This article is from the Bee Gees FAQ, by David Garcia email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
Whatever the public thought of the film "Sgt. Pepper", the
Bee Gees were to be more permanently linked with a movie they had
never even appeared in: "Saturday Night Fever". Before the
release of "Fever", disco was gaining some airplay, but merely as
another of many forms of popular music, and disco clubs were
something most people only read about in "New York" magazine.
The film "Saturday Night Fever" changed all that. Now discos
were not just for the urban trendsetters. Suddenly you had
assistant managers of suburban tub and tile outlet stores wearing
leisure suits and gold medallions on Saturday nights. Dance
instruction studios were overwhelmed with requests to "teach me
to dance like Travolta". Songs like "Disco Duck" and "Macho Man"
crowded established rock acts off the airwaves.
During this time the Bee Gees were a constant presence. At
one point, Gibb compositions held all the top five slots on
Billboard's top ten. This sort of success naturally evokes a
wide span of reactions, ranging from blind imitation to outright
resentment and loathing. In the midst of all the excitement,
while Rod Stewart released his disco hit "Do You Think I'm Sexy"
and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones worked on his "Emotional
Rescue" falsetto, others began to rebel, and the anti-disco
Looking back, it was both unfortunate and unfair that the
Bee Gees were blamed for disco. Had the movie "Saturday Night
Fever" never been made, and those same Gibb compositions made
their way to the Bee Gees' next studio album as originally
planned, the whole "disco fever" travesty might have been
avoided. Ultimately, disco was as much a fashion trend as a
music trend, and the fashion industry found "Saturday Night
Fever" to be a convenient infomercial.
The irony in all this was that the Bee Gees didn't dance,
didn't wear leisure suits, and didn't even particularly like
dance movies like "Fever". They've always characterized their
music as "Blue-Eyed Soul", and whether people danced to it or not
was pretty much beside the point. They took pride in their
songwriting craft, not in the merchandising of garish disco
With their next studio album, "Spirits Having Flown", they
sought to provide more variety. The lead single, "Too Much
Heaven", was a slow ballad, not a disco dance tune. The "Spirits
Having Flown" album had a variety of musical styles, from the
Caribbean feel of the title track to the smoky nightclub sound of
"Stop, Think Again." Nearly all the songs were sung in falsetto
vocals, however, and "Tragedy", the second single, was undeniably
disco in style.
The album sold well, and the Bee Gees easily filled football
stadiums in their 1979 concert tour. One of the fans at Dodger
Stadium that night was singer Barbra Streisand. She asked the
brothers to work with her on her next album. As Barry started
production of Barbra's "Guilty" album, Maurice produced the LP
"Steppin' Out" for the Osmonds.
During this time, new Bee Gees compositions went to Barbra's
album, and also to Jimmy Ruffin's "Sunrise" album, which Robin
was producing. Barbra's "Guilty" album netted three top singles
in 1980, and has been the most successful album of her career.
Now work began on the Bee Gees' next studio album. In many
ways, the "Living Eyes" album was unlike all their other recent
work. "Spirits Having Flown" had a falsetto lead on every track
but "Until"; "Living Eyes" avoided falsetto leads on every song
but "Soldiers". Not only were the pulsating rhythm sections of
"Children of the World" gone, but the backup trio of Alan
Kendall, Dennis Bryon and Blue Weaver were all replaced by
session musicians halfway through the production. One song, "Be
Who You Are", even had a long symphonic introduction with a full
Unfortunately, 1981 was not a good year for the brothers
Gibb. The disco backlash was causing radio stations to avoid any
new vinyl by the Bee Gees. In the meantime, punk rock and new
wave groups were defining the sound of the 80's. Looking back on
these days, one journalist remarked "...the Bee Gees were trying
to be the Bee Gees at the same time that the Sex Pistols were
being the Sex Pistols."
In the meantime, their record label, RSO, was in turmoil.
Changes at the top and financial chaos clouded the release of
"Living Eyes". The pages of Rolling Stone carried, not Bee Gees
album reviews, but news of lawsuits and audits. So it was that
the rock press barely noticed when, in the wake of six
consecutive number one hits, "He's A Liar" floundered on the
There might be an article or an interview somewhere that
explains what happened next. If so, I have yet to find it. It's
easier to say what didn't happen. The Bee Gees didn't release
any more studio albums. They didn't go on tour. They didn't
work with their former back-up band of Kendall, Bryon and Weaver.
They didn't stay with RSO. Instead, for the next six years their
efforts would be divided between writing and producing for other
artists and working on their own occasional solo projects. To
make an unfortunate comparison, the Bee Gees became the three
artists formerly known as the Bee Gees.