THE SONG OF THE GROUP SAYS BARRY GIBB" Transcript by Anne Marie
Transcript by Anne Marie
In only a shade over a year, the Bee Gees have made an enviable impact here in Britain. They’ve also shaken a lot of people by cutting across established lines of a group career. Like releasing no less than six singles in 12 months; and by launching a tour with a Royal Albert Hall orchestra of some 67 musicians behind them.
They are five boys with a nice and uncontrived line in modesty and a built-in sense of perfectionist ambition. But are they going TOO far in their efforts to please?
Barry says “In Germany, then at the Albert Hall and later on the tour, we carried a large orchestra with us. Okay, at the Albert Hall we gave the cynics a certain amount of ammunition. An RAF band, a choir, a near-symphony orchestra … it was obvious that some knockers would say we over did it – and worse that we got ourselves out numbered simply because we couldn’t depend on our own music to get us through.
“But this is surely unfair thinking. My feeling is that it is the song, not the group that sells records nowadays. If a really established group came out with a very bad song, their disc sales would slump. With us, we’ve been on the big ballad scene. Except for ‘Words’, it worked out for us. But to present those big rather sad songs on record, you have to have a full scale arrangement. And we think it is only fair to go as far as possible to present those same sounds on stage.
“We’re spending the money, remember. We could go on, just guitar and drums and do the same dreary old thing and make much more. Thinking big must produce, in the end, big results. Taking a big orchestra round the country causes problems, especially with small stages but problems can always be overcome.”
Few new groups have come up in the past couple of years with built-in scream appeal. With the Herd, Peter Frampton was hailed as the new hysteria-gatherer but he’s already fed up with the title “Face of 1968” – and anyway only the Bee Gees get the real hit records to go with the incredible audience reaction. Says Barry “This is fine, but I think we score because we are five members of equal status. We all have an individual following. No one is picked out to the detriment of the others. I have a fear about someone being built up, ballyhooed, because pop history proves that the public tend to build up, then knock down.
“But we’ve been attacked for apparently never changing our style. Well, remember that we write all our own material. We try for unusual song lyrics, but obviously we have a bias towards one particular style of song.
“On our last single, it was going to be ‘Singer Sang The Song’ as the A-side. But we heeded the criticism. We switched to ‘Jumbo’, which is a distinct change of direction for us. A simple sort of idea – every kid has an imaginary pet animal – but scored differently. As it happened, lots of people thought we were wrong to change … said they preferred ‘Singer’ even if it was on the same lines as earlier ones. So it becomes a double A-side. But when we study other groups, like the Walkers – we KNOW the dangers of staying on one direction.”
Behind the Bee Gees, of course, is Robert Stigwood, who spares no expense in projecting the biggest possible image for the boys. Says Barry “It’s not a question of trying to show anybody else up. We’re not the flash-Harry types. We don’t even like the flashy clothes that some groups do. But we feel we have this debt to people who buy our records … and are determined to give them the best possible sound.
“I don’t know about this so-called rock revival. I feel that it’s never been away. Certainly the Beatles have generally been on a rock scene most of the time – but obviously up-dated. However there are outside influences. Indian music was one, definitely, Robin and I hope to go to Egypt as soon as the tour is over and study history over there and also see what there is in Egyptian music. It’s distinctive. It could easily fit into a modern pop idiom.”
Barry, clearly a deep thinker about the pop scene, said he didn’t agree that it was almost impossible for a group to make it big these days. “You have to have a basic talent and also the right promotion” he said earnestly. “Promotion is all-important. Not in the matter of gimmicks and stunts, but in doing the right work at the right time. We built our reputation on the Continent and in Germany and our tours have been ambitious, whether you like what we do on stage or not.
“Then there is a special TV spectacular, Cucumber Castle, for which we’re writing the music. We do what we think boosts our career – avoid the danger of sitting back and saying ‘Right we’re number one so there’s nothing more to do’. Our film, with Johnny Speight writing the script, has been thought about very carefully. One bad film by a pop group and you’re virtually out. People remember a failure, even if it is in the middle of a lot of triumphs”.
It’s been a long haul since the Gibbs were simply the Gibb Brothers and playing for pennies hurled into a stock-car arena in Australia. And in one year of British residency, they’ve done more than virtually any other group in showing themselves to the public … on stage and on record.
Added Barry by way of a parting shot “We don’t mix much in the business. We have our own ambitions for 1968 and what matters most is achieving them without shouting around too much beforehand”.