"Stayin' Alive" is a disco song written and performed by the Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever motion picture soundtrack. The song was released on 13 December 1977 as the second single from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The band co-produced the song with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson. It is one of the Bee Gees' 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".
On its 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).
Artwork of the UK 7-inch vinyl single
|Single by Bee Gees|
|from the album Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Soundtrack|
|B-side||"If I Can't Have You"|
|Released||13 December 1977|
|Format||7-inch 45 rpm record|
|Studio||Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France, 1977|
|Bee Gees singles chronology|
|Saturday Night Fever track listing|
The executive producer of the Saturday Night Fever motion picture soundtrack and future Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood asked the band to write a few songs for the soundtrack. At this point, the film was in early stages and it did not have a title; 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 near 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 the area prompted the group to try a drum machine, but it did not offer satisfactory results. After listening to the drum track of the already-recorded "Night Fever", the group and producer Albhy Galuten took two bars from that track, rerecorded 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.
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'.
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 similar to the guitar riff, 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.
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 not as popular as it was in the United States, but was still a huge hit, 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.
"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 11 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. Vinnie Jones stars in a UK version of this CPR video in association with the British Heart Foundation shown on TV in January 2012.
|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|
|2004||AFI||United States||"AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs"||9|
|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.
|Single by N-Trance|
|from the album Electronic Pleasure|
|Label||All Around The World|
|N-Trance singles chronology|
In 1995, British electronic music group N-Trance recorded a dance version of the song, with new lyrics and rapping by Ricardo da Force. This cover reached number one on Australia's ARIA Singles Chart and Canada's RPM Dance Chart. Although it only spent one week at number one in Australia, it ended 1995 as the country's second best-selling single, after Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", which kept "Stayin' Alive" at number two for five weeks. The song was also a major hit in Europe, reaching number 2 in Finland, Iceland, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, and reached the top 5 in several other countries.
Billboard wrote about the song: "U.K. import enthusiasts are already aware of this jumpy rap interpretation of the Bee Gees disco classic. Early radio reaction holds promise for a quick and successful ride up the Hot 100. There is not a whole lot of substance in TLK's rap, but he certainly has a rousing, infectious style that makes the track spark. Singer Kelly Llorenna injects some bright diva flash during the bridge and chorus."
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||5|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||8|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||6|
|Canada Dance/Urban (RPM)||1|
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||56|
|Europe (Eurochart Hot 100 Singles)||3|
|Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)||2|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||3|
|Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)||2|
|Italy (Hit Parade Italia)||2|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||16|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||12|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||3|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||1|
|Spain (ALEF MB)||3|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||2|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||2|
|UK Dance (Official Charts Company)||4|
|US Billboard Hot 100||62|
|US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales||9|
|US Billboard Rhythmic Top 40||28|
|US Cash Box||54|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||43|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||51|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||99|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||9|
|Canada Dance/Urban (RPM)||49|
|"Stayin' Alive (Serban mix)"|
|Single by Bee Gees|
|Released||10 February 2017|
|Bee Gees singles chronology|
On 10 February 2017, Capitol Records released a new version of the song entitled "Stayin' Alive" (Serban mix). The song was mixed by Serban Ghenea from "hi-resolution audio files" from the original recording session of "Stayin' Alive", and it was mastered by Tom Coyne. The single was released in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Saturday Night Fever (1977) soundtrack.
Though "Stayin Alive" is heavily guarded by the Bee Gees for licensing, it has appeared in numerous movies, television shows and video games including: