125: Bee Gees, ‘Holiday’

Posted by on Jan 20, 2012 in Rock, Song Of the week |

I know, I say The Bee Gees and your eyes roll and you start to snicker, conjuring up sounds of bung-jaga-jaga- jaga and sights of a studly Italian undulating cockily down the street in flared white pants so tight you can see his gjamidanker.

I’m talking about the other Bee Gees. The ones who once upon a time were compared favorably with, ahem, The Beatles. Yes, Virginia, really.

You see, les frères Gibbs used to be sound like three white Australian brothers. Before they started sounding like three black American sis-tahs.

So unroll those eyeballs, cowboys and Indians, and listen to the tale of The Bee Gees, Incarnation #1.

Barry (b 1946) and twins Robin (b 1949) and Maurice (inexplicably also b 1949) were b’ed on the Isle of Man. In 1958 the parents moved to Australia (I think because they wanted a daughter), where the boys drank a lot of milk, underwent puberty, and sang together so well they had their own Brisbanean TV show. (Here’s an example, but I’m warning you, I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights after watching it, so use your own judgment.) But they had their eyes on the big-time, which in 1966 was good old England. So back they went.

The England to which they returned was producing a new brand of ‘pop’ music: ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’/’Penny Lane’, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’/’Ruby Tuesday’, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’. America was in its original flush of psychedelia – ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Somebody to Love’.

Brothers Gibb, 1968

The Bee Gees will ever be indelibly engraved in your minds and ears as those silly guys in the embarrassing clothes making the whole world bounce to dance rhythms, with their high harmonies and funk beat. But for those of us who remember the 1960s better than the late 1970s (don’t ask), The Bee Gees were something wholly other. You don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from Lillian Roxon’s prototypical “Rock Encyclopedia” (1971):

…Their first single, ‘New York Mining Disaster’ …was like having a wonderful new Beatles single out on the market. For those who were bewailing the loss of the comparatively uncomplicated pre-Sergeant Pepper Beatles, the Bee Gees were a godsend and their first album a delight. …They sounded more like the Beatles than the Beatles ever did and … they wrote songs considerably better than the Beatles had done that early in their career.

Huh? Are we talking about the same guys?

Brothers Gibb, 1977

Well, yes. See, when the Bee Gees hit the radio in mid-1967, they were decidedly Old School. ‘Words’ and ’To Love Somebody’ sounded more like ‘Norwegian Wood’ ‘We Can Work It Out’ than did ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. Sure, we loved our head music. But there were also those daytime hours when your mind was lucid and you wanted to hear something pretty.

They had this string of hits in 1967-68 that took a back seat to none, not even that group they followed in the encyclopedia alphabetically (I don’t mean Jeff Beck). ‘New York Mining Disaster, 1941’, ‘To Love Somebody’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Words’, ‘I Started a Joke’, ‘Massachusetts’, ‘I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You’, ‘I Can’t See Nobody’, ‘World’. Each one a gem, carefully crafted, exquisitely orchestrated, flawlessly performed, with a strong, memorable melody, and lyrics ranging from the poetic to the enigmatic to the self-consciously cryptic.

It’s true, their lyrics were a lot more convincing after you’d smoked a few:

The Bee Gees Band (the Gibbs are the ones with the Colgate smiles)

Ooh you’re a holiday , such a holiday
Ooh you’re a holiday , such a holiday

It’s something I think’s worthwhile
If the puppet makes you smile
If not then you’re throwing stones
Throwing stones, throwing stones

Ooh it’s a funny game
Don’t believe that it’s all the same
Can’t think what I’ve just said
Put the soft pillow on my head

Millions of eyes can see
Yet why am I so blind
When the someone else is me
It’s unkind, it’s unkind 

But the Bee Gees provided beautiful songs, beautiful performances, beautiful productions, all within a ‘Yes, I am experienced’ context. And you can never get enough of beautiful songs, can you?

As impressive as their recordings were, they couldn’t duplicate the lush, extravagant productions live. By 1969 they’d split up, regrouped a year later, floundered for five years till The Plague of 1977, when young people on both sides of the ocean began to display inexplicable weekly episodes of convulsive twitching, what subsequently became known as The Saturday Night Fever. The rest, as they say, is hysteria.

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Jan 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I like the Bee Gees, even after they became sista’s. Besides, the same think happened to Michael Jackson, only in reverse. He went from being a poor black boy to being a wealthy white woman.


Jan 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm

כל כך יפה,שבת שלום ותודה

Aug 25, 2012 at 7:14 am

You write the truth. The old Bee Gees were cutting edge mid and late 60’s. I remember the first song I heard them doing on the radio was “Purple Haze.”

Aug 25, 2012 at 7:49 am

My apologies! I dug deep into the internet, and discovered that the Purple Haze cover I remember hearing was not by the Bee Gees…it was by Dion.

Aug 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I’m a giant Dion fan. Purple Haze?? Really??

BG lady
Nov 30, 2012 at 4:35 am

Thank you! I am finding that I am enjoying “later” Bee Gees as well as those early tunes. Alone, One, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Kiss of Life and many more. 50 years! Quite possibly the most talented pop musicians of our time – and they wrote all their own songs as well as Kenny Rogers “Islands In the Stream”, Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker” and Streisand’s biggest selling album “Guilty”

DVD “In Our Own Time” is a real Bee Gee treat. Their talent is undeniable.

mike B
Jan 4, 2013 at 2:14 am

The BG`s were gr8 1st time around and second-time!
Great songs–lyrics–music. God bless `em.

Malcolm Pordes
Jan 21, 2013 at 4:24 am

The early Bee Gees where the best, and don’t forget And The Sun Will Shine, First of May, and Saved By The Bell.

Lee Formby
Feb 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I liked both , The Early years has a nostalgic memory , I saw them live , sing without a band at Asquith Girls High School Fete , I think 1964 .



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