent Saturday Night,” which facilities on an Italian-American working-class childhood named Vincent who spends his Saturday nights at the 2001 Odyssey disco club in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Thru Oakes and Stigwood’s assistant Kevin McCormick, Stigwood became conversant in Cohn’s article and equipped the film rights that would aid as the basis for Saturday Night Fever. For the movie’s lead personality Tony Manero, Stigwood signed Travolta — who modified into handiest identified as Vinnie Barbarino in the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter — to a multi-narrate deal.
“Robert seen [Travolta] and he comely made a hiss, ‘Here is the guy who can also play the lead in Saturday Night Fever,’” says Oakes. “He talked about [to Travolta’s manager], ‘I’ll invent you an provide for 3 photography for one million dollars.’ That modified into Robert comely in general taking each person else out of the market. It became out to be in fact a in fact lawful deal because, from the million dollars, he got him for Saturday Night Fever and Grease, which became out smartly.”
Stigwood urged to Oakes that the soundtrack might well be a two-describe space of disco’s greatest hits featuring Bee Gees. “That modified into an inspired pass of announcing, ‘We’re gonna carry out a gatefold double album and catch it up with all the handiest soundtrack goods,’” says Oakes. “It didn’t in fact matter while you didn’t glance the movie. It became an iconic thing in itself, because while you had been giving a social gathering in 1978, all you wished modified into that album. I sequenced the album specifically so it will in all probability perchance even be that device.”
Earlier than their involvement in Saturday Night Fever, Bee Gees had been slowly making a return after a industrial and creative dry spell, beginning with such Billboard Hot 100 toppers as 1975’s “Jive Talkin’” and 1976’s “You May maybe perchance well well merely serene Be Dancing” (both of which also appeared on the soundtrack). “I presided over a tainted time in their profession with [the 1974 album] Mr. Natural,” says Oakes. “They couldn’t in fact acquire a hook on the most sensible strategy to promote themselves. It modified into [producer] Arif Martin who in fact introduced their sound correct into a latest R&B world.”
Oakes recalls that after he and Stigwood met with the Bee Gees at the Château d’Hérouville, he realized that the film script remained unopened on the studio console. “They hadn’t even regarded at it,” he says. “What Robert did expose them in broad phrases is it’s about a guy who works in a paint store and blows all his wages on a Saturday night, and he goes to a club and they carry out the hustle…Robert’s mission modified into [to] acquire the Bee Gees to put in writing a disco tune that you can’t cease dancing to, with a great melody. And that’s how they came up with ‘Night Fever,’ as an illustration. These are great melodies that came about to be in the disco mildew. That modified into the breakthrough. It modified into attention-grabbing: they comely merely dropped the dwell album they had been mixing and went straight into it.”
With Bee Gees compositions taking over facet one, Oakes now had three extra facets of the describe back to catch. Other than contributions by Kool & the Gang (“Initiating Sesame”) and KC and the Sunshine Band (“Boogie Shoes”), the soundtrack consisted of largely relatively unknown acts. With out a doubt one of them modified into singer and Oakes’ then-significant other Yvonne Elliman, who recorded the Bee Gees-penned “If I Can’t Own You.” “The Bee Gees at the beginning wished her to wait on out ‘How Deep Is Your Love,’” Oakes says. “Nonetheless Robert talked about no — he wished the Bee Gees to wait on out that. So Yvonne got ‘If I Can’t Own You.’ It comely came about she modified into on the brand, so there’s relatively of nepotism there (laughs).”
Moreover to Bee Gees’ recording of “More Than a Lady,” R&B group Tavares’ model of that tune also appeared on the soundtrack and peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. Says Oakes: “We wished another act doing a Bee Gees tune, so Tavares appeared the logical alternative. I remember calling [their producer] Freddie Perren, and he took it in a particular direction. He obviously made it into successful on his enjoy. That modified into a in fact moderately easy one because I knew Freddie. He produced two hits with Yvonne: ‘Love Me’ and ‘Howdy Stranger.’”
Other numbers, equivalent to Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven,” MFSB’s “K-Jee,” Ralph MacDonald’s “Calypso Breakdown” and the Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” had been launched sooner than Fever nevertheless loved renewed recognition when they had been incorporated on the soundtrack. They had been augmented with instrumental ratings serene by David Shire equivalent to “Manhattan Skyline” and “Night on Disco Mountain.” Nevertheless, now now not every artist that Oakes sought for the soundtrack came on board — together with Boz Scaggs, whose 1976 hit “Lowdown” modified into at first primitive in the film’s dance rehearsal scene interesting the characters Tony and Stephanie (performed by Karen Lynn Gorney).
“I comely thought Irving Azoff, who managed Boz Scaggs, would let me own the tune,” Oakes remembers. “Why wouldn’t he? Unnecessary to say, his response to me after we shot the scene modified into: ‘Bill, I don’t desire my artist for your dinky disco movie,’ which modified into a phrase that I modified into assailed with at some level of the production. In those days, music artists didn’t in fact wish to be in motion photographs. Now it’s totally varied. Artists in fact upfront tout their songs to acquire correct into a movie because they know how lawful it’s a long way for their sales.”
As he modified into wrapping up work on the album, Oakes seen one thing sooner or later that told him the disco pattern modified into on its ultimate legs. “I modified into ending up after being attentive to the tracks for a straight 14 hours for any defects at the mastering lab. And then I attach the masters in my car, which would develop to be the album. I modified into stuck at the relieve of a truck [whose bumper sticker said] ‘Death to disco,’ and it dawned on me. I told Robert, ‘We can also merely need missed this one.’ We didn’t coin the discover ‘disco’ — disco modified into spherical. What [the soundtrack] did modified into comely when disco regarded as if it will in all probability perchance even be dying, it gave it a brand new rent on existence. We surely didn’t create disco–we created an loyal global, across-the-board interrogate for it. That’s what Fever did.”
Three months before the film’s Dec. 14, 1977 premiere in Los Angeles, Stigwood had the foresight to begin the soundtrack’s first single, Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” “With out a doubt one of the issues that Stigwood initiated with film companies modified into how a describe can also promote a movie,” Oakes explains. “Paramount talked about they had been thinking of [Fever] as a strictly token birth — 50 cinemas for this indie narrate. [Stigwood] talked about, ‘I’ll invent a tackle you. If we’re striking out a single in September three months prematurely, and each person performs the describe, we’ll say it’s “From the impending film Saturday Night Fever.” That will promote the movie.’ He modified into lawful about that because by the time ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ went to No. 1, Paramount did deserve to invent bigger the monitors. That modified into entirely because of the Stigwood tying in the describe with a promotion for the film.”
Launched on Nov. 15, 1977, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for 24 consecutive weeks. It gave the Bee Gees three Hot 100 No. 1s with “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever,” with Yvonne Elliman’s model of the group’s “If I Can’t Own You” also topping the chart.
“When ‘Stayin’ Alive’ went straight to No. 1, that’s after I believed, ‘We in fact got one thing right here,’ because the album modified into transport that next week and the orders had been coming in,” Oakes says. “We didn’t know serene until the movie opened whether it would open huge. It modified into handiest after it opened that the cinema homeowners had been calling Paramount announcing, ‘We’re having other folks dancing the aisles. We gotta call security.’ Paramount modified into taken aback. They talked about that every screening modified into sold out. It modified into comely an unheard of thing. So that’s as soon as we knew that the describe had in fact promoted it.”
The Fever movie and soundtrack launched Bee Gees into superstardom. The trio’s next describe, 1979’s Spirits Having Flown, also topped the Billboard 200 chart and gave them three extra Hot 100 No. 1 songs: “Tragedy,” “Love You Interior Out” and “Too Notable Heaven.” “Their following went up via the roof after Fever,” Oakes says of the Gibb brothers. “They had been the greatest artists in the world by that level.”
Moreover to Bee Gees, the blockbuster success of the Saturday Night Fever movie and soundtrack marked a triumphant length for Stigwood, who loved big success all another time in 1978 with another film he produced: Grease, also starring Travolta. The following year, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack obtained the Grammy for album of the year. Nonetheless the Fever hysteria also marked the pause of an generation: in the 1980s, disco modified into out; Bee Gees never had another No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100; and RSO Information folded. Restful, the legacy of the soundtrack endures: in 2013, the U.S. Library of Congress added it to its National Recording Registry; 5 years later, the album modified into reissued as a deluxe box space for its 40th anniversary.
Oakes admits that he’s greatly surprised by the soundtrack’s longevity decades after the flee-away collars and bell bottoms became passé. “It’s easy to search the map it resonates with those that had been young at the time. If you happen to stride to a social gathering or a marriage ceremony anywhere in the world, they’ll serene play ‘More Than a Lady,’ ‘Night Fever’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive.’
“’Stayin’ Alive’ is in all probability to be one in all the most-performed songs ever—I acquire that. What is attention-grabbing to me is how is it that children lately are finding it. I assume because it’s a long way a normal combination of melody and dance. The Bee Gees blended the tune with the dance describe. There is one thing haunting about their hook traces and choruses, which is odd. That’s in fact appropriate down to their music, it’s appropriate down to their combining melody with dance and rhythm. I assume that’s the combination that serene hasn’t been surpassed.”