Words (without an editor)

Words (without an editor)
Reviewer: mdurshimer
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Staying Alive:
The Disco Inferno Of The Bee Gees
288 pages
September 19, 2017
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

Takes the reader deep into the excesses of the most hedonistic of music scenes and tells how three brothers from Manchester transformed themselves into the funkiest white group ever.

Picture it: 1977 Miami. A 15-year-old girl wants to see Saturday Night Fever, but since it’s an R-rated movie, she’s stuck with her parents. After about 45 minutes, her father declares he hates the film and she is forced to leave. It is years before she finally sees the entire film, but in the meantime, she has a chart-topping soundtrack and a great imagination to keep her company.
A little more than 40 years later, she picks up Staying Alive, The Disco Inferno of The Bee Gees, and suddenly she is a teenager all over again. Unfortunately for Simon Spence, the author of this book, time travel doesn’t stop her from noticing the egregious errors, which detract from her enjoyment of her memories.
It’s a distraction starting with the title, which, if it is supposed to be a reference to the hit song, should be Stayin’ Alive, not Staying Alive. Presumably there is some legal reason that the title cannot be used, so she forges on. Until page 23 of the prologue, about the 1976 New York Magazine article that led to the making of the movie. The passage references Vincent (Tony Manero in the film) and his pre-disco routine, which includes thoughts of Al Pacino in Scarface. Yo, Spence: That movie came out in 1983. You sure you don’t mean the Godfather?
Remember, she is still reading the PROLOGUE to the book. The mistakes never stop, and the chronology is not, well, chronological. It is hard to follow. And then she nears the end of the book and finds the next killer mistake. On page 233, while detailing the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the author references the home team: The Red Sox.  Dude, they play at Fenway. In Boston. You sure you don’t mean the White Sox?
So, bad, and I mean BAD editing aside – in fact, I don’t think there was any editing or fact checking – Staying Alive is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the life and times of Barry, Maurice, Robin and little brother Andy. Having experienced the disco era, and marginally engaging in it as a teen, it was interesting to learn about all their naughty little habits, infighting, and rise to fame – not once, but twice. And none of it would have happened that second time without Robert Stigwood, the master of packaging music and film (and sometimes Broadway), which led to blockbuster sales. 
What’s most intriguing to me, in retrospect, is the short shelf life of mainstream disco music. Here and gone in roughly three years. By my senior year of high school – 79/80 – everyone was listening to The Cars, The Knack, The Police . . . a new wave had just begun. With no room for falsetto voices and white suits. Until 1997, when the Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, their cultural impact cannot be denied. Which is the main reason you should read Staying Alive. Even if the editing or lack thereof is a tragedy.