Stayin' Alive by the Beegees
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"Stayin' Alive" Single by Bee Gees from the album Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track B-side "If I Can't Have You" Released 13 December 1977 Format Vinyl record (7" 45 RPM) Recorded Château d'Hérouville,
Hérouville, France 1977
Genre Disco Length 4:45 Label RSO Writer(s) Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb Producer Bee Gees, Albhy Galuten, Karl Richardson Certification Platinum (RIAA) Bee Gees singles chronology "How Deep Is Your Love"
Music sample Saturday Night Fever track listing
- Side A
- Side B
- Side C
- Side D
"Stayin' Alive" is a song by the pop group Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever motion picture soundtrack. The song was written by the Bee Gees (Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb) and produced by the Bee Gees, Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson. It was released on 13 December 1977, as the second single from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It is one of their signature songs.
Upon release, "Stayin' Alive" climbed the charts to hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of 4 February 1978, remaining there for four weeks. In the process, it became one of the band's most recognisable tunes, in part because of its place at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever.
The executive producer of the soundtrack, Robert Stigwood (who was also the Bee Gees' manager) called them up and asked them to write a few songs for a soundtrack to a film he was planning. At this point, the film was in early stages and it did not have a title yet; in fact, all Stigwood had to go on was a New York cover story about discomania. They wrote "Stayin' Alive" over the course of a few days while sprawled on the staircase at the Château d'Hérouville studio in Paris. As with Pink Floyd, a majority of the soundtrack was recorded in France for tax reasons.
Due to the death of drummer Dennis Byron's mother in the middle of the song's sessions, the group first looked for a replacement. The shortage of qualified drummers in this area of France prompted the group to try a drum machine—yet it did not offer satisfactory results. After listening to the drum track of the already-recorded "Night Fever", the group and producer Albhy Galuten selected two bars from that track, re-recorded them as a recurrent loop on a separate tape, and proceeded with sessions for "Stayin' Alive". This accounts for the unchanging rhythm throughout the song.
As a joke, the group listed the drummer as "Bernard Lupe" (a takeoff on session drummer Bernard Purdie). Mr. Lupe became a highly sought-after drummer—until it was discovered that he did not exist.
RSO Records wanted the song to share the then-title of the film, "Saturday Night", but the Bee Gees refused a title change, insisting that there had been too many songs with "Saturday" in the title, and the album already had a song with the word "night" in the title—"Night Fever". Rather than change the name of the former song to match the film, Stigwood expanded the name of the film to encompass the title of the latter song.
Over the years, the brothers have had mixed feelings about the song. On one hand, they admit it brought them tremendous fame; on the other, it led to their being pigeonholed as a disco act, despite a long and varied career before and after.
Recording "Stayin' Alive" was not simple, To start with, the drumming is literally a tape loop, Karl Richardson copied a choice few seconds of drumming from "Night Fever", cut out the piece of tape, glued the ends together, and fed it back into a recorder by a makeshift arrangement to create a new drum track, This was done solely to work around Dennis Bryon being away for a few days, but the effect was a strikingly mechanical beat, As boring as this would become later in dance songs, it was new in 1977, It would make this the perfect song for John Travolta strutting down 86th Street, Brooklyn.
Saturday Night Fever
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The song was not initially scheduled for release, with "How Deep Is Your Love" selected as lead single, but fans called radio stations and RSO Records requesting the song immediately after seeing trailers for Saturday Night Fever, featuring the track over the aforementioned introductory scene. The single was eventually released in mid-December, a month after the album, and moved to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in February, where it would stay for four weeks. Soon after, it would slide to number two, locking in a solid one-two punch with the Bee Gees' third smash hit from the album, "Night Fever". In the United Kingdom, "Stayin' Alive" was a solid seller but not as popular as it was in the United States, topping out at number four.
Further demonstrating the Bee Gees' US chart domination in 1978, "Stayin' Alive" was replaced at number one with the group's younger brother Andy Gibb's single, "Love Is Thicker Than Water", followed by the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" for their longest run, seven weeks. This was then replaced by Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You". Barry Gibb had a hand in writing all four of these songs, becoming the only person in history to write four consecutive US number-one singles.
Besides the version that appeared on the soundtrack album and the edited 45RPM single for Top 40 radio release, there was yet another version, from the same recording session but of a slightly different mix, that was distributed on twelve-inch vinyl to club DJs and radio stations that specialised in airing longer versions of hit songs. This "Special Disco Version", as it was called, featured all the same parts as the album version, but had a horn rhythm section part interjected twice. Ironically, where twelve-inch "Disco Versions" were usually sped up, this version was slowed down slightly. This version was finally released on CD when Reprise re-issued Bee Gees Greatest in 2007 in an expanded & remastered edition.
As for the message of the song, Robin Gibb was quoted as saying, "'Stayin' Alive' is about survival in the big city—any big city—but especially New York."
The music video for the song is of a completely different concept from Saturday Night Fever. It depicts the group singing the song on an abandoned subway terminal set at MGM Studios, directly adjacent to the one where Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was being filmed at the same time. This set featured buildings, a train station, and other elements.
The original three music videos for the movie Saturday Night Fever were shot on the soundstages, and edited at the facilities of Video City, Inc., in North Miami, Florida. The European video for "Stayin' Alive" (with Barry sans facial hair) was one of these original three. These original music videos were scrapped and re-shot in California after Barry grew back his beard.
Initial plans were for Yvonne Elliman, then known for ballads, to record "How Deep Is Your Love" for Saturday Night Fever, while The Bee Gees produced their own version of the more disco-oriented "If I Can't Have You" for the film. Robert Stigwood thought he would prefer the songs from different genders, and directed the group to cut the ballad while Elliman cut "If I Can't Have You" with her usual producer Freddie Perren. Satisfied with this switch, Elliman's interpretation made the soundtrack, while the Bee Gees' version was relegated to the B-side of the "Stayin' Alive" single. The brothers' version has since appeared on CD in hits compilations.
- "Stayin' Alive" - 3:29
- "If I Can't Have You" - 3:25
- "Subway" - 4:20
- "Love So Right" - 3:33
Use in medical training
"Stayin' Alive" was used in a study to train medical professionals to provide the correct number of chest compressions per minute while performing CPR. The song has close to 104 beats per minute, and 100-120 chest compressions per minute are recommended by the British Heart Foundation, and endorsed by the Resuscitation Council (UK). A study on medical professionals found that the quality of CPR is better when thinking about "Stayin' Alive". This was parodied in the season 5 episode of comedy series The Office, "Stress Relief".
On 15 June 2011, the song was featured in a Hands Only CPR PSA campaign video from the American Heart Association and featured actor Ken Jeong in the classic John Travolta outfit from Saturday Night Fever.