Robert Stigwood (born April 16, 1934 in Adelaide, South Australia) is an Australian-born entertainment entrepreneur. In the 1960s and 1970s he was one of the most successful figures in the entertainment world, through his management of music groups like Cream and The Bee Gees, theatrical productions like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar and film productions including the hugely successful Saturday Night Fever.
The Bee Gees arrived back in the UK in 1967 after living in Australia, hoping to get more hits. Roland Rennie, the managing director at Polydor Records, had heard their only Australian hit, "Spicks and Specks" and made arrangements with their Australian label, Festival, to release the song in the UK.
When, to his surprise, Barry Gibb appeared at Polydor's offices in London, Rennie immediately contacted Stigwood, who he thought would be ideal to sign the group to Polydor and manage them. Robert had just begun his eleven-month tenure with NEMS (Brian Epstein's North End Music Stores), and the boys' father Hugh Gibb had sent already an LP and acetates of their demo recordings to Stigwood in an effort to sign the group to NEMS. Stigwood signed the Bee Gees to a five-year deal in February and took their contract with him when he separated from NEMS in December.
Polydor released "Spicks and Specks", which had lready been a major hit in Australia, but in spite of Stigwood paying for four week's exposure on pirate station Radio Caroline, the single flopped. Stigwood was undeterred, and with NEMS' resources behind him, he embarked on a concerted campaign (no doubt at NEMS' expense) to break The Bee Gees in the UK, assiduously wining and dining TV producers and DJs; according to the MusicWeb Encyclopedia, he spent £50,000 promoting the group in 1967.
It paid off -- within months their second single, New York Mining Disaster 1941, had become a major UK hit and the follow-up, "Massachusetts", went Top 5 in both England and the USA, the first a string of Bee Gees hits through the late Sixties.
In August 1967, Stigwood left NEMS to form his own company, The Robert Stigwood Organization (RSO). By the 1970s his music company had transformed into a multimedia film empire.
One production became one of the biggest hits in the history of the business -- the colossally successful Saturday Night Fever. The 2-LP soundtrack album, written by and featuring The Bee Gees, made music history -- it became the largest-selling soundtrack album ever released, and one of the biggest-selling albums in recording history, dramatically resurrecting The Bee Gees' career and making them international megastars. Remarkably, the songs were written 'to order' without the group having seen the film, and according to Frank Rose's 1977 Rolling Stone article about The Bee Gees, at least four of the songs -- including "Stayin' Alive" -- were written in just one week.
Stigwood followed this with another huge success, Grease, which launched TV actor John Travolta to super-stardom and became one of the most successful film musicals ever released.
Soon after Grease, Stigwood made a rare but infamous miscalculation with the musical film extravaganza Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. On paper, the multi-million-dollar production looked like a surefire hit -- it featured the songs of The Beatles, and starred two of the biggest rock acts of the day, Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees, plus a long list of rock and film greats in cameo parts. Unfortunately, problems surfaced early and grew steadily worse. Stigwood sacked original director Chris Bearde before shooting began; the Bee Gees quickly realised that things did not augur well and begged to be removed from the project, to no avail. Although the new director, Michael Schulz (Car Wash) did a valiant job, the film turned out to be a disastrous flop; lampooned by audiences and critics alike, the unfortunate production is still cited as one of the worst musical films ever made. The film is also cited by some as the beginning of the end of the disco era.
A sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive, was released in 1983 which was not a big success.
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