In a luxurious penthouse suite of a posh Atlanta hotel, Barry Gibb -big brother and
resident matinee idol of the Bee Gees - leans forward in his chair and tosses a bombshell.
"It looks like we can't go on being the Bee Gees," says the 33 year old
singer-composer.The remark couldn't be more surprising or untimely. The Bee Gees have just
completed their first North American tour in three years - a 3-week, 38 city whirlwind
that cemented the reputation of Barry and his non-identical twin brothers, Maurice and
Robin (who'll turn 30 on Dec. 22), as the hottest act in show business. In addition, a Bee
Gees Greatest Hits album has just been released and Spirits Having Flown, their latest
album, is still on the charts (after 10 months), as is their 1977 soundtrack of Saturday
Night Fever - the champ LP of all time with 27 million copies sold.
Right now, the
Brothers Gibb, of the soaring harmonies and wailing falsettos, are preparing for their
biggest blockbuster yet - a 90 minute NBC-TV special, their first ever, to be aired on
Nov. 21. The TV special will cap the most feverishly active and successful period for the
Bee Gees in a career spanning 23 years. That's why the news of the breakup is so shocking.
Barry takes pains to explain the reasons: "With this tour, all the hyperactivity
began to take its toll. I found myself either on top of the world or totally depressed. A
couple of times I was at the point of bursting into tears. Being Bee Gees is like three
people being one person. It's impossible. We are each of us having an identity crisis. It
could drive all of us crazy."
Why hasn't it? "Family," pipes in brother Maurice (pronounced Mor-ris) from
another room. "It's the family that comes first, then the career," says Maurice
as he enters with brother Robin (the beardless one) in tow.
Helping the brothers keep a steady pace as they jet around the world in their own 707 with
a business entourage of 90 are their wives, children, sisters Leslie and Berri, singing
kid brother Andy (at 21, the baby), mother Barbara, 58, grandmother Laura Pass, 80, and
father Hugh, 61, a retired band leader.
For the Brothers Gibb, the family anchors them to reality. It's this anchor that they fear
losing if they don't split up, slow down nd discover their own identities. "I spend
all my time in the studio," moans Barry, who writes most of the band's songs.
"It will probably ruin my marriage."
Barry, wife Lynda, 29, and sons Stevie, 5, and Ashley, 2, live in a lavish $500,000 home
in Key Biscayne, Fla., that doubles as the Bee Gees' business office. "My house is
never empty," complains Barry. "There are always people passing through. Dick
Ashby, our personal manager, lives in my house. All the business flows through there. I
used to like being close to it. Now I want a retreat."
Robin, wife Molly, 32, and their children -Spencer, 7, and Melissa, 5- have always
maintained a home in Surrey, England (where the children go to school), but recently
purchased a hideaway on Long Island, near the sound, to further separate business from
their personal lives.
Maurice, once the rebel of the brothers, now lives quietly in Miami with his second wife,
Yvonne, 29, and their 3-year-old son, Adam, who was born four months into their marriage.
"If you want to call him a lovechild, you can," says Maurice amiably.
The Gibbs weren't always so idyllic a family. In 1969, personality clashes caused the
first breakup. After 10 years in Australia, they had just established themselves in their
native England with hits like "Words" and "I Started A Joke." Even
their manager Robert Stigwood, couldn't prevent the breakup. Headlines about their antics
with women, cars,and drugs made as many waves as their music.
"We would have stuck together if it weren't for speed," Barry insists. "Pep
pills, purple hearts, dexadrines, cocaine-you name it. Drugs are evil."
Brother Maurice suffered from an additional problem: alcoholism. "When my first
marriage [to pop singer Lulu] broke up, I became a drinker," he confesses. "I
lost my self-confidence, the house I lived in for six years, my whole life. So I hit the
bottle. Then I woke up one day and said, 'It's time to start moving.'"
His brothers agreed and restored their career and family ties. Today, at the top of a
music industry that once rejected them, they are stronger than ever as a family unit. When
they're on the road, their wives join them whenever a birthday, anniversary or family
reunion comes up. At home, they've given up almost all their past extravagances, despite
an annual income estimated at $5 million. After a concert, they retreat to their families.
"I boogie in my own bed now, " says Robin with a laugh.
"I think maturity is setting in, " adds Maurice. "But I'm still the gayest
one. I don't mean gay as in homosexual - I mean going out socially." Still, the riots
they cause whenever they go out have forced them to seek additional indoor pastimes.
"We're all TV freaks, " says Maurice, " especially for Lucy' and'Sgt.
Bilko'". Despite his humorous manner, Maurice has touched on the most serious problem
facing the Bee Gees: feeling trapped. As a group, they have done all they could hope to
do, including surpassing the Beatles in sales. They are "tired" of the Disco
label and sick at the thought that they might grow old repeating themselves.
"We need to challenge ourselves, " says Barry. "It's now or never." As
a result, all three Gibbs are planning projects in the expectation of going their own ways
- this time amicably. In January, Barry will produce Barbra Streisand's next album; Robin
will produce LP's for Tina Turner, Jimmy Ruffin, and Maurice would like to study at
London's Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Art.
Today the Bee Gees are facing their imminent breakup with a sense of relief. "I can't
see us together singing 'You Should Be Dancing' at 40," says Maurice. "We'd
probably have seizures from the strain."
Will the Bee Gees, like the Beatles, divide only to become something less than the sum of
its parts? "Absolutely not," says Barry with a quick supporting wink to his
brothers. "We may break up, but we are never going to dry up."