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Underrated songs: “Stayin’ Alive”

“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees might not appear to qualify as an underrated song, as it was an enormous hit and remains a staple of cheesy disco nights, office parties and hen parties the world over. But I think it is underrated as a piece of music.

First of all, the lyrics are just brilliant, with their ambiguous reflections on urban survival and on sexuality and masculinity, echoing the complex depiction of urban working class maleness of the film Saturday Night Fever they were written for. Musically, it is also superb, with the Barry Gibb’s haunting falsetto, Maurice Gibb’s truly groovy bassline, and the robotic disco drum loop. The bassline comes from Betty Wright’s 1971 “Clean Up Woman”, which was written by Clarence Reid, aka Blowfly, one of the protogenitors of hip hop.

The loop was quite important in the history of music, coming about accidentally because of the death of drummer Dennis Byron’s mother in the middle of the song’s sessions: basically, they cut up a loop from another track of the album and used it temporarily while they recorded the rest of the song, but then realised how perfect it was by itself. You could say they helped give birth to hip hop, techno, jungle, and all the crap plastic pop music of the 1980s-2010s.

Here it is:

And here are the lyrics:

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, 
I’m a woman’s man: no time to talk. 
Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around 
Since I was born. 
And now it’s all right, it’s ok. 
And you may look the other way. 
We can try to understand 
The New York Times effect on man. 

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, 
You’re stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin, 
And were stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive. 

Well now, I get low and I get high, 
And if I can’t get either, I really try. 
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes. 
I’m a dancin man and I just can’t lose. 
You know it’s all right.its ok. 
I’ll live to see another day. 
We can try to understand 
The New York Times effect on man. 

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, 
You’re stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin, 
And were stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive. 

Life goin nowhere.somebody help me. 
Somebody help me, yeah. 
Life goin nowhere.somebody help me. 
Somebody help me, yeah. stayin alive. 

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, 
I’m a woman’s man: no time to talk. 
Music loud and women warm, 
I’ve been kicked around since I was born. 
And now it’s all right. it’s ok. 
And you may look the other way. 
We can try to understand 
The new york times effect on man. 

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, 
You’re stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin, 
And were stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive. 
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive. 

Life goin nowhere.somebody help me. 
Somebody help me, yeah. 
Life goin nowhere.somebody help me, yeah. 
I’m stayin alive.

About bobfrombrockley

South London family man. Eating bacon bagels on the 171 bus, listening to Johnny Cash while reading Hannah Arendt, the kid next to me playing dubstep on his telephone. Mostly politics at http://brockley.blogspot.com and mostly music at http://bobsbeat.wordpress.com

One comment on “Underrated songs: “Stayin’ Alive”

  1. You’re dead right it is a great track. I was a snotty-nosed punk rocker with a ‘year zero’ obsession when the single was released, I naturally despised anything to do with the dreaded ‘disco’ music. Ah, foolish youth!

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