Mojo February 1998)

Q: I've heard that Jimi Hendrix was a Bee Gees fan.

Barry: I don't think it was a matter of being a fan. We were friends, and we all came out of that same late '60's syndrome, and we got to know Jimi in London. He actually came to my 21st birthday party. We never discussed music. It was just friendship. I went with Ahmet Ertegun and Robert Stigwood to see Jimi in New York, outside in the park with The Rascals, in about 1968. I was backstage with them at that particular concert. That's a great memory.

Q: What do you recall about writing Massachusetts?

Barry: It was the first time the group went to New York. We stayed at the St. Regis Hotel, and while our luggage was being moved in we wrote it sitting on a sofa, the three of us. It came from our first exposure to America, our first thoughts of writing a song about flower power, which the song is about-or it's basically anti-flower power. Don't go to San Francisco, come home for Chrissakes, ha ha.

Q: Noel Gallagher loves a lot of your early songs. How do you feel about Oasis?

Barry: I like their work very much. They do some good stuff, but they've yet to really grow. They need to get past, basically insecurity between each other, and how crazy it is when you become famous for the first time and what it does to your head. I think they're about to get past that. What happens next? It's like Maurice once said in an interview, to the Gallaghers, "If you want to know what happens next, give us a call" (laughs). Because we've basically been through the whole thing-fighting, drugs, the drink, all the scenarios you can imagine. We've done all that and still survived. I've got a feeling those guys will, too.

Q:I like the lyrics of early songs like Harry Braff and The Earnest Of Being George-they were evocative without being locked into a literal meaning.

Barry: There was a lot of that in those days-psychedelia, the idea that if you wrote something, even if it sounded ridiculous, somebody would find its meaning. People used to ask if we took LSD. And we suddenly realised that that's what it really was about. People get carried away. It's like The Beatles and songs like Strawberry Fields, where people assume that it was drugs that concocted those songs- and we all know that some of it was-but I think there's a very rare gift that existed inside John Lennon, and also inside Paul. I think it came from more than drugs or drink.

Q:Your vocal on Lonely Days seems almost like a tribute to Lennon.

Barry: It's possible, yeah. We were very influenced by The Beatles, no question. A manager we had about five years back heard Lonely Days in a restaurant and he said to a friend, "That's one of my favourite Beatles songs." And he was managing us!

Q: A few years back, you expressed a desire to produce McCartney-and he got miffed about it.

Barry: He's always under the wrong impression that we'd criticised one of his albums. The fact is, we'd never heard the album he was pissed off about. I'd heard one song, Hope Of Deliverance, which I thought was going to be a Number 1. Maurice and Robin had heard in and didn't think it was going to be. Anyway, some reporter was interviewing us that week and we'd only talked about this one song; Maurice or Robin said something like, "It would be great for McCartney to work with somebody who would really push him harder than he pushes himself." I thought that was a fair comment-not a criticism as such. I think Lennon was always more muscular than McCartney. He challenged Paul. I think that now Paul is so ingrained in our lives and in our souls that he's of the belief that no-one else can push him. I just disagree with that belief. But I think the reporter told him we'd criticized his album, and he said something like, "Oh well, they can fuck off then." We sent a little note saying that we were in fact probably the three biggest fans he's ever had, that we would never have criticized his work and still wouldn't, and he sent another note saying, "Well, you can still fuck off," ha ha. So I just thought, Never mind, these things happen. But I dearly wish that he knew the truth. I've always loved Paul. If I ever bump into him again, I'll try to tell him, but I doubt that he'll listen.

Q: Any truth to the story of Ginger Baker setting fire to a Bee Gees mastertape?

Barry:I've never heard that, ha ha. It wouldn't surprise me, knowing Ginger. I've heard of Ginger hanging Robert Stigwood out the window by his shoes, three or four stories up, demanding his money. One good story was the [Stigwood] Sgt. Pepper album-they shipped about two million, then found about a million of them by the side of the road! Those days you could go platinum based upon your shipping. They'd shipped all those albums, but with no demand. So someone dumped a million!

Q: Since Saturday Night Fever, you've been known for your falsetto. Do you ever feel trapped by that?

Barry: No, I do it when I love it and I don't do it when I don't feel like it. The story is that during the recording of Nights On Broadway, Arif Mardin asked if any of us could go out there and scream ad libs-R&B style. I volunteered, and in doing so, sort of discovered that this voice was hidden back there. Then I started developing it. When I look back it's actually something I ought to be proud of. Brian Wilson, Frankie Valli and even Prince-they don't make any bones about it. The first rock'n'roll record I ever heard was Little Darlin' bt The Diamonds-that was falsetto. So in a way it's been an integral part of rock'n'roll. It's nice to be a falsetto that's well known.

Q: What's the story behind the Clive Anderson chat show?

Barry: With the greatest respect in the world, we've never commented on that story. We don't want to. It was a very upsetting experience and the guy was really out to ridicule us if he could, and every remark he made was, in a sense, created to try to ridicule us. I had just about enough of it and walked off. And Maurice and Robin followed me. It was not a nice experience. That was it. We never commented when it happened. Apart from what I've just said, I don't want to say any more. The details were not pleasant.

Q: What's next for you all?

Barry: I want us to go on making records. We're in our prime, believe it or not. I think vocally and mentally we've managed to stay intact, somehow. Two of us, Robin and I, don't smoke any more. I think that's made an enormous difference to the strength of our throats and our muscles. I'm the eldest at 51, and if the Stones can drag themselves around once more, then there's a few more albums in us. As long as you're having fun, that's the key. The moment it becomes a grind, it's over.

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