The Bee Gees at this point were surely the world’s biggest act: “Tragedy” sounds it, absurd explosion noises and all. It’s a disco epic to file alongside tracks like the Jackson’s “Can You Feel It” but also it’s pop at its most maximalist, a cousin to the largest productions of Steinman, Horn, Martins Max and George – or at the other end of the quality scale, the sickly pomp of a Be Here Now.
Pop on this Roman scale doesn’t seduce, it bludgeons, and you either feel the blow or duck it. For me “Tragedy” is impressive, dramatic, thoroughly enjoyable but not really as effective as the earlier Bee Gees disco tracks – it’s missing the glide of “Night Fever”, the swagger of “Staying Alive”, the paranoia of “You Should Be Dancing”, and replacing them with scale, which doesn’t always age so well. To be sure, somewhere in “Tragedy” there’s an astonishing song capturing a soul – and an era – in meltdown. But I have to stretch to feel it, it doesn’t come over for me naturally, except perhaps in the Gibbs’ panicky falsettos on the chorus, pitched close to unbearable. Though for all that, “Tragedy” has an undeniable decadent power.