Lex on Barry Gibb (The Bee Gees)

I used to make fun of the Bee Gees.

In the late 70s, it was easy to imitate and poke fun of Barry Gibb’s high falsetto.  It didn’t care that I pissed off my aunt Angie, who was (and still is) a devoted Bee Gees fan.  They were, after all, not the Beatles.  Angie played the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever with absolute fervor.  While she danced and sang along, I imitated Barry and Robin, and scorned Maurice (the one that looked “funny”).  I hated disco, and that’s what they represented to me.

At some point during their heyday, they issued a double live album.  Alongside their more contemporary hits, they performed some older material that struck my brain in a funny way.  These songs included “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” “Gotta Get a Message to You,” “Run to Me,” and “Massachusetts.”  All of a sudden, I wasn’t imitating them anymore.  The songs got me right in the heart, as if I’d heard them before.

Suddenly, there was an album in Angie’s collection called Gold, which covered 60s Bee Gees’ pop song brilliance.  Songs like “Words” and “World” oozed from the speakers, and I couldn’t get enough.  The song that floored me then (and still does to this day) is “To Love Somebody.”  Barry wrote this after meeting with one of his idols, Otis Redding.  The Bee Gees’ manager told Barry to write a song for Otis to perform, and Barry’s response was this classic pop tune.  I still get goosebumps thinking about the first time I heard this song in its entirely.

So, for a while, I could tolerate 60s Bee Gees, and the soundtrack they provided for the Alan Parker film Melody.  There is something heartbreaking about Barry’s “First of May” that makes you want to cry.  His “Give Your Best” is one of the most fun songs to listen to; it reminds me of old friends and the folly of being young.

But that didn’t stop me from loathing the whole disco era Bee Gees phenomena – until Clover Club Paul showed me the light.

On a trip to his house to get more gear for a Clover Club jam session, Paul played “How Deep Is Your Love” in his car.  I groaned aloud, something to the effect of “Man, not this.  Why this?”  While waiting for our red light to go green, he said, “Listen to that clean, simple production.  The melody stays in your head when you’re not thinking about it.  The vocal harmonies are inventive and crisp.  How can you not like this song?  When you get a chance, listen to it as a piece of music, not as disco.”

Paul, of course, was right.  I bought the sheet music and discovered that it was inventive, and a complete bitch to learn (it took me weeks to figure it out).  Once I did, I couldn’t stop playing it because it was fun.  I played it on acoustic guitar at some shindig my ex-girlfriend dragged me to, and the girls at the party could not get enough of that song.  Seems that girls really dig love songs for some odd reason.

Not long ago, I purchased a DVD called This Is Where I Came In, which documents the Bee Gees’s history from the late 50s onward, just before Maurice’s untimely death.  I guess the old saying is correct; it’s never too late to learn new lessons.  I learned that making fun of my aunt Angie’s beloved Bee Gees was just ignorance on my part.  I also learned that Barry Gibb and his brothers provided a soundtrack for millions of people for decades.  Not many artists can claim this, but it holds true for the brothers Gibb.  I learned that there are road maps to greatness buried in their songs.  Every songwriter should study the writing of Barry Gibb.

Thanks, Angie!  I will still send you original 60s and 70s Bee Gees vinyl when I locate them.

Happy birthday, Barry.  It finally came into focus for me, but it took 30-plus years to realize that you’ve been a part of the soundtrack of my life all of this time.  Your songs are awe-inspiring and classic.  How would you like to work together on a song sometime?

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).Readers:  Be advised that Best of Bee Gees was originally released in June 1969

Currently listening:
Best of Bee Gees
By The Bee Gees
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~ by Poppermost on September 1, 2009.

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