LITTLE JIVE TALKIN' WITH A BEE GEE
Maurice Gibb interviewed by Aidin Vaziri for San Francisco Chronicle,
(January 27, 2002)
Conclusive evidence that the Bee Gees are indestructible:
"Their Greatest Hits," the double-disc set released recently, charts the
progress of the English threesome over five decades and countless trends in popular music.
Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb were on top of each movement, scoring hits with everything
from the folkie jangle of "I Started a Joke" in 1968 through the dance floor
royal flush that was the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack in 1977, on to last
year's light- rock staple "This Is Where I Came In." Through it all, the
brothers proved impervious to death, addiction and raging egomania. They even survived a
close association with John Lennon, as Maurice, 51, recounts.
Q: People don't realize the Bee Gees were major players in the early days.
Maurice Gibb: Oh, yeah. You've got to remember we were living in Australia, so far away
from it all. Three months before we got back to England, I was walking down the street in
Sydney and I saw this Beatles fan club book, and I thought, "Wow, look at the gear,
look at the boots, look at the guitars." All this stuff. Two months after coming back
to England I was partying with them and hanging out with them in their inner circle. We
had the same manager. It was totally unbelievable. The first words John Lennon ever said
to me were, "Scotch and Coke, isn't it?" If he would have offered me cyanide I
would have drunk it. They had just come from the photo shoot for the "Sgt.
Pepper" album cover, so they were still in the full uniforms and glasses and all that
stuff. I couldn't believe it was him at first. That was my first scotch and Coke.
Q: So Lennon led you down the path of destruction?
Maurice Gibb: Out of the three brothers, I turned out to be the big drinker. But in those
days everybody used to just hang out. I used to be married to this girl singer Lulu. So at
2 or 3 in the morning we'd hear the door knock and it would be David Bowie and Dudley
Moore and all these other wonderful people. We'd go down in our dressing gowns and get the
bar open, put some music on and have a good time. Or we would go over to the studio where
Ringo Starr was hanging out and we'd all jam. And then Jimmy Page and Robert Plant would
drop by. Everybody mixed.
Q: You were also blowing through a lot of cash at this point, right?
Maurice Gibb: We never even thought about money. When we had it, we just blew it. I had
six Rolls-Royces and eight Aston Martins by the time I was 21. I was invincible in those
days. It was that age period when you start discovering new things. I learned more by the
time I was 19 than by the time I was 40. It was quite an experience.
Q: Were you totally over it by the time the whole disco thing hit?
Maurice Gibb: You've got to remember, we weren't doing disco. To us, KC & the Sunshine
Band and Donna Summer and the Village People made party disco music, which is all good
fun. KC, to me, is the king of disco. This man was doing it long before anybody else.
Q: You're officially giving him the title?
Maurice Gibb: Yes. What we were doing was New York music. It was R&B. It was what was
going on in the underground -- sensual Marvin Gaye black soulful R&B is the best way
to describe it.
Q: So that's where the falsettos came from?
Maurice Gibb: We got the falsetto thing from the Stylistics. It was very sensual. Barry
heard "Betcha by Golly Wow" and decided to give it a go on "Nights on
Broadway." So I kicked him you-know-where as hard as I could and he just started
screaming. And then he realized he could sing like that as well. Everyone was doing
falsettos -- the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys -- but not like the R&B groups we liked.
None of our music was written for "Saturday Night Fever." It just happened to
fit amazingly well. We were just told it was about a guy who works in a paint store, blows
his wages partying and wins a dance competition. That was how it was presented to us, and
it sounded brilliant. No one even knew it was a disco film.
Q: And then everything went coconuts.
Maurice Gibb: A lot of people would love to have a "Fever" in their career. It
blew us away. Then we got crucified for it. And now we get respect for it.
Q: How bad was the comedown?
Maurice Gibb: Just like everything, you hit a saturation point. People started getting
resentful because we were too successful. So we sort of backed away from the spotlight and
Q: And then you became sober. What changed?
Maurice Gibb: Everything changed because all of a sudden I had choices. I didn't have to
be a s-- head anymore. I was never violent, but I was a son of a bitch. I got very nasty.
It was hurting everybody. I've been 11 years sober now.
Q: You guys are the comeback masters.
Maurice Gibb: We're just three little persistent bastards who want to be as big as the
Beatles. That's been our motto since we started.
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