The Bee Gees
The Bee Gees are unquestionably one of the most successful pop groups of all-time.
Born in the Isle of Man in the 1940s (Barry in 1946, the twins Maurice and Robin in 1949), and moving to Manchester in the early 1950s, the three Gibb brothers were, even as young children, learning to harmonize. But they first tasted success after their parents emigrated to Radcliffe in Queensland, Australia, in 1958. As early as 1960 they were on Australian TV shows, and in 1963 got their first record deal on Festival Records, as simply Bee Gees. Barry Gibb was also gaining recognition as a young songwriter, and wrote material for other Australian artists.
The first minor hit for the Gibb brothers came in 1965, with 'Wine And Women', followed by their first album, clumsily entitled 'Barry Gibb And The Bee Gees Sing And Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs'. It wasn't until The Bee Gees moved to another label, Spin, that they had their first big hit in Australia, in late 1966, with 'Spicks And Specks'. Around this time the family moved back to England, and worldwide fame beckoned...
When The Bee Gees returned to England, early in 1967, they were signed by the legendary Robert Stigwood, and, in that year, 'New York Mining Disaster 1941' became an unlikely choice for their first single to be recorded in England, but it became the biggest hit of their career thus far, making the top 20 in both Britain and the United States. Songs of haunting melody were to become the trademark of The Bee Gees early in their career, and memorable songs such as 'To Love Somebody', 'Massachusetts', 'Words', and 'I've Gotta Get A Message To You' followed - the latter song being about a condemned man. The group also released the successful 'Bee Gees 1st' album, during this golden period, which was popular with fans and critics alike.
The 1969-early 1970 period was an unhappy time for The Bee Gees. Robin left and recorded what would have been a surefire Bee Gees hit, the wonderfully moving 'Saved By The Bell'. But, by the end of 1970, the brothers were back together as The Bee Gees, though the next few years were to be lean ones, despite occasional moments of brilliance with songs like 'Run To Me'.
It was soul producer Arif Mardin who helped revitalise their career, instigating their change of direction. Out went the ballads, and in came disco. They used Miami as their base from early 1975, and the releases of 'Jive Talkin'' and 'Nights On Broadway' saw another golden era begin for the group, culminating in their music being featured in the massively successful 'Saturday Night Fever' movie of 1977. People may have laughed at Barry's new falsetto voice, but The Bee Gees were laughing, too - all the way to the bank. Musically, 'You Should Be Dancing', 'Stayin' Alive', and 'Night Fever' alienated a lot of their 1960s audience, and I, personally, much prefer their songs of the '60s, which are some of the greatest songs of the second half of the 20th Century. That said, from around this time, they also produced 'How Deep Is Your Love?' and 'More Than A Woman', both featuring on the 30 million seller 'Saturday Night Fever' soundtrack album, so not everything was hardcore disco.
At the end of the 1970s The Bee Gees were seen as a busted flush in the U.S., but their songwriting still saw Barbra Streisand ('Guilty'), Diana Ross ('Chain Reaction'), Dionne Warwick ('Heartbreaker'), and Dolly Parton & Kenny Rodgers ('Islands In The Stream'), record and have hits with their songs. The Bee Gees have sold a mindblowing 200+ million records in their career, have had 19 UK number ones, and, at the height of their fame in America, achieve the rare feat of four number ones from one album - 'Stayin' Alive', 'How Deep Is Your Love?', 'More Than A Woman', and 'Night Fever'.
One of the biggest hits for The Bee Gees was 'Tragedy', and they've endured some of their own for sure - the death of their younger brother, and a successful solo artist in his own right, Andy, in 1988, and Maurice's death in 2003. Robin was finally killed by cancer in 2012. Musically, The Bee Gees have done little wrong - the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' movie apart - and The Bee Gees are arguably the greatest harmony group of them all.
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.