As a last-minute gift to fans to close out a rough new year, Christine and the Queens has issued a cover of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” Identified parenthetically as “Chris Version,” this unique interpretation – which was dropped along with a self-directed video – was first offered up in a performance at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it had remained unissued until now.
“Art heals!" he declared in conjunction with the release of the track. "Brings us all together again and again! Art is the experience of humanity, the joyful boat of the imagination, the fireside where we reinvent together – childhood. My masters use art as a magical refuge and I, in turn, take them along masked, free of themselves into the sovereign realm of their own dreams. Made in a few days, in an emergency with fabulous friends, generous strangers, the inhabitants of Venice the beautiful, this is our fond farewell to 2023. Our PUNK gesture for a better future."
While this new version by Christine and the Queen is unquestionably enjoyable, Q would be remiss if we did not mention that he's far from the only person to have attempted to put a new spin on this classic disco track. As such, it falls to us to offer up some of those other versions, possibly for your education, but definitely for your listening enjoyment, starting with...
1. Arthur Mullard and Hylda Baker (1978)
This may well prove to be the most British thing you hear today, so brace yourself accordingly. Mullard was a comic actor best known for such sitcoms as Romany Jones and Yus, My Dear, while Baker found her stardom in Nearest and Dearest and Not On Your Nellie, but the twosome joined forces to release an album of pop covers called – prepare to slap your knee accordingly – Band on the Trot. They actually hit #22 on the UK Singles chart with their version of “You’re the One That I Want,” which is positively ridiculous, but this is pretty absurd in its own right. (The duo also did a rendition of “Night Fever,” but you’ll have to hunt that one up, because we’ll not be enabling you.)
2. Little Jimmy Dempsey (1979)
As you might reasonably presume from an album entitled Tennessee Saturday Night Fever, Little Jimmy worked predominantly within the realm of country music, finding regional fame in Atlanta first as a child performer and then as a guitarist for the Longhorn Ranch Boys. Although you may not know his name, he was a big deal in country, gospel, and early rock ‘n’ roll circles throughout the south, working an absurd number of sessions with more legends than you can shake a stick at. (You can read a detail history of Dempsey’s career right here, where you can also see a 1959 photo of him with Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens.) This disco covers album was actually his last release: in 1980, at the age of 43, he walked away from music completely, settling down on a farm with his wife, Tena, and remaining there until his death of a heart attack in 1997.
3. Tiny Tim (1980)
Yes, you know him for his iconic interpretation of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," or if you're a bit older, you may recall him getting married to Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, but Tim continued to record for years after those iconic moments in pop culture history, and in the process he committed more than a few unexpected covers to tape, including The Doors' "People Are Strange," Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," and, yes, this Bee Gees classic. As biographer Lowell Tartling said of him, "He was just interested in the popular song. Whatever was top of the pops, he’d have a crack at."
4. Dweezil Zappa featuring Donny Osmond (1990)
At the beginning of this track, you can hear Zappa say to Osmond, "Why don't you try this one a little bit country?" Inevitably, if a bit testily (for comedic effect), our man Donny responds, "Shut up, Dweezil: everybody knows I'm a little bit...rock 'n' roll!" The way he screams "rock 'n' roll" sounds for all the world like Ozzy Osbourne screaming, "All aboard!" We'd like to think that Dweezil thought the same thing, which is what in turn led to another version of the song slightly farther down the list. But then again, maybe it didn't.
5. Happy Mondays (1991)
Produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osbourne and released as the B-side to their single "Sunshine and Light," the reasons behind the Mondays' decision to cover the song remain somewhat enigmatic, but it may possibly have been inspired by having toured a Miami studio owned by the Bee Gees for the possible purposes of recording their Yes Please! album with producers Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth. (In the end, they opted to record the album in Jamaica, which is a story way, way too long to tell here.) At the very least, we can confirm that Shaun Ryder remains a fan of the Bee Gees, because otherwise he probably wouldn't have taken this picture with a statue of them on the Isle of Man in 2001.
6. Ozzy Osbourne featuring Dweezil Zappa (2005)
“All aboard the disco train!” Yes, that’s really how it starts, but make no mistake, it still rocks pretty damned hard. Apparently recorded for Osbourne’s solo career-spanning box set Prince of Darkness, this track appeared on the “With Friends” disc, and while it does specify that it features Zappa on guitar, he’s in no way the only guitarist involved. At various points in the song, you can hear solos from Zappa, Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Lukather, Tim Pierce, Warren DeMartini, and Zakk Wilde. It’s insanely over the top, and wonderfully so.
7. Capital Cities (2013)
Released as part of the indie pop duo’s Kangaroo Court EP, this version doesn’t really deconstruct the song in any dramatic way, but they definitely still manage to make it their own via the electronic instrumentation. “We like to take on the challenge of doing covers,” Sebu Simonian told Popdose. “We’ve done a bunch, and that’s one of the ones that we did where…we take an old song and totally spin it in a new light.”
8. Les Claypool's Duo de Twang (2014)
There have been precious few moves made by Claypool - perhaps best known for his work with Primus - that have been anything other than unique, and that goes for his decision to cover a Bee Gees song on the same album on which he tackles tracks by Alice in Chains and Jerry Reed. Claypool described this particular side project to Rolling Stone as "my f***-off vacation band,” but even so, it's clear there's a lot of love and respect in the mix as well, even if it does lead to some decidedly unique musical interpretations...like, say, this one!
9. Lizzo (2019)
It's becoming increasingly clear that there's virtually nothing that Lizzo can't do once she puts her mind to it, and this contribution to the soundtrack to Happy Death Day 2U. Why this failed to get a release beyond a promotional single, we'll never know, since it's evident that it could've been a cross-generational hit with little effort.
10. Heather Nova (2022)
Hailing from the Bahamas, Heather Nova found some minor success in the US and the UK during the mid-1990s, thanks to singles like “Walk This World” and “London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do),” but while her popularity dwindled Stateside as the new millennium beckoned, she’s been a staple of the charts throughout Europe ever since. This lovely, gentle take on the song is part of her covers album, Other Shores, wherein she tackles tracks by everyone from the Pixies (“Here Comes Your Man”) and The National (“Fireproof”) to Rick Astley (“Never Gonna Give You Up”).