I have no idea how it’s taken us this long to get around to writing about The Bee Gees. I mean, we’ve claimed them as Australian in the same way we claim Gotye (formerly a Belgian), Kimbra (formerly a Kiwi) and Crowded House (still Kiwis) as our own, because they got their big musical start in the dusty plains of Queensland after moving here from the UK. And now that disco has reached its zenith as the coolest thing to like after your parents pretended to hate it in the ’70s, you do get the certain impression that most of the modern pop world owes The Bee Gees, as they do the late Michael Jackson, some serious dues. Without them, many of the bubblegum pop bands with their falsetto lead lines and adorable sibling permutations simply wouldn’t have existed, but nor would a lot of contemporary electronica which is indebted to that smooth sound they pulled off without even trying. Particularly some Australian acts, like Flight Facilities and Miami Horror, though the latter skews more ’80s.
I don’t care that ‘Night Fever’ is from Saturday Night Fever‘s soundtrack, because that’s not why I’m writing about it. Indeed, if I was, I’d be spoiled for choice; that record, which came out in 1977, is stuffed full of so many key cuts from the era that it’s hard to choose one. I mean the first three tracks are ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and this one, for chrissakes. It’s too hard. No, ‘Night Fever’ is my choice for today because it’s so delightful and so light on it’s feet that it seems impossible to have been made in the decade from which it sprung. Honestly, the deftness of the Brothers Gibb’s touch is remarkable, and their harmonies and instrumentation are as faultless today as they were when my father was trying to pick up fellow medical students before he was unfortunate enough to wind up with all of us. The interplay of elements, both stylistic and harmonic, is exceptional in this track. It’s a smorgasbord of ideas that flow together so well that you just want to send a copy to every modern producer and remind them that different sections shouldn’t necessarily feel like that, and that good music is often the kind that is the most subtle.
To get what I’m talking about here, you have to listen closely to the variation between the verse and chorus of this track. While the former is a horns-blasting, upper-octave screeching strutter that you can only imagine paired with tight jeans and shiny boots, the latter is all about sensitivity. The voices in that section don’t even sound like the ones that came before it, even though you know they are. That’s how good the Gibbs were; they could smash out a clav line with KISS-style guitars and then descend into an amazing bass line and that melody that’s soaring to the heavens on a bed of violins. It must have seemed to totally goofy at the time, and given that punk rock was really kicking into gear at the same time, most kids would have considered it completely naff. But unlike many of the tunes from their contemporaries, this Aussie trio’s (see what I did there?) back catalogue only seems to get sweeter with age. And damned if it doesn’t sound good when you’re dancingaround trying to figure out what to wear for a night on the town.
For the record, I obviously chose the white suit.
The Bee Gees – ‘Night Fever’