"Stayin' Alive" is a disco song by the 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. In 2010 "Stayin' Alive" was placed at number 191 on the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2012)|
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 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. 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 laid 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".3
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.4||”|
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.4||”|
|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' 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 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.3
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.
- Barry Gibb - vocals, rhythm guitar
- Robin Gibb - vocals
- Maurice Gibb - vocals, bass guitar
- Blue Weaver - keyboards
- Dennis Bryon - drums
- "Stayin' Alive" – 3:29
- "If I Can't Have You" – 3:25
- "Subway" – 4:20
- "Love So Right" – 3:33
"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,5 and endorsed by the Resuscitation Council (UK).6 A study on medical professionals found that the quality of CPR is better when thinking about "Stayin' Alive".7 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 and medical doctor Ken Jeong in the classic John Travolta outfit from Saturday Night Fever.8
- 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, the American singer and ukulele player Tiny Tim covered it and released it on his album Chameleon.
- In 1991, the Madchester group Happy Mondays covered it in two different versions for the non-album single "Judge Fudge".37
- N-Trance covered a dance version of the song with new rap and lyrics in 1995.
- 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.
- 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 the 2005 movie Madagascar, this song is played while Marty is walking down the streets of New York City
- Dimension Zero did a melodic death metal cover of the song on their 2007 He Who Shall Not Bleed album.
- In 2007, the French band Electro Deluxe recorded a jazz fusion version of this song in their album Hopeful.
- In 2010, Italian rapper Jovanotti covered it for his live US album OYEAH!
- The grindcore band Anal Cunt recorded an Oi! version of the song, released on their album Top 40 Hits.
- The Sleeping covered this song for the CRANK soundtrack.
- Sugarland performed the song during their 2010 Incredible Machine tour.
- Bitch released a cover on 2010's album Blasted!
- A short part of the refrain is used in the end of the movie Shrek, sung by Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) in the Dragon's stomach.
- In 2011, Reece Mastin, X Factor Australia winner, covered this song for his album Reece Mastin.
- In 2011, Anna Tsuchiya, Jpop singer and model, covered this song for her album Unchained Girl.
- In 2012, the song was featured in the sixteenth episode of the third season of Glee.
- 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.
- In 2013, Ilusia Girls, X Factor Indonesia contestant, covered this song during the third gala show
Though Stayin Alive is heavily guarded by the Bee Gees for licensing, it has appeared in numerous movies and television shows including:38
- 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.
- A sped up version (with permission) was used in the 1980 comedy Airplane!
- In the thirteenth episode of the third season of The Muppet Show, 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 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.
- 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 neighborhood garage sale in the episode "Two Bad Neighbors".
- Used in 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 movies in 1995 used the song: A Goofy Movie, Bushwhacked, Virtuosity, Let It Be Me, and Grumpier Old Men.
- During the "Swamp Karaoke Dance Party" which tied into the Shrek film, Lord Farquaad was heard singing this song in the Dragon's stomach since he was eaten by her.
- The Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close 1996 action/comedy Mars Attacks!.
- Song was used 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 70's Show on an episode "The Velvet Rope" season 2, episode 3, 1999.
- The 2005 animated feature Madagascar.
- The song is briefly used in the Disney film Chicken Little.
- Episodes of CSI: NY and Entourage in 2007.
- BBC show Top Gear season 15, episode 5 in 2010, the song was played while the Stig was driving the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport for power lap.
- The song was made available to download on November 16, 2010 for use 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.
- Was the ringtone of Jim Moriarty in the BBC show Sherlock in its series two premiere on New Year's Day, 2012. Had a darker reprisal in the series two finale, when Moriarty tells Sherlock that their final problem is 'Stayin' Alive', whilst playing the song on his phone.
- The 2012 comedy Ted.
- The opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- Popular darts player Steve Beaton uses this song as his walk-on.
- Episode of Rookie Blue on June 27, 2013, at the beginning, in which some of the main characters play Paintball.
- The Saturdays 2013 hit song Disco Love makes reference to the lyrics You take me back in time, to 1979, We'll be at the Bee Gees, baby everybody staying alive
- List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1970s
- List of Dutch Top 40 number-one singles of 1978
- List of European number-one hits of 1978
- List of Hot 100 number-one singles of 1978 (U.S.)
- List of RPM number-one singles of 1978
- List of number-one hits of 1978 (France)
- List of number-one singles in 1978 (New Zealand)
- The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
- Donald A. Guarisco. "Stayin' Alive review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 5 July 2013. "This classic Bee Gees track, created especially for the film Saturday Night Fever, is one of those songs that immediately comes to mind when most people think of disco music."
- RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - Bee Gees Platinum Singles. RIAA.com. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
- Brennan, Joseph. "Gibb Songs: 1977". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- Albhy Galuten tells his story
- British Heart Foundation - life-saving skills. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
- Resuscitation Council website. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
- National Public Radio (25 October 2008). Another Use For 'Stayin' Alive': Staying Alive. Viewed 22 May 2010.
- "Ken Jeong AHA Hands-Only CPR video". 15 June 2011.
- "Vinnie Jones Hands-Only CPR video". 10 January 2012.
- "Australia n°1 Hits - 70's". Worldcharts.co.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
- "Ultratop.be – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- "Stayin' alive in Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- "Stayin' alive in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- Steve Hawtin et al. "Song title 86 - Stayin' Alive". Tsort.info. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- "Stayin' alive in French Chart". Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. Retrieved 13 June 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Bee Gees"
- "Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive". Charts.de. Media Control.
- "Stayin' alive in Irish Chart". IRMA (fr). Retrieved 30 May 2013. 2nd result when searching "Stayin' alive"
- "Stayin' alive in Italian Chart". Hit Parade Italia (it). Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Bee Gees search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
- "Charts.org.nz – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive". Top 40 Singles.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive". VG-lista.
- John Samson. "Stayin' alive in South African Chart". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive". Singles Top 60.
- "Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
- "1978 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 4th March 1978". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- "Saturday Night Fever Awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- The Top 100 Adult Contemporary Songs Ever - Chart Beat - Billboard.com
- "Lescharts.com – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive" (in French). Les classement single.
- "Canadian certifications – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive". Music Canada. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "French single certifications – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive" (in French). InfoDisc. Select BEE GEES and click OK
- "Les Singles en Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "British single certifications – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 March 2012. Enter Stayin' Alive in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
- "American single certifications – Bee Gees – Stayin' Alive". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 29 March 2012. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- Grein, Paul (August 26, 1978). "Billboard Vol. 90, No. 34". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.). Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- Happy Mondays: Judge Fudge, discogs.com.
- The Bee Gees - IMDb