24 May 2012

"If you want to stop the Bee Gees singing..."

It's impossible to fathom what Barry Gibb is going through now, having lost all three of the brothers born after him. Robin's death on Sunday night has rightly brought out much tribute in terms of his contribution to a songwriting dynasty comparable with that of Lennon and McCartney.

Ultimately, a combination of beards, disco, falsettos and mild humour bypasses - as well as long fallow periods - made sure the Bee Gees were not ever given quite the credit they deserved.

I couldn't immediately think of anything that hasn't been said by cleverer, more qualified people than me. But one observation I've always enjoyed making about the Bee Gees whenever I play certain records written by them on the radio is their shamelessness when it comes to picking up the royalties.

If a song written by the Bee Gees was not recorded by them, but by someone else, then they would make a point of still appearing as backing vocalists. Emotions by Samantha Sang is a stark example, not least because I think they actually sing on it more than she does. They are on Heartbreaker as backers to Dionne Warwick, Islands In The Stream by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers and, of course, Chain Reaction with Diana Ross. None of these songs had enjoyed a Bee Gees-only recording by the time they became hits, but there they were, picking up performing royalties as well as those earned as composers.

All of these songs, with the exception of Chain Reaction (to my knowledge) they did eventually do themselves. Beyond all this, acts like Take That, Tavares, Steps, Candi Staton, Kim Wilde, Boyzone, Jimmy Somerville and Destiny's Child all took Bee Gees songs back into the charts. George Michael did one under a pseudonym, while dance acts N'Trance and Blockster put 90s beats behind two of their disco fillers.

Everyone has a favourite. I'm actually rather keen on this, which I remember commercial radio generally refused to touch "because it's the Bee Gees". I still get annoyed about that. It was their last hit.


Valentine Suicide said...

I've an odd nostalgic affection for them. When I was about twelve I spent ten days in Cornwall with my best friend of the time. My mates mother had 'Here at Last..' a live album which she played to death, and we happily sang along to it. (We were just too young for punk). Within a couple of months (it seemed, time is strange) they were all over the radio with the SNF songs, which, with Travolta's dancing, propelled an average social drama through the stratosphere. Like it or not that's part of the soundtrack for everyone lives between the ages of 40 and 50.

I had no interest in the hit factory that came later, and as you said their ability to take themselves a little too seriously at time (although Clive Anderson was utterly vile to them) further singled them out for ridicule. Can you sing in a falsetto and remain credible (Yes says Prince Rogers Nelson).

Robin Gibb's voice was a quite extraordinary, though not particularly attractive instrument. He certainly didn't sound like anyone else. When they sang together, in those pre-SNF says, they could soar. I still love that live 'Run To Me/World medley. (Don't tell anyone)

I think it's overstating to compare them to Lennon and McCartney, some of their lyrics are awful twee There's an awful lot of schmaltz and cheese in their back cataloguebut I for one, am sad they're gone.

Anonymous said...

Yeah,because Lennon and McCartney weren't prone to bad lyrics,either,huh? There's a ton of crap in The Beatles songwriting catalogue,and especially their post-Beatles career - more crap than good,actually.

Either way,none of the Beatles were capable of writing a song like To Love Somebody when they were as young as the Gibb Brothers.