A 1977 publicity photo of the Bee Gees for a television special, “Billboard #1 Music Awards.” From top: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb.
The Bee Gees’ dominance of the charts in the disco era was above and beyond Chic, Giorgio Moroder, even Donna Summer.
Their sound track to Saturday Night Fever sold thirty million copies.
They were responsible for writing and producing eight of 1978’s number ones, something only Lennon and McCartney in 1963/64 could rival—and John and Paul hadn’t been the producers, only the writers.
Even given the task of writing a song called “Grease” (“Grease is the word, it’s got groove, it’s got a meaning,” they claimed, hoping no one would ask, “Come again?”), they came up with a classic.
At one point in March they were behind five singles in the American Top 10.
In 1978 they accounted for 2 percent of the entire record industry’s profits. The Bee Gees were a cultural phenomenon.
Three siblings from an isolated, slightly sinister island off the coast of northwest England, already in their late twenties by the time the Fever struck—how the hell did they manage this?
Pin ups in the late sixties, makers of the occasional keening ballad hit in the early seventies, the Bee Gees had no real contact with the zeitgeist until, inexplicably, they had hits like “Nights on Broadway,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” and the zeitgeist suddenly seemed to emanate from them.
This happened because they were blending white soul, R&B, and dance music in a way that suited pretty much every club, every radio station, every American citizen in 1978.
They melded black and white influences into a more satisfying whole than anyone since Elvis.