|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)|
|Bee Gees singles chronology|
"Stayin' Alive" is a disco song by the Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever motion picture soundtrack. The song was written by the Bee Gees members (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. In 2004, "Stayin' Alive" was placed at number 189 on the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2004, it ranked No. 9 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. In a UK television poll on ITV in December 2011 it was voted fifth in "The Nation's Favourite Bee Gees Song".
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. In the US, it would become the second of six consecutive number-one singles, tying the record with the Beatles for most consecutive number ones in the US at the time (a record broken by Whitney Houston who achieved seven consecutive number-ones).
- 1 Beginnings
- 2 Writing and recording
- 3 Release
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Track listing
- 6 Use in medical training
- 7 Accolades
- 8 Charts and certifications
- 9 Cover versions and samples
- 10 Appearances in other media
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
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 many other artists during the 1970s, the Bee Gees recorded a majority of the soundtrack in France for tax reasons. Due to the death of backing drummer Dennis Bryon'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.
Writing and recording
Several words from Robin Gibb's Concorde ticket inspired the Gibbs to write the lyrics for "Stayin' Alive". Robin recalls, "The subject matter of 'Stayin' Alive' is actually quite a serious one; It's about survival in the streets of New York, and the lyrics actually say that". Barry Gibb also recalls, "People crying out for help. Desperate songs. Those are the ones that become giants. The minute you capture that on record, it's gold. 'Stayin' Alive' is the epitome of that. Everybody struggles against the world, fighting all the bullshit and things that can drag you down. And it really is a victory just to survive. But when you climb back on top and win bigger than ever before, well that's something everybody reacts to everybody". "We'd also written a song called 'Saturday Night'", Maurice explains, "But there were so many songs called 'Saturday Night' even one by the Bay City Rollers, so when we rewrote it for the movie, we called it 'Stayin' Alive'.
Recording "Stayin' Alive" was not simple. Engineer Karl Richardson copied a choice few seconds of drumming from "Night Fever", cut out the piece of tape and glued the ends together, then fed it back into a recorder by a makeshift arrangement to create a new drum track. Drummer Dennis Bryon did not attend the recording of "Stayin' Alive". This track was finished at Criteria Studios, with Maurice laying down a bass line like Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman", Barry and Alan on guitar riffs, while Blue Weaver added synthesizers, and the Boneroo Horns added their parts. Barry sings falsetto on the whole song, except on the line "life’s going nowhere, somebody help me".
Albhy Galuten talks about the recording of "Stayin' Alive":
Barry and I listened carefully to find a bar that felt really good. Everyone knows that it's more about feel than accuracy in drum tracks. We chose a bar that felt so good that we ended up using that same loop on 'Stayin' Alive,' and 'More Than a Woman,' and then again on Barbra Streisand's song 'Woman in Love.' To make the loop, we copied the drums onto one-quarter-inch tape. Karl spliced the tape and jury rigged it so that it was going over a mic stand and around a plastic reel. At first, we were doing it just as a temporary measure. As we started to lay tracks down to it, we found that it felt really great-very insistent but not machinelike. It had a human feel. By the time we had overdubbed all the parts to the songs and Dennis came back, there was no way we could get rid of the loop.
In their work together, Gibb and Galuten had tried playing with click tracks as Galuten explained:
While today's musicians know how to get a good groove with the click, back then, if you used a click track you rarely got a good feel. The loop crossed the boundary giving us music that was in time with a good feel. If I had been working for a technology company then and knew what I was doing, I would have tried to patent the idea. Nonetheless, it changed a lot of things. That first loop was a watershed event in our life and times.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2012)|
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's 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's 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's "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 successive 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. Interestingly, 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 and 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 longest version of "Stayin' Alive" ever made was faded at 6:59, and that version was finally released on the remastered version of Bee Gees Greatest. The album edit is a still generous 4:43, but it was down to 3:29 for the single version.
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's version was relegated to the B-side of the "Stayin' Alive" single. The brothers' version has since appeared on CD in hits compilations.
George Martin commented about this song saying: "The great thing about 'Stayin' Alive' is that it had a great guitar hook to start with which set up the theme, that pulsating beat. It's no coincidence, by the way, that the disco beat of 120 beats per minute coincides the heartbeat of your heart when you're excited. This was a key thing which underlined the whole tune, and when the vocals came in, the vocals were so designed that they pushed that beat further".
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 and a train station, among others.
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.
- Barry Gibb – lead, harmony and backing vocals, rhythm guitar
- Robin Gibb – harmony and backing vocals
- Maurice Gibb – harmony and backing vocals, bass
- Alan Kendall – lead guitar
- Blue Weaver – keyboards
- Dennis Bryon – drums
- Joe Lala – percussion
- "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" and the song itself was used in a season 10 episode of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy in 2015.
On 15 June 2011, the song was featured in a Hands Only CPR PSA campaign video from the American Heart Association and featured actor and medical doctor Ken Jeong in the classic John Travolta outfit from Saturday Night Fever.
|1981||Dave Marsh & James Bernard||United States||"Singles Of The Year 1978"||1|
|1989||Dave Marsh||United States||"The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made"||716|
|1989||Rolling Stone||United States||"The 100 Best Singles Of The Last 25 Years"||50|
|1995||Rock and Roll Hall of Fame||United States||"500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"||*|
|2000||Rolling Stone||United States||"100 Greatest Pop Songs"||93|
|2000||VH1||United States||"100 Greatest Dance Songs"||10|
|2001||Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)||United States||"Songs of the Century" (365)||94|
|2003||PopMatters||United States||"The 100 Best Songs Since Johnny Rotten Roared"||65|
|2003||Q||United Kingdom||"100 Songs That Changed The World"||17|
|2003||Q||United Kingdom||"The 1001 Best Songs Ever"||280|
|2004||Rolling Stone||United States||"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"||189|
|2009||VH1||United States||"100 Greatest Rock Songs"||54|
|2010||Rolling Stone||United States||"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"||191|
|2011||Robert Dimery||United Kingdom||"1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die"||*|
|2011||Time||United States||"All-TIME 100 Songs"||*|
(*) indicates the list is unordered.
Charts and certifications
|Order of precedence|
"Isn't It Time" by The Babys
|Australian number-one single
3 April 1978 – 15 May 1978 (7 weeks)
"Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush
"Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA
|Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single (first run)
5 April 1978 (1 week)
"Denis" by Blondie
"Denis" by Blondie
|Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single (second run)
19 April 1978 – 26 April 1978 (2 weeks)
"Rivers of Babylon" by Boney M.
|Dutch Top 40 number-one single
8 April 1978 – 22 April 1978 (3 weeks)
"Mull of Kintyre" by Wings
|South African number-one single
28 April 1978 – 16 June 1978 (8 weeks)
"Figli delle stelle" by Alan Sorrenti
"Sotto il segno dei pesci" by Antonello Venditti
|Italian number-one single
6 May 1978 – 10 June 1978 (6 weeks)
24 June 1978 (1 week)
"Sotto il segno dei pesci" by
"Tu" by Umberto Tozzi
"Baby Come Back" by Player
|Canadian RPM 100 Singles number-one single
18 February 1978 – 11 March 1978 (4 weeks)
"Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill
|US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
4 February 1978 – 25 February 1978 (4 weeks)
"(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" by Andy Gibb
"Short People" by Randy Newman
|US Cash Box number-one single
4 February 1978 – 25 February 1978 (4 weeks)
"Turn to Stone" by Electric Light Orchestra
|Canadian CHUM number-one single
11 February 1978 – 25 March 1978 (6 weeks)
"Night Fever" by The Bee Gees
"Emotion" by Samantha Sang
|New Zealand number-one single
26 March 1978 (1 week)
"Tania" by John Rowles
"Amarsi un po'" by Lucio Battisti
|Italian best-selling single of the year
"Tu sei l'unica donna per me" by Alan Sorrenti
Cover versions and samples
- In 1978, the singer Mina has interpreted this song in her album Mina Live '78.
- On 24 April 1978, the Grateful Dead played a bit of the song after "Ramble on Rose" and continued to tease it during the following two songs, "Me & My Uncle" and "Big River".
- In one episode of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, Zaphod Beeblebrox is teleported to a disco populated entirely by robots. A version of "Stayin' Alive" (played backwards) is heard in the background.
- In 1979, Paul Weston and Jo Stafford released a cover of the song as Jonathan and Darlene Edwards. It was backed with "I Am Woman".
- In 1980, American singer and ukulele player Tiny Tim covered it and released it on his album Chameleon.
- In 1991, Madchester group Happy Mondays covered it in two different versions for the non-album single "Judge Fudge".
- N-Trance covered a dance version of the song with new lyrics and rapping by Ricardo da Force in 1995, which reached number one on RPM's Canadian Dance Chart that same year.
- Also in 1995, grindcore band Anal Cunt recorded an Oi! version of the song, released on their album Top 40 Hits.
- Although the Bee Gees tended to be very careful of who they allowed to sample or cover any track from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, "Stayin' Alive" was sampled in the single "We Trying to Stay Alive" by Wyclef Jean (featuring Pras and John Forté), from the album The Carnival (1997).
- In 1999, British death metal band Ten Masked Men recorded a cover of the song in their self-titled first album.
- Ozzy Osbourne covered the song and it appeared on CD 3 of his 2005 box set, Prince of Darkness. This is instrumentally the same as Dweezil Zappa's version from 1991's Confessions, with Ozzy's vocals replacing Donny Osmond's.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded two versions of the song. The first was for their 1996 album Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes. The second was for the 2009 film Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and its soundtrack.
- In 2006, The Sleeping covered this song for the Crank soundtrack.
- Dimension Zero did a melodic death metal cover of the song on their 2007 He Who Shall Not Bleed album.
- In 2010, Italian rapper Jovanotti covered it for his live US album OYEAH!
- Sugarland performed the song during their 2010 Incredible Machine tour.
- Bitch released a cover on the album Blasted!
- In 2011, Reece Mastin, X Factor Australia winner, covered this song, with the melody of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", in the show and for his album Reece Mastin.
- In 2011, Anna Tsuchiya, a J-pop singer and model, covered this song for her album Unchained Girl.
- Capital Cities covered the song on their Kangaroo Court EP (2013).
- The Saturdays 2013 song "Disco Love" makes reference to "Stayin' Alive".
- In 2014, Les Claypool released a version on his Duo de Twang debut album Four Foot Shack with Bryan Kehoe.
- The same year, Bruce Springsteen performed the song with the E Street Band at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Appearances in other media
Though "Stayin Alive" is heavily guarded by the Bee Gees for licensing, it has appeared in numerous movies, television shows and video games including:
- A sketch in a 1977/1978 episode of Saturday Night Live.
- The 1978 Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn film Foul Play.
- A 1978 episode of Hawaii Five-O entitled "Number One with a Bullet", along with "Night Fever" and "More Than a Woman".
- Two 1979 episodes of Mork & Mindy.
- The 1980 comedy Airplane!.
- The 1980 film The Last Married Couple in America.
- The thirteenth episode of the third season of The Muppet Show, where Miss Piggy and other pigs cover the song as the opening number.
- The 1981 John Belushi comedy Neighbors.
- The movie Look Who's Talking featuring John Travolta.
- A 1987 Disney special DTV Doggone Valentine, which set to clips featuring the cats of Disney.
- The 1991 David Tyler CKBE-FM.
- The 1992 Rick Moranis comedy Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.
- The 1993 Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau film Grumpy Old Men.
- A 1994 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Bart's Girlfriend", in which Bart struts down the street in a manner similar to John Travolta in the opening sequence of Saturday Night Fever. Homer also performs a parody version of the song highlighting 'Table Five' in a neighbourhood garage sale in the episode "Two Bad Neighbors".
- A flashback scene in the 1994 comedy Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.
- The 1995 sci-fi futuristic film Virtuosity as Russell Crowe's signature walk theme.
- Five 1995 movies: A Goofy Movie, Bushwhacked, Virtuosity, Let It Be Me and Grumpier Old Men.
- The Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close 1996 action/comedy Mars Attacks!.
- As part of an NBA on TNT intro from a 1997 playoff game between the Seattle SuperSonics and the Houston Rockets.
- A 1997 episode of the BBC drama This Life.
- A 1997 television commercial for Pentium MMX Processors by Intel.
- The 1998 comedy A Night at the Roxbury.
- On That '70s Show, on an episode "The Velvet Rope" season 2, episode 3, 1999.
- At the end of the 2001 movie Shrek, sung by Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) in the Dragon's stomach.
- On the BBC TV show Top Gear (2002), while the Stig is driving the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport for its power lap (Series 15, Episode 5). Presenter Jeremy Clarkson also used the song as the siren for his "Rambulance" (Series 22, Episode 3).
- In the 2005 movie Madagascar, while Marty is walking down the streets of New York City.
- In the 2005 animated film Chicken Little.
- In episodes of CSI: NY and Entourage (2007).
- in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode which allows use of a real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to three-part vocal harmonies. The song was made available to download for use on 16 November 2010.
- In the BBC show Sherlock, as a ringtone of Jim Moriarty, in its series two premiere on New Year's Day, 2012. It is also heard in the series two finale, when Moriarty tells Sherlock that their final problem is 'Stayin' Alive', whilst playing the song on his phone.
- In the 2012 comedy Ted.
- During the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.
- In the sixteenth episode of the third season of Glee, "Saturday Night Glee-ver".
- In an episode of Rookie Blue on 27 June 2013, at the beginning, in which some of the main characters play paintball.
- List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1970s
- List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of 1978
- List of Dutch Top 40 number-one singles of 1978
- List of European number-one hits of 1978
- List of number-one hits of 1978 (France)
- List of number-one singles of 1978 (Canada)
- List of number-one singles in 1978 (New Zealand)
- Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
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