Sunday, December 24, 2006

This Day in Music History: the Bee Gees and How Deep is Your Love

Starting today there will be a This Day in Music History each day until January 1st 2007. On December 24th 1977 the Bee Gees had the #1 song on the Billboard charts with How Deep is Your Love. It all started when their manager Robert Stigwood was contacted by writer Nik Cohn. He said he wanted to write a film or a story that could be made into a film and Stigwood could produce it. He told him to come up with an idea and get back in touch with him.
Six months later Stigwood was reading New York magazine. In it was an article called “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.” It was written by Nik Cohn. Stigwood called him and said, “You’re crazy. You come to me about writing a story for a picture. This is it.” Mr. Stigwood called Mr. Cohn’s agent and bought the rights for a film version. I don’t know if it was an accident or on purpose but Mr. Cohn was not crazy. He just made money twice off of the same story.
During this time the Brothers Gibb were in Paris trying to record a follow up album to their Children of the World LP. Stigwood called up and said to forget a studio album he wanted a live album he also called a second time asking for four new songs for a film he was producing. The first song they wrote for the film was How Deep is Your Love. They had Yvonne Elliman in mind to record it. When Stigwood heard the song he insisted the Bee Gees record it instead. Yvonne Elliman was given another song in the film, If I Can’t Have You.
Stigwood flew to Paris and gave the Bee Gees a rough idea for the film. He said it was about a guy who lives for Saturday night, when he can spend his paycheck and go dancing. He also said they had already hired John Travolta, who was a famous television actor on Welcome Back Kotter, to play the part. Maurice Gibb said they thought “Wow! A disco film. Let’s get into some good disco songs.” Two and a half week later the songs were written and a demo was sent to Robert Stigwood. When he heard them he said they were perfect.
How Deep is Your Love was the first single released from the soundtrack before the film was released. It was in the top ten for 17 weeks. Three of those weeks it was #1. At that time it had the longest run of any song in the top 100 on the Billboard charts. Like some people I had always heard the songs of the Bee Gees like New York Mining Disaster, Words, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?, but I never paid attention at that time who the group was. When Saturday Night Fever came out I had never heard the name Bee Gees mentioned. I first saw the famous trailer with Travolta walking down the street to the high falsetto singing of Staying Alive when I worked as an usher at the local Showcase Cinema. When I heard the song I thought “Gosh those girls are good singers.” A few weeks later I saw a stand up of three guys and the words Saturday Night Fever. I asked a fellow usher who the three men were. He told me it was the group who was singing the song on the movie trailer. My reaction was “Its guys who are singing that high???!!!” My outlook on music changed a little bit that night.

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