Every time I first hear the gentle tones of the electric keyboard playing short, lollipop arpeggios at the beginning of “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees, I am transported. I am once again 12 years old, sitting in a darkened movie theater with my dad and brothers.
The movie Saturday Night Fever had come out just a few months before, and it was a massive success. Critics loved it, and it was earning millions of dollars at the box office every week. The Disco music soundtrack, which was everywhere, was either loved or hated by everyone. There was very little middle ground.
But none of this mattered to me. I was 11 years old, the movie was Rated R, and I was not allowed to see it. “My friends get to see it” I protested to my parents. “You’re allowed to take me, you know!” I reasoned with them. “But it’s Barbarino, from Welcome Back Kotter…my favorite show!!!!” Nothing worked, until February.
For some reason, at 11 years old I was too young to see Saturday Night Fever, but now that I was about to celebrate my 12th birthday, my parents decided it was OK, and my dad took me and my brothers. We don’t need to talk about why my younger brother was allowed to go. Still a sore point.
I couldn’t wait. I already knew the music, which, in only a couple of months, had became forever ingrained in American culture. “How Deep is Your Love” was already a major hit.
I loved the movie. It was sometimes funny, sometimes thrilling, sometimes scary, sometimes lovely. The music was everywhere, in almost every scene. As I watched the movie, I waited. And waited. Where was “How Deep is Your Love?” “Stayin’ Alive,” “More Than a Woman,” “Night Fever” were all there. They were all exhilarating on screen, pumping bass and percussion into every corner of the theater.
And there I am. 12 years old. The closing credits of the movie begin to play. I hear “How Deep is Your Love” come over the speakers as the movie ends, and for some reason I turn around and look at the projection booth. I see the bright light of the movie projector, and I can actually see the fuzzy words and images of the closing credits rolling by on the projection booth window. I turn to quickly glance at the screen, and then back at the window.
This moment, this innocuous turn of my head, began a life long fascination with photography and movies. I would go on to study photography and film in college, and would work in the publishing industry for 12 years.
I went to see my next movie, and the one after that, and the one after that. Every time, I always found myself glancing over my shoulder, looking at the bright light on the projection booth glass. I could hear “How Deep is Your Love” playing in my memory. Fuzzy images and words magically appearing on the big screen.
40 years, and I still smile when I hear “How Deep is Your Love.” I smile because of the memory the song brings, and I smile because it is a wonderful song. The music is warm and easy. The lyrics are simple and universal.
“And the moment that you wander far from me
I want to feel you in my arms again.”
Gentle. Quiet. There is an electric guitar low in the mix that marks the beats. “I know your eyes in the morning sun.” CHUNK. “I feel you call me in the me in the pouring rain.” CHUNK. An electric piano plays colorful, soft chords. Barry Gibb, always singing lead, is supported in beautiful harmonies by brothers Maurice and Robin.
The song is hokey, syrupy and shows very little originality. But it is sincere, and beautifully produced and sung. It is a sweet, lovely piece of music. It is a marker in time. We hear the song and may think of John Travolta’s white suit, the colored lights on the dance floor, the line dancing. I think of a bright light on a piece of glass. For me, for the moment the song recalls, “How Deep is Your Love” will always be one perfect song.
*Before watching this video, be aware…this is the worst, most awkward music video you may ever see. You have been warned.
“How Deep is Your Love”
Written and Performed by the Bee Gees
Released September 1977