“Spirits Having Flown” by Bee Gees (1979)
Release Date: February 5, 1979
Produced by Bee Gees, Albhy Galuten, Karl Williams
Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Germany), #2 (Austria, Japan) #3 (Netherlands)
Certifications: 5xPlatinum (Canada), Platinum (US, UK, Hong Kong), Gold (Finland, France)
Singles: “Too Much Heaven” (#1 US, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, #2 France, Ireland, Netherlands, #3 UK, #4 Finland, #5 Australia, China, #8 Belgium, #10 Germany, #13 Austria), “Tragedy” (#1 US, UK, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, #2 Australia, Austria, Chile, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, #3 Belgium, #4 Netherlands, Norway, #6 Sweden, #7 Finland, #32 Japan) “Love You Inside Out” (#1 US, Canada, #3 Chile, #6 Ireland, #13 UK, #17 Italy, New Zealand, #21 Germany, #22 Belgium, #35 Netherlands, #39 France, #77 Australia) “Spirits (Having Flown)” (#14 Ireland, #16 UK, #36 Netherlands)
Spirits Having Flown is the fifteenth album released by the Bee Gees. It was the group's first album after their collaboration on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The album's first three tracks were released as singles and all reached No. 1 in the US, giving the Bee Gees an unbroken run of six US chart-toppers and tying a record set by The Beatles. It was the first Bee Gees album to make the UK top 40 in ten years (not counting the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever), as well as being their first and only UK No. 1 album. It has sold 20 million copies worldwide.
1979 was the year of Bee Gees they owned the radio airwaves. One of their songs was being played every 3 minutes everyday. It began in September 1977 when the single “How Deep Is Your Love (from the “Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack) was released. The song shot to #1 in an instant and set the stage for one of the most chart runs of consecutive #1 hits in the history of music. After “How Deep Is Your Love” the next five Bee Gees single releases all hit #1 including “Staying Alive,” “Night Fever,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out.” Toward the end of 1979 the Bee Gees had become victims of over-saturation. They were everywhere – you just could not escape them. And then 1980 rolled around and the Bee Gees all of a sudden became passé. Their next five singles were only moderate hit with 1983’s “The Woman In You” being the highest charting reaching #24 in the US.
“Spirits Having Flown” signified the pinnacle of the Bee Gees’ career. Many fans of their earlier pop-rock sound with hits such as “Run To Me, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” “Lonely Days” and “Words” had long given up Bee Gees when they became the Kings of Disco in 1975 with the release of “Jive Talkin’.” But all was not lost as they adopted an even larger legion of new fans with the new sound. Disco brought more success than ever to the Bee Gees and they were bound to move full steam ahead with their newfound success.
At the start of 1978, Barry Gibb produced the album Shadow Dancing by brother Andy Gibb. By February, Barry wrote the title song for the film Grease performed by Frankie Valli; also in February, another Barry Gibb composition from 1977 "Ain't Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You" was recorded by Teri DeSario. The Bee Gees penned “If I Can’t Have You” was a #1 hit in May 1978 as well Samantha Sang reached US #3 with the Barry Gibb-Robin Gibb penned “Emotion.” By March, the Bee Gees has started to record “Spirits Having Flown.
Co-producer Albhy Galuten recalls Spirits Having Flown as being created primarily by Barry Gibb, Karl Richardson and himself putting in long days and nights at Criteria Studios. In the recording phase, Robin and Maurice now mainly played the role of backing and harmony vocalists, and even in that capacity Barry did many of the vocal dubs himself as he went over and over the recorded work. Robin contributed one lead vocal ("Living Together"), which was sung in falsetto with Barry providing alternating lead vocals in his normal register. This was Robin's least amount of lead vocals on any Bee Gees album with the exception of 1970's Cucumber Castle, for which he was not part of the group at that time. As with the last four Bee Gees albums, Maurice did not have any lead vocals.
The first single to be released from the album, "Too Much Heaven" is a song, which was the band's contribution to the "Music for UNICEF" fund. They performed it at the Music for UNICEF Concert on 9 January 1979. It was released as a single on October 24, 1978, 3 ½ months before the album was released. It hit No. 1 in both the United States and Canada. It also rose to the top three in the United Kingdom. In the US, it would become the fourth of six consecutive No. 1s, tying the record set by the Beatles for most consecutive No. 1 songs. This record was eventually surpassed in 1988 by American singer Whitney Houston when her single "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" became her seventh consecutive number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
The second single release “Tragedy” was an all-out disco tune that burned up the dance floors and zoomed to #1 in the US, UK, Canada and several other countries around the world.
The Gibb brothers wrote both “Tragedy” and "Too Much Heaven" (another American #1), in an afternoon off from making the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie in which they were starring. Then in the evening they wrote another American #1 single, "Shadow Dancing" for their brother Andy Gibb.
Stuck for a convincing thunderclap sound, Barry Gibb cupped his hands over a microphone and made an exploding noise with his mouth. Several of these sounds were then mixed together creating the large boom heard on this song. The 1979, NBC television program, The Bee Gees Special, showed how this sound effect was created.
The third single “Love You Inside Out” is a slow funk ballad that had just enough of an R&B sway to it to make it to #53 on the US soul charts. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in June 1979, interrupting Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff". This was their sixth consecutive #1 US hit and their 9th #1 hit overall. It was the ninth and final number-one hit for the Bee Gees in the US. In the UK, the single peaked at no.13 for two weeks.
The fourth single “Spirits (Having Flown) was released in Europe in December 1979 to promote the newly released compilation “Bee Gees Greatest.” The song is a Caribbean flavored R&B track sung by Barry in natural voice during the verses and joined by Robin and Maurice on the chorus which is sung in falsetto. The count-in (1,2,3,4) heard on the album version was omitted from the single version and on the album “Bee Gees Greatest.” Herbie Mann’s flute work is heard at the end of the song. The single peaked at UK #16, Ireland #14 and Netherlands #36.
A few interesting bits of trivia:
The horn section from Chicago (James Pankow, Walt Parazaider and Lee Loughnane) made a guest appearance on this album. At the time, they were next door working on the Chicago album Hot Streets. Thus the Bee Gees would return the favor as they appeared on Chicago's song "Little Miss Lovin'" and their keyboardist Blue Weaver appeared on "No Tell Lover". The Bee Gees also wrote and recorded the song "Desire" for the album but it was rejected and instead released as a solo single by their brother Andy. Andy released the “Desire” as a single in January 1980 and reached US #4 and Canada #10 with it.
Bee Gees (1979)