|ANDY GIBB: THE STORY BEHIND THE MUSIC
(VH1, 1997. Excerpt)
(transcript by Andrea)
Andy Gibb was talented and successful, famous around the
world as a top selling pop star, but on March 10th, 1988 fans would receive the shocking
news that the shining and charming life on Andy Gibb was over. Tabloids would blame it on
a cocaine overdose but his family and those who knew him best believe it was a kind of
slow suicide, a deadly combination of low self-esteem, drug addiction and "too much,
too fast, too young."
Gibb: He never grew up. He was like Peter Pan. He was just like a little boy all of his
life. He was a baby all his life.
Robin Gibb: He was a great artist out of control and his personality and emotions just
couldn't deal with what was going on around him and the success that he had.
Andy Gibb was born in 1958 in Manchester, England. The youngest boy in a close-knitted
music family of six. His parents played in a big band. Mother Barbara was the singer,
father Hugh the band leader. But jobs for musicians were sparse in the working class town
and soon the family struck out for Australia for a fresh start and a brand new life.
It wasn't long before the oldest brother Barry and the twins Robin and Maurice started
harmonizing together as the Brothers Gibb, soon to be known simply as The Bee Gees.
Growing up Andy was constantly entowed tagging behind his talented older brothers. But he
was always closest to Barry, even though they were ten years apart.
Maurice Gibb: Andy emulated Barry a lot. He thought a great deal of his older brother. A
sort of hero was he for him.
Gibb: Maurice and Rob were twins so they always had each other. Andy was someone I
could always talk to and he always could talk to me, because both of us sort of had a
sense of isolation in growing up, so we were extremely close.
The Bee Gees soon developed their own distinctive style and by 1967 had gone from being an
Australian phenomenon to international pop stars. Andy was always close by, taking it all.
Clad up in the world of his brothers' success, Andy wanted a music career of his own, and
Barry was there to help. When Andy was 13, Barry bought him his first guitar, and when he
was 16, Barry introduced him to the man who engineered the Bee Gees astonishing rise to
fame, music impresario, founder of RSO Records, Robert Stigwood. [...]
For two years Andy honed his talents in bars and clubs of Australia. When he was 18
Stigwood decided he was ready for the big time. He sent Andy to America to cast his first
Barry Gibb: I thought: if anyone can do it, if someone can make Andy a star, that's
But the young performer faced a dilemma: a start in America or true love in Australia. For
two years he had been involved with Kim Reeder [...]. Kim says Andy was determined to have
his career and her. He asked her to marry him. Kim and Andy, just 18 years old, were
married on July 11th, 1976. Within weeks, the teenage newly-weds were living in
California, and Andy was in studio recording his first album.
Barry Gibb: That was Andy at his best. At that age, wanting to be successful, not having
the success but having the hunger, and music was all, music was everything.
And the music was making Andy a star. Six months after arriving in America
"I just want to be your everything" was the number one song in the country and
his debut album Flowing rivers was climbing the charts. Andy had followed his
brothers' road up for success, but he wasn't prepared for the danger that lay ahead.
In early 1977 Andy Gibb was 19 years old, newly married and his debut album, Flowing
Rivers, was on the way to selling a million copies. Soon his picture was covering the
walls of teenage and preteen girls around the country. He was an overnight sensation. But
this was no solo effort. His brothers, The Bee Gees, were guiding his career at evry step
of the way.
Andy Gibb: I believe I owe it chiefly to my brothers, who produce my records, my brother
Barry, who helps me, you know, if I have a problem in writing any songs, he always puts me
on the right direction.
Barry wrote, produced and sang back upon Andy's first number one single. The next one,
"Love is thicker than water", Barry and Andy wrote together [...].
As Andy's career was climbing, his brothers' was riding high on their second wave of fame.
It was early 1978 and The Bee Gees had started the "disco revolution" with the
soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever. For two months that year the Gibb family
would dominate the top of the Billboard charts. First The Bee Gees grabbed number one with
"Stayin' alive", only to be bumped by Andy's "Love is thicker than
water"; two weeks later The Bee Gees were back on top with "Night fever".
The success was a family affair.
But Andy struggled for his own identity beyond the long shadow cast by his brothers.
Maurice Gibb: I still think he thinks that he still had to prove himself to be as good as
we were in many ways, or to gain the same success. I think that there's always that kind
of brotherly, sibling type of rivalry.
But Andy Gibb quickly discovered that escaping the Bee Gees connection was nearly
Barbara Gibb: We were in Dallas once, driving from the airport, and he saw the Arena
had "Andy Gibb" and, onto it, "Younger brother of The Bee Gees". He
went crazy. His personal assistant had to go to get it taken down. Things like that
would upset him.
Like it or not, as the younger brother of The Bee Gees Andy got noticed. He became a
regular on TV talk shows but even there his brothers were a favourite topic. [...]
By the time Andy was 20 he was meeting with the presidents, socializing with the stars. He
was nominated for two Grammy awards and he won the People's Choice award. He had sold
millions of records around the world and he had done it in under two years.
His brothers had been there before. They knew the dark side of early success and even had
a name for it: "fisrt fame".
Barry Gibb: First fame is a very dangerous thing. You read about yourself,
believe what people say about you, you believe that you have something very special to
say, and God speaks through you and the public need to know, you know. This happens to you
when you become famous for the first time, and especially on an international level. So I
think it was a little crazy for him for a while.
Young, naive and struggling to find his own identity, Andy succumbed to temptation.
Robin Gibb: Andy had a very weak personality in saying no to these things. He didn't see
any harm. He felt good doing it and he didn't think it was doing him any harm.
Andy's growing passion for drugs was changing him into a different person. The sweet,
enthusiastic boy was unrecognizable when he was high. His mother Barbara would watch in
horror coke transform her son into a stranger.
Barbara Gibb: When he was under the influence that wasn't him at all, that was somebody
else to cope with. But the next day he would apologize into everybody. He didn't know what
he had done but he would be sorry.
Andy's young wife Kim could see changes in him too, but says she was slow to realize that
the difference was caused by drugs. [...] Andy was spending long periods on the road
hanging out with a new crowd of people. For the most part Kim says she was left behind and
she's convinced Andy's promoters wanted it that way [...] Kim thinks keeping her hidden
was a deliberate effort to protect Andy's image as a teenage idol.
Kim Reeder: He was on all the teen pop magazines and they had to give the perception that
he was available and they did.
Despite the long separations and his cocaine binges, Andy and Kim struggled to make their
relationship work. A year into their marriage, Kim gave Andy the news she hoped would get
him to settle down and sober up. She was pregnant. [...]
Andy promised to make things better but it was a promise he couldn't keep. Two months into
her pregnancy, Kim gave him an ultimatum: get off drugs, spend more time at home or she
was leaving. But Kim says nothing changed. In June she headed home to Australia. As she
left she says Andy made one more promise, that he'd be there for the birth of their child,
but it was another promise he wouldn't keep. Their daughter Peta was born on January 25th,
1978 [...]. Kim and Andy were divorced a short time later. He wouldn't see his daughter
until she was two years old. It would be their only one meeting [though they'd be in
Kim was gone and before not long Andy was back in studio recording his next hit.
By the time his second album came out in the summer of 78, 20-year-old Andy Gibb had gone
through major changes in his life: his wife had left him, he fathered a daughter he'd
never seen and he was struggling with a growing drug and alcohol problem.
Andy moved to Miami to be near his brothers and the recording studio. Despite his personal
problems, his career was growing strong. In June of 78 he set a pop music milestone that
stands to this day: when his single "Shadow dancing" hit number one he became
the only artist ever to have his three first singles top the charts.
But for Andy the proudest moment may have come in July 1978 when the brothers that had
guided him for so long for the first time were joining him on his own stage. The following
year it was Andy's turn to sing in a Bee Gees concert. But his family says Andy still
didn't feel he was the equal of his brothers. To him the rivalry would never really end.
[...] Andy was heading down a dangerous path. He began spending lavishly. He bought a 58
foot boat, fancy cars, he charted private planes and charged them to his record company.
He was running up an enormous debt and his family suspected cocaine was fueling the
outrageous behaviour. They tried to intervene.
Maurice Gibb: When I told Andy about it he began "yeah, you're right, I'm gonna to
start making some changes" and sort like that. Soon later, I found him sniffing his
Barry Gibb: They are helpless because that people really have to aid themselves. Other
people can't do it. You have to decide that you want to be clean, that you want to be
Andy refused his brothers' help and soon moved away from Miami and his family's watchful
eyes. He settled 3,000 miles away, in Malibu, California.
Barry Gibb: Once he realized that everyone in Miami was trying to stop him from doing it,
then he moved to L.A.
In 1980 he released a third album, After dark, and a greatest hits LP but his
record sells were slipping, and the cocaine abuse was affecting his ability to work. After
months fighting to get Andy straight and keep him sober, RSO president Robert Stigwood
made the painful decision to drop Andy from the label.
Even with his recording career in ruins, Andy remained a regular in TV talk and variety
shows. One of these appearances would change his life in February 1979.
Andy had admired actress Victoria Principal from afar. He had said in a magazine interview
that he would like to meet the beautiful star of Dallas. [...] They went out
three days after meeting her at that TV show and within weeks they were nearly
was 30, Andy just 22. many of the time considered the relationship scandalous. But Andy
was happy and his family hoped Victoria'd give him the focus he'd been missing in his
Maurice Gibb: I think the relationship with Victoria Principal was absolutely beautiful.
It was everything he had dreamed of and that's the important thing, not what I think or
everybody else thinks. Andy thought the world of her.
With his new love Andy seemed to find the confidence to recharge his career. He co-hosted
the variety show "Solid Gold". He taped "Solid Gold" during the day.
At night he was taking his first shot at musical theatre, starring in "The Pirates of
Penzance". [...] It was the summer of 1981. Andy's career seemed to be back on track.
But Victoria would soon discover that success was dangerous territory for Andy. She began
to see the changes in his personality that his family had been witnessing for years.
Victoria Principal: It became very apparent to me that his behaviour was becoming erratic
and that he was very very thin. And Andy was a very kind person, and a very gentle
person and some of his behaviour seemed so the antithesis of what he used to be and
I finally realized that it had to be drugs.
The drug abuse sparked arguments. The arguments filled more drug abuse. Andy stopped
showing up for tapings of "Solid Gold" and the producers were finally forced to
fire him. It was the same story at "The Pirates...": night after night Andy just
wouldn't show up, and when the production hit the road they left Andy behind. [...]
After more than a year of dealing with Andy's addiction, Victoria forced the issue. Andy
faced another ultimatum from a woman he loved.
Victoria Principal: I asked either to choose me or to choose drugs, and I know that with
all his heart he wanted to choose me... he chose drugs.
The break-up with Victoria left Andy emotionally shattered. For months he was a recluse,
drinking and using drugs like never before, spending up to 1,000 dollars a day on cocaine.
Barbara Gibb: For abouth twelve months he was devastated.
Nearly 6 months we go by before Andy found the strength to face his fans. In July of 82 he
appeared on "Good Morning America" to confess his drug and alcohol abuse. It was
his first public appearance since the split with Victoria. Andy blamed the break-up for
Victoria Principal: It put me on an incredible position, a terrible dilemma: To speak out
on my own behalf, to reveal the fact that the problem had been ongoing and that was the
reason for the break-up would have been to add to the tremendous burden Andy was carrying,
and so I chose to remain silent.
For a few months Andy did seem to be off drugs and he got another job, this time as the
lead in the Broadway production of "Joseph and The amazing technicolour
dreamcoat". Opening night was extraordinary. His brothers Barry and Maurice came to
see his Broadway debut. It was one of his proudest moments. He got great reviews but the
very next night Andy called in sick [...]. Over the next 6 weeks Andy called in sick 12
times and was forced to leave the show. Once again Andy was out of a job and facing an
By the time he was 25, Andy Gibb's drug and alcohol abuse had destroyed his career as a
pop star, a TV host and a stage actor. But he managed to find a new act for his talent. He
played Vegas night clubs and took his show on the road to small venues across the country.
He promoted the act on "Good Morning America" and once more he told the world he
was drug-free and ready for a fresh start. But the truth was Andy was about to hit into
one of the worst periods of drug abuse in his life and again his mother was there to
witness it. She says during his binges he was a tyrant, ordering his staff to get cocaine
for him, if they failed he fired them, if they refused he threatened not to perform.
Sometimes, his mother says, he would demand to be taken into hospital but she never knew
if he was really sick or just hoping to get his hands on more drugs.
years of drug abuse were taking their toll on Andy's health. High on cocaine is
heart-damaging. He had pains on his chest. Dr William Shell says Andy was doing permanent
damage to his heart.
After a couple of warnings from doctors, Andy finally sought professional help for his
addiction. He spent 6 weeks at the Betty Ford treatment center in southern California, but
the drinking and cocaine binges started up again almost immediately.
Finally in the spring of 87 Andy got serious about getting sober. He checked into another
drug saviour and joined Alcoholic Anonymous. His long time friend Marie Osmond says she'd
never seen him look so healthy.
But the years of excess, the cars, the boats and especially the drugs had left him broke.
In September of 1987 Andy filed for bankruptcy, with more than one million dollars in
debts. His income had fallen from 2 million a year at the high of his career to less than
8,000 dollars in 1986.
Barry Gibb: I think that was a dashing blow to Andy, a crippling blow to him. I don't
think he survived that. I think he was embarrassed by it.
Andy moved back to Miami, back to the family feud. His brothers put him up on a
condominium and gave him a small allowance. Barry and Andy became closer than they
had been in years. They spent hours playing tennis, but on the court Barry began to
suspect something was wrong with his little brother.
Barry Gibb: We would play tennis, and we played 5 or 6 sets and he got very sort of
flushed and red and I didn't know why, you know, and what he wasn't telling me was
that he really shouldn't be doing this.
No one knew just how serious his condition was, least of all, Andy.
He wanted to get back to work. He was still young, he still had his voice and he wanted
one more shot of being a pop star, and once again his brothers were there to help. The
brothers wrote and produced four new songs with Andy at their recording studio in Miami.
Special chemestry they had had before was back and the new songs got Andy at Island
Records in London. But the company wanted Andy to write more new songs and he moved to
England to get to work. He settled into the 11th century estate of his brother Robin,
about one hour outside London. Andy had a cottage all to himself and it was supposed to be
a quiet retreat, a place where he could concentrate on writing new songs. But he'd never
had much success writing on his own, and without the help of his brothers the ancient
walls began closing in. The pressure built and Andy was beginning to crack.
Robin would make regular visits to Andy's cottage to help him any way he could.
Robin Gibb: I had to keep reassuring him of his talent and build up his confidence.
Andy's behaviour began to change. He was keeping to himself and Robin suspected the worst.
Robin Gibb: Andy wouldn't leave the cottage for days. We missed appointments. He wouldn't
take phone calls. Something was going on but I couldn't figure it out.
Barbara Gibb: I called Robin and he said "Don't call, mom, your baby so much; he's
fine." But I was on a plane the next day because I knew something was wrong.
March 5th, 1988. Andy's 30th birthday celebration was a party of two, just he and his
mother. She knew he was deeply depressed. He missed his brothers. He missed home. But he
had made a commitment.
Barry Gibb: He didn't really need to be away from his family and we didn't really want him
away from us. I think he went into a decline because of that.
The anxieties and insecurities that had consumed Andy all his life were back and reaching
a crisis point. His need to prove himself on his own. He escaped the pressure the way he
had so many times, with the one drug he could find in a quiet rural English town -alcohol.
Barbara Gibb: He was drinking again. He was drinking, definitively. He was getting those
tiny bottles. He was ringing the local liquor store in Thames at 2 o'clock in the morning
for a bottle of vodka!
In Miami, Barry and Maurice tried to help, each taking a turn with a long distance plea
for Andy to stop.
Maurice Gibb: I called him up but Robin said he couldn't answer the phone because he was
drunk. I put the phone down. I'll never forgive myself for that. For a long time I
thought I should've spoken to him.
Barry called Andy too, having no idea it would be the last time he would speak to his
Barry Gibb: The last thing that happened between me and Andy was an argument, which is
devastating to me because I have to live with it all of my life. And that was a phone call
between he and me and I said "you really have to react, this is no good..."
Instead of being gentle about it I was angry, because someone else had said to me at some
point that tough love is the answer. For me it wasn't because it was the last conversation
we had. So that's my regret, that's what I live with.
Andy continued drinking heavily, ignoring the pleas of his family to stop.
Robin Gibb: He couldn't even stand up. He smashed his face against the wall and lost all
his teeth. It was a mess going on. My mother had to be there to see it. It was a nightmare
for her. He wasn't even aware of his existence anymore.
On March 7th Andy became violently ill and suffered startling pains on his chest and
abdomen. Paramedics rushed him to the local hospital, but the English doctors were unaware
of the long term damage that drugs and alcohol had done to Andy's heart. They never
contacted his doctors in America.
Dr. Shell: The English physicians could have made something more if they had known what
the treatment was.
Andy was admitted to the hospital twice in the next three days. The second time his mother
sensed something was different and didn't want to leave him alone.
Barbara Gibb: I sensed I'd stay with him all night. But they didn't let me; they said in
England you can't stay in the ward all night and so I had to go.
It was the last time she'd ever see her youngest son alive.
Barbara Gibb: The next morning the doctor went in and said "Do you mind if I take
some more blood, Andy"; he said "No". The doctor turned round and he [Andy]
gave a big sigh...
The cause of death was listed as miocarditis, an inflamation of the tissues surrounding
the heart. Even though the autopsy found no drugs or alcohol in Andy's system, the
tabloids immediately called his death a cocaine overdose. But his family knew that drug
abuse had killed Andy; it just took a decade to do it.
Barbara Gibb: When he died, it had nothing to do with drugs at all but the damage had been
done through drugs in the first place.
March 10th, 1988, five days after his 30th birtday, Andy's life was over. And the people
who loved him were left wondering why the boy who had it all seemed determined to throw it
all away. [...] Andy was laid to rest in his adoptive home of Los Angeles on March 21st,
1988. The family were left with the cruelest kind of loss: older brothers saying goodbye
to the younger, parents burying a child.
Barry Gibb: I regret that we didn't spend more time, that we were always too busy. Of
course you always feel that when somebody's gone, you feel remorse because you could've
given him more time, things you could've said and you didn't say...
Maurice Gibb: People will remember particularly his kindness, because he helped a lot of
people, but he just couldn't help himself.
When friends got news of his death, many were shocked but few were surprised. The question
on everyone's mind was why. He seemed to have it all, talent, looks, wealth and fame, but
what Andy never found was what he needed most -peace and happiness.
Back to List of Articles