NOT BLIND, WE BROKE THE MAGIC - ADMIT BEE GEES" Transcript by Anne Marie
Transcript by Anne Marie
Assessing the Gibb Brothers, fairly, is a less than easy task. Were they once, as an American magazine put it – “A trio of naïve and uneducated teenagers”? Or do we point, to the sheer ingenuity of many of their melodies, the oddly-melancholic brilliance of their rhythms … and the implied respect for them of artists who recorded their songs, like Feliciano, Richie Havens, Janis Joplin, Sinatra, Tim Rose, Nina Simone, Presley and others?
The reunified Bee Gees were ready to admit to a little bit of both when I met them in the London offices of their manager Robert Stigwood recently
“We know,” said Robin Gibb, sitting in a semi circle with Barry and Maurice, “What happened to the Bee Gees. We’re not blind to it”.
Said Barry “To be very truthful with you, the three of us never really understood what the whole row between us was about anyway. It was a very legal situation, for one thing
“But I’ll tell you this. All three of us came very close to breakdowns. It was a nightmare”
Said Maurice, not perhaps realising that press bulletins to keep us informed of every stage of their bust-up were once regularly issued by the Bee Gees own Press Office “The worst thing of all was that the Press deliberately kept pushing the whole thing.
“We’d forgotten our troubles, or were trying to, but we weren’t left in peace. We just wanted to get on and do our solo bits and see what happened”.
Barry: “The reason we broke up was musical frustrations. We’d been together for 11 years man. Everybody was trying to do something different. We had to split sometime.
“We were even starting to become funny about who was singing lead on different record … the whole thing”
Robin: “It wasn’t musical incompatibility. It was just a matter of politics within ourselves. It might be that one of us was planning to have a recording session tonight somewhere and the rest of us hadn’t heard about it. It was lack of communication I might think .. or Barry or Maurice might think … ‘somebody is keeping me out of something.”
“You start to ask yourself ‘why aren’t I there’ and you say well it won’t happen again. Then it does happen again, and everyone is getting different messages and you’ve got trouble.”
Barry: “Everybody got a neurosis about it”
Maurice: “We’d toured for two years without a break. We were with each other every day and every night. You couldn’t say goodbye and go home to the wife … it was like two years solid. That’s why we stopped touring.
“Now we’re more mature. Now we’re honest with each other. But before, there were things we wouldn’t bring out and say to each other.
“How long were we apart? About a year and a half. But we’ve been working now for about three months, and in that time we’ve got together an LP and a singe and the music for a film and even some solo stuff”.
Robin: “We’ve got triple the enthusiasm in our work”.
Barry: ”And we’re happier than we were last time”
Talking rapidly, excitedly and together about their new plans and their new music, the group good humoured admit to still having suspicions of each other.
According to Maurice “It’s funny that in the first week of recording we sat around and looked at each other and smiled, but we were all afraid to suggest something. It was a case on ‘who’s gonna try and take control?”
Barry: “We were all willing to give ground though, and it was like ‘whoever pushes the first idea, we’ll accept it’. And we started to ask each other’s opinion, and generally think about the other person a bit more. In the past, we were just three kids. We couldn’t respect each other as men and for each other’s talent”.
Maurice: “I don’t know if our music has changed, progressed. You might think that, somebody else might think that. But from our own point of view it’s just that we’re recording the same, writing the same”
Robin: “Our music is a folk formula. We play and write the music we feel, and the music we feel people want”
Barry: “Our music isn’t underground music. What we’ve done on the new album is all based on melody.
“The strange thing is that most of the covers of our music are by underground artists, although nobody usually seems to think of that … for instance the Animals’ ‘To Love Somebody’ and Janis Joplin”
Maurice: “It’s very weird, actually because if you go to New York or to anywhere … or in England, like some heads to see James Taylor … in every record pile you’ll find ‘Odessa’ or the Bee Gees’ First.
“It’s like my brother in law. He’s a head. He digs anything underground and he’ll buy anything underground. He’s turned me on to a few things himself … and yet he still has and plays his copies of ‘Odessa’ and Bee Gees’ First.
“I think we share something with today’s ‘thinking’ artists in that when we started recording here in England years ago, we didn’t even know how much we were getting paid, man. It wasn’t the money that mattered to us. We didn’t care. Like today, we just wanted to do ‘our thing’ as they say. We just wanted to play our music without boring the public with squabbles or anything”.
Barry: “Money isn’t vital to a musician. Look at some o the finest artists in the world … they’re Russian. They don’t earn a cent, but it’s their art that matters, their art”
Robin: “The word art covers music, painting, sculpture … and poetry. We put poetry into our songs. We have to, we can’t help it.
“The Bee Gees are the Cecil B. DeMilles of song writing” (Barry and Maurice: “Get him”) “We think on a big canvas, like the film ‘Waterloo’ and that kind of thing. But we do it with words on an album, and we try to make a story and try to hit home in the same way in the sound of a song.”
“That’s not to say we’ve gone mad with orchestrations on the new album – although it’s easy to get carried away like that, because we’re dreamers, basic romanticists.”
Maurice: “That’s right. The song has to be lovely, really meaning something. And I don’t think you can get that effect without using strings the way we have. The only reason on our records is to add beauty.”
Robin: “To my mind there can be nothing more beautiful than a violin. Don’t you feel that when you hear violins come in, it adds a magic, an unreal feeling, to the song? There’s a magic about violins”
Maurice: “Look at the Moody Blues. They did a hell of a lot of stuff like ours like when their first LP came out with the London Philharmonic Orchestra or the Victoria Philharmonic or whatever it was
And the Bee Gees future?
Maurice: “I think we now accept that if you play it right, it’s possible to do things as individuals while still working within the framework of the group”
Robin: “Put it this way: the Bee Gees will never be moved. The Bee Gees are there and they will never ever part again. If a solo record comes out, it will be with each of our enthusiasm and great support. We are a musical establishment”
Barry: “We don’t intend to remain as just a recording group. We’ll be touring. We’ll be doing American and Japan this month and the European one’s being set up at the moment
“The English tour will be after we’ve had at least a couple of records in the charts. It’s worth waiting”
Maurice: “The thing is that now we’re a little older, a little suer, and a little bit more wary of the business side of it. We want to know exactly what’s going on. We don’t want to lash out on a 55 piece orchestra and know that nothing is going to come out of it. And anyway you can make just as beautiful music with a 16 piece orchestra. Or even two acoustics and Robin singing”
Robin: “”We’ve realised now that people are not fools and that even a 12 year old kid can now technically pick out what’s on and what’s not on a record. They’re far more sophisticated”.
Maurice: “We were the first group to come along, man, with a beautiful orchestra and a string section. And we went on stage with them, and an RAF Band and a 60 piece choir. So we’ve done that, so we won’t do that again. We must try something else”.
I asked them if, all else aside, they didn’t think that by their squabbles they’d destroyed the magic of the Bee Gees?
Didn’t they feel that the rows, the accusations, had left a taste with the public it would be hard to overcome?
Didn’t they feel it would be a tough road, no matter how worthy the new Bee Gees’ single “Lonely Days”?
Didn’t they feel they’d broken the magic?
Said Robin: “I don’t think we broke the magic. The music remained.”
And Maurice “Our songs were about love and all things nice … and when we quarrelled I think yes, we did break the magic. But we have to build that bond again”.