ROBIN GIBB: BEE GEES BY THREE
(Diner's Club Magazine, September 2004)
(Original text in German by Maike Zürcher - Photos by Andreas Sterzing)

Posted by Marj.L. / Marion Budde

The brothers Gibb are not three any more: Maurice died in February [Wrong!] 2003, Barry has made a pause, but Robin goes again on tour ... in September in Germany. In his luggage: many old Bee Gees hits. DCM met the 54-year-old in his dream house in England.

Thame, Oxfordshire, 75 kilometers northwest from London. Old houses, well-preserved streets, inviting pubs. A pretty small English town, like the window blind in a Rosamunde Pilcher film. The special characteristic of Thame? Its prominent inhabitant, one third of the Bee Gees, who retired to The Prebendal, an old monastery where monks trained to become bishops. More exactly: Here lives Robin Gibb.

Ken, his manager, receives us, a small DCM delegation - a journalist and a photographer. The gate message: "Wir dürfen uns ungestört und in aller Ruhe umsehen." The bad thing: Robin had to go unexpectedly to the dentist this morning. Four hours pass by.

It is dark inside the house. The tinted glass windows, reliques from the sacred past of the house, let only little light in. The ancient timber floor boards creak. The workplace of the master: an Apple computer on an styleful old wood table. A mixer, three keyboards with the most modern technology, in addition, the centuries-old smell of church and juniper. A fire-place, an enormous u-shaped sofa before it, masks and Buddhas on the window sill. On the shelf: Photos, the Bee Gees with their families under a Christmas tree. And a CD of the colleagues: Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here" (Aha!)

Ken calls the dentist: Not finished yet. We wandered around the garden, admiring the rose patches. And meanwhile we were thinking how a story without a hero could look like. In the former refectory of the monks this feeling disappears: a gallery with the golden records and honours of the Bee Gees hang on the walls. We speak in a whispering tone honouring the dominating sacred aura, or maybe because of the view of the impressive, nearly 40-year success history of these Pop veterans?

Then suddenly: There is Robin Gibb. After a tooth operation lasting several hours, hands in his trouser pockets, shy, he comes into the garden. More than thin. Jeans, black t-shirt, black sport shoes, baseball cap, a swollen cheek... the photos are right. We open the sun screen and the interview begins.

DCM: In September you start your solo tour on which you will sing many old Bee Gees hits. Why do people still want to listen to the Bee Gees nowadays?

GIBB: I don't know, I sing the hits because I have fun doing it.... (He stands up) I'll be back in a moment, I must talk with Ken...

And away he is. Waiting for Robin again. Endless minutes later he returns, smiling, apologizing: The toothache had suddenly overcame him. We push the sun screen again and continue.

He does not like to hear the words "solo career." He is and has always been a Bee Gee, stresses the 54-year-old. He has undertaken solo projects only when the Bee Gees were having a break. Conflicts between the brothers Gibb should be located in the annals? No, that's nonsense, they have always got on well.

The Bee Gees were the three brothers Gibb: Barry, the oldest, with his characteristic long hair, and the twin brothers Maurice and Robin. In February 2003 Maurice died of a heartattack during an operation. A shock for the brothers.

GIBB: For me it was my personal "eleventh of September". From that moment on everything changed. Everything had to be reconsidered. Maurice had always been there, and now he is away. In a certain way I had to completely position myself again.

The London Evening Standard once wrote about the Bee Gees, "the band nobody admits to like embodies like no other group the Disco sound of the 70's." The soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever sold 30 million records and remains the biggest-selling soundtrack ever, with hits like "Stayin Alive", "Night Fever" and "How Deep Is Your Love" (by the way Robin's favourite song).

DCM: How do you feel about representing a whole generation, in this case the Disco 70's?

GIBB: I do not feel as someone who represents anything. I am simply one of the Bee Gees.

DCM: How did the Bee Gees co-operate? Were the tasks distributed?

GIBB: Can you repeat the question?

DCM: How did you write the songs, for example?

GIBB: Now, we sat together over a table... (exhaustive information, hopefully he holds out despite his toothache! Hopefully he does not jump up again!) ... I would like to return to the question about representing a generation. (Aha!) Despite all I think it's a good thing, something you can be proud of. The 60s are represented by the Beatles, for example....

Robin Gibb is not primarily a stage performer, he tells us. He is not Mick Jagger, who likes to show himself on stage before big crowds of raving fans and can't live without it. Robin Gibb considers himself a songwriter in the first place. Consequently he does not identify himself with the high phase of Bee Gees success. His most satisfying years were, as he told us, those after Saturday Night Fever, at the beginning of the 80's, in which he wrote many songs for other artists such as Barbra Streisand ("Woman in Love"), Diana Ross, Dolly Parton.

What Robin Gibb likes most is to be in the studio or before his mixer at home, where he works until late at night. Then he sleeps until noon. His recipe? Is Gibb a macrobiotic vegetarian? This makes "being on the road" even more difficult. Macrobiotic vegetarian? And what about the motto "Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll"? The era à la Keith Richards collapses. We ask nevertheless:

DCM: What protected you in the 60's from suffering a similar fate as some of your colleagues, for example Janis Joplin or Jim Morrison?

GIBB: I was not a saint either. However we had in certain way fear of such things. We saw people mixing drugs into drinks. We were not interested in those things.

DCM: Which personal characteristics helped you most in your life?

GIBB: To be open for other influences. And the interest for music.

DCM: If you could set up your wish band, who would you choose? Please do not say your brothers now...

GIBB: John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof and Elton John.

DCM: Sounds promising.

GIBB: It sounds extraordinary! (the toothache seems, for the time being, defeated)

If he hadn't started his musical career at the age of 6, says Gibb, he could have become a politician. He's very critic about today's politics. There are no new ideas, no outstanding personalities. Nobody dares try something new any more. It's the same as in the music scene from today, isn't it?

GIBB: Exactly the same! (...) In former times one fought to be original and singular. Today everyone copies everyone.

DCM: A nice coincidence that the Bee Gees hold the title of the "most copied band in the world"

GIBB (smiling): That is naturally a good thing!

There were no rivalries between the Bee Gees and other famous acts of the 60's and 70's, he stresses. What harmonious times...

GIBB: Paul McCartney still sends his best wishes at Christmas!

The only exception, Mick Jagger: His dream estate in Thame was snatched away by Robin Gibb under his nose. One to zero for the Bee Gees!

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