For this, the 22nd of the fortnightly programs I am currently doing with Kiran Misra ji on AIR Delhi Gold FM, her choice was Bee Gees. It was the one program I loved doing the most, as Bee Gees were the band I got to hear a lot of when I was in G S Medical College and loved their amazing music. Unfortunately a glitch in the internet live stream of the program meant I cannot post a complete recording of the program today.
Bee Gees, the English-Australian, pop-rock band have made their place in the pantheon of music quite easily as one of the most prolific and the best songwriters and performing artistes of all times. Despite the fact that they embodied the disco era of the late 1970s and although they got associated with disco, they didn’t set out to write disco songs. They were more influenced by the soul music coming out of Philadelphia in the early to mid 1970’s, particularly groups like the Delfonics and the Stylistics. They simply happened to have moved to Miami in the mid-1970’s because Eric Clapton had recorded an album there and he suggested that they record an album at the same studio.
In becoming one of the best-selling recording acts of all time, the Bee Gees (short for the Brothers Gibb) adapted to changing musical styles while maintaining the high harmonies, elaborate melodies, and ornate orchestrations which were their trademark.
The Bee Gees were given their name by Bill Gates; not the co- founder of Microsoft but a Brisbane radio presenter of that name. He named the group the “BGs” (which later on changed to “Bee Gees”) after his, Barry Gibb’s, and speedway promoter Bill Goode’s initials. (Goode gave the Gibb brothers their first break after he hired them to entertain the crowd at the Redcliffe Speedway -which he owned- in 1960). Just an uncanny and amazing coincidence that the three men all had the same initials.
Little had anyone the slightest of inkling that the three small-town brothers would go on to become the leaders of the 70’s and the 80’s musical scene.
They always wrote the music first, then when they’d get together in the studio, they’d play the music and come up with the lyrics on the spot!!!
While Robin and Maurice Gibb were twins, Barry was three years older. As the Bee Gees, they wrote, produced and arranged their own songs and as songwriters they were extremely prolific, composing hundreds of songs, many of which were recorded by other famous artists as well. The group is in the “Songwriters Hall of Fame” in addition to being in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”.
Over 2,500 artists have so far recorded their songs and “How Deep Is Your Love” is the most covered of all, with over 400 versions on its own!
The Bee Gees made their songs relatable by keeping the lyrics gender-neutral, also subtle and reaching out to a maximum number of people.
For their style, melody always dictated the song. After all you’ve got seven notes to work on with, and as with everybody else it’s the order in which you use them. So melody is the most important thing about writing a song, and then you approach the lyrics and must work them into it.
How it all began: While the Gibbs siblings were still in their childhood, they started songwriting through a game of make-believe. They would listen to the radio and pretend like they were in charge of writing the artist’s (who was featured on the radio) next hit record. It was a hobby that they weren’t even aware of, they were just playing it the same way kids throw a ball around, the only difference being they were just throwing music around!
Robin thought it was important to protect a budding idea from criticism. One doesn’t invite anybody to say anything critical when one is developing a song. It can have a dramatic effect on how the song progresses, even to the point where you might not finish it.
Fact: Barry Gibb is the only songwriter to have had four consecutive US #1s starting with “Stayin’ Alive”.
The Bee Gees released their first single in Australia in 1963. It was a Johnny Horton inspired song and they cracked the Australian and New Zealand markets within a few years. “Spicks And Specks” was their first ever #1 single, topping the New Zealand charts, while being #3 in Australia. The brothers left Australia for London to audition with Robert Stigwood who was a director of NEMS Enterprises, who also worked with The Beatles. He signed them up and the song, “New York Mining Disaster 1941“, went on to be their first international hit.
In 1967, Robert Stigwood became their manager. He was also a movie producer so he put them on the soundtrack to his 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever, and cast them in a movie the next year.
They had huge success singing disco songs in the ’70’s, and popularized their falsetto singing style. Thus a great talent for harmonizing carried the “Stayin’ Alive”, singers from Manchester, England, to the doorstep of fame in Australia.
After emigrating to Australia with their parents, the Gibb brothers returned to England in the mid-1960s to further their singing careers. Their early recordings, had hits such as “Massachusetts” drew comparisons with the Beatles. The trio reached the top ten with “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” and “I Started a Joke” (both in 1968) but there were several hitless years before they returned to the charts with “Main Course” in 1975. Recorded in Miami, and grounded in rhythm and blues, and typified by the chart-topping single ,“Jive Talkin“, it put the Bee Gees at the forefront of the disco movement, which their work on the sound track album Saturday Night Fever in 1977 would popularize and in many ways define! Saturday Night Fever happens to be one of the best known and one of the best selling movie albums of all time!!
The recording earned several Grammy Awards, including album of the year. Besides writing their own hits, such as “Stayin’ Alive”, the brothers composed tracks for other artists on the album, which would eventually sell 40 million copies. Subsequent albums, however, failed to match the success of their earlier work. The group disbanded on several occasions, most notably after the death of Maurice in 2003, aged just 53 of a heart attack while awaiting surgery for intestinal strangulation, though Barry and Robin did reunite in 2009 and made several appearances. After Robin sadly died in 2012 of liver cancer and complications, Barry occasionally performed and recorded as a solo act.
In 1997 the band was inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” and in 2015 it received a “Grammy” for lifetime achievement. A documentary was also made in 2002 on The Bee Gees.
What really made the Bee Gees a spectacular band was that they had more than disco sounds to offer to their listeners.
One of their best songs set in the baroque pop genre was “Black Diamond”, which featured in Odessa, an album from 1969, which had sufficient gravitas to charm ears that itch for classical sounds. For the classical effect, Bee Gees used a mellotron, played by Maurice and Robin Gibb. Between them, the brothers could sing, write songs, play the piano, organ, mellotron and the guitar. Almost complete, with just a percussionist needed for the band.
While most famous bands can trace their formation through collaborations with other acts, the three brothers who comprised the Bee Gees found their place in music history through the process of growing up together.
The oldest, Barry Gibb, was born in 1946, on the Isle of Mann, between Great Britain and Ireland and the fraternal twins Robin and Maurice followed in 1949.
The boys undoubtedly inherited some musical DNA from their parents. Dad Hugh was a drummer and a bandleader, then putting his talents to use on the island, and mom Barbara was known to be a gifted singer.
Still, by all accounts, the brothers realized their talents and ambitions on their own. Barry was seen strumming his tennis racket and “performing” on a dock, and the twins usually following him around; though recognition of their abilities wouldn’t come until after they moved to Manchester, England in 1955.
The Gibb brothers were performing in public by the late 1950’s.
When their mother returned home one day to find her father-in-law watching television, she offered to turn down what sounded like the radio playing in another room, only to realize that the music was coming from the nine-year-old Barry and his six-year-old twin brothers singing in unison!
Barry received his first guitar that Christmas, a gift that further fuelled his enthusiasm by providing an outlet for the songs that were already forming in his head. The brothers also began playing with other friends in the neighborhood, naming their band The Rattlesnakes which made their public debut in 1957 at Manchester’s Gaumont Theatre. Barry was all of 11 years old, his twin siblings were 8!! At the time, venue owners in the area commonly gave children the opportunity to play records and mime performances during the intervals between the Saturday morning movies. However, one of the Gibbs dropped and broke the record they were to use, reportedly the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie”, prompting an impromptu live performance at showtime!
A move to another part of the city the following spring brought an end to The Rattlesnakes but not the boys’ desire to perform. They made more of a professional debut around that time, with Hugh sneaking them in for his band’s gig at the Russell Street to the surprise and delight of the audience.
Still, for all the musical promise on display, the Gibb parents were struggling to make ends meet and keep the boys out of trouble in a war-decimated Manchester. Seeking a better life, now also with Andy, they set sail in 1958 for Australia, eventually settling in Redcliffe.
They were discovered singing at Australia’s Redcliffe Speedway.
By 1959, Barry was earning pocket change by selling sodas during races at Redcliffe Speedway. Eventually, he reeled Robin and Maurice into the business, his guitar and their combined vocals drawing a crowd of would-be fans.
It of course drew the attention of Redcliffe Speedway owner Bill Goode, who invited the boys to sing over the PA system, and a popular Brisbane DJ named Bill Gates. The two Bills coined the group name “The BGs,” after their own initials, while Gates took it from there by playing their recordings at his station and assuming the role of a promoter.
The trio began performing at outdoor exhibitions and cast a wider net by appearing on TV shows. At one point, they even enjoyed their own Friday night showcase, The BGs Half Hour.
By 1965, they were sporting Beatle boots and writing their own songs, but they couldn’t get a hit. In what you have to call a fairly radical solution to the problem, the brothers announced to their parents that they would have to move back to England in order to further their career. With impeccable timing, they left Australia days before their latest single, Spicks and Specks, reached # 1: their record label sent a boat out after them, but the Gibbs hid in their cabin and refused to come out. On arrival in the UK, they spotted another band ,“absolute Beatles lookalikes” standing on Southampton dock. It should have seemed like a good omen, but it didn’t really work out that way. They went down the steps, and there in the fog was this group. Heaven knows what they were doing there and they said to them:, “Go back to Australia, there’s nothing happening here. They won’t sign groups any more.“
That ranks as one of the most outrageously hopeless predictions in pop history: within a month, the Bees Gees had a management contract with NEMS; within two, their single New York Mining Disaster, 1941 was a transatlantic hit. A band who had struggled to get anywhere in Australia were suddenly revealed to be preternaturally gifted songwriters. Still in their teens, they could knock out both ballads that became modern standards and a deeply odd, idiosyncratic brand of pop: To Love Somebody and Words co-existed like Barker of the UFO and Mrs Gillespie’s Refrigerator, songs that don’t sound psychedelic so much as peculiar and engaging.
Nevertheless, the Bee Gees’ fame was so huge and came so fast that anyone would have struggled to handle it. There was fame and then there was ultra-fame.
They even worked with Michael Jackson, although their work together was never released.
Their career clearly ascendant, Hugh finally devoted himself to managing The BGs on a full-time basis. Along with grooming their appearances and stage mannerisms, he often provided a professional element by joining the boys on stage to play the drums.
Australian pop star Col Joye brought the Bee Gees into the big time; they were enjoying a residency at the Beachcombers Coastal area in the tourist area of Surfers Paradise when they learned that Australian pop star Col Joye was passing through town, so Barry and Hugh convinced the hitmaker to hear the group sing. Floored by their soaring harmonies, Joye promised to take the boys under his wing if they moved to Sydney, ground zero for the music industry Down Under. They wanted the BGs for an opening act for a Chubby Checker tour. Joye also helped secure a recording contract through the Leedon subsidiary of Festival Records (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited).
In 1963, Leedon released the first single by the group re-stylized as The Bee Gees. Although it charted modestly, the song marked an important early step for a band that would go on to find international stardom through a range of genres and eras, en route to acclaim as one of the great survivors of popular music!
There aren’t many groups who had such big songs to hits ratio than the Gibb brothers. They sold hundreds of millions of records from the 1960s to the early 2000s, and their legacy continues.
How did (and continue to do even now) the Bee Gees manage to dominate the airwaves so tirelessly? What makes the Bee Gees’ sound so durable and yet so new and contemporary?
And why is their sound so catchy, and yet virtually inimitable? If you’ve heard a successful Bee Gees copy on the radio, it’s either a genuine Bee Gees cut you haven’t heard before, or else the copying has been done by the three Gibb brothers themselves, on tracks they have written or produced or sung backup for other performers. Hit singles like Frankie Valli’s “Grease,” Samantha Sang’s “Emotion,” Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” or Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” are the true measure of this group’s spectacularly saleable versatility.
The streamlined, slightly bouncier kiddie Bee Gee sound devised for their brother Andy, designed to highlight his slightly wispier voice and also to please his younger and bubblier fans, is a remarkable testament to the group’s craftsmanship. And before they were artists or chart toppers or anything else, they were THE craftsmen.
“Main Course,” the first of their disco albums, released in 1975, is in many ways still their best. Launching a whole new stage of their then moribund career with the help of producer, Mardin (all subsequent records have been produced by Gibbs, Karl Richardson and Albhy Galatea), they began to master dance rhythms and team them with the sweet, high, billowing harmonies that had always been their trademark. Everything on this album was punchy and not even the slow songs sounded really slow.
Their singing style began to incorporate falsetto singing as a playful accompaniment to Robin Gibb’s deeper, more quavery lead vocals, or falsetto harmonies to cap off melodies that spiralled ever upwards. Barry Gibb, who seems to have emerged as the group’s mastermind since then, contributed much of the the falsetto singing and an insinuating whisper. “Jive Talkin’”, which featured that whisper, was the first single to make the world mindful of the group’s stunning transformation; later, half the album’s other songs followed “Jive Talkin’” up the charts. “Main Course” is still amazing for its prescience, as a harbinger of the Bee Gees’ Golden Age.
Since then, the group had primarily been involved in a polishing process, creating ever more seamless music that is today’s equivalent of mid‐60’s Motown. Whatever final form a Bee Gees track took, its orderliness was a signal quality. Even when a melody wandered and soared, it always seemed to adhere to its own laws of geometric precision. It’s no accident that the group dance number in the film “Saturday Night Fever,” was choreographed with fierce precison, or that the dancers seemed to be revelling in the very rigidity of the song.
The influence with any kind of black music may at first seem minimal when the Bee Gees affect any kind of soul delivery like in their God‐awful Earth, Wind and Fire imitation or tossing around a street vocabulary from the otherwise unassailable “Stayin’ Alive”. Nevertheless, their “Search, Find” is a song that could easily have been sung and danced to, with the 1960’s soul choreography. If Motown was the slick, sophisticated crossover music of those days, that black and white audiences were equally at home with, the Bee Gees music is that and much more: They’re also the one group to have successfully suspended themselves halfway between disco and, rock. “Saturday Night Fever,” gave us two superstars: The Bee Gees and John Travolta, and they eventually cornered a portion of the pop‐hating movie audience. Theirs was not a crossover, it was a conquest.
The Bee Gees banked everything on glittering urbanity. Formerly specializing in plaintive ballads, they now allowed for the emotion’s most stylized expressions. The singer of “Tragedy,” the first real dance hit from the album ,“Search, Find” makes the picture sound pretty grim, still, this is one of the happiest songs you’ve heard in years as the lyrics are so emphatically contradicted specially by the music that they sound so upbeat. Give the Bee Gees the most unlikely subject and they’ll still manage to strike a pose, freeze it, and then describe it happily. On their “Children of the World” album, for instance, they concocted a refrain about riding the subway.
This kind of posturing has its disadvantages, though. Falsetto singing is an apt musical counterpart only to some patent sentiments.
As they were expressed in the lyrics, the group more often than not started relying on falsetto for lead as well as for backing vocals, and not only in up‐tempo songs but also in ballads; the slow and sober , “Reaching Out” was a ballad with a falsetto lead. This kind of delivery lended itself to the objection most often voiced by some of the group’s detractors, the Alvin and the Chipmunks complained that a man singing a song of woe at the top of his register, sounded, at best, a bit peculiar. But “Reaching Out,” like most Bee Gees songs, was lilting and clever enough to ingratiate itself no matter what, and their other falsettos with their curious rhythmic skip, were both hummable and likely to cause a few broken ankles on the dance floor!
At this point, the Bee Gees had their art down to a science, and their precision was so powerful that it took everything else along : the group had been creating ever more seamless music.
“Spirits Having Flown” was astonishingly precise, almost tailor‐made to match the format of their earlier successes. The automatic hits exactly paralleled those of “Saturday Night Fever”: fast dance numbers followed by the slower, dance numbers like “More Than A Woman” and the unforgettable “How Deep Is Your Love” .There was even a soft, concluding song, that sounds quite like Stevie Wonder, “Until”, to match the title of “Children of the World.”
The remaining songs which included songs that featured Herbie Mann on flute, and some arresting contributions from the Boneroo Horns was a little less formulaic and so perhaps a bit less successful. Much as the group might have wished to broaden what they did best, their more recent style lended itself to some dense, rigorous intensification, not necessarily to expansion. The trick was to stay with their formula and then to match or better their past feats without sounding repetitive and to a remarkable degree, the Bee Gees continued to pull that off without a hitch!
1. How Deep Is Your Love:. “How Deep Is Your Love?” is from the 1977 album Saturday Night Fever, and Charted: #3 in the UK and #1 in the US.
The Bee Gees wrote this song at the Château d’Hérouville in France , where Elton John had recorded three albums in the early ’70s. When they arrived to record the songs for Saturday Night Fever, they found that the studio worked fine, but the grounds were quite ill-kempt. This unusual and unexpected situation actually gave them focus because they now had little reason to leave the studio.
There was a beautiful room with a piano where their keyboard player, Blue Weaver, would play. One day, he played as Barry Gibb worked out “How Deep Is Your Love.” They went into a room at the Chateau where Chopin had stayed, so every time they looked at this piano they envisioned Chopin playing. Weaver sat down at the piano and thought of his ‘Prelude In E-flat,’ and he knew Barry could sing in E-flat. Through the stained-glass window came a beam of sunlight, and Barry sang, ‘I know your eyes in the morning sun…‘”
The American singer Yvonne Elliman was supposed to record this song for Saturday Night Fever, but Robert Stigwood, who produced the movie, insisted that Bee Gees perform it themselves for the soundtrack.
In Daniel Rachel’s, “Conversations with Great Songwriters”, Robin Gibb explained the unique sound he and Barry created by combining their voices: “If you listen to ‘How Deep is Your Love’ you think it’s a single voice but it’s me and Barry singing in unison, which produces a nice sound, as it does on ‘New York Mining Disaster.’ There’s a sound that we do, it’s almost like a single voice, but it isn’t, and it’s not double-tracked, it’s two voices together. It’s something that we’ve done a lot.”
This was a massive hit in the US. It was #1 for three weeks and stayed in the Top 10 for 17 weeks, which was a record at the time. The song was also a huge hit on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it spent six weeks at #1, more than any other Bee Gees song. When Billboard listed their top 100 Adult Contemporary song of all time in 2011, “How Deep Is Your Love” came in at #13.
This was the first of four new songs on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack to top the US Hot 100. It was released as a single before the film or the soundtrack were issued, and rose to the top spot a week after the film debuted.
This won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance By A Group.
In 1996 Take That covered this for their single release until their comeback in 2006; their version topped the UK chart. Gary Barlow (in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh) commented on their remake, “We wanted to prove that we could still do a cover version and do it very well.”
The radio stations have had the most requests for this song than any other and it’s not difficult to understand why.
It’s a beautiful ballad with a powerful melody that’s hard to beat.
Saturday Night Fever had its world premiere in New York City. At the time three songs featured in the movie were on Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart; “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees was at #2, “Stayin’ Alive”, again by the Bee Gees, was at #52, and Tavares’ version of the Bee Gees’ “More Than A Woman” was at #86. This is the one song (or one of the few) in which the Bee Gees use 4/4 time. Most of their songs are in 2/2 time, and much of it is disco.
The Gibbs’ falsetto in fact makes any music lover ask, “How high is your voice…?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqqjU7u5Yc
2. Too much Heaven
“Too Much Heaven” is from the 1979 Album: Spirits Having Flown, charted: #3 in the UK and #1 in the US. Spirits Having Flown was one of their best albums of all time, with a number of hits.
This soul song was written by all three brothers, The Bee Gees; Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. They wrote it in 1978, and it was their contribution to the “Music for UNICEF” fund. They performed it at the “Music for UNICEF” concert in January,1979. The song was supposed to be used in the 1978 film, “Moment by Moment”, which starred John Travolta. Barry didn’t care about the film and wanted to move into more of an R&B, soul direction. In 1978, the Bee Gees announced at the United Nations that the publishing royalties for this single would go towards UNICEF to celebrate the International Year of the Child (that is, 1979). The song earned more than $7 million in royalties and President Jimmy Carter invited The Bee Gees to the White House to thank them for their donation. They presented him with a black satin tour jacket and Carter remarked that while he was not a disco fan, his daughter Amy loved their music.
In 1978-1979, the song skyrocketed to #1 in the US., Canada, New Zealand Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. It went to #2 in France, Ireland, and The Netherlands; #3 in the U.K., #4 in Finland, #5 in Australia, and #10 in Germany. It certified Platinum in the US and Canada and Gold in the UK and France. “Too Much Heaven”, found its way onto their 1979 Album, Spirits Having Flown.
The brothers Gibb were even at that early stage , already among the world’s best-selling music artists of all time.
In the US, this song would become the fourth of six consecutive #1s for the Bee Gees, tying the record set by the Beatles at the time.
The ballad also featured the horn section from the US band Chicago.
In this song, the Bee Gees find a new way to express an abiding love. The group is often remembered for their uptempo hits like “Stayin’ Alive,” but soul songs like this one always conveyed the most.
The Bee Gees ruled 1978 with three #1 US hits, plus with three more that Barry Gibb wrote for other artists, Andy Gibb, Yvonne Elliman and Frankie Valli.
Remarkably, they had another three chart-toppers in 1979, starting with “Too Much Heaven.”
It was the lead single from their Spirits Having Flown album, followed by “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out.” By the end of the year, they pivoted to focus on writing songs for other artists, which worked out very well. One of their biggest songwriting hits was “Islands in the Stream,” a #1 for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton in 1983.
“Too Much Heaven,” ended up being the #1 hit in America that week and the centerpiece of the show, which aired as a primetime special on NBC the next evening. It was later included on the soundtrack album.
The horn section from the band Chicago played on this track, reciprocating for the Bee Gees singing on the 1978 Chicago song “Little Miss Lovin'” along with Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera.
The Bee Gees – Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb wrote this song on a very productive day when they also wrote “Tragedy” and “Shadow Dancing.” They had been working on a movie, but were on a break from filming.
If it’s a good one, you can never get too much chorus. This song opens with the chorus, which comes up again twice between verse lyrics, then closes out the song with three repetitions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJLW6xGtl3Q
“Tragedy” was once again from their 1979 Album: “Spirits Having Flown.” It charted #1 both in the UK as well as in the US, giving the Bee Gees their eight chart-topper in the US.
Disco was still going strong, but the sound had oversaturated the airwaves. But their next single, also went on to be #1.
In February 1979, this song entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart at position #29; and in March 1979 it peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) and spent 20 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 8 of those 20 weeks it was on the Top 10). It also reached #1 in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Italy.
It was track one of side one on the trio’s 15th studio album, ‘Spirits Having Flown’, and in April 1979 the album itself reached #1 (for 5 weeks), also peaked at #1 in the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Germany.
Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100 and both reached #1.
The Bee Gees captured some serious urgency on “Tragedy,” with a falsetto lead vocal by Barry Gibb that sounded like a siren racing to the scene of a commotion.
Tragedy was written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. They were expert composers as well who could capture an emotion and deliver it in a convincing manner.
From the opening seconds, the keyboards and the drums interlock, creating grooves within grooves. Layers of synth buzz and ripple. The drums are superfluous, but elemental; a metronomic thud. Then, within seconds, the guitars come in like missiles. The strings are almost a parody of Motown strings, or ABBA strings; a finger-snapping heartbeat that just gets a second to twinkle before the level of emotion rises again. When Barry Gibb’s voice first arrives, he’s sounding a falsetto that is powerfully familiar with his singing style but Barry almost never made his falsetto quite as intense as he did on this song.
Cranking that falsetto up as high as it would go, Barry sang about romantic desolation in apocalyptic terms.
When his brothers joined him in high-pitched harmony, they sounded similar. It’s a fast- paced disco song, with precious little R&B. It sounded like the Bee Gees were doing their best to invent the ’80s synth-metal. In its tone and aesthetic, “Tragedy” is closer to Europe’s “The Final Countdown” song. The Bee Gees wrote this song while on a break from filming. They wrote “Too Much Heaven” as well as Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” on the very same, amazingly productive day.
The sound relies on a bleeping synthesizer pulse but there’s more to it. The Bee Gees, co-producing with their regular collaborators Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, add in the guitars and horns and strings, all of them sounding glorious.
Towards the end of the song, there’s a moment where Barry Gibb lets out a post-chorus sound and something explodes. We hear it more as a dense crunch and it turns out, it is Barry Gibb himself. For this sound, Barry cupped his hands around the microphone and made a noise with his mouth while keyboardist Blue Weaver played random bottom-end piano notes. They took a bunch of those sounds and ran them through a “product generator.” So it is Barry Gibb human beatboxing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSVTOMkJdqs
In a way, it’s a historical injustice, maybe even a tragedy that the public lost its taste for disco just as disco was getting really interesting. The Bee Gees weren’t at the end of their imperial phase when “Tragedy” hit #1, but they were getting there. Disco was nearing the end of its boom period. But “Tragedy” still foreshadowed a lot of things; like the way synths and disco beats pushed their way into urgent and insistent rock music and movie-soundtrack pop in the ’80s, or the way the superstars would use all the tools at their disposal to produce sounds. “Tragedy” is a futuristic song; maybe that’s why it sounds so different with some peak-level air-raid-siren falsetto coming from the Brothers Gibb, with an eternal jam.
They were singing and playing the melody of ‘Tragedy’ before all three decided they needed the sound effect of an ‘explosion’.
Stuck for a convincing thunderclap sound, Barry Gibb cupped his hands over a microphone and made an exploding noise with his mouth. Several of these sounds were then mixed together, creating the large boom heard on this song.
The explosion sound made it onto the final recording and it’s become a little known secret that it was actually Barry who made the original sound effect, cupping his hands over the microphone and making an explosion sound effect with his mouth, Barry actually giggled as he attempted to do it at exactly the right time in the song, before getting it right on his last go.
The original footage was filmed by NBC and aired as The Bee Gees Special, a 90-minute behind-the-scenes TV show broadcast on November 21, 1979.
During that NBC special Barry indicated that while recording the song he imitated the sound of explosion he would’ve liked to hear. The others thought the sound he made was very good and so they played around with that sound and added an echo to it but there was no synthesizer used.
While it wasn’t in Saturday Night Fever, it was later added to the song list for the stage musical adaptation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSVTOMkJdqs
4. To Love Somebody.
“To Love Somebody” is a very early song by Bee Gees from the 1967 Album: “The Bee Gees’ 1st”. When released, it didn’t quite have such a chart busting entry: it made it to #41 in the UK and # 17 in the US.
In July 1967, “To Love Somebody” entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart at position #79; and in August 1967, it peaked at #17 and spent 9 weeks on the Top 100.
Billboard described the single as a “smooth, easy beat ballad” that “should put them right back up there at the top of the Hot 100.”
It reached #6 in Australia and #9 in Canada.
It was track three of side two on the trio’s third studio album, “The Bee Gees’ 1st”, and the album peaked at #7 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart.
Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100.
This was the Bee Gees’ second ever single, released in 1967.
When asked, in a 2017 interview with Piers Morgan’s Life Stories,
“Of all the songs that you’ve ever written, which song would you choose?” Barry Gibb said that this was the song that he’d choose as it has “a clear, emotional message.”
This moving ballad was released on the first Bee Gees album. Years later, they became one of the most popular disco acts, but in the ’60s they were known for their slow tempo songs like this one and “Words.”
The live version of this song that appears in the album, “Here At Last”, sounds better than the studio recording and played at a slower tempo makes it sound even more soulful.
Legend has it that this song was written for Otis Redding, who died before he had the chance to record it. It was written in New York, recorded at IBC Studios, London with in April 1967 and released as a single in mid-June and played to Otis who died in December, 1967.
“To Love Somebody” came from the title of the song, “Somebody To Love”, by Jefferson Airplane, Because its title was very similar to Jefferson’s. It was one of Bee Gees’ ways they tried at that time to be familiar with the US audience as they were not native to US. And that’s exactly where those ideas of their big hit songs in 60’s came from. So they’d been trying to write songs with similar titles which the people living in the US were already familiar with.
In 2019, Facebook used this in a commercial promoting their Groups. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQCT1f8IHK0
“Words”, by Bee Gees was a 1967, non-album single which was later a part of the compilation album of 1969, “Best Of Bee Gees”.
The song featured vocals from only Barry Alan Crompton Gibb and became his solo spot in concert for the remainder of the Bee Gees’ career. I love this the most amongst all his solo songs.
“Words” song was written by the three Gibbs’ brothers and was about someone who observes of the time they’re living in, “this world has lost its glory.” They meet someone who returns their smile but to build on the smile, the suitor relies on his words to capture the heart of the one he has feelings for. The song lyrics suggest that it seems the one they adore doesn’t think they “mean a single word they say.” But he protests that “words are all I have to take your heart away.”
“Words” reflects a restrained sensibility. The suitor in this song isn’t considering anything besides the words he could use to woo his romantic interest. The song is about using words to “dedicate” one’s life to someone else. The nobility of the intention in “Words” is expressed in the instrumental score that accompanies the lyrics.
It was at #15 in the Billboard Hot 100 and has been covered by Georgie Fame, Sandie Shaw, Glen Campbell, Cilla Black, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Lynn Anderson, Rita Coolidge, Roy Orbison, Barbara Mandrell, Shawn Colvin and others.
To popularise the release of all their singles including this song, “Words” the Bee Gees toured from March 1967, to November 1968. They performed 81 concert dates across ten nations in Europe, and three concert dates in the USA .
The song charted: #8 in the UK and #15 in the US.
The Bee Gees became icons of the disco era, but before they started singing dance songs in their high falsetto voices, most of their songs were mellow ballads with lush arrangements like this song.
“Words”, is a beautiful ballad with a semi-soft, somewhat-rock sound obtained by the use of the near classic piano with a series of incredible compressed piano sounds, soaring strings, a pop percussion and a brilliant vocal lead.
The song reached #1 in Germany, Canada, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Released in 1968, years before they found their disco sound, this was one of their first hits.
“Words” reflects a beautiful, pre-disco Bee Gees song about the inability to express the sentiment to a significant other through words.
This song is very representative of their work; not too heavy in instrumentation, usually written on guitar with Barry singing lead and the brothers harmonizing. They were great harmonizers and had a very unique sound.
AIn 1996 a cover version by the Irish band Boyzone topped the UK chart. Maurice Gibb declared it the best ever cover of a Bee Gees song.
This song was originally written for Cliff Richard, but he never got around to recording it because he wasn’t making an album at the time so the Bee Gees decided to record it themselves.
Elvis Presley performed the song live as part of his concerts in the late ’60s and the early ’70s.
In January 1968, the Bee Gees appeared in their first US concert when they performed at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.
They performed a twelve song set, with “Words” being the final song, and after the concert they collected $50,000 for their performance, before they headed back to England.
In March 1968, the Bee Gees appeared for the first time on American television and performed “Words” on the CBS-TV program, “The Ed Sullivan Show”..
In October 1996, the group Boyzone took their covered version to #1 on the United Kingdom’s Singles chart.
Tom Jones also did a version of this song, as did Roy Orbison. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tccpGP80oik
“Massachusetts”, is from the 1967, Album, “Horizontal” which
repeated the success of their first album had this single, Massachusetts. Horizontal had a more rock sound than their previous releases and made the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at #12 in the US and #16 in the UK.
In this poignant song, the singer feels himself drawn back to Massachusetts, a state in the northeastern US to someone who he had left standing on her own.
The Bee Gees had never actually been to Massachusetts when they recorded this; but they just liked the sound of the name. Robin Gibb explained in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: “We have never been there but we loved the word and there is always something magic about American place names. It only works with British names if you do it as a folk song. Roger Whittaker did that with ‘Durham Town'”.
This was the first Bee Gees single on which the quavery Robin Gibb sang lead and provided the clear vibrato.
Sometimes appearing with the title ,”The Lights Went Out In Massachusetts,” The Bee Gees wrote and had their first UK #1 with this song in 1967, but it wasn’t until some years later, during a chance meeting in London between the Seekers lead singer Judith Durham and Maurice Gibb, that Judith learned the amazing fact that “Massachusetts” was originally intended to fulfill the Bee Gees’ dream of writing a hit for The Seekers.
Upon arriving in London from Australia following in the path of the Seekers, who had arrived several years earlier, the Bee Gees had been unsuccessful in getting the song to the group, so they recorded it themselves. After reuniting and touring Australia again in 2003, the Seekers were moved to perform the song as a tribute to Maurice. So popular was the song there that the group decided to finally record it and it was included on their Ultimate Collection CD released that same year. It fits perfectly with what the Seekers themselves selected as their best classic songs of the mid ’60s, having been recorded almost 40 years later.
For the Bee Gees, music always came before the lyrics, except for the title. They always believed that there’s no such thing as a title you can’t write a song to, like ‘Massachusetts’. They wrote that in a boat in New York harbour as a challenge. When you look back, it’s quite a good exercise if you are songwriters to challenge yourselves to do something as they’d never been to Massachusetts. It’s an unusual title.
“Massachusetts” went to #1 in the UK in 1967 and stayed on top for four weeks. For Robin Gibb, memories of this time were bittersweet; on November 5, with the song still at #1, he was riding a train when it crashed in Lewisham near Hither Green Depot, killing 49 people in one of Britain’s worst rail disasters. Luckily he didn’t get injured, and was sitting at the side of the carriage, watching the rain pour down, fireworks go off and blue lights of the ambulances whirring. It was like something out of a Spielberg film.
This was a bittersweet victory as the moment it went to #1 it was Bonfire Night! He thought to himself, at least there was one consolation, they had their first UK #1.
This wasn’t the first time the Bee Gees had a hit with an American place name in the title. Earlier in 1967, they scored with “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and in 1975 they went back to “The Big Apple, Broadway”.
The first idea of the lyrics of the song came from the one from “Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair” sung by Scott McKenzie in 1967 because Mckenzie’s song became a big hit and extremely popular.
It was the trio’s only record to peak at #11; they did have fifteen records make the Top 10 with eight of them reaching #1.
This was supposedly conceived as an anecdote to going to San Francisco and wearing flowers in one’s hair Written by Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb. Robin Gibb sang lead on this song and it would become one of his staple songs to perform during the concerts. It was their first #1 hit in Australia and the UK and eventually became one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling over 5 million copies worldwide.
The song was written in New York City during a tour of the United States and was intended as an antithesis to flower power anthems of the time such as Let’s Go to San Francisco and San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) in that the protagonist had been to San Francisco to join the hippies but was now feeling homesick. The idea of the lights having gone out in Massachusetts was to suggest that everyone had gone to San Francisco.
Bill Shepherd’s orchestral score is perhaps the arranger’s finest. When it was released in England, the title was “The Lights Went Out in Massachusetts” but was changed later, Atco Records delayed it to release “Holiday”.
The song has a minor claim to fame in the history of British radio. While many people know “Flowers in the Rain” by The Move was the first record played on BBC Radio 1, “Massachusetts” was the second.This single is the first #1 hit single by a non-Japanese artist on Japan’s official hit chart, Oricon.
If the Bee Gees were supposedly a new Beatles, they also had harmonies that would have done the Beach Boys proud. They proved as much with “Massachusetts,” a single whose glamorous-sounding location appealed to European fans, most of whom still only knew American states from their namechecks in popular culture. In those heady first few months, the song topped the UK chart for a month in October and early November 1967.
It’s a nice piece of Sixties folk rock. Actually, at the time, the brothers Gibb had not been to Massachusetts and the song came about while they were in New York City, as they were touring in the United States. It was their first #1 hit in Australia and the UK. The song went on to become an international hit, reaching #1 in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, and New Zealand. It was #2 in Canada, Denmark, Ireland, and Switzerland. And it rose to #11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The record sold more than five million copies and is one of the best-selling singles of all time.
On the track were Robin Gibb (lead vocals), Barry Gibb (guitar, backing vocals), Maurice Gibb (bass, piano, Mellotron, backing vocals), Vince Melouney (guitar), and Colin Peterson (drums).
And yes, the Bee Gees did eventually travel to Massachusetts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7_gMwufFVo
7. Love you inside and out. “Love You Inside and Out” is also from the 1979 Album: “Spirits Having Flown”. The single held the #1 spot for one week in the US and Canada and was Certified gold in Canada in 1979.
It charted at #13 in the UK and #1 in the US.
When the Bee Gees created songs for the Saturday Night Fever movie in 1977, many of them were about dancing, but most of their hits before and after that had to do with matters of the heart. In this song, the tone is one of pleading to a lover, letting her know that they fell in love hard, backwards and forwards with their hearts hanging out.
It was a milestone single for the Bee Gees, earning them a permanent place in rock history when it reached #1 on the US Billboard charts.
This fnely arranged and performed love song is a, mellow, mid-tempo jog, which is typically well-produced.
This song came at the end of a phenomenal run of hits for the Bee Gees. It went to #1 in US in 1979 as disco was facing a backlash. Bee Gees songs had inundated the airwaves over the previous year; not just their own, but songs they wrote for others, like “Shadow Dancing” for their brother, Andy Gibb. This was the nexus where disco sounds turned against them so they had to reinvent themselves to get more air waves.
There were so many chart milestones for this song; It was the Bee Gees’ sixth consecutive American #1, which at the time equalled The Beatles record. It was also the ninth American chart topper for the group, at the time tying them with Paul McCartney for fourth place on the list of artists with the most #1s. The Top 3 at the time were: The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Diana Ross & The Supremes.
It was the third consecutive #1 pulled from the “Spirits Having Flown” album. As their previous album, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, also had three consecutive #1 singles, the Bee Gees became the first act to pull three consecutive #1 singles from each of two successive albums. Amazing!!
It was also their fifth single to sell over 2 million copies.
So it was the trio’s sixth consecutive #1 record.
This is one of the most intensely emotional songs ever recorded.This song grooves, has a good tempo, great melody, excellent harmony to make it a very catchy hit tune.
The falsetto is at its strongest on this song, and after the Disco (Nuke) Bomb went off and almost destroyed their careers, they gave it a good fight and made a comeback. A year and a half, and the Bee Gees had hit #1 with six consecutive singles, something only the Beatles had done previously, and that’s not even counting the hits that the Gibb brothers were writing and producing for other artists. “Spirits Having Flown”, the album that they released in the immediate aftermath of the Saturday Night Fever bonanza, turned out to be a blockbuster as well. The LP’s three singles, which were also the first three songs on the album, all made it to the top. The Bee Gees had been around before and after disco, and they’d proven themselves capable of putting together non-disco hits with equal aplomb.
The song sounds like the Bee Gees just cruising, ragtop down, hair blowing in the wind, sun glinting off of unnaturally white teeth. Lyrically, it is serious as Barry Gibb asks for empathy in surprisingly poetic ways but Barry and his brothers don’t deliver this like it’s a request. Instead, they sound playful, with their falsettos gently pushing the beat around. On the chorus, they stay just off the beat, and those pauses are essential to the song’s fundamental catchiness. The tune is so happy that there’s a disconnect between those words and the way the song turns out. The Bee Gees are just breezing through the lyrics which happens to be the song’s greatest strength and all the usual Bee Gees elements are in place: The guitar scratches, the expensive-sounding synths, with the locked-in rhythm section. But this time, it all comes out slow and unforced. The Bee Gees certainly could do urgent, histrionic drama; they’d done it to great effect in “Stayin’ Alive” and “Tragedy.” But “Love You Inside Out” acts like more like a peaceful breather, as if they’re giving everyone a quick rest in between the operatic throws. After playing basically no live shows during 1978, their true peak year, the Bee Gees spent a good chunk of 1979 performing all across America. This song did great to counter some of those mid-show energy lulls, making one wonder whether they wrote the song just so that they’d be able to pace their shows out better!
Considering how overwhelmingly huge the Bee Gees had been, they kept touring and recording in the years that followed giving hits after hits and during their chart reign, the Gibb brothers also found great success writing and producing songs for other artists. They remained incredibly hugely successful in even that role. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-E2tcRlgsU
“Alone”, is a ballad, written by the three brothers who actually co- wrote most of their hits and they said that they felt like they became ‘one person’ when they were writing. The song is the opening track on their 21st studio album, “Still Waters” and was the first single released from the album in February 1997. In the United Kingdom, the song was backed with two B-sides, while in the United States, a live version of “Stayin’ Alive” was included on the single releases. They were the best rated band in the world in 1978 and no matter the style, the Bee Gees sang tight three-part harmonies that were instantly recognisable; as brothers, their voices blended perfectly and so many songs have two of them singing in unison.
The track was a worldwide hit, making it to the top of the charts in virtually every country where it was released.
Alone is a ballad of melancholy, chronicling loneliness complete with bagpipes which was one of the first songs they wrote for the album. They didn’t actually plan to write a ballad or an R&B song and because of the harmony and that particular chorus, it sounded a bit dated as well and they liked the idea of being that sort of Beatlesque type of a song. They wanted that rambling, that sort of Byrds type, the 12-string thing going, but they just did it with the bagpipes instead and made it all connect.
Barry and Robin Gibb alternate on the lead vocals on the track, with both mostly using the group’s trademark falsetto. An amazing melody! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik3689uczrI
9. Islands in the stream.
“Islands in the Stream”, is a song written by the Bee Gees and most famously recorded by American country music artists Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. It was released in August 1983 as the first single from Rogers’ album, “Eyes That See in the Dark”. Named after the Ernest Hemingway novel, it was originally written for Marvin Gaye in an R&B style, only later to be changed for the Kenny Rogers album to suit his country music. The Bee Gees performed their live version of the song in 1997 and later released a studio version in 2001.
The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, giving both Rogers and Parton their second pop number-one hit (after Rogers’ “Lady” in 1980 and Parton’s “9 to 5” in 1981). It also topped the Country and Adult Contemporary charts. It has been double certified Platinum and Gold singles by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipping two million physical copies in the US. It has also sold 569,000 digital copies in the US by 2013. In Australia, the song was #1 in1983 and became one of the highest selling singles of 1984. In 2005, the song topped CMT’s poll of the best country duets of all time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI5EQUz1gCg
The song is sung with Rogers and Parton alternating the lead vocals.
The Bee Gees performed their version live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on 14 November 1997, which was released a year later, with solo vocal by Barry Gibb. A studio version was recorded for their 2001 retrospective Their Greatest Hits: The Record. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jTzTydms7Y
For the entire span of its existence, country music has existed as its own parallel popular-music economy. But country has never been a sealed-off world, though it sometimes pretends to be one. Country has always worked in conversation with mainstream American pop music; sometimes actively working against it, sometimes seeking points of intersection. After the early ’80s, those points of intersection would become a whole lot harder to find.
When MTV came along, it changed the landscape, and country almost shrugged and gave up. By and large, the country-music industry never really attempted to reconcile with blockbuster pop or synthy new wave. Through most of the ’80s, country more or less retreated into itself. But before that, two of country’s great crossover artists came together and managed one last dominant hit.
Before “Islands In The Stream,” Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton had each managed one crossover chart-topper apiece. Both of those singles had been supremely canny moves. Kenny Rogers, who’d made folk and psych-rock before finding his true calling in country, teamed up with a surging Lionel Richie to make 1980’s “Lady,” a fine piece of soft-soul that rendered genre distinctions superfluous. A few months later, Dolly Parton got there with “9 To 5,” an even better jam that adapted some of the pulse of disco and came attached to a hit movie.
Most of this song goes on mutating language into shapes and the words sound good. The Bee Gees were able to write by understanding how the sounds of certain words could become more important than their on-paper meanings and they also made them work through the power of their harmonies.The arrangement is good though there’s nothing definitively country about it. The beat is a solid midtempo lope, the horn-bursts are straight-up Southern soul, and there’s a whole lot of Fender Rhodes gloop all over the track. With the central riff sound, it’s really a well rendered soft-rock that never fades into background music. And it needs two big voices, and it has them.
Who would ever have taken a leap in imagination to think that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton could ever sing Bee Gees harmonies, but that’s exactly what they do here. Parton’s upper register, in particular, sounds a bit like Barry Gibb when he’s in falsetto-belter mode. Her parts on the song are the highlights; she’s enough of an instinctive performer herself with supreme craftsmanship to convey the right feelings behind these words. Rogers with his unique charisma and energy is more of an anchor on his own song, but he and Parton together make sense to sing what is easily the Country’s catchiest duet and for this they rely on each other.
Bee Gees never wrote another #1 hit after “Islands In The Stream,” and Rogers and Parton never sang one, either. Rogers and Parton kept working together after Islands In The Stream; a big tour, a lot of duets, a whole Christmas album with some pretty great cover art.
“Islands In The Stream” happened because Kenny Rogers was paying attention. He’d had his biggest-ever hit when he joined forces with Lionel Richie, someone who existed outside of country music but who made sense within it. By that same token, the Bee Gees had scored themselves a minor country hit in 1979, when country stations played the B-side of their #1 single “Too Much Heaven.”
Barry Gibb co-produced Rogers’ 1983 album “Eyes That See In The Dark”, with regular Bee Gees collaborators Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, and the Gibb brothers wrote or co-wrote every song on the LP. The Bee Gees had been making vaguely soulful soft rock years before they got into disco, and Rogers’ take on Country was perfectly indistinguishable from soulful soft rock.
The three Bee Gees wrote, “Islands In The Stream” together, naming it after a published Ernest Hemingway novel. They originally intended it to be an R&B song and at various points, Barry Gibb has said that he had both Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross in mind.
Initially, “Islands In The Stream” was going to be a solo track for Kenny Rogers, but Rogers didn’t like the way it was turning out. After four days of trying to nail the lead vocal, Rogers told Barry Gibb that he was starting to be bored of the song. Gibb responded that the song needed Dolly Parton. At that point, Rogers and Parton had only ever sung together on a 1976 episode of Parton’s variety show. But Parton happened to be recording in the same studio that day. Rogers’ manager ran out to Parton, and she immediately decided on her part of the song. History was, well and truly, made!
Parton was an inspired choice but neither of them were showy singers, but there was a sort of conversation in the way their vocals matched up in perfect harmony and their voices had the same give-and-take ease.
It’s amazing that the Bee Gees came strutting into country music, a genre that’s generally built around storytelling, but the unusual words were relatable to the audience as it conveyed stability (island) in the stream of life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI5EQUz1gCg
“Immortality” is a pop song recorded by Canadian singer Celine Dion for her fifth English-language studio album, “Let’s Talk About Love” in 1997. It was written by the Bee Gees, who also recorded the backing vocals. Produced by Walter Afanasieff, “Immortality” was released as a single in June 1998, outside the United States. It became a top ten single in Europe and a top forty single in Canada and Australia. Later, “Immortality” was included on the international editions of Dion’s greatest hits albums, “All the Way… A Decade of Song” in 1999, “Essential Collection” in 2008 and “The Best So Far… 2018 Tour Edition”
Immortality” was a Top 5 hit in the UK. Its parent album, “Let’s Talk About Love”, peaked at the top of the Billboard 200.
Celine Dion and the Bee Gees made very different music, however, that didn’t stop the Bee Gees from writing one of Dion’s hits. In fact, they wrote it with her in mind in just a few minutes. Amazing creativity and a flair to cross boundaries and genre that they always have shown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdYaGt_sm3Q
She doesn’t deploy language with anything resembling conversational ease. Instead, to Céline, words whether in French or in English are simply vehicles for the soulful emotion that she easily get across. That’s exactly what she does in this soulful ballad as well as time and again. She starts out quiet, gaining more octaves with each stanza and by the time she hits the final drawn-out glory note, she’s a whole galactic supernova!
The song is about the all-consuming need for someone who might fill up an implacable void within one’s soul. It’s about submitting to the majesty of feelings, about letting sheer emotion envelop into a state of being beyond space and time. It’s about being in love with love itself and for Céline Dion, this was a her comfort zone.
John Marchant, the music engineer for the Bee Gees began working with them in the 1980s and after a long writing session, nothing seemed to be working so Barry suggested they regroup the next morning but he had one more idea he’d like to try first. Barry began to play the beginning of what was to become a new song. Maurice listened, and played the first chord, and then three and a half minutes later, they wrote the song in real time, in just one pass. It was unbelievable. Barry would change chords, and Maurice would be there immediately, like he knew where Barry was going. They worked at it in a way, both timing-wise and intonation-wise, that only someone who knows what the other person is thinking before they think it, could do. The Bee Gees actually sang background on the track and appeared in a later 1998 music video.
The song as a power ballad and Dion and Bee Gee’s voices together on the song works well to not only celebrate love but to celebrate its ability to inspire eternal devotion.
Celine has all the epic flare and charm of a Celine ballad and with added Bee-Gee high notes in the background.
“Immortality” was commercially successful all across Europe.
In November 1997, Dion performed “Immortality” with the Bee Gees at the MGM Grand Las Vegas. In the first week of June 1998, Dion and the Bee Gees taped the performances of “Immortality” on three television shows: Top of the Pops in the United Kingdom, Hit Machine in France and Geld oder Liebe in Germany, for a later broadcast.
Dion also performed the song during the World Tour in 1998 and 1999, and in her residency show, Celine, between 2015 and 2017.
Alone among the contemporary divas, Céline always seemed to feel things with every iota of her soul. On every single song, Céline sounded like she was displaying the sheer force of her emotion with a great vulnerability which made her place all over the charts. She found ways to convey emotion that went far beyond any language she sang in. Her cathartic emotion- filled ballads spoke to the universe for a Céline Dion song could make people around the world feel things and that strange universality is all over any Céline Dion song. Listen to the Bee Gees only version, I must say they do a great job by themselves even without the amazing Celine Dion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq3FoHg9qa8
11. If I can’t have you….
“If I Can’t Have You”, is a disco song written by the Bee Gees that initially appeared on the “Saturday Night Fever” in a version by Yvonne Elliman. The Bee Gees’ own version appeared a month later as the B-side of “Stayin’ Alive”.
The song later appeared on the Bee Gees’ compilation, “Their Greatest Hits: The Record”.
It reached #1 in May, 1978. If one was listening to the radio in the first half of 1978, one was hearing a whole lot of Barry Gibb. In one 15-week run, four songs that Barry Gibb wrote or co-wrote went to #1 on the Hot 100. All of those #1 hits arrived in a row. With that streak, Gibb broke a record set by the team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who’d had three consecutive #1 hits in 1964. To this date, no other songwriter has ever had that many consecutive #1s. And one is not sure if it would even be possible. It was Barry’s fourth consecutive smash hit, a song that the Bee Gees wrote for themselves and ultimately gave to the former Broadway star Yvonne Elliman. This was the fourth and final #1 from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the first album ever to launch that many chart-toppers.
Yvonne Elliman , the daughter of a Japanese-American mother and an Irish-American father, grew up in Honolulu. She sang in a folk group in high school, and at the urging of a teacher, she moved to London as a teenager to try to find work as a singer. Once Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice heard her sing and offered her the role of Mary Magdalene for their 1970 opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. Jesus Christ Superstar had a strange evolution. Rice and Webber wanted to stage a musical about the gospel, but they first recorded it as a concept album. Elliman wasn’t the only member of the cast who’d eventually have pop success. Ian Gillan sang the role of Jesus shortly after he’d become the frontman of Deep Purple. Jesus Christ Superstar album was a massive hit. In the US, it was the best-selling album of 1971, topping even Carole King’s Tapestry and the Carpenters’ Close To You. Because the album did so well, Webber and Rice got to turn it into a Broadway show, and it turned out to be hugely successful there, as well. Elliman stayed with the role, playing Mary Magdalene on Broadway and then again in the 1973 movie version of the musical, which got her a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actress. Robert Stigwood produced both the stage and film versions of Jesus Christ Superstar. She was also recording her own music at the time. Elliman considered herself a ballad singer, and she didn’t care much about disco. The Bee Gees originally wanted to give her “How Deep Is Your Love,” a ballad they’d written for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack but Robert Stigwood insisted that they sing that song themselves. So the Bee Gees gave her this song which was definitely not a ballad.
As written by all the three Bee Gees, it’s a song where Elliman’s narrator pines for one particular person. Elliman recorded her version of the song with Freddie Perren, a person who knew how to produce a disco record. This is the Elliman version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZVUzho-nok
And it’s fully disco, full of synth-strings and horns and a strutting bassline and a chorus that repeats itself again and again and again. Elliman has a sturdy and capable voice, but she doesn’t quite convey the heart-wrecked intensity of the song the way the Bee Gees would’ve done. We know this because the Bee Gees also recorded their own version and released it as the B-side of their “Stayin’ Alive”, and “If I Can’t Have You” is one of the best songs of that miraculous Bee Gees run. Elliman doesn’t quite perform the way Barry Gibb does, which is surprising but then, Gibb is a completely singular vocalist. On all the other big Bee Gees-written hits of that moment, Barry Gibb comes through on the backing vocals and ends up taking the song to another level.
The song remains Yvonne Elliman’s only top-10 hit. It was the fourth single off the Saturday Night Fever album and Billboard Magazine praised Elliman’s “powerful” vocal performance. It was more of a pop music with a danceable beat and Elliman’s vocal was unique enough to not create confusion with any Bee Gees recording.
It would become the fourth #1 hit from the album, reaching the #1 spot on the US Hot 100 in Billboard in 1978. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxvYsxf7f5s
12. Stayin’ Alive
“Stayin’ Alive” is of course from their stratospherically successful album “Saturday Night Fever”.
As for the message of this song, Robin Gibb was quoted as saying, “Stayin’ Alive’ is about survival in the big city, any big city, but basically New York”.
The song plays over the opening credits of the 1977 movie, “Saturday Night Fever” while John Travolta struts through the streets of New York City. The movie has come to represent the disco era, and has made “Stayin’ Alive” one of the songs most associated with disco. The Bee Gees had been singing in a high-falsetto style since their 1975 hit, “Jive Talkin’,” which was also on the soundtrack, but they were popular as a vocal harmony group in the late ’60s and the early ’70s. Their contributions to Saturday Night Fever brought them huge success, but tagged them as disco singers.
In a 1989 interview they talked about this stigma and why they didn’t deserve it. “We were not disco,” Robin Gibb said. “People who emulated us were disco. All you heard on the radio was that dooo! dooo! syn-drum sound. We never had a syn-drum on one of our records!”
This was one of five songs the Bee Gees wrote specifically for Saturday Night Fever. Like the film, the song is about much more than dancing and having a good time. It deals with struggle and aspiration and finding ones way in this world. Amazing song that will make you get up every single time and shake a leg or two. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlgoUlOkyzU
The Bee Gees often pointed out that dancing is never specifically mentioned in “Stayin’ Alive,”. Robin Gibb said the lyrics “very obviously state the scenario of survival,” and Barry said it was influenced by New York City. “The energy level at that point in the late ’70s was really that – it was survival,” he said. (both quotes from the documentary, The Bee Gees). John Travolta’s role in the movie is of a man working a dead-end job who feels alienated by his parents. Dancing is his form of expression, and weekends are his time to rewind.
Robert Stigwood, who produced Saturday Night Fever, is the one who asked The Bee Gees to write music for a song called “Saturday Night,” but the Bee Gees wanted nothing to do with that title, since many other songs, including a very popular one by the Bay City Rollers, had that name. Stigwood objected when he’d heard the song was called “Stayin’ Alive,” but the Bee Gees actually told him that if he didn’t like it, they would just use the song on their own album.
This was the second of four US #1 hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, following “How Deep Is Your Love,” which was released ahead of the film, which hit theaters in 1977. “Stayin’ Alive” was released one day before the movie, but many theatergoers had already heard the song in trailers for the film. It quickly climbed the charts, reaching the top spot in February, 1978 and staying there for four weeks.
The soundtrack was a success, winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and becoming the best-selling album ever, until it was replaced by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It remained the best-selling soundtrack of all time until it was surpassed by the soundtrack to The Bodyguard.
The Bee Gees recorded this in a French studio called the Chateau D’Herouville, where Elton John recorded his Caribou album in 1974. The group quickly learned that the grounds had fallen into disrepair, but they made the most of it, spending almost all their time in the studio in very prolific sessions.
In 1983, The Bee Gees recorded songs for a sequel to Saturday Night Fever that was called Staying Alive. It was actually directed by Sylvester Stallone, and did very well at the box office, grossing about $64 million on a budget of only $8 million. The film came years after disco wave had faded.
They were referring to the deleterious effect the song had on their career and image.
When they recorded “Stayin’ Alive,” The Bee Gees were more than just the Gibb brothers: guitarist Alan Kendall, keyboard player Blue Weaver, and drummer Dennis Bryon were its key members. When Byron, got called away when his mother fell ill, leaving them without a drummer their producer/engineers, Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, kept work going by looping a bar of Bryon’s drumming on “Night Fever” and using that as the drum track. They built the song from there, adding the bass, and then the guitar.
This won a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices.
Over the years, “Stayin’ Alive” has earned more critical acclaim. The song was ranked #189 on the list of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and it was also on the list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Stayin’ Alive” is also the song played during John Travolta’s famous dancing scene in Saturday Night Fever.
The song has also been included on the soundtracks of over 20 other films.
It’s one of the most iconic movie songs, and the track that cemented the Bee Gees as the ultimate disco kings.
The Bee Gees preferred to record the majority of the soundtrack in France for tax reasons, like many artists at the time.
RSO Records wanted the song to share the title of the film (at the time) ‘Saturday Night’ but the Bee Gees refused to change the title, plus, the album already had a song called ‘Night Fever’.
Instead, Stigwood expanded the name of the film to include the title of ‘Night Fever’.
Several words from Robin Gibb’s Concorde ticket actually inspired the lyrics for ‘Stayin’ Alive’.
Robin said: “The subject matter of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ is actually quite a serious one; It’s about survival in the city of New York“.
That album was certified 6x Platinum for selling at least 16 million units. The song “Stayin’ Alive” was featured in the opening scene and credits where we see Travolta dance-walking through the Brooklyn streets, swinging cans of paint. Can one guess how hard is it to look cool while carrying a can of paint? A can of paint is quite heavy and ungainly. It knocks into knees if one doesn’t hold it right and the handle also digs into the fingers. One has to contend with the abstract worry that the thing is going to explode all over one’s clothes! But in the opening-credits scene of Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta’s Tony Manero makes a can of paint look like the coolest accessory anyone could possibly possess! In that opening scene, we see Travolta’s feet before we see the rest of him where he’s wearing impeccably shiny red leather platform joints, which can’t be all that practical for his hardware-store job. Travolta’s red shirt collar is splayed over his jacket. His hair is perfect, while he struts down a Bay Ridge sidewalk, taller than everyone else around him, in no particular hurry. He eats two slices of pizza stacked-up, one-handed, not even remotely stressed about dripping grease or tomato sauce on his clothes. He pops into a store to put a shirt on layaway. That opening scene of Saturday Night Fever establishes Tony Manero as some kind of a white-ethnic masculine ideal , a prince of Brooklyn. The next two hours of the movie work overtime to break down that image, and to burn it to cinders. And yet the Travolta that everyone remembers isn’t the pathetic go-nowhere kid, or the inarticulate slob who can’t recognize celebrities’ names. It’s the Travolta of that opening sequence. That image didn’t just hang over the rest of the movie. It continued to hang over Travolta’s entire decades-long career. Thanks to the pulsing soundtrack, it hangs over the entire career of the Bee Gees, too. It hangs over the entire history of music too and leaves its indelible cultural hallmark. None of that happens if that opening scene is set to any song other than “Stayin’ Alive”. The song wasn’t supposed to be a single. Months before Saturday Night Fever hit the theaters, the Bee Gees had already released the gleaming ballad, “How Deep Is Your Love” as a single, and it had already been a hit. But when the Saturday Night Fever trailer came out ,before people even got to see the movie, the world heard “Stayin’ Alive.” People called radio stations and asked for it. As a result, RSO, the Bee Gees’ label, put out “Stayin’ Alive” as a single just before Saturday Night Fever made it to the theaters.
“Stayin’ Alive”, both the song and the title, transforms Saturday Night Fever simply by existing. It helps establish the stakes of the story, the reason that might be underneath that Travolta strut. It’s a strong title. In 1983, when Sylvester Stallone directed the long-awaited Saturday Night Fever sequel, that movie was called Staying Alive. The Bee Gees wanted to write a song about New York survival, we can try to understand the New York times’ effect on a person and, no he’s definitely not talking about the newspaper.
“Staying Alive” is a song about having no choice but to try and stay alive, where it really is a victory just to survive.
The song sounds so upbeat, but the message is deep. This song is one of the most iconic ones of all time to define a music genre.
The track was recorded at Criteria Studios, with Maurice Gibb playing a bass line similar to the guitar riff, Barry Gibb and Alan Kendall on guitar riffs, and Blue Weaver on synthesizers.
Barry chose to sing falsetto on the whole song, except on one line.
In the heavy rhythm section, the bass is turned way up as are the drums. The guitar is turned down and the guitar is often played with “muted” strings rather than fretted strings. It creates a unique sound. And of course, you have the great vocal harmonies of the Bee Gees. And the falsetto! But disco was not really a big part of their career. Most of their hits were closer to soft rock. They are one of the best groups of all time at harmonizing.
It’s also a beautiful, heady combination. Without that insecurity, Gibb wouldn’t strut through the song the way he does. Gibb’s vocals are a falsetto yip. After the second chorus, Gibb lets loose with a full-on drawn-out screech, they’re not just threatened, they’re threatening too. Bee Gees always had a garish gothic streak. “Stayin’ Alive” is as haunted as, 1967’s “New York Mining Disaster 1941” was. “With “Stayin’ Alive,” the Bee Gees truly figured out the use of sweeping, populist dance music.
Dance music can be intense, and heavy. “Stayin’ Alive” is all those things and to this day nobody has ever used falsetto better in pop music. Barry Gibb and his brothers ride that colossal beat in a perfect harmony. Like Frankie Valli before them, they used the tension between unearthly vocals and lyrics which took an astonishing level of confidence. The genius of “Stayin’ Alive” lies in the way it stirs in fear and and bravado. It should be incoherent. They should sound like they’re contradicting themselves which they never do. Instead, the Bee Gees understand that those feelings all spring from the same place, that they feed on each other. Everything sounds perfect. They did create it, of course and like so many other perfect songs, “Stayin’ Alive” owes at least some of its power to pure happenstance. During the recording, for example, session drummer Dennis Bryon couldn’t be there for the recording, so co-producer Albhy Galuten spliced together a few bars of drums that Bryon had already recorded for “Night Fever”. Those looped-up drums, combined with that perfect bassline, and keep “Stayin’ Alive” moving at an unrelenting pulse. That thump, a product of studio experimentation, is what makes “Stayin’ Alive” such a foundational disco song. “Stayin’ Alive” was one small part of the Bee Gees’ dominant 1978 run, but it’s come to tower over the rest of their catalog and to dominate their legacy. The omnipresence of “Stayin’ Alive” is what they resented . They’d been a group long before disco, and they’d be a group long after, but this one song was the one thing that everyone knew about them. But “Stayin’ Alive” outlived Saturday Night Fever, disco, and at least two of the three Bee Gees. It’s a part of the shared cultural heritage now; one of those pop miracles that just never wears off, never loses its charge. It simply remains alive!
A team from the University of Illinois medical school suggested that this would be an ideal song to listen to on an iPod while performing chest compressions on someone who has just suffered a cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association has stated that the optimum tempo at which to perform CPR on someone who has a cardiac arrest is 100 beats a minute. The research team highlighted this song as, having 103 beats per minute, it has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart.
The Bee Gees were well aware that they were creating a heart-thumping rhythm. “We thought when we were writing it that we should emulate the human heart,” Robin Gibb explained. “We got Blue Weaver who was the keyboard player at the time to lie on the floor and put electrodes on his heart and put it through the control room. Then we got the drummer to play the heartbeat. We were the first people in the world to do a drum loop based on that.”
The sound is the work of genius and a true classic to remind us of the proper rhythm for chest compressions and it sure beats a metronome.
Stayin’ Alive’ was later used in a study to train medical professionals to provide the right number of chest compressions per minute while performing CPR.
It has close to 103 beats per minute, with 100–120 chest compressions per minute being the recommended amount by the British Heart Foundation.
A study on medical professionals found that the quality of CPR is better when thinking about the song.
I loved doing the program on the Bee Gees that took me back half a century to the time when I was in Medical College and there was not a worry on earth to crease my brow and a world to win and a few dreams to be realised.
Thank you, Kiran ji for this amazing opportunity to turn back the hands of clock and rewind to an era of innocence, as Paul Simon wrote in “Bookends”,
Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you…..
Stay happy, folks, stay healthy and away from nasty viruses the Chinese seem to create endlessly