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Stayin' Alive - The Bee Gees - Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Honky Chateau Miniseries, Pt. 6

This post will mark the end of our stay at Herouville. It's been real, and I'd like to send us off with a crowd pleaser. If memory serves, we've heard tunes from Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Elton John, T Rex and Iggy Pop thus far. I really enjoy the contrast that this week's selection offers in comparison to Pop's record - both of which were released in the same year and recorded in the same sound studio. This song is an all time classic, and while I'm sure it won't be new to anyone here, we do have some fun historical facts in the paragraphs ahead.


A few interesting tidbits turned up while researching this track. Like most soundtracks (as opposed to movie scores), the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is mostly comprised of songs that were recorded prior to the movie being written or filmed. However, "Stayin' Alive" is an exception to this general rule of thumb. The Bee Gees had been recording music with heavy funk and disco elements earlier in the 70's. The producers of the film Saturday Night Fever had originally intended to use some tunes by Boz Scaggs in the soundtrack, but got hung up with some legal snafus. They turned to the Bee Gees to deliver some music for the movie, and the rest is history.

Tracks like "Jive Talkin'" and "You Should Be Dancing" had already been written and recorded by the Bee Gees when Robert Stigwood, the producer of the film, first reached out to the band about doing music for the movie. According to legend, they slapped together "Stayin' Alive" in a few short sessions at the Chateau, writing a song that was made to order for the movie itself. Not bad work for perhaps the most iconic disco track of all time? The lyrics for this song were recorded in the stairwell at the Chateau, visible in the brochure photo below. The Gibb bros apparently liked the acoustics in that space. Can't argue with the results. Apparently some other folks shot some dirty movies in that same Chateau, according to Robin Gibb. I decided not to watch all 87 minutes of the The Kinky Ladies of Bourbon Street to see which scenes occurred in the staircase, but I did check out the official music video for this song, as well as the opening scene to the movie itself.

Let's break down these two videos, shall we? The official music video has some similarities to the intro scene to the movie. Both are worth the five minutes of your time. At first I had a hard time deciding which piece of disco was a greater piece of film, but upon further inspection, the opening scene to the movie wins in a landslide.

The music video itself is good, and it's worth a watch. It raises some interesting questions as the sequence plays out, like "where are these guys filming this?" and "why does this guy have such nice teeth, I thought he was British?" The second question I can not answer, but the first one I can. When I first watched the video, I was super excited and thought that maybe, just maybe, the Bee Gees found some abandoned buildings outside of the Chateau and jumped in and out of the windows as they hit melodies on video tape. Nope. Turns out they filmed this music video in Culver City, California (it's in LA...), and the abandoned buildings are the remnants of a movie set that MGM built in the 20's called Quality Street. The NYC train cars are also props found on Lot #2 in Culver City. Sounds like more of a place that Vince Vaughan goes to in season two of True Detective, and a lot less like the French countryside. Disappointing. Phony. Not quality, just Los Angeles.

The opening scene of the movie raises plenty of questions as well. "What is that paint bucket for?" "Why haven't I thought of eating pizza like that myself?" "Did women in the 70's really have to put up with this shit?" I don't have any of the answers to these questions, as I've not actually watched the movie. But like any good film critic of our day and age, I've seen the trailer, and I can tell that it's certified legitimate.

Regardless of my misgivings on the music video set and blind faith in the movie itself, everything just turned out peachy as hell for all musical and cinematic parties involved. The Gibb brothers cemented their legacy as disco giants, John Travolta was doing well and probably hadn't gotten involved with Scientology whatsoever at this point, and I imagine that Mr Stigwood, who produced the movie, was more than happy with his decision to leave Boz Scaggs in the rearview. No disrespect to Boz, though.


Further Reading / Sources

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