"HOW THE BEE GEES CAPTURED AMERICA"

(by Harvey Kubernik, Melody Maker, January 21, 1978)

"One of the reasons for the Bee Gees' success," explains Robin Gibb at their rented Benedict Canyon home [while filming Sgt Peppers in Los Angeles], "is that we've never used music as a soap box."

"Music, I've always believed, can take you away from reality and you have the option to identify with the music. Something happens when people are bound together through a song.

"Like 'How deep is your love.' Personalities are examined in that tune, but female or male aren't even mentioned. It has universal connotations and it clicks with everyone.

"Before we cut that song we knew we could fuse some of our own personalities into the track. Love is an anchor, it's a foundation.

"Not all our songs are light and breezy. I've said it before, but we write our songs. We're not interpreters. Ten years ago, most music was a social outcry, and we never subscribed to that pattern. We didn't jump on trends and we've seen a lot of them the last decade. Flower Power, Glitter... I think the Bee Gees have always realised that there is so much love to bring out in songs that it is a catalyst to bring people together."

One of the reasons for the Bee Gees' revival has to be their strong live performance. I've seen every incarnation of the band since they first toured the US, and their recent stage show (without orchestra) is much more rhythmic and varied.

"Maurice is singing harder parts, falsettos," says Barry Gibb. "Before, we played it safe and strict. We used the orchestra as a cushion. It was beautiful, but we weren't taxing our abilities.

"When I look back at the days when we toured with 30 pieces, I know we were on display and opposed to communicating with the audience. Going to a bigger band and leaving the orchestra at home was a logical extension.

"We didn't want to cling on to something that didn't make us feel comfortable. I think our stage act improved 100 per cent. The orchestra was beautiful, but restrictive at times.

"I think the kids and younger people want to open up a bit more at concerts. We're now more self-contained on stage and I really dig working with our band.

"Blue Weaver is playing string synthesiser and it works out fine. It fuses the Sixties to the Seventies. If you want to extend the concert experience you have to be visible to your audience.

"Looking back, the orchestra did colour many of our songs. But at times we might have overused the strings and some of our work became mushy. Strings are beautiful tools to work with. They can break your heart."

The Bee Gees' last studio album, Children of the World, yielded the hit single 'You should be dancing'. The album was much harder-sounding than its predecessor, Main Course.

"We wanted an album that was more nervous," says Maurice. We felt Main course was a little too varied. There were too many directions.

"We wanted to take the R&B flavour in Main course a step further with Children of the world. We are always trying to establish a direction. Groups should have guidelines, but also be open for experimentation.

When we did Mr Natural we didn't have a positive direction. We were thrashing about and some good things came out of that album."

All three Gibbs were quick to credit Arif Mardin, producer of Mr Natural and Main course, for showing them new studio tricks.

"Our studio tactics had become lazy," admits Barry. "We had to own up and Jerry Wexler recommended Arif."

They had some meetings with Thom Bell and Richard Perry but nothing came out of these discussions.

"Arif was incredible to work with," says Robin. "Especially with Maurice. He changed our style of recording. We would start with one instrument and build up from there, as opposed to all playing at once. It is a clearer process."

"Arif was a producer and a referee. He organised sound around a creative base," says Maurice.

When the Gibbs recorded Main course they knew of previous problems and the result was three hit singles. Olivia Newton-John covered 'Come on over,' 'Fanny (Be tender with my love)' was a huge hit in the US and 'Jive talkin' was another at the top of the hit parade. 'Nights on Broadway' was a top ten smash and people like Paul Anka were doing the tune in their Las Vegas lounge show.

There was R&B airplay for 'Jive talkin' and some compared the Bee Gees to the Average White Band, another Mardin-produced group.

While the Bee Gees devoured the music charts in the US, as well as the Far East and some European markets, their younger brother, Andy Gibb, had a US number one hit with 'I just want to be your everything.'

'He never really showed any musical ability until he was 12,' reflect Barry. "There was such an age difference that we never really considered asking him to join the Bee Gees. A few years back he toured the US with us and soaked up some of the hectic pacing of the road.

"Last year I call him in Australia and we talked about his career. He was opening for the Sweet and other visiting bands. I told him 'Robert (Stigwood) wants you to come to America.' Robert had us both come to Bermuda. We got together and wrote some tunes.

"In the same afternoon we did 'I just want to be your everything' and 'Love is thicker than water.' I sang along on the track when he did it in the studio.

"He's very ambitious. My only concern is that he didn't have the sight we had in getting established. He put a band together and did some gigs in the US and took some bumps. He did his original material and some tunes by the Beatles and the Hollies.

"He's still learning. He's only 19 and just now getting rid of teenager hang-ups. He's having a great time. He very much wants suggestions.

"We're half-finished on his new album that I'm doing with Alby Galuten and Karl Richardson. He's still learning to collaborate and he's open to any suggestion.

"I'm very proud of him. Many years ago he did some things with Maurice, but nothing came of it. I always had a hunch that he was a musical Gibb and when he did his first album we used some terrific musicians, like Tim Renwick, who used to be in the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver. A marvellous guitarist."

We talk about the press's obsession with the Bee Gees' break-up in the late Sixties.

"It was a lot nastier in the press that in was in actuality," says Barry. "Right now we are the three brothers we were before we ever became famous.

"I can't believe what a rush we're all in. Things have never been better. We were nervous wrecks at the end of the Sixties: touring, recording, promotion. I was living in Eaton Square and my neighbours must have thought I was a bit freaky. I can remember a time when I walked out of my front door and there were six cars and they all belonged to me. That's madness.

"The break was a traumatic experience. Long after we fought, the press had us fighting and reopened wounds.

"I really believe that some of the music we've made over the last couple of years stems from our break-up.

"I feel very close to my family. We are all living in this house and planning for the future. There was an adjustment period five years ago, but all the little hassles and hang-ups have disappeared. We began to relate to each other as brothers.

"For a while, when we came back together about five or six years ago, we weren't working at full capacity.

"The personal crisis we went through provided extra incentive and the records we put out now, especially the last few, are full of drive and ambition. We can feel it.

"We don't want to sit on our laurels. We knew we always had a lot more to offer to people than they thought we had. Right now the family is throbbing. No one is looking out for himself and all are looking in.

"We're working faster and I feel I can write a song in a minute with Maurice and Robin. I'm really happy that people are acknowledging our influence on popular music.

"You have no idea what a thrill it is to have a top five single in England. With all the new wave and punk rock out I would have thought something like 'How deep is your love' wouldn't have a chance. We always kept going forward and we're getting stronger every day."

Robin: ""We've never been inclined to follow other people's ideas. If anybody's gonna follow an idea they're gonna follow ours. Even though the Beatles influenced a lot of our music, we never aimed to follow what they were doing.

"We're still very young as far as I'm concerned and there's a lot of work around the corner, like films. In a way, we're just starting.

"We've been through all the stages, struggling, and then hitting it big, we've split and re-formed, had number ones, toured the world. Of course, we want to continue improving in all areas, but our main concern now is strong albums."

Robin has changed over the last few years. He appears very confident and far from the insecure figure that toured the US in the late Sixties.

"I know what people think of me," he says. "I used to be very insecure. There was a lot of pressure around me and I had trouble coping with initial stardom and touring.

"That's changed, as I've come from this boy-to-man period the last five years. A new era has started. I feel great about the people around me.

"I know the Bee Gees have touched people. I can see that by our fan mail and questions fans ask when they want me to sign an autograph.

"The most typical question we receive through the post is 'When are you visiting again?'

"A lot of the press think the Bee Gees have gone through some sort of rebuilding programme. Some think we've vanished for five years.

"We've been travelling and playing in the Far East and other countries. Now the Bee Gees are happening in a global sense and I'm delighted.

"I can't wait till we tour England. I still live in Surrey, I've lived there for a very long time and really enjoy the atmosphere. Lots of rock stars complain about the tax situation but you can still get things done. It's my home and where my family is."

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