Great Albums: Saturday Night Fever

In 1977, I went to see a new film that everyone was raving about. It was a drama set in New York, about a young man who wants to rise above his background and life in the neighbourhood by becoming a dancer. It starred John Tavolta as Tony, ably supported by a group of young American actors, including Donna Pescow and Karen Gorney. It wasn’t a musical, but it was all about the music. After watching the film, I soon bought the soundtrack album on vinyl.

As well as the Bee gees, who wrote many new songs for the film, we had the vocal talents of Yvonne Elliman, and funky stuff from Tavares, Kool and The Gang, The Trammps, and K.C. and The Sunshine Band. Anyone who had seen the film could recapture the scenes easily, by listening to the record, and even those who hadn’t got to see it could enjoy the feast of Disco music on offer.

In the film, Tony is trying to win a dance contest, so we often see him practicing with his partners. The setting is ideal to add great music, as we watch Travolta tear up the floor.

When he dumps his first partner for a better dancer, Yvonne Elliman supplies the heartbreak song.

Much of the action is filmed in the nightclub where Tony is well-known, and the contest is to be held. The crowd scenes and great music give a real feel of being there. Travolta is at his peak here, on sparkling form indeed.

When Tony falls for his new partner, the Bee Gees get to perform their love ballad, which went on to become one of their signature songs.

Perhaps the opening scene has become the best-known, with Travolta walking to work, and ‘Staying Alive’ playing over in the background.

The music won six Grammy awards for the Bee Gees, with the album and numerous singles taken from it reaching number one all over the world. To this date, it remains the biggest-selling film soundtrack ever, with more than 45,000,000 copies sold. And it is a wonderful example of how music can transform a film that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Despite being very much of its time, many of the songs are still powerful and relevant today, and forty-one years later, it is still being bought by new fans.

60 thoughts on “Great Albums: Saturday Night Fever

  1. The first time I went to the cinema was watching Saturday Night Fever! I love it!
    At that time I would like John Travolta!
    Today I do not like watching movies with him!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember I was too young to go and watch the movie when it came out but loved the songs and the album (even if my English was terrible at the time). Thanks for the reminder, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been on TV here in the past, but is rarely shown these days. Worth watching I think, as the story is quite gritty, and the music and dancing is shown as an escape for the young characters. Maybe if you trawl the web, you might find the film free online?
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Like

  3. I remember enjoying this film immensely when it hit theaters. And I also remember listening repeatedly to the vinyl album. At the time, John Travolta was also one of the students in the sitcom, “Welcome, Back, Kotter,” which was very successful. Of course, he soon starred with Olivia Newton-John (who I saw in concert when she was young) in “Grease.”

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  4. Still have the album Pete! As an aside, the movie was filmed in my old Brooklyn haunts – the club in the movie as the old “802 Club” -a local dance club which was completely redone for the film, including installation of the dance floor. The address of the club was 802-64th street. As a kid I lived on 66th street. It was later named Spectrum and demolished in 2005. Also the opening scene with Travolta walking down a shopping street under an elevated train was shot on 86th street where my wife and I met – and shopped,

    The music brings lots of nice memories although in 1977 I was already 35 and married. Never visited the club in its hey day. 🙂
    Best regards.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I found this a genuinely serious film way back when in the middle of my life, although not when it first came out. Originally I was rather snobby about not wanting it to be my lifestyle, since I was a judgmental teenager in unhappy New Jersey and frankly the mean streets of Noo Yawk and people with worse accents than I had were not a step up in my mind, but I got very much into disco despite that. The music was everywhere, and I loved disco as long as it was around–I still love a great deal of the music.

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    1. Thanks for your recollections, Donnalee. It is good to hear from someone who lives in America about how the film was perceived by them.
      I agree that it was a film that dealt with some serious issues, and perhaps the popularity of the music overshadowed that fact.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think it was really sort of a slice o’ life of a time and place, but maybe not the life everyone wanted. The rock crowd hated disco vehemently, and that was a factor socially in some places–

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        1. Yes indeed. Musical tastes were very ‘partisan’ back then. I was a ‘Soul Boy’, who became drawn to the new disco sound, though it never replaced my love of Soul and Motown. I never listened to heavy metal, or hard rock. I still don’t.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I seem to have segued through pop in the 70s to what became classic rock, by way of disco. At the end of 1982 I went mad for the New Wave music that we were getting: mostly british, but things I love to this day, incluidng 2-tone ska and groups like Madness, and The Cure and Siousxie and what became goth, and Thomas Dolby and Lene Lovitch and Elvis Costello and ABC and tons more– The The, Talk Talk…always Bowie in whatever incarnation–

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        1. Feel free, John. I should have done a ‘mash-up’ really, film and soundtrack as one review! 🙂
          You are right about the darker themes. Sex, gang violence, loss of religious faith, social class, etc.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel absolutely terrible for saying this, but I never liked The Bee Gees or this movie. I did have a huge crush on their younger brother Andy though. It’s funny, I can completely understand why they have so many fans, but there was something about their music that set my teeth on edge. Maybe part of it is that I wasn’t a huge fan of disco except for a few artists.🤷🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No problem, Kim. I never liked them much either, other than some of the songs in this film. My favourite is ‘More than a woman’, which I think is better by Tavares anyway. 🙂
      You can’like everything honey.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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