Disco Reimagined: A Track-By-Track Look At Foo Fighters’ New Covers and The Bee Gees’ Originals

Record Store Day was this past weekend and beloved alt-rockers Foo Fighters made it a Saturday night to remember: forming a Bee Gees’ tribute band dubbed the “Dee Gees,” they put out Hail Satin, an exciting novelty record featuring five Bee Gees covers and five live versions of cuts from their latest LP, Medicine at Midnight.

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As the story goes, Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, fell head over heels in love with the Australian-raised Gibb brothers after finally watching their 2020 documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. See, earlier this year, Foo Fighters covered “You Should Be Dancing” for Jo Wiley’s BBC show—which led Grohl to the doc—and followed it up with a version of Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” for the Rock n’ Relief Livestream.

“We’ve been going down to our studio every day and filming things and recording things, and this one day we had our list of things we were supposed to do and it said, ‘Record a cover song for Jo,’” Grohl said in a press statement. “And while we were having this conversation somebody said, ‘Hey, have you seen that Bee Gees documentary?’ And I was like the last person on earth—the only person that hadn’t seen it! So, I was like, ‘Why don’t we just do a Bee Gees song?’ And someone was just like, ‘OK… how do you wanna do it?!’ And I said: ‘Well, let’s do it like the Bee Gees.’”

Then, in the recording process for that cover, Grohl and his bandmates discovered something: recording disco was really fun. “We started recording the instrumental track, and then I thought, ‘Okay, well, I’m gonna go out and sing it…’” Grohl continued. “Let me tell you, I have never, ever in my life sung like that, but it was the easiest song I have ever sung in my entire life! I sang the song, and it was like six minutes and I was done. I should have been singing like this for the last 25 years!”

In the end, the finished product of Hail Satin’s five Brothers Gibb covers is one of those things that’s silly and genuinely pretty cool at the same time. Hearing the tunes reimagined in a modern setting is a fairly fascinating exercise—it shows how much recording technology and production preferences have changed, all while highlighting the sheer brilliance of the songs Barry, Robin, and Maurice cooked up all those years ago. So, we decided to go through, track-by-track, and open the hood on what makes these tracks so enduringly amazing.

Track 1: “You Should Be Dancing”

Bee Gees version:

Foo Fighters version:

One of the earlier cuts from the Bee Gees’ legendary “disco” era—which unfolded through the latter half of the ‘70s—“You Should Be Dancing” remains one of the grooviest songs ever put to tape.

The Bee Gees’ original is led by the unforgettable bass line (written by Maurice), a tasteful bed of funky guitars, and an irresistible percussion groove (in part provided by Stephen Stills, who was recording next door to the Bee Gees at the time and had some experience in percussion-playing thanks to his childhood years spent in Latin America). All that combined with Barry’s iconic falsetto (which he had only debuted 10 months prior for “Baby As You Turn Away”), it’d be no exaggeration to call the song one of the greatest dance tracks of all time.

So, hearing it in the context of a 2021 Foo Fighters performance is a pretty neat experience—with modern technology at their fingertips, the band’s cover features a thicker arrangement, complete with more low-end, more special effects, and, of course, more distorted electric guitars. Hard-hitting—though, perhaps a little less nimble—everything on Foo Fighters’ “You Should Be Dancing” feels like a high-definition rendering of the ‘70s original, especially its spirit. 

Track 2: “Night Fever”

Bee Gees version:

Foo Fighters version:

One of the generation-defining songs of the ‘70s, “Night Fever” was a crowning achievement for the Bee Gees. Dropping as the third single from their Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, it was almost like an extension of the disco era’s zeitgeist—and its chart performance reflects that. One of a handful of hits they had that year, “Night Fever” hung out at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for eight weeks, making it the most successful song of 1977, numerically. With its iconic orchestra fills, timelessly smooth sound, and classic chorus hook, it still retains all its magic, 44 years later.

For this one, the Foo Fighters version takes a bit of a different approach—with more emphasis on the wah-wah guitar, synth strings in lieu of the orchestra, and beefy power chords carrying the harmony, “Night Fever” becomes a whole new beast. Really, it’s almost as if the prompt was “Rearrange ‘Night Fever’ in a post-grunge world,’ which is fitting for the band that grew out of A-list grunge royalty. With just as strong of a beat and Grohl’s vocals augmenting the track with infectious energy, the Foo Fighters version can effortlessly get your hips grooving and your face smiling.

Track 3: “Tragedy”

Bee Gees version:

Foo Fighters version:

A later cut from the Bee Gees, “Tragedy,” came off their 1979 record Spirits Having Flown, their last major record before their popularity started dropping off in the early 1980s with the decline of disco. Outfitted with pulsing synths, chorused guitar lines and a more mature vocal performance from Barry, the song’s augmented production was a sign of the changing times. With its brooding melodies and driving arrangement, it’s another Gibb anthem.

Matching that, once you hit play on the Foo Fighters version, you realize that this is the perfect song for them to cover. The opening guitar line effortlessly translates into a ballsy, distortion-rich riff and the ear-worm chorus reaches a soaring height when Grohl’s newfound falsetto belts the high notes. Sitting right in the middle of the first half of Hail Satin, it’s pretty much at this point in the record-listening process that you’ll find yourself thinking “Yeah, this would be really fun to see live.”

Track 4: “Shadow Dancing”

Andy Gibb version:

Foo Fighters version:

A fun cut from the youngest Gibb brother, Andy—the Frankie Jonas of the ‘70s—“Shadow Dancing” shows another side of the Bee Gees’ exceptional talents. While they rose to fame as artists in their own right, after their disco run, the Bee Gees actually had a pretty phenomenal second act as writers for others… and their brother Andy was one of the first recipients of their talents. With a funky arrangement, silky strings, and rich harmonies on the chorus, the original version of “Shadow Dancing” is just as sublime as any proper Bee Gees song.

Matching the fun spirit of the entire project, Foo Fighters opted to change things up for their version of the tune too—instead of Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins provides the lead vocals. The end result is a dancey romp showing off the dynamic potential of this unique blend of alt-rock and disco sensibilities. Catchy and with a feel-good swagger, it’s one of the best takes on Hail Satin as a whole. 

Track 5: “More Than A Woman”

Bee Gees version:

Foo Fighters version:

Closing the disco portion of Hail Stain with one of the Bee Gees’ most beloved songs, the Foo Fighters version of “More Than A Woman” still retains all the fun of the rest of the covers, but doesn’t quite shine a light on the Bee Gees’ blissfully perfect original.

Recorded in early 1977 between France and Miami, the original song has a liveliness to it, a character that illuminates it with visceral vibrance. When you put it on, it’s almost as if you can feel the cool summer air from a top-down convertible ride, or maybe the alluring fragrance of a club ablaze with passion and lust. It’s romantic, it’s dazzling, it’s tasteful and it exhibits unbeatable musical craftsmanship. 

Now, the Foo Fighters version of the song is not bad by any stretch of the imagination—in fact, it’s actually one of the finer performances on the record. Really, the bottom line here is that the Bee Gees original was made at the right time and place in history. Thanks to the ‘70s recording techniques, the warmness of the tape blends with the brilliant performances to create something truly inimitable. As one recording technology expert explained, the difference in sound might come down to something as simple as how each version was compressed. 

“You might notice that the Foo Fighter covers lack some of the roundness of the originals,” Wyatt Whit, an engineer who works out of a studio in Nashville, said. “That’s because of the way it was compressed—compressors reduce dynamic range and can make music sound more exciting or powerful, but when it’s used over-zealously (which is pretty common for a lot of modern music), it can kinda mash the instruments together, making it all sound bright and a bit unnatural. Listen to the two different versions of ‘More Than A Woman’—you can hear the difference.”

While the sublimity of the original might not be replicable with modern techniques, the Foo Fighters version still gets at the heart of what makes the Bee Gees’ music so special: its feel, its tact, and its soul. Hail Satin is fun and a bit gimmicky, but it’s not cheesy—these songs aren’t jokes, they’re real-deal good. The Bee Gees knew that and Grohl and his collaborators know it too. They speak to the struggles of life while offering the perfect escape from them; they capture the indescribable ups and downs of love; they express the shining brilliance of youth and the priceless wisdom of experience; they’re lived-in, perfect songs. 

So, while Foo Fighters might not have thought much about this record beyond “This would be cool and fun and a good thing for Record Store Day,” the end product of their endeavor is an amazing artifact—one of the greatest bands of the 21st century paying homage to one of the greatest bands of the 20th century. While the disco era might be long gone, it’s clear that its legacy will continue to spread love, joy, and dancing for generations to come.

Foo Fighters’ Record Store Day release, Hail Satin, is out now—listen to it in its entirety below:

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