About a month ago the 40th anniversary of one of the darkest days in rock history occurred in Chicago between games of a doubleheader at the Chicago White Sox’ home baseball stadium Comiskey Park. Back in 1979, punk was giving way to the more commercially palatable new wave, but here in the States, disco was still ruling the Billboard charts. By this time, there was truly over-saturation of the great genre on radio, with many album-oriented rock stations switching over to a disco format. In Chicago, one DJ, Steve Dahl, had just been fired from his station when it had adopted a disco format.
Instead of looking inward, Dahl took it upon himself to blame disco music as an attack on his manhood. Since disco had begun in the underground gay and black dance clubs, one could not really overlook the inherent racism in Dahl’s Disco Destroyer movement. So, somehow in retrospect, Dahl was able to convince the ownership of the White Sox to hold a Disco Demolition Night during which attendees would get in free if they brought their disco records to the games in order for Dahl to blow them up. Unfortunately, many people were bringing in old soul, R&B and funk records to be destroyed as opposed to true disco records, leading many ushers to believe this was a racist affair more than an anti-disco demonstration. Of course, after Dahl blew up the records in centerfield, a riot ensued. The whole incident was a black-eye event on the rock community.
Personally, I was tiring of the whole disco and soft rock domination on the radio, so I actually bought a “Disco Destroyer” T-shirt sponsored by the local Indianapolis radio station Q-95. Personally, I still loved disco, I just was ready for new wave to get airplay instead of just seeing these fresh new artists on American Bandstand. Anyway, new wave was just a marriage of disco and punk under a pop banner. I was ready for a new music era, not really understanding how the whole anti-disco movement was steeped in bigotry. And, for that, I apologize.
Yet, one band that unfortunately got dumped on in the whole ordeal was the great Bee Gees. You see, the Brits-cum-Aussies-cum-Brits again-cum-Americans were much more than the genre. They were NOT Mickey Mouse or Ethel Merman trying to make themselves hip by tying into a generational milestone. No, these guys were growing as musicians, songwriters and producers by changing their late-Sixties/early-Seventies Beatlesque ballad sound into something more influenced by the clubs in and around Miami. But, they unfortunately became the face of disco for their participation in one of pop culture’s great movements surrounding the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever and its legendary soundtrack, to which the Bee Gees only contributed four of their own songs and had written two more recorded by other artists. But, since the movie was about disco, the Bee Gees, and by extension their younger brother Andy Gibb, became the faces of the genre when they had very little to do with it.
Let me say it here and now: the Bee Gees are fantastic. I would encourage you to go back and listen to their impeccably produced albums. And, there was a reason that diverse artists such as Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton were having hits with their songs; these songs were modern-sounding, danceable yet very pop and cleanly produced. The Bee Gees were much more than disco. Their well-written music may have contained dance rhythms yet they were pure pop songs.
So, today, I am taking back the Bee Gees from those who assume that the boys from down under were disco and relabeling their music just as terrific timeless pop music. Let’s look at their WHOLE career as I list my favorite 25 songs by the Bee Gees. One day, I should include their solo efforts AND Andy’s music in a whole Brothers Gibb countdown, but let’s start with the original trio’s music.
25. “World” (Horizontal, 1967)
24. “Words” (Best of Bee Gees, 1968)
23. “Alone” (Still Waters, 1997)
22. “Run to Me” (To Whom It May Concern, 1972)
21. “One” (One, 1989)
20. “Too Much Heaven” (Spirits Having Flown, 1978)
19. “Massachusetts” (Horizontal, 1967)
18. “Love So Right” (Children of the World, 1976)
17. “More Than a Woman” (Saturday Night Fever OST, 1977)
16. “Fanny (Be Tender with My Love)” (Main Course, 1975)
15. “New York Mining Disaster 1941” (Bee Gees 1st, 1967)
14. “You Win Again” (E.S.P., 1987)
13. “Love You Inside Out” (Spirits Having Flown, 1978)
12. “How Deep Is Your Love” (Saturday Night Fever OST, 1977)
11. “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” (Idea, 1968)
10. “Stayin’ Alive” (Saturday Night Fever OST, 1977)
9. “Lonely Days” (2 Years On, 1970)
8. “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (Trafalgar, 1971)
7. “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees 1st, 1967)
6. “Tragedy” (Spirits Having Flown, 1978)
5. “Jive Talkin'” (Main Course, 1975)
4. “You Should Be Dancing” (Children of the World, 1976)
3. “I Started a Joke” (Idea, 1968)
2. “Night Fever” (Saturday Night Fever OST, 1977)
1. “Nights on Broadway” (Main Course, 1975)