(The Guardian, Feb 22 2003)
Robin Gibb launched his album as a tribute to his
late brother Maurice. Mark Anstead reports
Robin Gibb has forced himself to carry on and pick up the pieces after the untimely death
of his brother Maurice on January 12th. He pressed ahead to launch his fifth solo album
(after a gap of 17 years since the last one) partly out of a sense of tribute to his
brother, who died of a twisted intestine - a condition he had suffered since birth.
"Barry and I aim to work even harder at my musical projects," he says.
"This is the only way we know to help us come to terms with it. To dwell on sadness
is not the correct way to respect Maurice's memory."
He is proud to be a British subject and he loves to winter in the Prebendary, the home he
bought from Charles Harding Rolls, a member of the Rolls-Royce family, 15 years ago.
"I got it for a song actually, because Charles hadn't done anything with it and
needed the cash," he says. "Mick Jagger had been looking at it five years
earlier and also Prince Charles, but I got it for about �0,000 because it was a bit
The Prebendary dates back to the 12th-century, when it was used as a training centre for
monks. Roughly 400 years later, Henry VIII is said to have visited it with Anne Boleyn
just after they were married. The chapel (now a refectory) was built in 1174 and stands to
the left of the house, connected by a ruined wall.
It was in real need of renovation so he hired an interior decorator, who had done much of
the work on Windsor castle, to bring out the medieval Tudor features. Completed in phases,
the work cost nearly �0,000 and has ensured that the experience inside perfectly
matches the expectations set by the exterior.
It's hard to imagine that life for Robin has not always been so grand. His is a true rags
to riches story and he does not hesitate to describe his family's wealth during his
childhood as "zero".
"My father had two or three different jobs when I was five - cheese cutter, milkman
and breadman," he says. "We had come over from the Isle of Man without anywhere
to live and we were flat broke. It was the late 50s and there were no opportunities for my
father to have a steady job so we took what seemed like a better alternative at the time -
emigration to Australia."
They were a large family - the three brothers destined to become the Bee Gees, younger
brother Andy and a younger sister. But things proved little better for them all in another
country. His mother fell ill adjusting to the climate and his father struggled to earn
enough as a bush photographer.
"I can still remember the image, my dad at night counting out coins to try and get us
through the week. Sometimes chips and buttered bread was our meal for the day."
It fell to the three older brothers to do what they could to supplement the family income.
Each weekend they would go to the races in Brisbane and when the crowd threw coins at the
track they would dash out between the cars to pick up the money.
"Everything was mortgaged or on hire purchase and whenever we got a car it was
repossessed because we couldn't keep up payments," he says. "We had to move
house five or six times in one year just to stay ahead and avoid ending up on the streets
for not being able to pay the rent.
"When I got to about 12, I knew I didn't want to be in the same situation as my
father. It didn't make me think, 'I must have lots of money,' it just made me feel that
whatever I had I would rather own than be in any debt."
The three brothers became child stars in Australia. When they returned to England they
were signed to a record label by Robert Stigwood and enjoyed rapid success.
Now they are one of the biggest musical influences of their generation, having sold nearly
110 million albums around the world and written hosts of songs for other performers. They
are among the top five most successful recording artists of all time (along with the
Beatles, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson).
"I never had a figure in my life to teach me about handling money," says Robin,
who admits to exercising extreme caution when it comes to investments. He avoids the stock
market at all costs, which he says is too much like gambling, and he prefers investing in
residential property than anything commercial (which he thinks has been a bad idea for the
past 10 years).
"They say money doesn't bring happiness but it is only a broke guy who says
that," he confesses. "Of course having money has made me happier - it gives you
the means to be able to secure your own life and future and to be able to look after the
people who are close to you."
Curbing my wife's spending
Lottery: If Robin won �m he would give a lot of it to children's hospitals.
Best buy: His house. It's one of the few properties in Britain that goes back to
the 1300s and is completely intact.
Prefers to pay: By cash when he can but he rarely carries cash so he usually has to
Clothes: Robin says he is very conscious of how he looks when working and
travelling, so he has no qualms about buying something new for each new project.
Tipping: Always 15% but he usually signs it over rather than paying cash.
Travel: Robin makes the eight-hour trip to America on a regular basis - more than
once a month - so he feels he has to travel first class of necessity.
Collects: Antiques for his home. His wife is the greater collector of the two and
he says that's an extravagance he has to monitor occasionally.
Robin Gibb's new album, Magnet, is out now
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