BEE GEES – SPIRITS HAVING FLOWN
Released February 5, 1979- 37 years ago
The Bee Gee’s fifteenth studio album and first release following the smash Saturday Night Fever soundtrack sold 20 million copies worldwide. It is generally considered the last great record from their disco phase, showcasing superb falsettos and some of the most ambitions arrangements in the band’s history.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
Characterized by great pop songwriting and amazing falsettos, the Bee Gees had a career that started in the late 50s in Australia, became a very successful psychedelic pop group in the UK during the 60s, and then the world’s biggest disco band in the 70s. Their influence extends past Saturday Night Fever, where aspects of their style can be seen in other 70s/early 80s acts like ELO, current pop acts like Justin Timberlake, and indie acts like Of Montreal and Scissor Sisters.
One of music’s most successful brother acts, the Gibb brothers were born in England (Barry in Manchester and Robin & Maurice, who were fraternal twins, on The Isle of Man) in the late 40s. The brothers’ earliest performances were in England when they were just children. In the mid 1950s, the family immigrated to Brisbane, Australia.
In the early 1960s, the Gibb brothers returned to England and released the first album as the Bee Gees in 1965. The band’s 60s releases were psych-pop with some prog elements, more akin to bands like the Beatles, early Geneses, Traffic, & The Moody Blues.
By the early 1970s, the group was in a creative slump and upon the suggestion by Eric Clapton (yes, Eric Clapton may be partly responsible for disco), The Bee Gees began working w/ Arif Mardin, who was hevily influenced by R&B, dance rhythms and funky beats. This combined with the first time that Barry Gibb began singing in falsetto led to the band’s new sound on Mr. Natural (1974), and the earliest sounds that became known as disco.
Arif Mardin continued to influence the Gibbs, and they gradually became more interested in 70s R&B and the Philadelphia style of soul. However, by 1976 they changed production teams opting to work directly with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson. Their 1976 release (Children of the World), and Spirits Having Flown featured The Bee Gees, Galuten, and Richardson as co-producers. In addition to the Bee Gees, Galuten and Richardson worked with Olivia Newton-John, Barbara Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parsons, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Aretha Franklin, and Kenny Loggins among others.
Spirits Having Flown was recorded in Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. Criteria Studios has been home to over 250 different gold and platinum singles and albums. In addition to the Bee Gees, other artists to record there include Abba, AC/DC, Adele, Black Sabbath, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Dr. Dre, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown, Joe Cocker, John Denver, and Lynyrd Skynyrd among others.
Spirits Having Flown received very favorable reviews on its release in both the US and UK. It produced three top singles: “Tragedy,” “Too Much Heaven,” and “Love You Inside Out.”
As of 1997, Spirits Having Flown has sold over 20 million copies worldwide (there are only 50-60 artists to ever do more than 20 million in album sales, and this is one of two the Bee Gees released to reach this bench mark. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack sold more than 40 million copies!).
Chicago’s horn section made a guest appearance on Spirits Having Flown. At the time they were working next door in the same studio on their album, Hot Streets. The Bee Gees returned the favor and appeared on Chicago’s song “Little Mis Lovin’.”
In 1979, the Bee Gees received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
In 1999, the UK released a set of 6 stamps honoring the Bee Gees.
The Bee Gees are one of only four artists to have three singles in Billboard’s Top 100 at one time. They share this honor with Paul McCartney, Lionel Ritchie, and Boyz II Men. The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Diana Ross never had more than two hits in the Billboard Top 100 at one time.
Barry Gibb is only Bee Gee still alive. He is 69. Maurice Gibb died in 2003 from a heart attack, and Robin Gibb died from cancer in 2012.
The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. They received five Grammys and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award.