(By Bob Farmer, Disc and Music Echo, April 27 1968)

Transcript by Anne Marie

When Joe "Mr Piano” Henderson compares “Family Choice”, when Caroline is off the air, when Bobby Goldsboro can be no 1 in the States, when Bill Haley is exhumed to try to tout up trade and when a stupid TV ban on a group is the most newsy item the pop scene can produce, things might seem bad.

It this begat Robert Stigwood to put back the bubble in pop.  He signed up a grouped called the Bee Gees, announced them as “the most significant musical talent of 1967” and summoned the Press either to his handsome house off gold plated Grosvenor Square or to his elegant offices in millionaires’ Mayfair to listen in awe as was unfolded some latest startling contract concerning his Fab Five from Australia.

We were told of tremendous dollar earning tours lined up in America in August; of empire moulding mergers with ALS, London’s most powerful body of showbiz scriptwriters (Speight, Simpson, Galton, Howerd); of stupendous sums on a first full length film staring the Bee Gees and scripted by Johnny “Till death Do Us Part” Speight; of amazing events when the Bee Gees appeared at the Royal Albert Hall to open their 26 date tour of Britain.

Sixty seven piece concert orchestra … fully augmented.  Air Force band … forty strong mixed voice choir … they were all there at the Albert Hall in the most ambitious pop show I have ever seen.  And Stigwood’s Fab Five certainly gave us a show to remember.


‘Brilliantly talented’

But take away the tinsel and what has since happened?  After the Albert Hall, hall full houses at a large lot of venues, apathy on the part of the public towards the Bee Gees.

And on the sales side of the matter, a chart grabber that should make grave reading in Adams Row W1.  since “Massachusetts” made No 1 last November, “World” went only as high as No 7, “Words” wormed its way only up to No 12 and “Jumbo” the latest single came to a sad full stop at No 27 last week.

Since everybody else is asking whether Bob Stigwood has badly over estimated the Bee Gees’ popularity and pulling power and whether he regards himself as a reincarnate Brian Epstein trying to put the Bee Gees on a Beatles pedestal, I asked him for answers.

“First and foremost it was never my intention to try and make out that the Bee Gees were the new Beatles.  But things are happening for them and therefore there’s no reason why their affairs shouldn’t be treated with a certain amount of flamboyance.

“People who criticise the Bee Gees for failing to play to packed out houses and have No 1 hits all the time forget that England is only one corner of what they have achieved in only a year.  Even the Beatles hadn’t sold so many million records around the world and conquered America in their first year.  The Bee Gees have won awards in many countries”.

But if he isn’t trying to build up the Bee Gees as the Beatles’ successors, why such labels as “most significant musical talent?” “But they are.  These boys arrived in England last year, sent me tapes of their early records which I played and thought very Beatlish I might even have gone no farther with them because of his until it was pointed out to me that the boys were barely 16 years old when these songs were written.  So it figured that if boys of that age could turn out material of that calibre they must have immense talent.  Hence the label I gave them.”


Emotional ballads

Stigwood stretched back in his office, remarkably bare of the stuffed animals that litter his Adams Row abode, and talked of the current tour. “The picture is not as gloomy as people are making out.  It is making a profit and they are playing to 70 per cent houses.

"But I accept full responsibility for the fact that it isn’t a sell out tour.  I did over estimate their drawing power in Britain.  While the Bee Gees were playing all over the world, I neglected their appearances on British TV.  Apart from things like “Top Of The Pops” they were never seen.  I now accept that they should have done far more TV shows before going out on a British tour.

“As for the record sales, “Jumbo” was aimed at the American market.  I also now realise it was a mistake to release it as an A-side in Britain because the public still want big emotional ballads from the boys.  We have also been issuing too many records, four in the last six months, so we must slow things down a bit.

“But it is totally wrong to suggest that the Bee Gees are sliding a bit because the last two singles have not been huge hits in Britain.  People who say this overlook the enormous songwriting potential the Gibb Brothers have to offer”.

If the Bee Gees themselves are not being built up as latter day Beatles (and they are far too courteous, friendly and self critical to entertain such illusions), what of Stigwood himself?

Is he attempting to epitomise his late and lamented friend, Brian Epstein?  “This certainly is not so.  I’m not interested in personal publicity.  This is proved by the fact that I have turned down scores of interviews.  My job, for which I’m handsomely paid, is to promote the Bee Gees, not myself.  All right, I’, a bit of a showman, I’m one of the few managers who actually make albums myself with orchestras, but I’m also a businessman.

“I don’t go looking for personal glory.  All I do is try and expand my business and it is totally wrong for people to go round regarding me as trying to be another Epstein.”

Perhaps now people will not be quite so ready to point contemptuous fingers at the Bee Gees and their boss.

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