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SoundTRAX: "Saturday Night Fever"

John Travolta is dancing below a photo of the Bee Gees.
Paramount Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

Put on your leisure suits and your dancing shoes because the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever turns 46 today!

I can practically hear the disco haters groaning from here, but give credit where credit is due. Did any movie capture the zeitgeist of the 70s quite like that one?

And if you can't appreciate the brilliantly crafted songs and melodies of the Bee Gees— who are forever labeled a disco band for this one project— well, you're just wrong. I am willing to die on this hill.

For the uninitiated, Saturday Night Fever centers on Tony Manero (John Travolta) who escapes his working-class life by showing off his impressive dancing skills at night.

Travolta was already pretty popular due to the TV show Welcome Back Kotter, but this role really was a star maker. Then just six months later he appeared in a little movie called Grease and became a bona fide superstar.

Full disclosure: I hate the movie. The men are awful and the misogyny is particularly pronounced.

But you can not deny the irresistible appeal of the music.

In the beginning, the Bee Gees weren't involved at all, as producers wanted a Boz Scaggs song to be a focal point. His label balked though and the Brothers Gibb were approached who immediately said... absolutely not. They were in the middle of prepping their own album and there was no way they would have time to write music for a film.

Yet eventually at a studio in France, the brothers literally wrote most of the songs in one weekend, including "If I Can't Have You" (sung by Yvonne Elliman), "More Than a Woman" and "Night Fever." One weekend.

Their other contributions? "Jive Talkin," "How Deep Is Your Love," and "You Should Be Dancing." Basically a hit parade.

Additional tunes from Tavares, Kool & the Gang, The Trammps, and KC and the Sunshine Band also round out the compilation.

How'd it do? Until Michael Jackson's Thriller came out it was the best selling album of all time.

For today's SoundTRAX I'm obviously going with the Bee Gees, a song that started out with the title "Saturday Night" before the Gibbs decided there were already too many songs called that. Besides, it just wasn't the type of title that would make you want to, perhaps, strut.

For the 46th anniversary of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, it's the Bee Gees with "Stayin' Alive."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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