Some songs from the mid-to-late seventies have a whiff of disco about them: subtle grooves, funky guitars, a nod to the disco-ball… While some songs of the time are drowning in the stuff, as the genre comes close to imploding in a cloud of glitter. Can you guess which camp this next #1 falls into?
Night Fever, by The Bee Gees (their 3rd of five #1s)
2 weeks, from 23rd April – 7th May 1978
The Bee Gees are back, and they’ve gone for a pure and utter disco approach. The guitars go chucka-chucka, the strings swirl, things go ‘ting’… And then there’s the falsettos. Night fever, night fe-ver… By now these voices have gone beyond parody, but here in the moment it really hits you. We know how to show it… (Not that this was a comeback single for the band – they’d been ‘disco’ since ‘Jive Talkin’ came out in 1975.)
Nothing about this song, though, hints at the band who scored their first couple of #1s in the late sixties. In a blind listening test, I doubt anybody would think this was the band that recorded ‘Massachusetts’. And here’s the thing… I thought I’d be finding this song really annoying. This, along with ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘Tragedy’ et al are engraved in popular culture: well-loved, but cliched, and very high-pitched. Songs I know but rarely choose to listen to. Yet this is fun – a catchy slice of peak-era disco.
The high-point – in more ways than one! – comes with the bridge. Here I am, Prayin’ for this moment to last… Everything soars: voices, strings and synths… Borne on the wind, Making it mine… It’s a great pop moment, and really conjures up a mood of walking along the street, thinking of the clubs, the cocktails, and the dancing that lies ahead. The only problem is that the vocals go so high that it’s bloody hard to sing along!
‘Night Fever’ was of course from the soundtrack to ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (a film I’ve never actually seen), along with ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, and ‘More Than a Woman’ – disco giants the lot of them. The soundtrack was ginormous in the US, with three Bee Gees songs in the Top 10 as ‘Night Fever’ spent eight weeks at the top. It wasn’t quite as big in the UK – we opted to go wild for singles from another movie soundtrack (more on that very soon) – though the soundtrack topped the album chart for months on end.
This record hits #1 just under a decade after the Bee Gees previous chart-topper, ‘I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You’. It’s a long gap, but not the longest so far. That honour goes to Frank Sinatra, and the twelve years between ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ and ‘Strangers in the Night’. What is impressive is that the Brothers Gibb will take not one, but two, decade-long hiatuses from the number one spot. Few acts have ever matched their longevity…