Monday, September 3, 2007

No. 131: Saturday Night Fever Original Soundtrack

Band: Various Artists
Album: Saturday Night Fever Original Soundtrack
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Disco was a polarizing force in the mid- to late-1970s and "Saturday Night Fever" was the pinnacle of the genre. The movie and record brought disco out of the small clubs and into the white mainstream, largely due to two things: The Bee Gee and John Travolta. Still, the record not just included the Bee Gees' best disco work, the album also has great "A Fifth of Beethoven,""Open Sesame," "Night On Disco Mountain" and "Disco Inferno."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I think this is about right. The album is sugary sweet nonsense, but it's so ingrained in our culture that you can't deny the greatness of this particular sugary sweet nonsense.
Best song: "Stayin' Alive" is the best disco song ever, probably. Really, though, you know 90% of these songs. I like "A Fifth Of Beethoven," personally.
Worst song: "Manhattan Skyline" is kind of bad.
Is it awesome?: Probably. It's bubblegum candy, but it's hard to deny.

Disco occupies a weird place in popular culture. It's had more influence than a lot of people probably want to admit (the people who participated in "Disco Demolition Night"), but few people actually acknowledge how important it was. It was a punchline for so many years, though had a resurgence for a bit in the mid-90s. The Bee Gees benefitted a great deal from this resurgence, even getting some run on VH1 in the late-90s.

"Saturday Night Fever" has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It's one of those records that everyone has a copy of, understandably so, because no one, you know, actually buys Bee Gees records. Most people, also, didn't buy a ton of disco records -- if you wanted to hear dance music, you went to a club.

The movie is darker than most people remember, with suicide, rape and suburban desperation being the among main themes (along, of course, with dancing). The music is kind of a juxtaposition when you think about New York in the mid- to -late 70s. This is the same time period of Son of Sam, the energy crisis and the Iranian hostage situation. Disco, however, was anything but dark and I think people remember this music style largely for that sunny optimism. It was pre-AIDS and post-sexual revolution. It sounds like a lot of fun, actually.

The songs are about some pretty simple stuff, dancing and boning. "Boogie Shoes," "You Should Be Dancing," "Staying Alive," "Calypso Breakdown," etc. Dance, dance, dance. "More Than A woman," "How Deep Is Your Love," "If I Can't Have You," etc. Boning, boning, boning.

But, it's sold so many copies, you can't deny how great it is.

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