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'Jive Talkin'" and Beyond: The Bee Gees No. 1's of The '70s

by Ryan Book   Aug 9, 2015 17:39 PM EDT

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It was a dark day for fans of rock music on August 9, 1975, as the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'" would be announced as the no. 1 song on the Hot 100. It was the group's second no. 1 hit in its then-14-year career but it was the first that could be classified as "disco." Things would only get better/worse (depending on who you are) from there on out, as the Gibb brothers would become the biggest names in the genre's short history, releasing another seven no. 1 hits before 1980 struck. These are those tracks.

"You Should Be Dancing" (1976)

Although "Jive Talkin'" may have been the first disco no. 1 for the Bee Gees, this is the song that would result in the sound everyone remembers: Barry Gibb going all falsetto, all the time. He had sang an entire song in falsetto previously, on Main Course, however this track made that approach known to the world. Apparently Gibb couldn't get enough of emulating non-human noises, as he also sang the horn and bass parts to those respective musicians so they would know what sound they wanted. Another, more curious tidbit: Stephen Stills (of Buffalo Springfield/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame) was at Criteria Studios at the time and ended up recording the percussion for "You Should Be Dancing." Neil Young, who was also there, unsurprisingly did not contribute.

"How Deep Is Your Love" (1977)

Disco was well on its way by 1977 but its peak came in the form of the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, which would intrigue audiences with a cinematic portrayal of the scene, similar to how Singles amplified the attention on grunge. Robert Stigwood asked the group to contribute a few songs and they came up with five, three of which would go on to no. 1 as a single. The first was "How Deep Is Your Love," which Barry Gibb would acknowledge in future interviews was his favorite track from the band's nearly 50 years of making music. This would also kick off a run of six consecutive no. 1 singles, which would tie The Beatles for the most all-time at that point. The record would eventually fall to Whitney Houston (seven) during 1985.

"Stayin' Alive" (1978)

Few people even realize how long of a music career the Bee Gees had carried on before becoming international superstars with the release of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, with albums going back to 1965. Of course, part of that is due to the success of "Stayin' Alive," the track played during the opening scene of the aforementioned movie, and its undeniable embodiment of the disco feel. The Gibb brothers themselves have professed slight regret regarding the success of the single, as it led to audiences at the time forgetting the band's previous psychedelic pop work. RSO Records wanted to change the name of the song to "Saturday Night" to match the movie but the band refused...

"Night Fever" (1978)

...therefore the studio changed the name of the film by adding the word "fever," thereby matching the Bee Gees' song "Night Fever" from the soundtrack. "Night Fever" was the third of the six singles released by the trio that would climb to no. 1 on the Hot 100, but don't think that the chart didn't have other groups coming in and filling the charts between Bee Gees singles. Prior to "Night Fever" peaking at no. 1, "Love Is Thicker Than Water" was the top song. It was performed by Andy Gibb...another member of the family who wasn't in the Bee Gees. After "Night Fever" came Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You," finally a single that...wait. Oh no. That song was written and produced by the Bee Gees as well. There was truly no escaping the Gibbs at this point in music history.

"Too Much Heaven" (1978)

Alright, you may hate everything about the Bee Gees' music, but hopefully this entry into the charts will make you at least appreciate the trio as people. The band recognized that almost everything it touched at this point was turning to gold, so it offered the song to UNICEF, with literally all of the royalties from the track going to the charity. Much like the band's previous three singles, "Too Much Heaven" was eaten up by pop listeners, generating more than $7 million for the foundation (a favor that rightfully earned them a visit to the White House to chill with Jimmy Carter). It's a happy ending considering the song could have ended up attached to something much less selfless: another John Travolta movie. It was slated to be on the soundtrack to Moment by Moment but Barry pulled the plug after seeing an "awful" advance screening of the film.

"Tragedy" (1979)

Although all of the royalties from the single "Too Much Heaven" were given to charity, the song still appeared on the band's Spirits Having Flown, the first album released by the group following Saturday Night Fever (which might as well be a Bee Gees record, for what it's worth). The band could hardly escape its role within the film however: Despite being written well after the sessions for Saturday Night Fever, "Tragedy" is now included in the soundtrack for the musical renditions of the film carried out in London's West End. This song would replace Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" at no. 1 but, appropriately, she survived and the song returned to the top spot two weeks later.

"Love You Inside Out" (1979)

You would think the band had grown tired of no. 1 hits by the time "Love You Inside Out" peaked at the top of the Hot 100. Still, the sixth had to feel somewhat momentous for the group as, as mentioned previously, it tied the group with The Beatles for the most consecutive no. 1 singles (coincidentally, the Gibb brothers also starred in a film version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band during this stretch of success). Some other records that the sixth no. 1 would set: It marked the first time, and last time, that any act would score three no. 1 singles on back-to-back albums. The single was also the Bee Gees' eighth overall no. 1 of that decade, ensuring they would finish the '70s as the most decorated singles performer of the era.

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