The Bee Gees are among the most famous bands in disco’s history, however, they didn’t start making disco music. One No. 1 hit changed the trajectory of their career forever. Here’s a look at the surprising inspiration behind this song — and why the band had to change the song’s lyrics.
Why the Bee Gees were making so many ‘dreary’ ballads at one point
Firstly, some background. Listen to the Bee Gees’ early catalog, you’ll hear soft rock (“How Do You Mend a Broken Heart”) and Beatlesque baroque pop (“Lonely Days”) but not disco. According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, the success of “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart” led Atlantic Records to demand more ballads from the group.
Barry Gibb described his band’s music from this period as “dreary.” He felt his band was stuck in the wrong musical lane. Ultimate Classic Rock reports the band didn’t have a disco hit until 1975, eight years after they first hit the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.
When the Bee Gees started making dance music by accident
Oddly enough, the band might not have written their first disco No. 1 hit if not for a bridge. “Every night, we were going back and forth to Criteria Studios from Biscayne Bay,” Barry Gibb recalled. “The bridge made a clickety-clackety sound. It stayed in my head, and one night, coming back from the studio, I just started singing this thing over top of the rhythm.”
Gibb crafted a song called “Drive Talking.” His brothers then put their spin on the track. The Bee Gees and producer Arif Mardin didn’t intend to create dance music when they made “Drive Talking,” it’s just what happened.
“[The band and I] were working in the studio and having a good time when [Atlantic Records president] Ahmet Ertegun and Robert Stigwood, then manager of the Bee Gees, came and said ‘Wow, this is great, very danceable,’” Mardin later recalled. “We were making dance music? We didn’t even know!”
Why the band changed the title of ‘Drive Talking’
The Bee Gees ultimately changed the title of the song to “Jive Talkin’” because they liked the sound of the word “jive.” They initially thought the word referred to dancing and had to change the song’s lyrics to reflect the actual meaning of the term, which referred to lying.
The legacy of ‘Jive Talkin”
According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, the ascension of “Jive Talkin’” to the top of the charts was a comeback for the Bee Gees. The group’s then-recent music found no audience in the Western world and was only popular in Asia. “Jive Talkin’” rekindled America’s interest in the band.
The Bee Gees wouldn’t abandon soft-rock as their career went on. After all, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack — perhaps the most famous disco album ever — includes “How Deep Is Your Love,” a song which sounds like the band’s early work. However, “Jive Talkin’” was the start of a new era for the band.