Monday, January 13, 2003

RIP Maurice Gibb. My first LP (or my first LP that wasn't called something like "32 Great Kids Songs!" (did you have that one?)) was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I still have that record. I have lots of Bee Gees records.

At the age of eight my appreciation of disco was limited to the music. I didn't know beans about powder cocaine or Plato's Retreat. But I thought Bee Gees records were pretty great just the same.

I very rarely get rid of records. So I hung on to that Saturday Night Fever soundtrack through the 1980s, even though I knew it was the height of lame. The disco backlash hit hard, and that was forbidden music for the longest time.

I remember in fall 1989 when Rolling Stone did a ranking of the greatest LPs. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack got at best a grudging nod. For years after their disco ascendancy, the Bee Gees were the punchline to a bad joke.

Then, in the early 1990s, disco crept back in. In college, people threw disco parties. We'd dress up in thrift store finery and dance to, yes, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I remember all-nighters when I should have been writing papers, but instead was listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

It was at this time that the genius first struck me of the track "Night Fever," with its unexpectedly minor-key chorus, the lyrics of which are almost whispered. I also began to reconsider the Bee Gees' trademark falsetto as the brilliant thing it was. It was a truly odd sound--atypical, really, of disco, even as it was one of disco's hallmarks.

Interestingly, on the Bee Gees' 1989 comeback single, "One," the falsetto singing is all but absent--certainly not featured, as it is on "Night Fever." It was as though the Bee Gees were afraid of their own creation.

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