Monday, May 21, 2012

Robin Gibb

If I had complicated feelings about Donna Summer, my feelings about the BeeGees were split—literally. The death today of Robin Gibb has reminded me of that.

The video above is of “I Started a Joke” (1968) which reached number one in New Zealand and Number three in the US. Next up is “Massachusetts” (1967), which also reached number one in New Zealand and number 11 in the US. As near as I can tell, both videos were recorded around the time they were new. I chose them because they’re among my favourites of their songs from the 1960s.

I wasn’t keen on their songs of the 1970s (although, 1971’s “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” was sampled on a comedy 45 I bought called “Convention 72”). This does indeed mean that I wasn’t fond of their songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack; in fact, when it first came out, I pretty much hated the songs, especially Barry’s falsetto on “Stayin’ Alive”. I eventually got used to the songs, and so, eventually didn’t hate them.

The same can’t be said for their versions of songs in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which I loathed (I was a Beatles purist). However, that wasn’t the end for me, because I liked 1987’s “You Win Again” (below), even though it only reached #18 in New Zealand and #75 in the US.

I also liked what turned out to be their last charted single, “This Is Where I Came In” (2001; #37 NZ, not charted in the US). That I liked their later songs that didn’t do well on the charts probably itself says something about me.

It’s almost as if the BeeGees were two different bands and, in some ways, they were: Robin was the main lead singer in the 1960s, Barry took over in the 1970s. I always thought Robin’s voice was unusual, but I thought Barry’s falsetto was weird. Their harmonies, however, were interesting. That duality is probably why my own appreciation for their songs is so patchy.

The Gibb family has had more than its share of tragedy and untimely death, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to hear what the mature Brothers Gibb might have come up with. However, there’s plenty of their stuff I liked, including songs they wrote that others made famous. That’s enough, really.


Roger Owen Green said...

I rather liked early BeeGees, even up to Lonely Days, and it rather bugs me that phase of their career has been largely ignored in favor of the SNF period, which, nevertheless I do own. Never did get a BGs album after that, tho.

Arthur Schenck said...

I agree, which is why none of the videos I selected were from the disco era. The BeeGees were far more than that and, according to one report I saw, even at the time of SNF they didn't perceive of themselves as "disco artists". But I suppose it's easier for journalists to refer to what the masses would best know the BeeGees for.

I never did buy a copy of SNF, but I ended up with most of the songs on other compilations. There's no escape!

Unknown said...

I liked early Bee Gees as well. And what's that song...more recent (which isn't recent at all but I'm old...) How Deep is Your Love - that one.

Arthur Schenck said...

LOL, I often have trouble remembering song names—and for the same reason!