Friday, December 07, 2007

In Praise of...The Bee Gees

Now, before you call me a sentimental sap, I will say you are right. Music moves me in so many different ways. I can honestly say that I grew up with these guys. From the very first time I saw them on Shindig! or Hullaballoo or Ed Sullivan or wherever it was sing their wistful, haunting Massachusetts, I was hooked. My infatuation continued through "How Do You Mend A Broken Heart" (which is just pure magic).I lost track of them in the mid 70s and then bam! there they were again, riding the coattails of the disco revolution. Being the hard nosed stubborn guy that had a "Disco Sucks" Tshirt, they tore me up again with "How Deep Is Your Love", a song I dare not admit to my friends that I liked, but I liked, a lot. I could have lived without the rest of the Saturday Night fever crowd but when you sell over forty million copies of a record, THAT carries some weight. During an eight-month period beginning in the Christmas season of 1977, the brothers wrote six songs that held the #1 position on the U.S. charts for 25 of 32 consecutive weeks-- three under their own name, two for brother Andy Gibb, and the Yvonne Elliman single. Fueled by the movie's success, the album broke multiple records, becoming the highest-selling album in recording history to that point. Saturday Night Fever has since sold circa 40 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling soundtrack album of all time. The multiple Grammy Award-winning group was successful for all of its forty years of recording music, but it had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a harmonic "soft rock" act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as the foremost stars of the disco music era in the late 1970s. They were best rated band in the world in 1978. No matter the style, the Bee Gees sang tight three-part harmonies that were instantly recognizable; as brothers, their voices blended perfectly, in the same way that The Beach Boys' did. Barry sang lead on many songs, and an R&B falsetto introduced in the disco years; Robin provided the clear vibrato lead that was a hallmark of their pre-disco music; Maurice sang high and low harmonies throughout their career. The three brothers co-wrote most of their hits, and they said that they felt like they became 'one person' when they were writing. The group's name was retired after Maurice died in January 2003.
It has been estimated that the Bee Gees' record sales total more than 220 million, easily making them part of the list of best-selling music artists. Their 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame citation says "Only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees. With that in mind here are my top five Bee Gee favorites....

1. "How Deep Is Your Love" -this is in my top 15 favorite songs of all time. It was a perfect song for what I felt about a particular woman (and really, isn't that all that counts) perfect harmonies.

2. "To Love Somebody" -thought they were The Beatles the first time I heard this and that ain't a bad thing

3. "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" - I had just moved from the farm to the Quad Cities and this song got me through it. It seemed that this song was on the radio all summer in 1971. Everytime it came on, I sang along..."I can think of younger can a loser ever win?"

4. "I Started A Joke" for all the losers in the world. I wonder how many lives were saved because of this song.

5. "Lonely Days".. alone in my room on the farm, listening to late night radio out of Chicago, praying to God that he would get me out of that God forsaken place, as the AM signal would fade in and out...


Brian Holland said...

I have to admit I've been guilty of my fair share of Bee Gee-bashing over the years, but I've repented and re-evaluated their importance in music history. My resentment of them had more to do with their omnipotence from 1977-79 when they (along with brother Andy) were practically all you heard on every Top 40 station in the free world--I just plain got sick of them after a while!

Looking back now, I have to give it up to their superior songwriting ability, although I'm still baffled at how they sustained their popularity in the late '60s because their songs were so utterly depressing!

Your list is quite good, especially 1971's "Lonely Days", which is a favorite of mine from my childhood WHB-listening days. "Nights On Broadway" is another BG classic in my book.

Wes said...

Amen...great group and music.

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