maandag 21 mei 2012

i.m. Robin Gibb, 1949-2012

This morning news came that Robin Gibb passed away. Not much later 'Nights on Broadway' was on the radio and I was back in 1976. The umptieth hit of the Bee Gees was soul, what we were soon to call disco, and at the same time so fantastically good. A guilty pleasure par excellence. To my mind this describes The Bee Gees best for me: a guilty pleasure. Their music was very popular, but not exactly hip, perhaps comparable best in The Netherlands to The Cats: all hits, but not exactly The Beatles or The Stones, was it?

When I was in primary school they were all over the place. Hit after hit after hit. Then disappeared for a while in the first half of the seventies, reappearing as a disco act and scoring major hits again in the Saturday night fever and Grease John Travolta craze, assuring the band hits for more than a decade to come. Robin Gibb co-wrote this string of hits encompassing four decades, including five number ones, with his brother Barry and twin brother, the late Maurice and had one solo number 1, 'Saved by the bell', in 1969 as well.

Dutch TV show 1968
Allow me to take you back to an evening somewhere in 1968 perhaps 69 when a tv special of 25 minutes around the Bee Gees was broadcast on Dutch television during the prime time for children, between 19.00 and 20.00 hours. Five guys (yes five, as Vince Melouney and Colin Peterson were still members) play-backing their hits. Don't ask me what they sang. As a best guess: 'Spicks and specks', 'Massachussetts', 'World' and 'Words' (which I can never remember both for whatever reason. It's one or the other.), 'New York mining disaster 1941', 'To love somebody', 'Holiday' and 'I've gotta get a message to you'. I was allowed to stay up, saw them sing all these songs and was a fan, definitely. I remember hippy clothing, i.e. shirts with flowers or tie dye on them, bell bottomed trousers and long hair. Everything I was not allowed to have for a few other years. For what memories are worth, see the picture I've encountered on the Dutch version of Wikipedia.) What I probably didn't notice how incredibly clean-shaven these young men were.

Listening now to these songs in order to get in the mood for this in memoriam, I notice that they all are fairly guitarless songs. Certainly not rock or blues based. Keyboards and loads of strings. And that is what sets Bee Gees songs so far apart from what was the common form of that day. They created a universe of their own with a large audience of fans which are in there till this day. What I also notice is that they only started discovering true harmonising on the 1970, more hippy infused, 'Lonely days'. It is also their most The Beatles/John Lennon inspired song. It's on this hit single that there is a first inkling on what's to come later in that decade: 'Staying alive' is the best, totally faulty record ever off course. They found the (even) higher registers of their voices and made a billion probably.

Despite the fact that after the demise of Maurice the band pensioned itself off, although there were recent rumours of Barry and Robin working together, nothing they could have done would have mattered to their legacy. That is firmly in place, schmalzy ballads or not. Bee Gees are a part of the sixties and seventies pop pantheon.

Thank you for the music, Robin.


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Buy Bee Gees' Their greatest hits at here
or Bee Gees Number Ones on Amazon

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