Bee Gees

The Bee Gees: Maurice, Barry and Robin
The Bee Gees: Maurice, Barry and Robin

The Bee Gees were a British and Australian band, originally a pop singer-songwriter combination, reborn as funk and disco. The brothers Gibb, consisting of frequent lead vocalist Barry, and the twins, co-lead vocalist Robin, and keyboardist/guitarist Maurice, were born in the Isle of Man in the 1940s.


Early history

The Gibb brothers were born on the Isle of Man to English parents in 1946 (Barry) and 1949 (twins Robin and Maurice). The family returned to father Hugh Gibb's home town of Manchester in the early 1950s where the boys began to sing in harmony, debuting in public on one memorable occasion at a local cinema.

In 1958, the Gibb family, including infant brother Andy, moved to Redcliffe, Australia and the still very young Brothers Gibb began performing where they could to raise pocket change. They gained the attention of a radio DJ called Bill Gates and gradually made a name for themselves for their harmony singing and Barry's songwriting. By 1960 they were featured on television shows and in the next few years began working regularly (despite child labor laws) at resorts on the Queensland coast. At length Barry drew the attention of Australian star Col Joye for his songwriting, and he helped the boys get a record deal with Festival Records in 1963 under the name "Bee Gees". The three released two or three singles a year, while Barry supplied additional songs to other Australian artists. A minor hit in 1965, "Wine and Women", led to the group's first LP "Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs", but real commercial success eluded them. In 1966 they moved to a new label, Spin, run by Nat Kipner, and were finally allowed enough studio time to develop as artists. In six months the three wrote and recorded enough material for two albums, including a single called "Spicks and Specks" that would become their first major hit in Australia at the end of 1966. But despite that success and the release of their second LP also called "Spicks and Specks", by that time the family had decided to return to England and seek their fortunes there.

1960s in England

Very soon after their arrival in January 1967, the Bee Gees were signed by Robert Stigwood, and added Australian musicians Vince Melouney (guitar) and former child actor Colin Petersen (drums). Their first English single was "Spicks and Specks", issued under a deal between Festival and Polydor that had been made unknown to them around the time they left Australia. But their first single recorded in England soon followed, "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (1967), a surreal, haunting and macabre song that made the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic. Their third album, "Bee Gees' First" scored well with critics and the public, offering an innovative blend of rock and orchestral ballads such as the classics "To Love Somebody" and "I Can't See Nobody".

The next big single was "Massachusetts", which launched the trio into superstardom, followed shortly by the classic "Words". 1968 saw the release of two albums, the relatively heavy-sounding "Horizontal" and the lighter pop "Idea" The latter contained two more hits, "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" and "I Started a Joke". To many music critics, these are the band's golden years, well before any of their unforgettable disco hits. The Bee Gees at the time were a freakbeat rock and roll band, with strong soul influences and a belief, like the Beatles had, that all styles of music should be combined to create something new. This period ended after releasing Odessa (1969), a dense and complex prog rock album with orchestral accompaniment.

By this time Barry and Robin were increasingly at odds about the direction of the group, but once Robert Stigwood made clear his favoring of Barry as leader, Robin left. Barry and Maurice released an LP as a duo, Cucumber Castle (the soundtrack to a television special), while Robin released a solo album, Robin's Reign that included his big debut solo single "Saved by the Bell". None of this made any impact in the USA, and when Barry and Maurice split at the end of 1969 it looked like the end. All three recorded solo albums in 1970 that were never released.

The three brothers reunited in the later part of 1970, their feelings about the split evident in many songs about heartache and loneliness. They worked in a new pop-progressive rock sound, hitting the American charts with "Lonely Days" (from the reunion LP 2 Years On) and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" (from Trafalgar. These albums did well and they continued the success with top ten hits "My World" and "Run To Me", the latter from the less successful LP To Whom It May Concern.

Recognizing that they were in a rut, the brothers broke their string of recordings at IBC Studios London with musical director Bill Shepherd. They relocated to Los Angeles where they recorded two albums almost at once late in 1972, in a collective version of the sensitive singer-songwriter style then popular, with much acoustic guitar and piano. When the first one, Life in a Tin Can, and its lead-off single was ignored by the public, Stigwood recommended a halt. Fans who have heard the second unreleased album "The Bee Gees Album" (also known as "A Kick in the Head") consider it the better of the two and have called for its release ever since.

At the advice of Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, their US label, Stigwood arranged for the group to record with famed soul music producer Arif Mardin. The first resulting LP, the often-overlooked "Mr Natural", is the hardest-rocking album they have ever done. But when it too failed to attract much interest, Mardin encouraged them to work with the soul music styles they had always loved but had shied from fully performing.

The brothers attempted to put together a band that could perform live as well as they did in the studio. Alan Kendall, lead guitar, had come on board in 1971 but had not had much to do until "Mr Natural". For that album they added drummer Dennis Bryon, and after it they added ex-Strawbs keyboard player Blue Weaver, completing the classic late 1970s "Bee Gees Band". Maurice, previously all over their recordings on piano, guitar, organ, mellotron, bass guitar, and exotica like mandolin and Moog, now confined himself to bass.

Eric Clapton suggested recording at Criteria Studios, where he had just recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard, and there they went early in 1975. Still starting off with ballads, after a week or so they finally heeded the urging of Mardin and Stigwood and created more rhythmic songs like "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway", the latter featuring Barry's first attempts at singing falsetto in the backing vocals toward the end. The band liked the resulting new sound, and apparently the public agreed, sending the LP Main Course up the charts.

The followup "Children of the World" was drenched in Barry's newfound falsetto and Blue's synthesizer dance licks. Led off by the single "You should be dancing", it pushed the Bee Gees to a level of stardom they had not previously achieved in the USA, but the new sound was not as popular with some fans from the 1960s. Compared to the stereotype of disco however this is still closer to a rock band, with rhythm guitar and real drums behind the falsetto.

1970s: Saturday Night Fever

Missing image
Missing image

After a live album, the Bee Gees agreed to participate in the creation to the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, a forthcoming movie. The album broke multiple records for soundtrack sales, and four Bee Gees hits ("Stayin' Alive", "How Deep Is Your Love?", "More Than a Woman", and "Night Fever") reached #1, launching the most popular age of disco. They also penned the song "If I Can't Have You" which became a #1 hit for Yvonne Elliman. Such was the popularity of Saturday Night Fever, that two different versions of the song "More Than A Woman", one by the Bee Gees and another by Tavares, charted simultaneously. This album has since sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling soundtrack album of all time. The Bee Gees became bigger than ever before, even outselling The Beatles. During this era, Barry and Robin wrote "Emotion" for an old friend, Samantha Sang, who made it a Top Ten hit (the Bee Gees sang back-up vocals). A year later, Barry wrote the title song to the movie version of the Broadway musical Grease for Frankie Valli to perform. The three Bee Gees also starred in the disastrous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, based on the classic Beatles album published in 1967; the accompanying movie soundtrack was a legendary underperformer in stores.

A fourth Gibb, younger brother Andy Gibb, also managed to enjoy massive success releasing dance albums. However, disco was rapidly declining in popularity and viability, and a large anti-Bee Gees faction of music listeners had erupted as the 1970s ended. Even so, the Bee Gees had one more multi-platinum success following "Saturday Night Fever," with their Spirits Having Flown album. Turning away from disco rhythms, it yielded three more Top Ten hits: "Tragedy," "Too Much Heaven" (originally written for, but not used in, the John Travolta movie "Moment By Moment"), and "Love You Inside Out." During the "Spirits" sessions, the Bee Gees recorded "Desire" with brother Andy on guest lead vocals; the single peaked at #4 as an Andy Gibb release.

The Bee Gees' overwhelming good fortune rose and sank with the disco bubble. The backlash against disco largely sank the Bee Gees' American career; after the spring of 1979, the group would only have two minor Top 40 singles, plus the Top Ten 1989 comeback "One." However, their international popularity sustained less damage; for example, the group would notch five more Top Five hits in the United Kingdom between 1987 and 1998.

1980s and 1990s

As the decade turned to the 1980s, the Bee Gees' career took a turn towards solo work. Barry released a solo project called Now Voyager. This project failed to produce any hits. The first single, "Shine", faded. Robin's attempts at a solo career began with How Old Are You. With "Juliet" and "Another Lonely Night in New York" it spawned two European hits, but was met with disappointment in the U.S. Robin then tried his luck again with Walls Have Eyes. It too was a disappointment. The Brothers then did some production work for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick, who each covered Bee Gees songs. The group sang backing vocals on several tracks. The brothers also worked with Kenny Rogers. They wrote and produced Rogers' album Eyes that See in the Dark. This produced the huge hit "Islands In The Stream" - a duet between Rogers and Dolly Parton. Counting all these which were written for other artists, Barry Gibb had now written and produced fourteen number one hits. The Bee Gees were successful at writing songs for other artists, but in this period, their own recordings were not as successful.

The Bee Gees released E.S.P. in 1987 as a comeback album. With the number one song "You Win Again", it was well received and reached number one in the UK and Europe, but failed to impress the United States. On March 10th 1988, the fourth brother Andy Gibb died from heart disease. The Bee Gees' following album, One (1989), was popular in the US again for once, and the title track was a hit. To remember Andy, they put another song on the One album called "Wish You Were Here". After the release, they went on a U.S. tour. Following the next album, "High Civilization", the Bee Gees went on to a European tour. After the Europe tour, Barry Gibb began to battle a serious back problem. In the early 90s, Barry Gibb wasn't the only Bee Gee living in serious pain. Maurice had a serious drinking problem, which he had battled for many years, but finally conquered with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1992. Two other things happened in 1992: their father Hugh died, and Barry had a baby girl named Alexandra. The Bee Gees released several singles, including "Paying the Price of Love", which achieved little success. In 1993, they released an album called Size Isn't Everything. In 1997 they released Still Waters, which went double platinum, and a new single "Alone", was a new hit for the Bee Gees.

On November 14, 1997, The Bee Gees performed a live concert in Las Vegas called "One Night Only". The CD One Night Only, released a year later, sold 5 million copies worldwide.

Later years

In 2000, they released what turned out to be their final album as a group, This Is Where I Came In. The album gave each member a chance to write in their own way, as well as composing songs togther. For example, Maurice's compositions and leads are the Beatles-inspired "Man In The Middle" and "Walking On Air", while Robin contributed "Deja Vu", "Promise The Earth", and "Embrace", and Barry contributed "Loose Talk Costs Lives", "Technicolour Dreams" and "Voice In The Wilderness". The other songs are collaborative in writing and vocals. Their last public live show together was called "Live By Request", a special shown on A&E. Maurice Gibb, who had been the instrumental leader of the Bee Gees during their final years as a group, died on January 12, 2003 from complications of a twisted intestine. Shortly afterwards, his remaining brothers announced that, they intended to go on writing and performing, but there are still doubts if they would use the title, "The Bee Gees".

Current News

During January 2005, Barry and Robin along with several legendary Rock artists recorded "Grief Never Grows Old", the official Tsunami relief record for the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Awards and success

With The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Paul McCartney, the Bee Gees are in the top five of the most successful recording artists of all time, achieving world-wide record sales in excess of 110 million. Their songs have been covered by numerous singers including Elvis, Otis Redding, and newer acts like Steps and Destiny's Child. Songs written by the Gibbs but better known in versions by other artists include, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman and by Kim Wilde, "Buried Treasure" by Kenny Rogers, "Love Me" by Yvonne Elliman, "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross and by Steps, "Emotion" by Samantha Sang, "Guilty" by Barbra Streisand, "Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick and "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Also, Wyclef Jean adapted the Gibbs' "Stayin' Alive" into the hit rap single "We Trying To Stay Alive". Take That covered "How Deep is Your Love?" and Steps also covered "Tragedy."

The Bee Gees had nine #1 singles on the U.S. Billboard charts between 1971 and 1979. The peak of their chart success in the United States came in March 1978, when four of the top 5 songs were written by the Gibbs: their own "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive" at #1 and #2, Samantha Sang's "Emotion" at #3, and brother Andy Gibb's "Love is Thicker Than Water" at #5. This was the closest anyone came to the achievement of the Beatles, who held all five of the top singles spots on an April 1964 chart -- with five diffrent songs by the band themselves (four self-penned, along with a cover of the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout"). From the last week of 1977 through August of 1978, Gibb-written songs held the #1 position for 25 of 32 weeks, including 4 consecutive chart-toppers in "Stayin' Alive," "Love is Thicker Than Water," "Night Fever," and "If I Can't Have You."

Over their career, the Bee Gees earned five Grammy Awards and in 1994 all three were individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1997, the Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2002, the Bee Gees were made CBEs (Commander of the British Empire) United Kingdom's New Year Honours list. Robin and Barry collected their awards in May 2004, Maurice's son Adam collected for his late father.


Parodies of the Bee Gees

In their heyday the Bee Gees were often parodied, sometimes affectionately. A sketch by Kenny Everett, in which he played all three Gibbs as well as an interviewer, had the Bee Gees answering all of his questions with song quotes. For example:

Interviewer: Now, if I might mention your, what shall we call them, teeth...
Bee Gees (sing): "Mass-a-chu-ssetts"
Interviewer: Ah, yes, I see..."Mass-o'-chew-sets". It's a joke.
Bee Gees (sing): "It's a tragedy!"

They were also parodied by Philip Pope as The Hee Bee Gee Bees, singing "Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)", as well as by David Walliams and Matt Lucas in the Rock Profile television show in 2000.

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake have parodied the Bee Gees on Saturday Night Live in the "Barry Gibb Talk Show" sketch.

See also

External links

nl:Bee Gees ja:ビージーズ pl:Bee Gees pt:Bee Gees sv:The Bee Gees


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