Oct 112019
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

saturday night fever covers

Saturday Night Fever was released in 1977, joining the ranks of great movies that feature dance as a plot line such as the ballerina fairytale The Red Shoes, or the string of Fred Astaire movies with Ginger Rogers (Top Hat, Swing Time, Shall We Dance, and more) and without (Easter Parade, with a post-Oz Judy Garland). This genre also has plenty of popular descendants like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Save the Last Dance, and Step Up. SNF is both a worthy successor to the older films and a proud forebear of those that followed in its dance steps.

Starring John Travolta before he had really made his mark (post-Kotter, pre-Grease), the story is as old as time: boy wants to escape his mundane job and dramatic family life through dance and pursue the woman of his dreams, who of course is bad for him, along the way. Plus, there is an obligatory Brooklyn v. Staten Island rivalry thrown in for good measure.

The Bee Gees had fallen into a funk, and not the good kind, in the early 1970s. With help from disco and falsetto, the band had found a new groove. Being a major part of the SNF soundtrack – they composed and/or performed eight of its 17 songs – helped breathe new life into their career. The soundtrack contributed three of their six consecutive number-one singles to the Bee Gees streak, at the time tying the Beatles’ record for the most in the United States.

The soundtrack helped the Bee Gees win five Grammys, and the Bee Gees were able to keep up the momentum from this success until the end of the disco era. By the end of the ’70s, disco fever had burned itself out.

Although some of the themes and dialogue from the movie don’t hold up, the songs remain essential for those times when you want to put on your boogie shoes.

Lizzo – Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees cover)

Lizzo has taken the world by storm, riding her summer hit “Truth Hurts” straight to the top and giving us all a little extra body positivity in the process. I can’t wait for the time in the near future when we’ll have enough material for a “covers of Lizzo” post. Even though this cover was featured on our site before, we have to bring it back for this post. Staying true to the original groove, Lizzo adds her own sass: “You can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman, no time to talk.” The musical groove is a little bit more synth-like than the original and adds the occasional DJ-like record scratch sounds. This cheeky cover of “Stayin’ Alive” lives on the soundtrack for a recent slasher film, Happy Death Day 2U. This backdrop really takes “somebody help me, yeah” to a whole new level of meaning.

Not only is “Stayin’ Alive” a crowd favorite and named one of the top 500 songs of all time by Rolling Stone and one of the top 100 songs by Time, it is also used to train people in CPR. The song’s beats per minute fits within the range recommended for chest compressions.

The Bird and the Bee – How Deep Is Your Love (Bee Gees cover)

“How Deep Is Your Love” was a hit before being placed on the SNF soundtrack. It has its own set of accolades, including a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Group and the coveted title as Britain’s Favourite Bee Gees song.

The Bird and the Bee are masters of covering classics while adding their own twist. This cover is no exception. From the music box-like intro to the sweet sound of Inara George’s voice, flitting from light and airy to sonorous and soulful, we get a measured cover that strips the song of any remaining fever. We just get a heartfelt ballad, with an earnest “And it’s me you need to show” that sticks with us throughout the almost hesitant “da da” accompaniments.

Kylie Minogue – Night Fever (Bee Gees cover)

Like “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever” was written specifically for the movie. At the time, the title of the movie was Saturday Night, and the Bee Gees’ manager wanted them to write a song with the same title. They had already written “Night Fever,” so they wrangled a name change for the movie itself to make it fit.

SNF was made into a musical in the UK in the late ’90s. This musical was then revived in 2018, marking the 40-year anniversary of the movie. This resurgence inspired an updated soundtrack full of covers of the Bee Gees-dominated originals by a variety of modern stars. Kylie Minogue takes on “Night Fever” with her signature dance-pop brand. Because she doesn’t have to rely on her falsetto, Minogue hits those high notes with more power. The music stays true to the original with a slightly heavier emphasis on a current club beat over traditional disco sound effects.

Dappled Cities – More Than a Woman (Bee Gees cover)

Here we get a cover that’s a bit less traditional. It starts with a simple bongo-style percussion paired with tambourine, yielding almost a samba vibe. This simple instrumentation is accompanied by some surprisingly good falsetto from a rock band. Even though the falsetto is used more sparingly in this cover, when it comes out, we can’t help but be impressed. The cover remains focused on the vocals, so we lose the orchestral strings that accompany the original.

Jess Glynne – If I Can’t Have You (Yvonne Elliman cover)

Another cover from the latest reinterpretation of the musical, Jess Glynne’s version is the perfect fusion of the style of her mega-hits (“Rather Be,” “Hold My Hand”) and the original song. This version is actually a bit more upbeat. Instead of “If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody baby” coming off as a lament, we get more of a confident interpretation, asserting, rather than questioning, that Glynne is “strong enough to see it through.”

Henri-Pierre Noël – A Fifth of Beethoven (Walter Murphy cover)

No, this is is not Robin Thicke’s “When I Get You Alone.” This is actually a cover of “Symphony No. 5” by Beethoven (yes, Beethoven; bet you never thought you’d see his ugly mug on this site). This cover of a cover leans into the song’s classical routes in the intro before getting to the funky characteristic of the SNF version. Veering from the techno beat and firm string backing of the original, the piano has to account for all of the emotion. However, in this cover, the piano has no trouble declaring its spunk.

This song had success prior to being included on the soundtrack. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and reached the top spot, all without the attention from a movie. Not too bad for a centuries-old sound.

Flava to Da Bone – More Than a Woman (Tavares cover)

Here we go again, we get a bonus cover of “More Than a Woman.” Flava To Da Bone was a Norwegian group active in the ’90s. Their version tells the story from a woman’s point of view from “boy I know you very well” to “more than a woman to you.” The reggae/hip hop vibe works as a contrast to the original’s disco style.

Epping Forest Band – Manhattan Skyline (David Shire cover)

David Shire composed the music for SNF. He has written songs for many other films and Broadway shows, including All the President’s Men and Return to Oz. For this movie, Shire had the added challenge of needing to compose a song that matched a pre-established choreography when approval to use the originally chosen Boz Scaggs song got tied up in a legal battle.

Only a big-band style can evoke the majesty of the Manhattan Skyline. The Epping Forest Band gives us just that. This band really stands the test of time; it’s been around consistently since 1935, and intermittently since 1894!

Portland School of Rock – Calpyso Breakdown (Ralph MacDonald cover)

You may know Ralph MacDonald from his song “Just the Two of Us,” by Bill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr.  He was a Trinbagonian-American, and calypso certainly influenced his music. For another instrumental, we get the Portland School of Rock breaking down the “Calpyso Breakdown.” Although this version sounds less island-like, the out of camera frame, energetic cow-bell is a constant tie to the original. The members of this new generation of rockers really nail their guitar and bass solos.

Isao Tomita – A Night on Bare Mountain (Modest Mussorgsky cover)

This is cheating a bit. “Night on Disco Mountain” on the soundtrack is a cover of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” This is a cover of the original, but stay with me. The cover in the movie is distinguished by its ominous intro, frantic strings, and foreboding brass. This version sounds like something out of a video game, in the best way. We still get the sense of apprehension, but with a sci-fi twist. The occasional wind noises break up the intense tune, adding to the sense of being a bit lost in the wilderness of a new world.

The Cannonball Band – Open Sesame (Kool & the Gang cover)

This song was first released on Kool & the Gang’s eighth album as the titular track. The original starts with a gong and chimes before powerful brass kicks in. This cover is no exception to the big brass style. This group grooves in sync, but gives an opportunity for each member to show off individually. Despite this cover being only an instrumental one, we don’t mind. The listener can fill in their own “get down with the genie”s.

Dread Zeppelin – Jive Talkin’ (Bee Gees cover)

This song was originally  released on the Bee Gees’ album Main Course (which also contained another hit “Nights on Broadway”) before being used on the soundtrack. Dread Zeppelin, known for their reggae covers of Led Zeppelin covers, also covered plenty of songs from SNF on their It’s Not Unusual album. This is more of a rock than reggae cover, but it still has a slower, more laid back pace. The electric guitar matches the vocal “doo be doo be doo”s, merging whimsy with a little bite.

DNA – You Should Be Dancing (Bee Gees cover)

This song first made the Bee Gees synonymous with disco. It was released on their Children of the World album and was a hit in both the US and the UK prior to being included on the soundtrack. Mixing it up a bit, let’s get a fairly hardcore rock version of “You Should Be Dancing.” I love the intense guitar strumming that surrounds the “What you doin’ on your back” line. The guitars non-ironically shred throughout, and the lyrics are forceful (the singer really wants us to be dancing). Maybe we should rename this version “You Should Be Moshing” to better fit the ambiance.

Reina del Cid – Boogie Shoes (KC and the Sunshine Band cover)

Released in 1975 (prior to the “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” era), this song didn’t really hit the spotlight until it was included on the soundtrack. The upright bass keeps the original’s funk alive while the guitar and ukulele add some folk flair. Don’t let the group’s wholesome attitude fool you, they can really break into a jam, crushing the instrumental solos without. There is nothing like a rooftop jam session.

Portland School of Rock – Salsation (David Shire cover)

It’s hard to find covers of this song, but luckily the Portland School of Rock helps us out once again. Even though the brass sounds come from a keyboard, the rest of the instrumentation has a full sound. The whole crew stays in sync and keeps the slightly syncopated rhythm going throughout.

Floyd Lawson & The Heart of Stone – K-Jee (MFSB cover)

The MFSB song featured on the soundtrack is a cover of the original song by The Nite-Liters, making this another cover-ception. Taking covers to the extreme, the original has even been used as part of the theme music for various news organizations in Alabama, Maryland, and Minnesota. Slightly faster paced, and more brass-forward than the original, by the end of this cover we feel like we have sprinted from just listening to the brisk tempo.

Tina Turner – Disco Inferno (The Trammps cover)

This song also needed the extra attention from the soundtrack to launch its success. Now it’s in the Dance Music Hall of Fame. However, you know it is a jam when Tina Turner wants to cover it. She recorded it for the What’s Love Got to Do with It soundtrack. (Another powerhouse, Cyndi Lauper, covered this song too, for the soundtrack of A Night at the Roxbury.) This version keeps the original groove, but Turner’s vocals add even more power.

Bonus Medley:

‘NSYNC – Jive Talkin’ / Too Much Heaven / How Deep Is Your Love / Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees cover)

I cannot resist closing out this post with a hidden gem from my youth. I had no idea that ‘NSYNC loved the Bee Gees. Just listen to that harmony and a cappella style “doo-doo”s; it’ll take you back to the ’90s. When they start beat-boxing to “Stayin’ Alive,” I just can’t keep it together. I’m fan-girling all over again.

Bonus: What’s the perfect song to strut to in your country? Sara ran the data on her personal statistics blog. Turns out “Stayin’ Alive” only works in Canada or Japan. John Travolta should have been strutting to Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio.”

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  2 Responses to “Full Albums: ‘Saturday Night Fever’ Soundtrack”

Comments (2)
  1. I totally forgot about the The Bird and the Bee cover but it is really nice.
    DNA – You should be dancing is really fun and something I can see myself relisting a lot, its the non ironical way it gives it all that just makes me happy.
    I think my fav on this list was Isao Tomita – A Night on Bare Mountain, the video game description really fits it.
    Reina del Cid – Boogie Shoes shouldnt work as well as it does but it does.
    thanks for sharing this

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