|"A Pop-Giant, Minus One-Third" (By Michael Long, National Review Online - Jan 15 2003)|
|We have all heard by now that disco music was the least of
what Maurice Gibb and the Bee Gees did. Such music was "the worst thing that ever
happened to [them]," Baltimore Sun rock critic J. D. Considine told USA
Today; and both "a blessing and a curse," wrote Andrew Dansby in Rolling
Of course, that's silly. The recording output of the Bee Gees was interesting but run-of-the-mill in the 1960s and, with a few fine exceptions, listenable but unremarkable from the early 1980s on. The songwriting, for themselves and others, has been amazingly adaptable, with hits penned for everyone from country stars to crooners. The only knock-disco truth critics can honestly say is that the Bee Gees's deep creative well and record-breaking record sales (they did more than drive the best-selling soundtrack of all time, they're one of the biggest selling acts ever) get scant attention compared to their Saturday Night Fever years. Well, duh.
C'mon, critics. Don't you know what the rest of us know? Disco was the most-fun, most-memorable, most-influential part of it all. While critics despise the familiar from their usual briar patches, those of us of a certain age will always love the great good memories that flood when that bouncing, butt-shaking bass line of "Stayin' Alive" comes on the radio.
Whether you lived in Brooklyn, like John Travolta's doltish-but-dreaming Tony Manero, or some wide-spot-in-the-road down south (like I did), or a big city or a little town or whatever, the Bee Gees music of those days was bright and infectious and happy, a marvelous antidote for the overpopulation of self-serious acoustic singer-songwriters, who themselves were the antidote for the self-serious gaudy rockers before them.
Critics hated the disco-era Bee Gees because the music wasn't trying to say anything of great social import. (Strange how the same stuff is now called "techno" and "dance music," and critics treat that stuff like a golden calf.) It was simply fun to listen to, fun to dance to, fun to ride around in the car to. Sometimes music is so good that everybody catches on, and this stuff is so good that music lovers will be listening to it to as long as there's a popular-music scene.
It is pretty hard not to smile and want to get up and dance, no matter your age, when you hear "You Should Be Dancing," "Night Fever," "Tragedy" (a tune that came a little later), "How Deep Is Your Love," "Jive Talkin'," and "Nights On Broadway" (both of which came a little earlier), "More Than A Woman," and the lush, sweet ballad "How Deep Is Your Love" which makes you want to slow dance under a mirror ball with your prom date, I swear it does.
One has to actively not like the music to not like it: The salty, hissing cymbals, the stinging treble of the highest falsetto, the tight studio mix of horns, the featherbed of strings that was the best of disco, and the Bee Gees were the masters, layering it all with the gorgeous, simple harmonies of their voices, and building from a powerful base of R&B.
I'm happy believing what I read, that Maurice Gibb was a good enough fellow who successfully fought drink, found happiness in a second marriage, loved his brothers and worked at getting along with them, and was a enough of a goober to own a paintball store and name it after himself. How can we do much more than wish well the family of a stranger who gave us something that was so much fun? Along with twin Robin and brother Barry, he created one of the most-memorable soundtracks for a generation. Given the short life of artifacts of pop culture, that's quite a legacy.
|"Bee Gees' sound felt far beyond 'Fever'" (By Mario Tarradell, The Dallas Morning News, Jan 12 2003)|
|When a recent wire service obituary about the sudden death
of Bee Gee Maurice Gibb, twin brother to Robin, younger sibling of Barry, tagged the band
"disco sensations", I was indignant. The mammoth success of 1977's
"Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack was merely five minutes in the band's varied
44-year career. The Bee Gees' catalog -- a vault of original songs and diverse albums --
stretched far before "Fever" and long after it.
I remember, as a 13-year-old kid with a burgeoning passion for music, that the Bee Gees' 1979 "Spirits Having Flown" album engulfed me like a towering wall of sound. I couldn't get enough of the brothers' instantly memorable melodies, the infectious rhythms and, especially, the soaring harmonies.
I wore that record out; all 10 songs remain engraved in my memory. Everything perfectly meshed, from the hooks and the horns to the keyboards and the bass. The music was pop at its catchy best.
They were master crafters of pop songs, from the lovely, early 1970s ballad "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" to the majestic 1997 hit "Alone."
For most of the band's existence -- save for a brief period in 1970 when Robin left the group -- the three siblings sang wondrously around each other's voices, wrote exquisite melodies together and posed for album cover photos. Barry may have handled lead vocals on many of the well-known hits, but without Robin and Maurice it wouldn't have been the Bee Gees.
The Bee Gees wasn't like other bands, which sport a front man backed by a handful of anonymous players. These men were extensions of each other. The finished each other's sentences, complemented each other's vocals. They were related genetically and musically. There may be another Bee Gees disc in the future, but it won't be the same. One of those spirits has flown away.
|"Maurice Gibb's harmonizing influence" (By Ken McIntyre - The Washington Times - Jan 18 2003)|
|Maurice Gibb was the overlooked Bee Gee. He took a back
seat in the Brothers Gibb partnership during the trio's five decades of performing,
writing songs and making records.
Older brother Barry long has been the leader and creative force of the Bee Gees, the babe magnet whose voice soared from a growl to a stratospheric falsetto on songs like "Nights on Broadway."
Fraternal twin Robin was the "poetic" one with the overbite, whose bombastic vibrato defined the brothers' early sound (think "I Started a Joke") in the mid-'60s.
Maurice, although more gregarious than his twin, rarely was featured as a lead vocalist, and certainly not on the huge hits. He seemed content to check his ego at the door of the recording studio or concert hall. He characteristically took the bottom of the trademark three-part harmony, and you would miss him if he weren't there.
"Mo," who died Sunday at 53 in a Miami Beach hospital following intestinal surgery, was the one wearing the hat in later years. That was his stylish solution to becoming the first Bee Gee to lose his hair. He was the one married to fellow '60s star Lulu for a time and the one who took to wearing an AA pin on his lapel in acknowledgment of the alcoholism he finally put down.
Perhaps only a brother could play Maurice Gibbs' supporting role in the partnership that sold more records than anyone short of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and the solo Paul McCartney. The juice came from Barry and, to a lesser extent, Robin, but the three purposefully collaborated, from initial lyrics and harmonies to final melodies and key changes.
Maurice, who played guitar, bass and keyboards, shares the writing credit on most of the hits, from "Words" and "Lonely Days" to "You Should Be Dancing" and "Jive Talkin" to "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Stayin Alive." The brothers' catalog includes many lesser-known gems for which he was the chief writer, from 1970's soulful "Lay It on Me" to 2001's knowingly autobiographical rocker "Man in the Middle."
Somehow, Maurice seemed at peace with the unjust Bee Gees backlash that continues 25 years after the lush orchestral popsters from Manchester, England (by way of Australia) invigorated '70s pop with an unlikely transition to blue-eyed soul balladry and an R&B dance sound, later dismissed as mere "disco." Perhaps it was because he knew that a stream of often achingly beautiful but callously ignored albums "ESP," "Size Isn't Everything," "Still Waters," "This Is Where I Came In" provided evidence enough that the brothers were songwriters and singers for the ages.
The role of peacemaker mediating the demands of sibling egos suited Maurice. Fans sensed that he was the glue that kept Barry and Robin together. He had stuck with Barry when Robin hotly departed in 1969 following a dust-up over whose voice should be featured on a new single and likely was instrumental when the brothers reconciled 18 months later.
"I call it lack of maturity," Maurice diplomatically told writer-producer David Leaf, looking back on the split 30 years later for a documentary on the Bee Gees that aired on A&E's "Biography" series.
Maurice's humble dedication to his more gifted brothers doubtless had something to do with how all three managed to stay at their craft, mounting fresh comebacks and artistic triumphs despite setbacks and humiliations that would have embittered less resilient souls.
Mr. Leaf asserts that although the other two brothers were more prominent, Maurice proved to be the always-on showman as well as the "techno-whiz."
"When it came to the rhythms, the beats, he had a big hand in the instrumental sound," Mr. Leaf wrote in a tribute on the official Bee Gees Web site. "His embracing of technology was one big reason why the records always sound contemporary."
"We're mad perfectionists, actually," Maurice told Mr. Leaf back in 1978 for an authorized biography, describing the brothers' recording routine at the height of their popularity. "That's our biggest problem.
"Naturally," he added, "we take a longer time on the vocals because they're the most important thing. People aren't going to sit back and listen for lead guitars in the background. They'll be listening to the vocals all the time."
The remark was pure Maurice Gibb, thinking most about pleasing his audience. And perhaps his brothers
|"Aust music industry pays tribute to Bee Gee Maurice" (ABC Online - 13 Jan 03)|
|The death of Bee Gee Maurice Gibb has prompted a wave of
tributes from music industry colleagues and fans around the world. But nowhere has his
loss been more keenly felt than here in Australia where the three brothers launched a
recording career that saw them become one of the biggest acts in popular music. During
those early years they crossed paths with many young Australian performers who went on to
become household names. Today, they remembered Maurice Gibb and speculated about whether
his death signals the end of the Bee Gees.
EARLY BEE GEES SINGING: "My old man is a dustman, he wears a dustman's hat. He wears gorblimey trousers and he lives in a council flat."
MICK BUNWORTH: They were the brothers Gibb, who went on to become the Bee Gees a harmonising trio that shook off the tag of novelty act to become one of the world's biggest and most enduring bands. But now the band of brothers has lost Maurice Gibb, who died yesterday, aged 53, from a heart attack he suffered during an operation for intestinal problems.
IAN 'MOLLY' MELDRUM: Maurice was the wit. He was again like John Lennon was to the Beatles. He could fire you with the one liners, and it would just break you up and the family as well.
MICK BUNWORTH: Australian rock legend Billy Thorpe remembers meeting the Bee Gees in 1957 when they were all pursuing pop music dreams.
BILLY THORPE: Maurice and Robin were really tiny and my first recollection of them is playing at a tennis court in Brisbane. They were all dressed in white tennis outfits with knee-high socks and tennis shoes. They looked like they were ball boys. But whenever they opened their mouths they always had that wonderful sound.
MICK BUNWORTH: Kevin Jacobsen was the man who discovered the Bee Gees and managed them in those early days. Ironically they tasted real success in Australia only after they returned to the UK to further their careers.
KEVIN JACOBSEN, MUSIC PROMOTER: They played on the ship going over there and they recorded 'Spicks and Specks'. I forget whether it went to number one during their trip there or a little bit before it, but then it hit in the UK at the same time. They met Robert Stigwood and from there on they've produced more hits than any other group.
MICK BUNWORTH: Australian pop idol and TV host Johnny Young visited the Bee Gees in London at this time. He remembers a down-to-earth Maurice Gibb introducing him to a legendary Beatle.
JOHNNY YOUNG, FORMER TELEVISION HOST: He walked right over to John Lennon, who was sitting at the table. John Lennon was like God then. And Maurice took me over and he said, "This is Johnny Young, he's a big star in Australia", this is how generous the man was, and a rock star. And I'll never forget the way that John Lennon replied to me. I remember that and it's embedded in my brain because he said, " Uh!" That was it. So I had an "Uh" from John Lennon thanks to Maurice Gibb.
MICK BUNWORTH: The Bee Gees continued to build on their success through the '70s. The 'Saturday Night Fever' album, which ushered in disco and went on to sell 30 million copies, immortalised the band.
JOHNNY YOUNG: The thing that people don't know is that Maurice played guitar, he played piano, he played the bass. On all of the Bee Gees tracks he did all of those, whereas Barry just played an open string guitar, and Robin couldn't play anything at all. He just had his voice. So, musically, Maurice was very much the centre of the band and I think on occasions it may have affected him a little that his very, very important role in the Bee Gees was perhaps not as recognised as Barry and Robin's were.
MICK BUNWORTH: Whether it was this perceived lack of recognition and early broken marriage or the death of younger brother Andy, many who knew him agree Maurice Gibb had his own battles, particularly with alcohol.
BILLY THORPE: He was very funny, he was always cracking jokes. At the same time there was - I always sensed a sadness about Maurice that was very hard for me to define what it was.
JOHNNY YOUNG: I think his marriage with Lou Lou broke up because he had a bit of an alcohol problem, but that's a small part of Maurice.
IAN 'MOLLY' MELDRUM: I think Maurice has said, and it's been documented, that he did hit the bottle at that stage after Andy had died because he couldn't come to grips, he kept blaming himself about maybe with Andy, with the drug abuse, that he should have done more and they all could have done more, you know.
MICK BUNWORTH: Whether the surviving Gibb brothers record or tour again remains to be seen, but there's little doubt that the world has lost a talented songwriter and performer.
BILLY THORPE: The Bee Gees have been together as a family working unit for 45 years. I'm sure that Barry and Robin could go out there and do it, but why would they? The Bee Gees was the Bee Gees. It was the brothers Gibb. The sad side of it is that Andy went many years ago and I knew Andy quite well, and now with Maurice gone, my feeling is I think that they'll probably call it a day.
|"Quiet one slips away" (By Robert Bartlett - The Straits Times Jan 18 2003)|
|THE death this week of Maurice Gibb from the pop group the
Bee Gees marks the beginning of the end of the baby boomers. From here on in, we'll only
ever be able to access the childlike innocence of the brothers Gibb - bare chests and
medallions, big hair and falsettos - in the past tense. There will be no more comeback
performances and, saddest of all perhaps, the Bee Gees as an integral unit will no longer
be around to take themselves seriously and sell records by the million while the rest of
the world stands ready to mock. For me at least, the very term baby boomer has lost a
certain currency as a result of Maurice's death. The tag has become an oxymoron in so far
as there were lots of us born in the same post-World War II period, but we are hardly
Hitherto, rock stars of that era have made their various exits early, either in spectacularly poor taste or else being true to their rock 'n' roll lifestyle, depending upon your point of view. Brian Jones, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Gram Parsons, Mama Cass Elliot, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon and, more recently, Who bassist John Entwistle, for example, seemed to mirror in death the substance abuse and lifestyle excesses that characterised their public personas. Maurice Gibb, however, succumbed to plain old-fashioned infirmity that began with a prosaic intestinal blockage. It's the sort of thing you and I might die from and hardly the high-speed, over-the-top kind of demise favoured by the James Deans of this world who wanted simply to live fast, die young and make good-looking corpses. That's not to say Maurice hadn't trodden the well-worn path to rock 'n' roll Nirvana via excess. His spending binges (at one time he owned six Rolls-Royces and eight Aston Martins) and his drinking (he is said to have realised the extent of his addiction when he found himself threatening his wife and children with a gun) bore all the hallmarks of spoilt pop-star behaviour. But somehow, in public, he and his baby-boomer brothers managed to retain a certain kind of innocence. As a result, they were often lampooned by the rock press and seen as being decidedly middle of the road. No TV-out-of-the-hotel-window antics, no groupies-on-tap image for them.
But while Maurice and his brothers Barry and Robin might have come up through the 1960s and then epitomised the 1970s, they were trapped in neither decade. By the 1990s, their various comebacks and collaborations - with Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and Kenny Rogers, among others - talked to a time that preceded hardcore clubbing, sampling and rap and yet, somehow, remained relevant.
I'd like to think it was the quality of their unique, collective music that kept them so, but others more cynical may say it was their uncanny ability to reinvent themselves, a knack learnt, literally, at their father's knee.
Hugh Gibb was a bandleader in the immediate post-war period in Britain. He recognised the talent in his sons and helped them make the rounds of cinemas and music venues in Manchester where they performed as a vocal trio under various names.
Certainly, their younger brother, Andy, tried later to emulate his brothers' success and failed. He became a teen heart-throb only to let success go to his head and die in 1988 at the age of 30 from heart failure associated with a serious cocaine habit - no beginning of the end of the baby boomers there.
Like or loathe the big hair, the high-pitched keening and the romantic image, the Bee Gees were the only post-war act to have scored No. 1 hits in each decade from the 1960s to the 1990s. They made 28 albums and sold a total of 110 million of them in a career spanning more than 40 years. Industry sources have been quoted as saying the brothers Gibb were among the five biggest-selling groups in rock history. The soundtrack to the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever, to which the group contributed five tracks, remains the best-selling soundtrack album of all time, a fact noted by the august Times of London this week.
Further, the Bee Gees were the only major group of their era to remain intact. This facet was at once their greatest strength and now, poignantly, has proved to be their greatest weakness. The Who continued after Keith Moon died and again after John Entwistle's death and the Rolling Stones have had numerous line-up changes that began with the death of Brian Jones in 1969. But I can confidently, albeit sadly, predict the Bee Gees will be unable to replace their brother, writer and instrumentalist, Maurice. I've seen other guitarists 'replace' the legendary Jimi Hendrix - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eddie Van Halen to name but two. I've seen female singers 'replace' the tortured and talented Janis Joplin - Etta James to name but one - but the unique contribution made by the voice of Maurice Gibb to rock's pantheon has been stilled and this time, it's a rock 'n' roll death with a difference.
The baby boomers - my contemporaries - are getting old. You can empathise with the fallen arches and appreciate the fact that Eric Clapton or Paul McCartney must sit to play these days. Not so Rolling Stone Keith Richards, I hear you say, but the day 'Keef' or Mick Jagger sits down to rock, it really will be time to pack up the circus.
The Bee Gees' impact was as profound in Britain and America as it was in Australia and Singapore. Here, copy bands were quick to emulate their harmonies and disco rhythms even if they hardly understood the lyrics, and Asian sales of Bee Gees records were impressive. So, Maurice Gibb's passing marks the passage of my generation into its dotage. How should we mourn it?
No more or less than we mourn any other loss, in my opinion. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, as The Beatles once reminded us, life goes on.
Just spare a thought maybe for the fact that here was one baby boomer at least who made this world a better place as he passed through it - and that's no mean feat
|"Reflections: A tribute to Maurice Gibb" (By Nikki Tranter, PopMatters, Jan 23 2003)|
|"Still waters run deep / Just remember when we lie to
each other / No one wins and losers weep / Reflection will show / This connection we can
lean on each other / This is all we need to know."
"Still Waters", Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (1997)
I rudely ignored my mother when she told me Maurice Gibb had been rushed to hospital in Miami after suffering a heart attack. So rude, in fact, that I all but laughed at her for even slightly entertaining the idea that the Bee Gee was anything but strong and healthy.
Thus, the announcement the following day (January 12) of Maurice's death while in surgery to remove an intestinal blockage hit me so hard I felt as though I'd been kicked in the chest. Seated on the couch in my bedroom as the news came to me in a commercial break during Dick Clark's Bloopers show, I doubled over and cried, my husband left to watch and wait it out until I pulled myself together. I was embarrassed to face my mum, reasonably hurt at my callous dismissal the night before, and instead called my best friend, Lyndall, to see if she'd heard the news.
At just 23, I'm lucky enough to have never lost anyone close to me, and my reaction at the passing of Maurice stunned me into reflection as to just why I was left that night to repeatedly lose control of my emotions over someone I've never even met.
Maurice Gibb, as a part of the Bee Gees, had a significant hand in writing some of the most popular and well-known songs of all time, not least of which those featured on the phenomenally successful Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Born on The Isle of Man, the Bee Gees' musical career began in England in the mid-1950s when Maurice and his twin brother, Robin, were just six years old, and older brother Barry was nine, and they were known collectively as The Rattlesnakes. Though the band's name changed quite a few times during that initial period -- from Johnny Hays and the Bluecats to The Brothers Gibb and the BG's before settling on the Bee Gees -- the music remained the same, with expert three-part harmonies to mirror father Hugh's favorite act, The Mills Brothers.
These harmonies were often heard throughout the streets of London in those early days but were cultivated in Australia when the Gibb family emigrated in 1958. The official reason given for such a dramatic move was Hugh's search for a job, yet the boys' rambunctious behavior, which included street violence and arson, is said to have had a hand in it as well. In Australia, the Bee Gees released several successful singles, including the #1 hit, "Spicks and Specks" in 1967. Consequently, the Gibb family decided to move back to England in order to find a wider audience.
Back home, they immediately found management and support in the form of Robert Stigwood who was instrumental in the success of The Beatles. They soon released the haunting "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (inspired by several dark hours in a broken elevator) which became the group's first international hit. From here on, the Bee Gees set towards their goal of writing relevant, introspective songs that could easily appeal to any audience. The band's obvious love of folk, rock, pop and classical music was to show up on each of their following hits, including "I've Gotta Get a Message to You", "I Started a Joke" and "To Love Somebody".
The Bee Gees' success reached its peak in the 1970s when the guys were advised by producer Arif Mardin to move away from pop music to rival The Beatles and turn their attention to R&B. What they came up with was "Jive Talkin'", a song written about a dance move but later reconstructed to be a song about "jive talk" -- a term Barry, Robin and Maurice were initially unfamiliar with. The hits that followed, "How Deep is You Love", "You Should Be Dancing" and "More Than a Woman" were also considered by the boys to be classic R&B tracks, but instead became known for heralding the onset of the disco era, injected by the songs featured in Saturday Night Fever.
Following the demise of disco, the Bee Gees continued to write music, often for a range of other artists (including writing the wondrous Eyes That See in the Dark album for Kenny Rogers), as well as themselves with 1987's ESP and 1997's Still Waters among the best work the group ever produced.
The Bee Gees represent a steadfast belief in companionship and loyalty to each other and to music. Their talents stretched so far as to allow them to remain contemporary throughout the multitudes of musical style changes throughout the 80s, 90s and into the new millennium. The group was so aware of these changes that it took just a slight effort for them to continue their relevance whether Billboard charts reflected so or not.
They were still making good pop music as late as 2001 on their final album together, This Is Where I Came In which sounded as if any number of the current pop acts could have recorded it. Their progression and desire to construct accessible music was evident on each of the album's tracks, including sultry "Loose Talk Costs Lives", experimental "Voice in the Wilderness" and Maurice's own "Man in the Middle" and "Walking on Air" .
Maurice Gibb's input into the songs that made the Bee Gee the success they became is incalculable. His innate ability, along with his brothers, to know what sounds were right where and what worked and what didn't is the likes of which the music world is unlikely to encounter again.
When I called my best friend to see if she's heard about Maurice's death, she hadn't. Breaking the news to her turned out to be far more difficult than hearing it myself. Though I'd heard their music played in my house when I was younger, it was Lyndall who really introduced me to the beauty of the Bee Gees' music. Lyndall's intense passion for the group quickly rubbed off on me, and at 14, I became obsessed myself (one of my earliest memories in our friendship involves the two of us sitting in the dark listening to Saturday Night Fever surrounded by pictures of the group and John Travolta).
While I commend the Bee Gees for giving me countless hours of joy through their music, helping me through hardships in my life with their often relentless exhilaration, and digging me out of a period of feeling intense adolescent hopelessness (mostly thanks to my favorite Bee Gees song, "You Win Again"), I thank them as well for helping me find (and keep) a kindred spirit in Lyndall. Reflection on my relationship with her has allowed me to understand a little better why Maurice Gibb's death affected me so profoundly.
Comforting as it is that Barry Gibb has stated that Maurice's death will not signal the end of the Bee Gees and that he and Robin will continue to write music and perform in Maurice's name, without Mo standing aside his brothers in his trademark black fedora, there'll always be something missing.
|"Bee Gees are disco kings" (By Alexis Petridis, The Guardian, Jan 16 2003)|
|There was something slightly odd about the obituaries that
followed Maurice Gibb's death. They noted the Bee Gees' enormous success, chuckled at
their clothes, and mentioned their fraternal bickering and substance abuse. Yet they
barely mentioned the music the Gibb brothers made. At best, any praise was grudging - one
writer noted their "mechanised efficiency". At worst it was nonexistent.
We live in a time when rock and pop music is constantly being revalued. Artists that were once considered beyond the critical pale are newly assessed in the light of sampling, broadening tastes and rock music's borrowing from increasingly arcane areas of the past. Slade were terminally unhip until Oasis borrowed their terrace-chant-glam sound and covered Cum on Feel the Noize. Serge Gainsbourg was dismissed as evidence that the French were cloth-eared until DJs began sampling him and Pulp and Beck pinched ideas from his back catalogue. Yet somehow, the Bee Gees have avoided reappraisal.
There is something about them that smacks of early-evening ITV, of lowest-common-denominator populism. Their songs may be endlessly covered, but the artists that choose to rehash them are hopeless. While their peers the Walker Brothers are feted by Radiohead, Blur and Pulp, the Bee Gees are big with boy bands: 911, Boyzone, Take That. When they get sampled, it is never by ultra-hip dance experimentalists, but by novelty acts such as Scottish ravers N-Trance and oafish Kiss FM presenter Brandon Block.
Perhaps the Bee Gees have never been reclaimed as cool because of their prickly public image. Ever since they walked out of Clive Anderson's chat show in 1997, the trio have been perceived as humourless and egotistical. Extensive research suggests that they may not be the only rock stars in history to embody these characteristics, so perhaps it's down to musical snobbery. Either way, it's time for a change. It's time to abandon pretensions, to stop sniggering, and to admit that the Bee Gees are fantastic.
The evidence is in the records they made. Their early albums make enormous capital out of stylistic confusion. Audibly unsure whether they wanted to be the Beatles, Donovan or Engelbert Humperdinck, the Bee Gees attempted to be all of them at once, with startling results. On their 1967 British debut album, First, they veer wildly from whimsical period psychedelia to string-laden balladry to perplexing dementia. Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You crams cod Gregorian chanting, a ton of then voguish studio trickery, an inexplicable lyric and a queasy Strawberry Fields Forever-ish melody into its three minutes. It is utterly of its time, and utterly wonderful.
Their subsequent 1960s albums are equally uneven, but therein lies their charm. There is something fantastically appealing about records such as Idea and Horizontal, on which cabaret standards ("I've Gotta Get a Message to You", "Massachusetts") uncomfortably rub shoulders with songs called "The Earnest of Being George" and "I Have Decided to Join the Airforce". Not everything works, but after hearing them, you could never accuse the Bee Gees of pandering to the middle of the road or refusing to experiment.
This characteristic stood them in good stead when their career floundered in the 1970s and they adapted their sound to encompass disco. Before that happened, it was underlined by their tendency to come up with peculiar and intriguing concept albums: Odessa, Trafalgar, Cucumber Castle. The decision to promote the latter by dressing up in medieval costumes was a questionable one, but at least it distanced them from the crooners with which they were usually grouped. You wouldn't catch Tom Jones clanking about in chainmail on his album covers. It was the first of series of sartorial disasters that, in the mid-1970s, ended up overshadowing the music they made. As photos in the recent Wings book Wingspan reveal, even Paul McCartney spent the mid-1970s looking like the unwitting patsy in a couturier's practical joke.
But even when attention shifts from the Bee Gees' wardrobe back to their music, people sniff and carp. With its usual quicksilver grasp of musical trends, the American press has recently concluded that disco didn't really suck after all. Despite this enlightened climate, special opprobrium is still reserved for the Bee Gees. Before they came along, runs the thinking, disco was a cool, urban phenomenon, exclusively the province of ethnic minorities and the gay community. The success of the Bee Gees' soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever made it straight, suburban and embarrassing. That would be true if the records the Bee Gees had made were merit-free cash-ins, but only a churl would suggest that of "Night Fever", "Jive Talkin'" or "If I Can't Have You".
There can be few able-bodied human beings under the age of 60 that have never been propelled to a dance floor by the opening bars of "Stayin' Alive". You feel compelled to dance not for kitsch reasons, but because there is something undeniable about the song. Like Abba's blue-eyed disco pastiche "Dancing Queen", "Stayin' Alive" is a perfect record. It boasts a guitar riff that somehow manages to sound simultaneously laid-back and propulsive, an unforgettable melody, and a brilliant lyric that can't decide whether its macho protagonist is a strutting hero or a pitiful figure. It may not be "authentic" - the music bore's favourite adjective - but then, neither was the Clash's take on reggae, and you never hear anyone moaning about that.
Two things traditionally happen when a rock star dies. First, their records start selling again, as the public are spurred to the shops by grief and nostalgia. Second, their oeuvre tends to be re-examined in a kinder light than during their lifetime: as Joni Mitchell once pointed out, you don't know what you got till it's gone. Reports suggest that the Bee Gees' greatest-hits set The Record is flying off the shelves. Perhaps Maurice Gibb's death will mean the songs contained on it will cease to be viewed as naff souvenirs of an embarrassing past, and begin to be seen as the work of brilliant songwriters, capable of shifting between genres and effortlessly encompassing new trends in their sound. That would be a fitting epitaph for a desperately underrated musician
|"Life devoted to music" (BBC - Jan 12 2003)|
|As a member of the Bee Gees, with world-wide record sales
exceeding 110 million, Maurice Gibb enjoyed a place among the top five of the most
successful recording artistes of all time, along with The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson
and Sir Paul McCartney.
The group wrote and produced six consecutive Number One singles in the United States, while in Britain they wrote chart-topping hits in four consecutive decades.
But the life of Maurice Gibb, the Bee Gees' bass guitarist and keyboard player, mirrored the ups and downs of the group's experience.
He and his twin, Robin, were born in the Isle of Man on December 22, 1949, but in the 1950s the family moved to Manchester, and in 1955, the precocious trio of Robin, Maurice and their elder brother Barry, made their debut at a cinema, singing and miming the hits of the day.
In 1958, the family moved to Australia, where they wasted no time in promoting their would-be showbiz careers, adopting the name Bee Gees as an abbreviation of the Brothers Gibb.
They had limited success but in 1967, just as they decided to try their luck in Britain, they made the breakthrough and were voted Group of the Year in Australia.
In England, Robert Stigwood, partner of the Beatles' Brian Epstein, became the Bee Gees manager and the hits started coming.
New York Mining Disaster 1941 was followed by Massachusetts and during a 16-month period, the Bee Gees chalked up Number One hits in 15 countries.
But already, fame and money were accompanied by the familiar perils of drugs, alcohol and feuding. While Robin pursued a solo career, Barry and Maurice spent excessively and married, Maurice to singer, Lulu. The couple met in the BBC canteen when they were appearing on Top of the Pops and announced their engagement on Lulu's TV show. They married in 1969 and lived in exclusive Hampstead, in north London, where they indulged in the trappings of wealth, with Maurice buying a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley and an Aston Martin in the space of a few days. But Maurice had by now hit the bottle, and when party guests left, the couple rowed. They split up in 1973, but remained friends, appearing on stage together last year, when they sang a duet on An Audience with Lulu.
Robin soon rejoined his brothers and though they had some hits in the early 1970s, sales were falling off until their album, Children of the World, went platinum with three hit singles, including the disco anthem, You Should be Dancing. It heralded the Bee Gees' greatest triumph, the soundtrack for the film, Saturday Night Fever, featuring funky dance rhythms and high harmonies.
Several of the tracks, including Night Fever and How Deep is Your Love, went to Number One, while the album eventually sold 30 million copies worldwide. The group had another chart-topping album in 1979, Spirits Having Flown, but the 1980s brought a decline in their popularity in the United States and for some time, the brothers' careers went their separate ways.
In 1988, younger brother Andy, 30, died after succumbing to drugs, and Maurice, by now, had relapsed into drinking. But, reunited on stage and record with Barry and Robin, Maurice continued to enjoy intermittent success internationally. And Maurice found happiness with his second wife Yvonne with whom he had two children, Adam and Samantha.
In the 1990s, he and his brothers received an American Lifetime Achievement Award, a Brit Award and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Maurice Gibb had ensured his place in pop history.
|"Maurice and the Bee Gees legacy" (ITV - Jan 12 2003)|
|Maurice Gibb's life was one of peaks and valleys - he
enjoyed enormous success, but was plagued by a lifelong drinking problem.
He and his twin Robin were born on the Isle of Man on December 22, 1949, three years after their brother Barry.
The trio started out as a child act encouraged by their father, Hugh a band leader, and their mother Barbara, a former singer.
They continued performing when the family moved to Brisbane, Australia in 1958 and took the name Bee Gees, an abbreviation of Brothers Gibb.
In their teens, they released a series of singles and an album but it was not until they returned to England that they found international success with New York Mining Disaster 1941, released in mid-1967, which made the top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic.
They followed that with Massachusetts, a chart topper in England. But a family row meant they did not record together for 18 months.
In 1969, Maurice married Scottish singer Lulu. The couple had met in a BBC canteen before the Bee Gees recorded a song for Top of the Pops. Their engagement was announced live by Lulu on her TV show.
But Maurice's drinking - which was to plague him for the rest of his life - meant the relationship was stormy, and they divorced in 1973.
Lulu said of their failed marriage: "I was incredibly sad, but it was never going to work. We were two spoiled little pop stars, each too used to having our own way."
The Bee Gees reformed in 1970 and created their first American number one Lonely Days, and the following year had another hit with How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, covered by soul legend Al Greene.
In 1975, Maurice married his second wife Yvonne, the mother of his two children Adam and Samantha, now both in their 20s.
The group's success at the beginning of the 1970s did not last. The musical world was changing around them and they lost ground to emerging sounds like glam rock.
Labelmate Eric Clapton suggested they record in a studio he had just used and their sound changed when producer Arif Mardin, who had worked with Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and many other soul legends, joined them.
Jive Talkin, a single from their second Mardin-produced album, became their second number one in America and the culmination of their rebirth was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack which sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
The vast sales of Saturday Night Fever brought them a whole new audience, and their next album, Spirits Having Flown, also went No 1 in countries all over the world.
Yet the Bee Gees followed a well-worn career path and soon after their peak everything began to fall apart as the disco boom came to an end by the beginning of the 1980s.
They were virtually invisible for most of the decade but produced hits for artists like Diana Ross and Dolly Parton. They staged a comeback in 1987 with a new album and again two years later.
But the family suffered a setback when brother Andy died in 1988 aged 30 from heart failure.
Maurice, who admitted to having had a drink problem, said: "After Andy's death it got even worse. I just drank and drank to numb my mind."
The group continued to release albums and were inducted into the Rock `n Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and were awarded CBEs in the 2002 New Year's Honours list.
Thanks to the enormous success of Saturday Night Fever and Spirits Having Flown, the Bee Gees count as the fifth in the line of best-selling artists ever.
They also became part of pop history by having hit singles in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and this decade - one of the very few acts to do so.
|"Death before disco" (By Brian Doherty - Reason Online - Feb 6 2003)|
|The death of pop singer/songwriter and paintball
enthusiast Maurice Gibb in mid-January received some notice, to be sure. He earned
obituaries from The New York Times and Associated Press and a cover banner in our
celebrity journal of record, People (guiding the reader to a mere two-page story on
This was respectable enough, but unenthusiastic and unwounded. And it could seem almost insulting to those with vivid personal memories of the late 1970sparticularly 1977 to '79, during which the Bee Gees (the musical act comprised of Maurice, his twin Robin, and his older brother Barry) copped six number one hits, topping the charts for 20 weeks. The galaxy of stardom the Bee Gees represented receded from us, in some mysterious astral anomaly, faster than light.
Beyond those three years when the pop earth was prostrate at their feet, Maurice and his brothers had a pop chart career that spanned three decades. They hit number one nine times, had more top 10s than a top 10 list could contain (15) and came scarily close to forming their very own Top 40, with 30 tunes charting there. Over 100 million total records sold. Not just fabulously successful pop songsmiths, Maurice and his siblings were also the very epitome (deservedly or not) of a pop cultural momentdiscothat has come to define a decade.
And still Maurice's death occasioned no more respect or love from the guardians of the public press than that of Sam Lewis (NYT obit the next dayhe invented armadillo racing) or tinpot dictator Leopoldo Galtieri (Associated Press obit, same dayhe helped bring us the Falklands War, not exactly a Greatest Hit by any standard). Nor is there much evidence thatalthough every entertainer has his special fans (and Maurice had one in me)the public noticed anything amiss. Really, it seemed as if no one cared. Not as bad, perhaps, as finally dying and starting the whole world living. But it was obvious that our love for the Bee Gees was not, in the end, very deep.
It would be easy to ignore the meaning of this muted reaction to Gibb's passing. What happened to Maurice not only is eerily predictive of the rapidly-quickening Twilight of our Pop Gods (a wave of pop music deaths is clearly swelling on the horizon) but also says something important, if not necessarily pretty, about Americans' ability to integrate our pleasures and our sense of self.
Predictive? Ask not for whom the bell tolls, New Kids on the Block, Vanilla Ice, Hootie, Garth, and Mariah. As the Bee Gees' falsetto becomes a forgotten wail in the distance, so go the sounds you've given us. All these people sold more than ten, if not tens, of millions of albums. To us. Their dominance of their respective pop moments was staggering, all the more so for how quickly it disappeared. They dug deep into the pocketbooks and yes (lie if you must) the hearts of many millions of Americans, deeper than most of their peers. But even they will see their platinum albums decayed with rust. In fact, they already have. In some ways, their obituaries have already been written. Brief, professional, and barely a wet eye in the house. The harder they come, the harder they fall.
The Faustian bargain of stardom used to be that, sure, you'd irreparably compromise any hope of unstressed, easy normality in life and love. But you would win the grail of immortality. Nowadays, with worldly pop success, you still screw up life and love (look hard for an apparently happy life among our pop Olympians) but get gypped on the immortality.
But Mauriceand the now-faded megastars listed aboveare just pop. As Bob Seger (than whom no one could be more immortal, I suppose) assured us, rock 'n' roll never forgets. Indeed, rock starsmost recently represented by Joe Strummer, and a little farther back Joey Ramonecan count on more thoughtful extended treatment upon their passing, a seemingly deeper public mourning. Strummer was still the subject of essays on his meaning and legacy in the big papers nearly two weeks after he diedan eternity in daily paper terms.
Our cultural understanding of popular music is funneled through a mostly rockist intelligentsia. This is a crew always more interested in words and sociology than they are in music. They will always have more room in their hearts and their histories for a Joe Strummer than a Maurice Gibb. Jeff Miers, writing in the Buffalo News, summed up the differences (though he wasn't thinking of Gibb, still alive when he wrote) thus: "Good pop is about craft, about the ability to create a hook, to reach the masses by creating musical dialogue within the vernacular. Rock 'n' roll needs to be good pop, but it is also something more. Pop is a product; rock 'n' roll, when it's done right, sprays blood on the tracks, offers a snapshot of deeply felt beliefs."
Well, uh, sure. Not to disparage the Clasha great bandbut what this means is that Strummer offered something meaty for a word-based ideologist to bite into. At base, he stood for political and social ideals that the press loved. (Even the goofball nihilism of the Ramones was squeezed into a progressive politics by some pundits when Joey died.) It has always been hard for the priests of RockThink to deal with punk in any manner other than ideological; this is why the Sex Pistols go down in history as somehow more valuable than the Buzzcocks.) An almost unlistenable triple LP dedicated to a communist revolutionary government (The Clash's Sandinista!) means more to those who write the histories than an unspeakably gorgeous #1 pop song like "Too Much Heaven."
It is a strange yet undeniable phenomenon (doubtless connected in some ways with the heavy youth-skewing of many big stars of the moment, though I don't think it was kids buying 16 million Hootie and the Blowfish records) that the biggest pop sensations seem the most embarrassing and are the most quickly abandoned. But a Ramone or Strummerwho in their entire lives sold fewer albums than one LP by their ostensible acolytes Green Dayare guaranteed continued respect up to and past their deaths.
An obvious answer is that the Ramones and the Clash were great (which they were) while the megasellers sucked. But that's too easy. How and why is it that somewhere along the line "we" all seemed to decide that the Bee Gees, Vanilla Ice, New Kids on the Block, and Hootie were worthless? While Americans surely love their pleasures, we just as surely mistrust them and are quick to turn our backs on them. We see this with the current and looming fates of cigarettes and fatty foods in public policy and law. And if we don't hate our pleasures, we try to turn them into jokes. The seventiesa decade understood to be dedicated to a particularly decadent pleasurecannot currently be dealt with as anything other than a kitschy joke in our culture.
And so we turn our backs on our own childhood and youth instead of integrating themwe deliberately alienate our cultural adulthood from the supposedly foolish enthusiasms and pleasures of our past. That's why Maurice had to be denied. The Bee Gees' lush, enfolding, perfect, and strange harmonies are pure pleasure, irrespective of meaning (which is not to say the Gibbs haven't written some fascinatingly bizarre lyrics in their time as well). At the height of their stardom, they took the music and leisure culture of urban blacks and gays and brought it to the suburbs (with the help of John Travolta, to be sure, but what's the dancer without the music?). No one thanked them for it, because its deeper cultural meanings were convincingly buried under a veneer of pure mindless hedonistic fun. Purists could snipe that they exploded and thus irreparably damaged urbanites' private fun; troglodytes led fascist death-to-disco record burns. They suffered the fate of the id smothered by the superego, the same fate MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice endured when they made it unmistakable that hip-hop was fated to dominate pop. Something difficult had been reduced to dumb fun.
The pundits may little note nor long remember what Maurice Gibb did here. But in a sense, Maurice has been consecrated far beyond their poor power to add or detract. Sociological and intellectual significance can be trodden on like scattered confetti by eagerly dancing feet. True immortality may come one human memory at a time. In which case, Maurice Gibb is already in the pantheon; and will be joined one day by Hootie, and even those guys from New Kids on the Block whose names we can't even remember. These clownssacrificed to our own misguided sense of shame over pure sonic pleasurewill remain, even if the are never publicly acknowledged, in tens of millions of memories.
The Holliesquite equivalent to the Bee Gees in their time as quirky, lovely baroque popsterssang of "King Midas in Reverse." Maurice's passing is more like Ozymandias on Fast Forward. It didn't take millennia of desert winds and sun to erode his gargantuan legacy to "the decay of [a] colossal wreck"merely the embarrassment of age for youthful enthusiasms that cannot be connected convincingly to anything larger or more important. But sometimes, there is nothing more important than a song to sing or a beat to move you. Those are what sell tens of millions of records. And they deserve more respect than they get.
|"When The Bee Gees Were Three" (By Bruce L Thiessen - www.tollbooth.org)|
|His voice was silenced too soon. Those who knew the band
for more than their dominion over the disco sound of the mid to late seventies, understood
what a valuable member of the Bee Gees Maurice Gibb was. With his bouncing bass-lines and
multi-layered keyboard cakes of sound, he shaped the sound that gave the band one of the
greatest legacies in rock history. On Sunday, January 12, 2003, he breathed his last
breath after suffering from a cardiac arrest apparently triggered by complications of a
blocked intestine. The news came as quite a dramatic shock to the family, friends and fans
of the man and his music.
Most folks don't realize how deep their love is for a musician until that musician passes away. Consider Curt Kobain, Jimmy Hendrix, Elvis Presley, George Harrison, John Lennon as examples. Though Maurice was not the cynosure or center of attention, he was arguably the foundation upon which the Bee Gees house of music was built. Maurice was there throughout a remarkable four-decade span in which the band remained on the cutting edge of variegated popular musical genres.
Though Maurice would not have us remember him by the dreaded "D" word, a discussion of his life and his music without any reference to it at all would represent a conspicuous gap and a gross act of critical negligence. I must admit that I've always found disco to represent a guilty pleasure for me. Back in my high school days there were three phenomena one would never admit having an affinity for: the mellow magic of Barry Manilow, the fruit-flavored bubble gum of the Bay City Rollers and the sucky sounds of a disco band. While I also embraced much of the music that critics and "cool" peers embraced, I must admit, (to borrow a song title from one of Barry Gibb's most successful solo albums), I was Guilty on all three counts. One day on my way home from the local record store, where I had just purchased an album of greatest disco hits, I was accosted by a so-called friend who asked me what was in the bag. At first I would not let him see it, but eventually I took the risk. His look of marked disdain served as a harbinger of the carping words that were about to spew like venom from his mouth. It was the dreaded "Disco sucks!" reply. I had been caught red-handed. What could I do to cover my sense of utter embarrassment? I didn't plan it, but the words leaped out of my mouth without warning. "Yeah, but it sucks good!" I replied. There was nothing profound about my statement of defense, but it does summaries my sentiments about disco quite succinctly.
I'm sincerely apologizing for the fact that I'm about to sound like a blind, deaf and dumb Bee Gees apologist. I'm going to bring up the touchy subject of Saturday Night Fever. Some say that Saturday Night Fever, and the concomitant disco heyday that cemented their musical fame was their greatest misfortune. Sure, they were victims of the fever they helped generate. But those who diss and dismiss the music of that best-selling soundtrack of all time miss the message of the lyrics, the hypnotic power of the pulsating beat, the raw energy that the music conveyed, and the extraordinary tight harmonies contained in each tune. Many albums are deemed artistic failures simply because they are commercial successes. I must agree with critics to some degree, Saturday Night Fever was not their crowning glory but it wasn't completely void of such talent either.
Maurice Gibb played a primary role in writing some of the greatest Bee Gees songs. His songwriting presence was especially conspicuous in the early years in which a Beatlesque sound gently and gracefully evolved into a series of beautiful love ballads that carried a distinctly unique Bee Gees sound. 'I Started a Joke' was a dark departure from the trio's central theme of love and romance. It told a story about the domino effect that one individual's words set in motion. It contained a seriousness that was part and parcel of the Bee Gees music of the sixties. Their stage presence, on the other hand, was exceedingly playful, and Maurice's trenchant wit contributed greatly to the convivial atmosphere generated in their live performances. And though laughing mattered, the sixties were no laughing matter.
The sixties represented a breeding ground that spawned some of the most memorable music of contemporary Western culture. But most of the most prolific artists of that era (including the Bee Gees) drew their inspiration from angst, pain and international malaise, not joy. With the exception of what the first decade of the new Millennium has offered heretofore, the sixties was arguably the most overwhelmingly turbulent and troubled period in the history of Western civilization. Viet Nam; the Cuban crisis involving the Bay of Pigs episode; the assassination of JFK; racial hostilities; the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; and the cold war were among the colossal events creating what was then an unprecedented level of international anxiety. The sexual revolution and the open questioning of authority that grew from that era, while providing an outlet for built-up tensions and conflicts, also chipped away at the sense of absolute values and innocence that in the past had been a source of comfort and security. Marriage also took a direct hit, and young women who gained access to the pill and to legalized abortions were faced with painful choices that teens of yore never had to struggle with. Can't cope? Cop out with dope! That was all the hope youth culture offered to its own in this troubled time. Reality? That was for those who could not handle drugs. The drug culture was intended to provide a transcendental path away from a world folks could not deal with. Drugs numbed the mind, but any psychologist will tell you that avoidance and denial are revolving doors that can only lead to self-destruction. On a more positive note, the world also turned to music therapy to relieve tension. When drugs were not the center of the musical experience, music provided a positive, constructive outlet. Some songs, like 'Turn, Turn, Turn,' 'Let it Be,' 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' and 'Put Your Hand in the Hand,' actually offered overt and/or covert solutions. Back in the days when the Beatles were four, and the Bee Gees were three, the words and music of heartfelt love songs soothed and comforted the soul. The musical textures, harmonies and songwriting skills provided by Maurice on songs like 'Words' helped to create a certain tranquil ambience while restoring innocence and order to a chaotic world that had been robbed by those characteristics.
Listening to the music of the Bee Gees may be a divine experience and it's hard to imagine the Bee Gees being anything but three, but they were not the holy trinity. He may have sang like one, but Maurice Gibb was no angel. He openly admitted to being a recovering alcoholic, and he undoubtedly had other personality flaws. Was Maurice Gibb driven by the fleeting fever of fame, or the lure of filthy lucre? If his goal was to prevent his music from becoming commercially successful, he failed miserably. But commercial success, as a byproduct of hard work and stellar skill, is not sufficient grounds upon which to conclude that money or fame for that matter were at the heart of this, or any other artists' motives. While it is not up to us to judge the motives of an artist, we can observe the fruits of an artists' labor and draw certain inferences from our observations. One thing became clearly decipherable as I studied the musical contributions of Maurice Gibb to the Bee Gees. Just like Jesus, he used his talents and his time on earth to spread joy, peace and good will throughout the earth. Music was his vehicle to promote such good will, and the harmonies he helped to create could be regarded as a metaphor for the divine harmony the universe was designed to reflect. While in certain musical circles, using music to spread moral depravity, self-centeredness and racially charged hatred is the order of the day, Maurice's music only added to the beauty of this earth.
In reaction to the reductionistic atomism of their day, turn-of-the-century Gestalt psychologists Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler stressed the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If these pioneers of psychology were alive today, they would probably agree that the Bee Gees were the Bee Gees because they were three. Andy Gibb, the baby brother of the Bee Gees who passed away of drug-related heart failure in the late seventies, was never officially a part of the musical trio or the Gestalt that was the Bee Gees. Therefore, the loss of Andy, while tragic and lamentably untimely, did not create the conspicuous chasm that the loss of Maurice will inevitably produce. We will be sadly deprived of the slice of heaven he contributed to the band. And, just in case heaven is the 'Rock 'n Roll Heaven' that the Righteous Brothers pictured it to be in their 70s smash single, die-hard fans of Maurice Gibb will be 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' until the day we die just to see and hear him again. One day, we hope the circle will be unbroken.
The Bee Gees taught us the best way to mend a broken heart. Along with the support and love of friends and family members, a broken heart is best mended with music. The surviving Bee Gees may need to re-learn or re-teach themselves that very lesson. Though fans do not hurt in the same way, or with the same level of intensity as close friends or family, we all hurt in our own way, and will dearly miss the days when the Bee Gees were three. But are those days really gone? In a sense, the Bee Gees are still three, for I believe that the spirit of Maurice will remain in the hearts of his brothers. I believe that his spirit and memory will continue to co-write and join in the singing of beautiful new Bee Gees melodies. My heartfelt sympathies go out to Robin, Barry, and their families, along with Yvonne (Maurice's wife of twenty plus years) and Maurice's two children. There appears to be a big, dark, daunting hole in the band. But as the twins of time and music begin to heal the gaping wound, that whole will close, and with that closure, comfort will ensue. As for Maurice,
Rest in peace, and may your music go on.
|"RIP Maurice Gibb" (By Robert Fontenot - About.Com)|
|For anyone born in the late Sixties (or afterwards) the
Bee Gees were That Disco Band, those guys with the high voices and blown-dry hair who gave
the world such "Saturday Night Fever"-era classics as "Staying Alive,"
"Jive Talkin'," and "You Should Be Dancing." But the recent death of
Maurice Gibb - the most talented of the three brothers, from an instrumentalist's
standpoint - may just force people to re-evaluate the band's legacy. And they should,
because the Bee Gees' contribution to music is perhaps better summed up by a title they
had in the Sixties: The Australian Beatles.
That's a name as unfair as it is accurate; unfair because the Brothers Gibb were not just a copycat act, yet accurate in terms of their outstanding ability to craft a song and their genius in adopting others' musical styles to their own sensibility. Indeed, their 1969 masterpiece Odessa is increasingly mentioned in the same breath as other Sixties pop epics like Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds. This is not to overlook their immense, almost unfathomable contribution to the disco craze of the late-Seventies (and R&B in general), not to mention the trio's long list of excellent hit songs written and produced for other artists. It is important, however, especially now, to realize that the Bee Gee legacy is much longer, more varied, and even more historically significant than some of us have grown up believing. Espeically since the trio behind the legacy is, technically, no more.
|"Goodbye Maurice" (By Kyle Whelliston - www.artlandies.com/analog_roam)|
|About eight years ago, I found myself vacationing in Miami
Beach. It was a bright pastel-colored spring afternoon, all warm breezes and swaying
palms. I strolled northward along the A-1-A's wide sidewalk - I passed by art
deco-inspired hotels, small caf�s offering pastries and Cuban coffee, cluttered marinas
full of bobbing white spires against an aquamarine sky.
I encountered an older couple, arguing on a marina's view-deck. The man, wearing a loud Hawaiian-style shirt, was trying to move on to the next attraction, trying to convince a morbidly obese woman in a flower-print sundress, "Let's go." But she was unmovable, rock-like.
"Not yet, dear," she yelled out in a shrill Fran Drescher accent. "I want to see the Bee Gees' yacht. I read in this guidebook that this marina is where it is. I want to see the Bee Gees' yacht, and I'm not leaving until I see it."
For some reason, I found empathy within me - not for the husband and his prodding, but instead for his wife. It's the cheapest of cheap metaphors, but the Bee Gees were always like that boat for me - fascinating, tantalizing, but somehow just beyond my reach.
I spent a good portion of this past holiday season redecorating my small one-bedroom apartment. One of my projects was to move my two seven-foot bookshelves from the hallway into my front room. This meant taking all the books from the shelves and arranging them into tall piles - so I wouldn't throw my back out.
My girlfriend came to visit one day during my renovation, and immediately took an interest in the stacks of books in the hallway. She went straight for a slim paperback, titled The Bee Gees: A Dazzling Photo-Bio. The torn and tattered cover still bore a yellow 25-cent sticker from a yard sale. "The Bee Gees?" she said, sneering.
"What's wrong with the Bee Gees?" I countered, folding my arms defiantly.
"Ummm..." She couldn't find it in herself to form an argument. "Nothing, I guess."
This morning, January 13, when I heard the news about the unfortunate and tragic passing of Maurice Gibb, I went back to that book. I found some text, there in the first chapter, a paragraph slathered in faded yellow highlight ink.
I remembered when I had used this book for research
purposes, back when I had carefully marked the sections I felt were somehow important. It
was 14 years ago, when I was a high school junior. I was in a horrid goof-punk three-piece
called Anal Shrapnel - Laszlo played guitar, Zak was on (Casio) keyboards, and I was a
sort of multi-instrumentalist.
|"Honoring a Bee Gee" (By Hank Stuever - The Washington Post- Jan 17, 2003)|
|It takes a certain kind of brother to stand toward the
back of the stage so that the other two get more light, and who seemingly accepts his fate
to not sing lead on any of the hits. His older brother, Barry, was the given leader of the
Bee Gees, the polyester lion in disco's zoo. His twin brother, Robin, was the
trouble-toothed dandy, who got so mad once, in the early days, that he stormed out and
recorded his own album.
Then there was Maurice Ernest Gibb.
The family that suffers being the punch line of every joke about the 1970s together stays together. As Maurice lay dying Sunday, at age 53, Robin was racing on a plane from England to Miami to be by his brother's side. According to the New York Post, Robin made it just hours before Maurice was gone. (Maurice died after surgery for an intestinal blockage.)
Honoring a departed Bee Gee is easier than you think, for the pure and simple ideals of trio, brotherhood, falsetto, glitter and the time you stood in the back yard and practiced your moves. We're past the '70s now, having lived through them once and revived them twice, and the Bee Gees supplied the music each time. It's funny how it sounds more classic, not less: A scratched-up 45 single of "Jive Talkin'," their 1975 hit, sounds like jazz.
They perfected a fad (disco), and their 1977 soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever" sold 40 million copies. It is still, nostalgic or otherwise, an influence - a soundtrack in the truest sense of the word, aural shorthand for getting ready to go somewhere on a Saturday night.
What seems far more ridiculous than the Brothers Gibb's tight pants and jet engine vocals is the memory of how suddenly despised they were: A low point in American pop culture is not "More Than a Woman" or "How Deep Is Your Love?" but the news footage of all those knuckle-draggers burning heaps of disco albums - the Bee Gees' included - in a riot at a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park in 1979. That vaguely fascistic, homophobic and racist event was supposed to signal the death of disco, only it wasn't, but it sent the Bee Gees and others into artistic exile.
The brothers went cheerfully because they were a showbiz family, and showbiz families always show both rows of teeth. In this brood, Maurice was the entertainer - the funny one, the self-aware one, and the one who gave the best quote when all those reflective rockumentaries came calling 20 years later.
In interviews, it was Maurice who seemed least insulted by the Bee Gees' fate, who seemed to have the keenest awareness of a good Bee Gees joke. He told funny stories about fame and egos and temper tantrums, about the millions of dollars lost to sports cars and frivolity, about his first marriage, to the pop singer Lulu. He spoke frankly about the drug-related congestive heart failure and 1988 death of his younger brother, Andy Gibb, a teen idol with a cocaine addiction. He was circumspect about the Bee Gees' perseverance, telling the Los Angeles Times in 2001, after they'd recorded a reunion album:
"This is what we love to do. If you're a writer and you win the Pulitzer Prize, you don't stop writing. If you're a scientist and you win the Nobel Prize, you don't say, 'Now I don't have to do science anymore.' It's born in us, we've done it all our lives."
Still, the disdain for them recalled an early hit for the group:
I started a joke which started the whole world crying
But I didn't see that the joke was on me, oh no.
I started to cry which started the whole world laughing
Oh, if I'd only seen that the joke was on me.
The Bee Gees had sinned, to an extent: They seized upon soul dance grooves in 1974 as a way to plug into the decade, since people were no longer buying their quaint Aussie Brit-pop sound of the late '60s. (They got their start wearing neckties and singing folk songs as preteens on an Australian variety show.)
By the time disco faded, the Bee Gees' transgressions not only included their platinum success but also the fact that they rerecorded "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" for a doomed movie version co-starring that other million-selling casualty, Peter Frampton. (Maurice Gibb's star turn in that one was to pillage John Lennon's "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.")
Time heals all, even what happened at Comiskey Park. The Bee Gees were beatified by VH1 documentaries and then canonized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Nobody gets too much Heaven no more / It's much harder to come by, / I'm waiting in line," goes one of their songs, as if anyone can get too much Heaven. Maybe the Bee Gees got there, in the collective conscious, in terms of posters on bedroom walls, in terms of kids dancing around the room with giant headphones on. Forty million "Saturday Night Fever" records, in the end, are a nice balm. Bee Gees fans are so loyal - and so legion - that Bee Gees Web sites have already gone somber, with black background screens and reverent stanzas from the Bee Gees oeuvre. "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" appears to be a favorite.
Almost as heartbreaking as the death of 50 percent of a duet is the death of 33.3 percent of a trio. Layer on our eternal fascination for the relationships between twins, and other siblings, and it's not at all hard to hear a ballad in the death of Maurice Gibb the Bee Gee. It's the kind of song you'd hear piped into hair salons or convenience stores, the kind of song that leaves space in the middle for the oldest brother to explore the outer limits of his vocal range (dogs flinch), while the quiet brother supplies workmanlike harmony.