zaterdag 28 februari 2015

Idea. Bee Gees

The Klaus Voormann U.S. sleeve
Another album in the 1968-69 series on WoNoBloG in which Wo. takes a look at albums behind the hits of his early youth, albums he never heard at the time, nor since. The hitsingles are sort of a part of his DNA, written on a blank space. In this series you can find reviews on Blood, Sweat & Tears, Donovan, Blue Cheer, The Cats and others. Today's turn is the second 1968 album of Bee Gees, Idea.

Bee Gees were around/famous for a little over a year when I got home with my first Veronica Top 40 leaflet. The hit in that top 40 was, 'I've gotta get a message to you'. Something like the tenth hit in 15 months, including 3 #1 hits. The Beatles like proportions Bee Gees reached in NL in 1967/68. Three Australian brothers with two compatriots that had been picked up by manager/producer Robert Stigwood.

In an earlier piece I wrote on Bee Gees in WoNo Magazine at the death of Robin Gibb ( (and on The Cats on the death of its guitarist, Cees Veerman), I wrote that I have a hard time to place this band. Who to compare it to, as they seem to be in a universe of its own? Bee Gees attracted a large audience, must have had a large fanbase at the time. From the pictures I remember they dressed as hippies, had long hair, but at the same time they looked like the older boys next door. The pop band for Christian girls? Well, the 8 year old I was certainly liked the Bee Gees, and today are sort of my guilty pleasure, combined with the sentiment of the 7, 8 and 9 year old hidden away somewhere inside that veers up every time a Bee Gees hit comes by. With the exception of 'Main course', the 1975 soul conversion album of the band, I have no album in the house, but have a lot of the 60s singles from fairs, second hand stores, etc. So what is a Bee Gees album like?

The U.K. Sleeve
Well, a lot like the singles. The songs go off in a lot of different directions, but always remain seemly. Just a hint of psychedelia, more in the slightly slurred singing than the music. Songs with a lot of orchestration behind them, but in front of that is a band. Something I did not really expect. All the instruments are played by the five band members, who next to the three Gibbs were Colin Peterson on drums and Vince Melouney on lead guitar. Next to that there is a clear influence from The Everly Brothers. 'Kitty can' has the sort of singing the two Everlys became famous with. At the same time 'Kitty can' has elements of The Who singles like 'Happy Jack' and 'I'm a boy'. A strange sounding mix, but here it is.

In 1968 Bee Gees was a hit band for only one year, but already discord raged high in the band. I remember that there was another line up for the band about "once a week": a new single, a new line up it seemed to me. Robin Gibb was recording on his own. It even looks like there were two bands on this record, Robin Gibb and the rest. Melouney left the band in the fall, but not before he sang solo on his own song, 'Such a shame', an appropriate title we now know. (By the way, 'Such a shame' is a surprisingly good song, less Bee Gees more 60s pop/rock. I like this one.) Idea had been released by then and all songs for the follow up, 'Odessa' (1969) already had been recorded in the same sessions. Next to that singles were released in a stand alone fashion.

I notice that it is somehow hard to form a real opinion of the songs on Idea. They are so far away from what I usually listen to and at the same time they, nearly all, sound so familiar. Of course there are two hits, 'I've gotta to get a message to you', which certainly is one of my absolute favorite Bee Gees songs and 'I started a joke', a far more elementary song, one that only has basics and stripped away all superfluous sounds. A song which is all about the vocal melody, by Robin Gibb. There's a third single that was released in 1971 or 72 in NL, 'When swallows fly'. Like recorded songs from these sessions that were released as single in 1970, two years later, at a time that maybe there wasn't even a band anymore due to the inner strive, but still loads of recorded work that could be released.

The hard thing is that I can not honestly say that I truly like what I'm hearing, while at the same time I can't say I hate it. In fact this album is very well made, with craftsmanship in plain sight and these guys can sing. The piano sounds so familiar, so Bee Gees. Just listen to the opening song, 'Let there be love'. If ever there was an exemplary Bee Gees 60s song, it's this one. It has the singing, the violins, the piano. All. There isn't a bad song on Idea, but it is on the edge of the sort of music I prefer to listen to.

So perhaps Bee Gees was the One Direction or Take That of their generation, but one with an astonishingly long career, still scoring hitsingles in the 1990s. And all with the compositions of the Gibb brothers in one constellation or other. So in the end I'll write that Idea surprised me in some ways and that I like it in the way I like nearly all the singles by the band in their first three years.


You can listen to 'I've gotta get a message to you' here:


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