Four decades ago this December, Saturday Night Fever was released in theatres. Here, five reasons to revisit the disco drama.
By day, he was a working class kid living at home with his parents. By night, he was a hip-swiveling disco king with a steady stream of girls at his side.
Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) became an overnight icon of the disco era, a foul-mouthed paint shop clerk with a vested interest in his hair and clothes.
Saturday Night Fever was released 40 years ago this December, and went on to become one of the biggest dance movies of all time. It also turned Travolta into a household name, solidified the Bee Gees' blossoming music careers and helped usher in the age of disco.
Not bad for a film based on a fabricated New York magazine article written by British music journalist Nik Cohn. The 1976 piece, titled "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," chronicled the life of a troubled, working class guy named Vincent who was also happened to be a great dancer. Years later, Cohn confessed that his article's groovy anti-hero was "a total fabrication." (Get more details on the scandal here.)
Now, at 40, Saturday Night Fever is a time capsule; one that perfectly preserves the subculture of the drug-fuelled disco era in Brooklyn, New York. It was a time of symphony-orchestrated danceable melodies, pre-AIDS promiscuity and bold high-fashion clothing; a time when aimless teens sought escape from their reality and comfort in the strobe lights and lit-up dance floors. A time when people just boogied the night away.
Now, four decades after its release, it requires another viewing, right? So get your dancing shoes on as we share five reasons to revisit the classic disco drama.
1. The soundtrack
Let's get the obvious one out of the way first: Where would Saturday Night Fever be without its killer soundtrack? Yes, the film had drama, angst and sexual content, all of which frequently translates into box office gold. However, we often forget the cultural impact of such toe-tappers as "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever" and how the music, largely composed and performed by the Bee Gees, officially marked disco's entry into the mainstream.
Although the Bee Gees didn't become involved with the film until the post-production process (prior to that, Travolta filmed his dancing sequences listening to the grooves of Boz Scaggs and Stevie Wonder), Saturday Night Fever went on to become the only disco album to ever win a Grammy for Album of the Year.
Even though the brothers—Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb—didn't start their careers with disco tunes (their musical origins were recently described, rather accurately, as "melancholy pop" by The AV Club), they still "had an innate understanding of disco's complex emotional dynamic, the undertow of melancholy lurking beneath the dance floor euphoria," wrote The Guardian's Alexis Petridis.
In the last 40 years, the album has retained its reputation as one of the biggest film soundtracks of all time. In fact, it sits in second place on the charts, behind only 1992's Whitney Houston-led soundtrack for The Bodyguard.
Fun fact: In 1978, Sesame Street even got in on the phenomenon, releasing a Sesame Street Fever parody album featuring fuzzy, blue-hued Grover in Travolta's signature role. Much like the original soundtrack, it was a surprise commercial success and was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
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