Stayin' Alive

Album: Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (1977)
Charted: 4 1


  • This plays over the opening credits of the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever while John Travolta struts through the streets of New York City. The movie has come to represent the disco era, and has made "Stayin' Alive" one of the songs most associated with disco. The Bee Gees had been singing in a high-falsetto style since their 1975 hit "Jive Talkin'," which was also on the soundtrack, but they were very popular as a vocal harmony group in the late '60s and early '70s. Their contributions to Saturday Night Fever brought them huge success, but marked them as disco singers.

    In a 1989 interview with Q magazine, they talked about this stigma and why they didn't deserve it. "We were not disco," Robin Gibb said. "People who emulated us were disco. All you heard on the radio was that dooo! dooo! syn-drum sound. We never had a syn-drum on one of our records!"
  • This was one of five songs the Bee Gees wrote specifically for Saturday Night Fever. Like the film, the song is about much more than dancing and having a good time. It deals with struggle and aspiration; making your way in the world even after you've been kicked around. John Travolta's character in the movie is a young man working a dead-end job who feels alienated by his parents. Dancing is his form of expression, and weekends are his time to let loose.
  • Robert Stigwood, who produced Saturday Night Fever, is the one who asked The Bee Gees to write music for the film. Stigwood got the idea for the film from a New York Magazine article called "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," about the Brooklyn club scene. This may explain the rather random line in the song, "We can try to understand the New York Times' effect on man."
  • The Bee Gees often pointed out that dancing is never specifically mentioned in "Stayin' Alive," although when this woman's man goes where there's "music loud and women warm," it's clear he's ready to boogie. Robin Gibb said the lyrics "very obviously state the scenario of survival," and Barry said it was influenced by New York City. "The energy level at that point in the late '70s was really that - it was survival," he said. (both quotes from the the documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart)
  • Robert Stigwood asked for a song called "Saturday Night," but the Bee Gees wanted nothing to do with that title, since many other songs, including a very popular one by the Bay City Rollers, had that name. Stigwood objected when he's heard the song was called "Stayin' Alive," but the group told him that if he didn't like it, they would just use the song on their own album.
  • This was the second of four US #1 hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, following "How Deep Is Your Love," which was released ahead of the film, which hit theaters December 14, 1977. "Stayin' Alive" was released one day before the movie, but many theatergoers had already heard the song in trailers for the film. It quickly climbed the charts, reaching the top spot on February 4, 1978 and staying there for four weeks.

    The soundtrack was an unqualified success, winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and becoming the best-selling album ever until it was dethroned by Michael Jackson's Thriller. It remained the best-selling soundtrack of all time until it was surpassed by the soundtrack to The Bodyguard.
  • The Bee Gees recorded this in a French studio called the Chateau D'Herouville, where Elton John recorded his Caribou album in 1974. The group quickly learned that the grounds had fallen into disrepair, but they made the most of it, spending almost all their time in the studio in very prolific sessions.
  • In 1983, The Bee Gees recorded songs for a sequel to Saturday Night Fever that was called Staying Alive. It was directed by Sylvester Stallone, and while it was a critical flop, it did very well at the box office, grossing about $64 million on a budget of only $8 million. The film came years after disco had faded, and was released at a time when both John Travolta and The Bee Gees were at career ebbs. In 1987, The Bee Gees returned with a UK #1 hit called "You Win Again," while John Travolta stayed in a career funk until the 1989 movie Look Who's Talking. (We're kidding. His next good movie was actually Pulp Fiction in 1994.)

    The set of Staying Alive was where Richard Marx, who was working on the soundtrack, first met Cynthia Rhodes, who was the female lead in the film. The couple were married in 1989; Marx wrote the song "Now And Forever" about her. (Thanks to Gary Ugarek)
  • Responding to a question about his song in a 1988 issue of Rolling Stone, the Gibb brothers stated: "We'd like to dress it up in a white suit and set it on fire."

    The were referring to the deleterious effect the song had on their career and image.
  • When they recorded "Stayin' Alive," The Bee Gees were more than just the Gibb brothers: guitarist Alan Kendall, keyboard player Blue Weaver, and drummer Dennis Bryon were key members, if not official. Byran, though, got called away when his mother fell ill, leaving them without a drummer. Their producer/engineers, Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, kept work going by looping a bar of Bryon's drumming on "Night Fever" and using that as the drum track. The built the song from there, adding the bass, then the guitar.

    They planned to replace the drum loop with live drums when Bryon returned, but it sounded so good they left it in.
  • This won a Grammy for Best Arrangement For Voices.
  • The Italian Dance group Eiffel 65 used the chorus from this in their song "Voglia Dance All Night." In 1995, the British electronic group N-Trance covered the song, taking it to #2 in the UK. Their version featured vocals by Viveen Wray and former KLF rapper Ricardo Da Force. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mads - Sønderborg, Denmark
  • A team from the University of Illinois medical school suggested that this would be an ideal song to listen to on an iPod while performing chest compressions on someone who has just suffered a heart attack. The American Heart Association has stated that the optimum tempo at which to perform CPR on someone who has just suffered a heart attack is 100 beats a minute. The research team highlighted this song as, at 103 beats per minute, it has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart. It happens that "Another One Bites The Dust" has a similar beat, but it was agreed that the Queen song doesn't seem quite as appropriate.
  • Dweezil Zappa recorded this for his album Confessions with Ozzy Osbourne on lead vocals. Ozzy's record company didn't want it released, so Donny Osmond's vocals were used instead. The Ozzy version can be found on some bootlegs.
  • Capital Cities recorded a cover of this song that they released online in 2013. Sebu Simonian of the duo told us: "The classic Bee Gees version of that song is universally loved and enjoyed, but I feel like it's such a great song that it can easily be performed in different ways and impart a different kind of emotion. And to our surprise, it was never really covered in a different way. When we cover songs, we like to pick songs that are great and timeless, but haven't really been covered much or haven't been covered in a new way. So that's what we decided to do with this one - give it a different emotional impact."
  • Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty dance to this song in a bar in the 1980 film Airplane!. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ricky - Los Angeles, CA
  • The Bee Gees were well aware that they were creating a heart-thumping rhythm. "We thought when we were writing it that we should emulate the human heart," Robin Gibb explained in Daniel Rachel's The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters. "We got Blue Weaver who was the keyboard player at the time to lie on the floor and put electrodes on his heart and put it through the control room. Then we got the drummer to play the heartbeat. We were the first people in the world to do a drum loop based on that."
  • In The Office episode "Stress Relief" (2009), a CPR instructor uses the song to help teach the procedure to the Dunder Mifflin staff, but they start singing and dancing along with it instead.

Comments: 34

  • Siahara Shyne Carter from United StatesThe music video When there are bombs blowing and They where just like "Stayin' Alive" lol I love that Power!!!!
  • Rick from Laval/montreal, QcBee Gees - Stayin' Alive (1977)

    What a FANTASTIC song!

    It was one of my favourite songs back in 1977. Super uplifting BEAT!

    Then recently (2018) I actually read the lyrics. If I READ & UNDERSTAND the lyrics, they are actually quite boring and repetitive. Alarmingly, they also sound like a CRY FOR HELP!? They sing "Life goin' nowhere, somebody help me...". The song is, or can be quite depressing when you read and actually understand what they sing!?

    The GOOD NEWS is that when I LISTEN TO THEM SING, I can't understand half of what they say/sing. What I HEAR & actually UNDERSTAND is "STAYIN' ALIVE" along with a FANTASTIC uplifting beat and impressive vocal gymnastics. How can men sing so high?

    This only goes to prove that we should not overly ANALYZE what songwriters were thinking, "really saying", etc., etc., when they wrote the song. What is important is HOW WE INTERPRET THE SONG and lyrics. Most often we have no way of knowing what "they" were actually thinking. Sometimes, or even VERY OFTEN, writers have no idea why they wrote something other than that it rhymed, sounded good or cool, the idea just came to them, or too often in the past... they wrote under the influence. So they have/had no idea themselves! The idea just came to them... which is a sign of creative genius beyond explanation.

    Rather than analyze we should ENJOY.

    When I can't understand the not-so-happy parts of this song, and just hear/understand "Stayin' Alive" and the FANTASTIC UPLIFTING BEAT it is very INSPIRATIONAL!

    The SOUND is a work of GENIUS! It is a TRUE CLASSIC. One of the ALL-TIME BEST SONGS ever!

    I have taught and use CPR, and was HAPPY to learn it can be used for establishing the RHYTHM for CPR. It sure beats a boring Metronome. What a fantastic IDEA! Thanks!

    I will also be using this super song as the theme song for the: 3, 7, 15 second RULE for Staying Alive on the Highway.

    The fantastic beat and lyrics we, or at least I can understand when just listening to this FANTASTIC SONG, lends perfectly to PREVENTING ACCIDENTS, reducing injuries, and saving lives!

    It can even be used during CPR to bring people back.

    A work of GENIUS... no matter what they were actually thinking.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 4th 1977, "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #65; and eight weeks later on January 29th, 1978 it peaked at #1 {for 4 weeks} and spent over a half-year on the Top 100 {27 weeks}...
    At the time the trio's "How Deep Is Your Love" was still on the Top 100, at postion #3...
    R.I.P. Maurice Gibb {1949 - 2003} and Robin Gibb {1949 - 2012}.
  • Cass from Portland, OrThis song is also featured in BBC's Sherlock, often heard as Jim Moriarty's ringtone.
  • Jay from Centereach, Long Island, NyI took a CPR class a few years ago. The presenter suggested that we use the beat of this song (specifically, the "ah-ah-ah-ah" part) to remind us of the proper rhythm for chest compressions. He said that the "bump-bump-bump" of "Another One Bites the Dust" has a similar rhythm, but is not really appropriate for the situation.
  • Abigail from Lexington, Ky@moarie Techincally this song is the work of all three Bee Gees. There was a fourth Gibb brother named Andy who was the youngest.
  • Moarie from Richardson, TxBoomer, Stayin' Alive is already credited to all 3 Gibb brothers. There is no exclusion of Maurice. What is the source of your assumption that "all" late 70s "success" had minimally to do with the twins? Neither Galuten's interview at Berkelee, nor the Gibb Songs site, explain the studio time among Galuten-Richardson-Barry, involving things like the nuts and bolts of the click track and surely other technical miscellany, as the sole or most crucial ingredient of their success. There *was* a tendency of the production veering into two camps of Barry plus engineers, and Robin-Maurice over time that was at its most pronounced during ESP sessions. (Indeed the late 70s studio footage, in "Countdown to Nation's Favorite BGs songs", showed some lively Barry-Robin power struggle flaring up, while all others stiffened to attention. Yet the atmosphere was clearly of a productive pace, with much familiarity among the different parties.) Given how prominent the harmonies, fusion of black and white musical traditions distinguished the songwriting, and the vocal arrangements & performance at their most elaborate and complex in late 70s BGs, characterizing Robin and Maurice's involvement in a still opaque behind-scenes process of complex personal dynamics, as an afterthought, is a subjective call pending more research.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhWell, I remember seeing Saturday Night Fever in Westwood, California when it came out. This is a great song stands the test of time, and I'm so happy to read all the positive comments on it. Love learning that it's the perfect tempo for the cardio pulmonary compressions. The Bee Gees are iconic, and I don't necessarily agree that the SNF soundtrack marked them as disco singers. Most people know their lengthy, wonderful catalog of original music & hits and are aware of their career span of several decades.
  • Don from Sevierville, TnI think the opening guitar riff is similar to the Rolling Stones' 1976 tune Hot Stuff (not the same song Donna Summer sang later).
  • Bob from Milwaukee, WiChange the lyrics "...Life's goin' nowhere..." to "...I'm goin' nowhere..." and you'll see how this song is uplifting for the soul. Not to mention the great rhythm and beat.
  • Bob from Milwaukee, WiIt would seem to me that this song can be summed up as a message to The EGO. Possibly someone who has been struggling with suicidal thoughts do to the mind (Ego) creating "the story" we tell ourselves over and over and that "story(s)" keeping them in a perpetual state of pain. So the words, "...well I get low & I get high, and if I can't either, I really try. Got the wings of heaven on my shoes, I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose..." Basically telling The EGO to kiss his ain't getting me down anymore..."I'm Stayin' Alive!"
  • Boomer from Oklahoma City, OkStayin' Alive was based on an unreleased early 70s tune by the Bee Gees titled Saturday Night, Saturday Night. It's unknown whether the song with that title was actually recorded but it was mentioned in a Rolling Stone interview with the Gibb brothers as a song they used to goof around with. Their guitarist, Alan Kendall, also mentioned not long ago that Stayin' Alive had started out as Saturday Night, Saturday Night. A very thorough website dedicated to the Bee Gees's recording sessions and record releases indicates that Saturday Night, Saturday Night was written solely by Maurice Gibb. Which, if true, means he never received the credit for coming up with the music. During the late 70s, all the Bee Gees's success was assumed to be because of Barry and their production team of Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, with Robin and Maurice almost an afterthought in that success.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyGibb Family dominance; a Gibb was in the No. 1 position from Feb. 4th, 1977 to May 13th, 1977, that's a total of straight 14 weeks!!!
    {"Stayin' Alive" for four weeks, followed by "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" by Andy Gibb for two weeks, and finally "Night Fever" by The Bee Gees for eight weeks. And if that's not enough Gibb; the next No. 1 was "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, which was written by The Bee Gees}
  • Ken from Pittsburgh, PaAt the beginning of "Saturday Night Fever" John Travolta's character walks down the street to the rhythm of this song. However it was not actually JT because it was feared that he would attract attention from people on the street that would disrupt filming. A "double" walked down the street in his stead and at one point (which Travolta later pointed out) stopped to look in the window of a shoe store and "bounced". Travolta complained, probably rightly so, that the character as he portrayed NEVER would have "bounced".
  • Sam from Muscat, OmanLong live Barry Gibb!
  • Kayla from Bloomington, InJust an FYI... it is mentioned that the University of Illinois has researched that this song is an almost perfect match for chest compressions for a heart attack victim. To clarify, a patient suffering a heart attack is alive, and can be alert and talking. If he/she does not seek medical treatment during the heart attack, however, then death may occur. A better example is to use a patient who is actually in cardiac arrest. If someone is alive and talking, as they may be during a heart attack, then CPR is not performed on that person.
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiMy favorite Bee Gees Song! I loved the Airplane! Scene in the bar where the 2 girl scouts are fighting while Julie and Robert are dancing to Stayin Alive.
  • Alex from Manchester, United KingdomThe Bee Gees deliberately set the tempo at 103 BPM because it's the average standard tempo of walking pace. Who would of thought that the song would also go on to help doctors perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation too!
  • Mark from Byrdstown, TnAbout the only group who made good music during the disco mess were the Bee Gees and they werent a thrown together disco band,they had recorded for years before disco.the Gibbs have been responsible for many great songs and this is one of the top 10 coolest songs ever.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaIn Airplane, there's a bit of irony here, as Elaine's dance partner gets stabbed in the back; he continues "dancing" in his death throes, before dropping to the ground.
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesThis is the only Bee Gees disco hit I know of... (well, besides "Jive Talkin'"). I'd like to hear other Bee Gees disco hits, if there are any others. Someone, let me know if any others were recorded.
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlThis is a song were alot people will never admit they like it....but somewhere behind closed doors it is appreciated and adored hahaha
  • Guy from Wellington, New ZealandI don't understand how anyone can stay seated listening to this amazing song. Every time I hear it now I see that video of John Travolta's legs striding down the street. Ultra groovy. Love that voice, Barry!
  • Buddy from Chicago, IlThe first Songfact is incorrect. The 1977 movie was "Saturday Night Fever." The sequel "Stayin' Alive" was made in 1983. The song "Stayin' Alive" was played over the opening credits of "Saturday Night Fever."
  • Matthew from East Brunswick, NjI love this song! A party classic!
  • Ivan from Dallas, TxBoth times I missed the opening songs of "Melody" and "Saturday Night Fever". I was late getting into the cinema. "In the Morning" opens "Melody" and "Staying Alive" opens "SNF". Of course I watched both films many times later to make it up. Barry Gibb has lead vocals on both songs, with an incredible falsetto on SA.
  • Monica from San Francisco, CaI love this song, it reminds me of John Travolta in "Saturday Night fever"!
  • Mike from Warwick, RiWhile this is a classic, it made me turn to higher ground for cultivating my music taste. I was 8 at the time and knew I couldn't dance...and so began my love of rock, hard rock, and heavy metal.
  • Steve from Fenton, MoThere is no getting around it....this is just a great song, one of the best of the 70s...transcends disco.
  • Sean from Toronto, CanadaSince attaining massive popularity, this song has been played in several other movies and television shows, such as episodes of "The Simpsons" (Bart's Girlfriend), "That 70s Show" (The Velvet Rope), and the movie "Grumpier Old Men".
  • Ed from London, CanadaOzzy Osbourne covered this song with a few parodies of earlier Ozzy/Sabbath songs
  • Eddie from Acton, MeEarly ideas for this song's title were, "Buried Alive" and "Saturday Night" (according to VH1's Pop-up-Video)
  • Otto from Miami, FlAppeared in the 1980 comedy "Airplane!".
  • Jake from Philadelphia, PaSaturday Night Fever - Best Disco Album! I just love the music. The Bee Gee's high voices, other disco kings and queens, and even the classical instrumentals all put this together to create the best disco album.
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