Bee Gees (1965-2003): a Pop band from Manchester, UK.
rothers Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb founded the Bee Gees. Their career began when the three gathered in a bedroom in their home in Manchester, England and began working out the music that became the basis of the Bee Gees' sound. Father Hugh Gibb, also a bandleader, and mother Barbra Gibb, a former professional singer, saw talent in their sons and envisioned them as a children's version of the Mills Brothers, an American family quartet that was popular in England and the US from the 1930s until the 1960s. Barry, age 9, and Robin and Maurice, both aged 6, began performing at the local cinemas between films as skiffle/rock group The Rattlesnakes. A little later, they began calling themselves Wee Johnny Hays and the Blue Cats.
In 1958 the entire family, including other brothers and sisters, moved to Brisbane, Australia. The boys played at the local beach resorts, racetracks, and on local radio and TV to raise pocket money. In late 1958, they caught the interest of local DJ Bill Gates (no, not of Microsoft). By March 1960, they were given their own half-hour weekly television show in Brisbane. It was here, at the suggestion of Bill Gates, that they became first the BG's (for Brothers Gibb), and soon after the name was lengthened to Bee Gees. In 1963, they signed their first recording contract with 'Festival Records' in Australia and their first Bee Gees written single, Three Kisses of Love, followed with more songs written for other artists coming shortly after. Despite releasing a dozen or so singles, and being named best Australian Songwriting Group in both 1965 and 1966, and Best Group in 1966, none were hits except for 1965's minor, Wine and Women from their first LP, The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs. The platter was not successful enough for 'Festival' wanted to drop them soon after for lack of commercial success. By luck, at this time they met the American-born songwriter, producer and entrepreneur Nat Kipner, who had just been appointed A&R manager of a new independent label, 'Spin Records'. Kipner briefly took over as the group's manager and successfully negotiated their transfer to 'Spin' in exchange for granting 'Festival' the Australian distribution rights to the group's recordings.
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The Brothers then decided to return to England, at a time when the music scene was exploding with bands under the names of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, and others. The rest of the family would follow later.
The Bee Gees finally got their first #1 in Australia with the Spicks and Specks single, recorded when they had virtually unlimited access to St Clair Studio over a period of several months in mid-1966 after signing to 'Spin', immediately after their departure. They had previously sent copies of their Australian tapes to 'NEMS Enterprises', headed by the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein. Stigwood, an associate of Epstein, came calling on them shortly later. In short order, the Brothers were signed to a five-year management contract with Stigwood. After adding Vince Melouney (guitar) and Colin Petersen (drums) to the group, the Bee Gees headed for the studio to record the aptly titled Bee Gees 1st (1967). Their first single under the Bee Gee name, New York Mining Disaster 1941, and the follow-ups Holiday and To Love Somebody, quickly gained them international recognition. In May of 1967, the Bee Gees appeared on the TV show Top Of The Pops, at that time England's premier new music talent show.
Horizontal, their follow-up album arrived in late 1967. The album yielded one hit, the ballad Massachusetts. Idea (1968) also yielded hit tracks gone single titled I Started A Joke and Gotta Get A Message To You. Clearly the Brother's Gibb were well on their way to stardom with so many albums yielding so many hits in a matter of only two years. So successful were they, Stigwood proclaimed that the Bee Gees were, "The most significant new musical talent of 1967" to attempt a comparison of the Bee Gees to the Beatles.
Odessa, a two-disc concept album, emerged in 1969. The album was released with a red velvet cover, appropriate for an album filled with songs of lush arrangements and orchestration. Sibling rivalry was setting in, however, when it was time to release the support singles to Odessa; no one could agree on the "A" side track. The end result was Robin's departure for a solo career culminating in his Robin's Reign album being released shortly later, its single Saved By The Bell achieved some success in Europe. Vince Melouney and Colin Petersen also left soon after.
Meanwhile, Barry and Maurice continued on to release the album Cucumber Castle (1970) and appeared in a British TV comedy special of the same name. Eventually, however, the remaining brothers parted company as well. The split lasted 15 months before the three brothers came back together. Maurice's first solo album, The Loner would not be released.
2 Years On, the next Bee Gees album, arrived in 1971. The album contained Lonely Days, a track that became their first #1 gold US single. The release of the follow-up, Trafalgar, in 1971, featuring the telling hit single How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, a song about breakup and reconciliation, went gold and made #1 in the US. The 1972 follow-up of To Whom It May Concern produced one hit single, Run To Me.
In stark contrast the Bee Gees' 1973 album, Life In A Tin Can, produced no major hits. It would be this release that saw the Brothers, and those associated with them, becoming dissatisfied with their direction. Eric Clapton, however, recommended that they move to Miami because he found it helped his career. So, in 1974 they did. The Bee Gees came to work with R & B-based Arif Mardin, who produced their next release, Mr. Natural (1974). While not a huge commercial success, Mr. Natural contained new sounds and showed the influences of new people on their singing and songwriting.
In 1975, the Brothers returned to join up with Arif Mardin again, and this new collaboration saw the major shift in direction offered on the Main Course release, an album which expressed much stronger R&B influences mixed with dance and soul at a time when the world was interested in those styles. The disc's highlight was the Jive Talkin' track, whose beat was inspired by the sound of their tires thumping on the road when crossing the bridge on their daily commute, they dubbed "the bridge to Criteria". Nights on Broadway was another hit track and the song that first featured Barry's ability to sing falsetto. The disc went platinum and set the group back up as a commercially viable entity, with Jive Talkin' alone making gold as a single. A change of the US record label in 1976, however, meant Arif Mardin wasn't available to them anymore but enough of his influence was still present for 1976's Children of The World to also go platinum.
For their next studio album, the Bee Gees chose to record at the Chateau D' Herouville (the place Elton John called the "Honky Chateau"). Robert Stigwood was developing a movie about the New York disco culture based on the article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night". He needed music for the movie, and the Bee Gees next album's tracks of More Than A Woman, If I Can't Have You, How Deep Is Your Love, Night Fever, Stayin' Alive and Saturday Night Fever, arrived just in time for the disco explosion and gained them the momentum to launch the Saturday Night Fever (1976) soundtrack album into orbit; it held the #1 spot for 14 weeks and went platinum 14 times! It became the best-selling album ever, a status it held until Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1982. Today, it remains the best-selling soundtrack album. While these tracks climbed the charts, they prepared for what would be their first live album, Here At Last...Bee Gees Live! (1977). How Deep Is Your Love, their next single, went to #1 and went gold before the SNF movie was even released. For their parts, the singles for Saturday Night Fever and Stayin' Alive both went platinum. If I Can't Have You, also was a #1 gold single. By 1978 the Bee Gees had the #1 single, the #1 album and 5 songs as either writer or performer in the top 10 at the same time in Billboard, Cashbox and Record World Magazines.
By this time, the Bee Gees had become a marketing bonanza with TV programs, movies, school lunch boxes, necklaces, belt buckles, and you name it. And now they began work on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie with Peter Frampton. It was the movie, however, that made their reality check bounce when it became increasingly clear to them that the film, which used only the music of the Beatles to advance the storyline with no dialogue, was not such a good idea after-all. They decided they wanted out but contractual obligations made them stay. Their opinions of the movie panned out when the film was pounded both by critics and at the box office, for, as critics complained, "Robert Stigwood having dared to 'defile' the Beatles' classic work". Fortunately the critical eyes looked past the Bee Gees and they emerged from the film unscathed.
The Brothers went back to the studio and emerged with Spirits Having Flown in 1979. The album was filled with many musical styles and stayed at #1 for 6 weeks. The support tour was a sell out. Once the tour was finished, the Brothers took a break. During this downtime they would write and produce for other artists handling different tasks. Such artists that benefited from their efforts were Barbra Steisand's Guilty album, Jimmy Rufin's Sunrise, and the Osmond's Steppin' Out. But for all their pop stardom, it was their massive hits in disco that would forever haunt them and isolate them to that time period.
Despite their 1981 Living Eyes release being completely different from its recent predecessors, the media was hell bent against disco and the Bee Gees were smack in the line of fire. Never mind that the Bee Gees, although producing some danceable hits, never endorsed or embraced the disco lifestyle, the music industry wanted nothing to do with them, leaving Living Eyes to go unnoticed. Lawsuits involving their label 'RSO', their fiancées, management, you name it, so they decided to call a vacation. Robin would produce his next solo album, his first since 1970, titled How Old Are You, while his brothers worked on Dionne Warwick's Heartbreaker album which featured many Gibb brother penned tracks. Kenny Rogers' Eyes That See In The Dark was another, with the most noted track being the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet Islands In Stream.
The Woman In You and Someone Belonging To Someone were surprisingly late comers for them in the hits arena when the sequel to the movie Saturday Night Fever, titled Stayin' Alive, was launched in 1983. The movie itself was a flop.
Dianna Ross' Eaten Alive was the next side project for them while Maurice went on to record his third solo album, Secret Agent. Barry, wanting a piece of the light also completed a solo album at this time, titled Now Voyager. In 1985, Barry's second solo effort became the soundtrack for the movie Hawks, but Robin was well on his way to completing his fourth, Walls Have Eyes. These albums did modestly well but not near to what their past history would have expected.
It would be in 1987 when the Bee Gees recorded again as a unit with E.S.P. under the production of Arif Mardin. The album did reasonably well except in the US where the disco tag still haunted them.
1989's One album was dedicated to their brother Andy, who had recently passed away in England aged 30, as a result of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle from a viral infection; the title track reaching 7 in Europe. High Civilization (1991), the follow-up, was widely ignored in the US Even its spin off singles like For Whom The Bell Tolls remained unnoticed. Unnoticed perhaps, but in 1997 the Bee Gees were inducted to the rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They also got a feature on VH-1 called "Storytellers", a made-for-TV show similar to MTV's "Unplugged". That year also saw them receiving Lifetime Achievement Award at the "Brit. Awards" and an International Artist award at the American Music Awards as well as a Lifetime Contribution To Music award at the World Music Awards. It would be the same year that saw their next studio album, Still Waters, released debuting at 11 on the US Billboard charts. They also wrote and produced with other big name artists (such as on Celine Dion's Immortality album) and won many other awards, as well as participating on the songwriting for the Saturday Night Fever stage show. Between 1998 and 1999 they toured the world; several of the shows during this tour were put on a live compilation titled One Night Only (1999).
Maurice, the bearded hat wearing younger brother, died suddenly on 12 January 2003 at the age of 53 from a heart attack, while awaiting emergency surgery to repair a strangulated intestine. Now in their 50's and recording much less, the Bee Gees decided to close up shop in January of 2003 shortly after the death of Maurice. The same week that Maurice died, Robin's solo album Magnet was released. On 23 February 2003, the Bee Gees received the Grammy Legend Award, becoming the first recipients of that award in the 21st century.
Although there was talk of a memorial concert featuring both surviving brothers and invited guests, nothing materialized. Barry and Robin continued to work independently, and both released recordings with other artists, occasionally coming together to perform at special events.
On 20 November 2011 it was announced that Robin Gibb, at 61 years old, had been diagnosed with liver cancer, a condition he had become aware of several months earlier. He had become noticeably thinner in previous months and had to cancel several appearances due to issues with severe abdominal pain.
On 14 April 2012, it was reported that Robin had contracted pneumonia and was in a coma. Although he came out of his coma on 20 April 2012, his condition deteriorated rapidly, and he died on 20 May 2012. With Robin's death, Barry became the last surviving Gibb brother.
In 2015, '13STAR Records' released a box set 1974-1979 which included the studio albums Mr. Natural, Main Course, Children of the World and Spirits Having Flown. A fifth disc called The Miami Years includes all the tracks from Saturday Night Fever as well as B-Sides. No unreleased tracks from the era were included.
In 2016, Barry released In the Now, his first solo effort since 1984's Now Voyager through a deal with 'Capitol Records' that included the Bee Gees back catalog with permission of the various estates, bringing their music back to 'Universal'.
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The Bee Gees in 1967 (left to right: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Vince Melouney, Maurice Gibb and Colin Petersen).
Photo by: Atco Records.
License: Public Domain
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