DON'T FORGET TO REMEMBER: The Official ILM Track-By-Track BEE GEES 1968-1981 Listening Thread

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Put on your 18th century frock coat and/or satin windbreaker and pull up a chair as we explore the dizzying highs and breathtaking lows of over two-decades of the Brothers Gibb! This will probably take the better part of a year, even doing a song a day, so let's get this party started.
(not pictured: the best Bee Gee)

Οὖτις, Friday, 14 December 2018 16:42 (three years ago) link

shit this should be 1967-1981 d'oh

Οὖτις, Friday, 14 December 2018 16:49 (three years ago) link

first up, from Bee Gees 1st, "Turn of the Century". In the vein of other late 60s chamber-pop psych pining for bygone eras, fashions, and manners (The Association's "Wasn't It a Bit Like Now", The Hollies "Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe", Tomorrow's "Auntie Mary's Dress Shop" etc.) and yet I think this one harkens *back* the farthest - not just to the 20s or pre-war UK but actually to the previous fucking century. For who among us has not longed for hoop skirts, unwieldy bicycles, and oversized cravats. As with many other tracks on this album, it sounds hastily composed and is not particularly complex and has daft lyrics - but the eerie orchestration, harmonies and finely tuned melodies ultimately sell it. The teary-eyed nostalgia for a vanished British Empire was a mode Robin would return to again and again.

Οὖτις, Friday, 14 December 2018 17:38 (three years ago) link


Οὖτις, Friday, 14 December 2018 19:08 (three years ago) link

Not a great idea to launch this when (seemingly) 90% of ILXors are getting all giddy and light-headed over an indie band from Glasgow.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Friday, 14 December 2018 19:12 (three years ago) link

But, yes, "Turn of the Century", much better than those other songs you cited, not as good as the Bonzos' "The Equestrian Statue" though, which resembles this.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Friday, 14 December 2018 19:19 (three years ago) link

huh didn't know that particular Bonzos track

Οὖτις, Friday, 14 December 2018 19:30 (three years ago) link

so many harpsichords, when is someone gonna bring back the harpsichord in pop music

Οὖτις, Friday, 14 December 2018 19:30 (three years ago) link

A concert favourite for over 30 years, Maurice Gibb often provided the audience with comedic antics by attempting many failed attempts to join Barry and Robin while singing this song. Evidence of this can be seen in the 1989 "One For All" concert video where Maurice takes a camera from a film cameraman standing nearby and films Barry and Robin as they sing the song.

Who knows what this song is about, really. Beautifully eerie.

Οὖτις, Saturday, 15 December 2018 16:30 (three years ago) link

i’m in !!

budo jeru, Saturday, 15 December 2018 16:56 (three years ago) link

I'm in too. Coincidentally, I'm writing about these dudes tonight.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 15 December 2018 17:00 (three years ago) link

FUCK YES I'm so glad I suggested this

"Who knows what this song is about" is an excellent question about so many bee gees songs

resident hack (Simon H.), Saturday, 15 December 2018 18:02 (three years ago) link

god some of these early songs should really be licensed out for horror soundtracks

resident hack (Simon H.), Saturday, 15 December 2018 18:04 (three years ago) link

they have to be the weirdest looking gaggle of freaks ever to become oversexed pop stars

resident hack (Simon H.), Saturday, 15 December 2018 18:07 (three years ago) link

"Who knows what this song is about" is an excellent question about so many bee gees songs

I think a lot of them are about fitting any old words that'll do to a good tune, they have written some very weird lyrics over the years.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Saturday, 15 December 2018 18:28 (three years ago) link

I think they were quite good lyricists from time to time, but it’s clear from their demos and recording habits that their overriding priority was always melodies (and harmonies) first and foremost

Οὖτις, Saturday, 15 December 2018 19:37 (three years ago) link

imho this is an excellent approach to lyric creation

resident hack (Simon H.), Saturday, 15 December 2018 19:43 (three years ago) link

so many harpsichords, when is someone gonna bring back the harpsichord in pop music

something something indie band from Glasgow...

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Sunday, 16 December 2018 11:25 (three years ago) link

Oh ffs.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Sunday, 16 December 2018 12:26 (three years ago) link

yknow, I'll be interested when you guys get to tunes that Maurice sang…like I have the 1990 box set, but I can't tell the difference easily between his voice and Barry's, at least in the early years…like what's the most prominent tune he sang? or what's the song that's most his but one of the other two sang? My understanding is that he was the boffin of the three, but there must be something else noteworthy about him…it does seem that Barry was the massively talented one, and Robin was notably toothsome, charmingly awkward…

veronica moser, Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:24 (three years ago) link

He only very occasionally had a lead vocal - and I don't think he sounded much like Barry, he didn't have a particularly distinctive voice, he did a good John Lennon impersonation though! I would say the title track of "Trafalgar" is his most prominent vocal?

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:50 (three years ago) link

I know him best as keyboarist and harmonist.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:50 (three years ago) link

did maurice do lead on "have you heard the word?"

errang (rushomancy), Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:53 (three years ago) link

(xp) Bass player!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:55 (three years ago) link

Of course. Less so on later albums.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:58 (three years ago) link

One odd thing about Barry Gibb, of course, is that he plays in Open D tuning. Worth remembering if you're trying to learn Bee Gees songs on guitar!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Sunday, 16 December 2018 14:07 (three years ago) link

Today’s entry, more flutes and mellotron and some nonsense lyrics about childhood (afaict). A goat appears to have snuck into the studio towards the end. To me, this one always feels a little bit of a piece w Syd Barrett’s similar obsession w fairytales, nursery rhyme sorta stuff (albeit w out the same level of creepy undertow)

Οὖτις, Sunday, 16 December 2018 16:06 (three years ago) link

This possibly their most psychedelic track, though there's a lot of them - it's brilliant anyway.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Sunday, 16 December 2018 19:23 (three years ago) link

By the way, to return to the earlier discussion on Maurice's contribution to the band, I believe he's responsible for the mellotron on this and other tracks.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Sunday, 16 December 2018 19:26 (three years ago) link

Yeah his bass and keyboard playing is p distinctive. Not sure what his first lead vocal is - one of his tracks from odessa or cucumber castle maybe?

Οὖτις, Sunday, 16 December 2018 19:59 (three years ago) link

And four songs into the first album we finally get something with a relatively conventional lyrical POV, and one the bros would mine extensively - the pleading lover. Musically I don't think it's that distinctive from other orchestral balladry of the era, but it's not bad.

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 16:28 (three years ago) link

Who are those other 2 rando's on the cover of this album? Also, is Maurice getting a message on one of those secret service earpieces, or did he just have a toothache?

enochroot, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:45 (three years ago) link

the other two are the drummer (Colin Petersen) and the lead guitarist (Vince Melouney)

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:46 (three years ago) link

wiki implies that Maurice's first solo vocal turns are on Odessa ("Suddenly", where you can definitely tell him apart from Barry and Robin; less so on "I Laugh in Your Face")

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:48 (three years ago) link

(xp) Yes, they were a fully-fledged band by the time they got (back) to the UK.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Monday, 17 December 2018 18:51 (three years ago) link

Could "In My Own Time" be them at their most beatlesque? The bass line definitely bears a strong resemblance to Taxman.

enochroot, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:53 (three years ago) link

no skipping ahead!

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:54 (three years ago) link

(but yes)

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:54 (three years ago) link

My bad - i have no idea how these listening threads work... someone mentioned "One Minute Woman" already, but there was no mention of "Holiday".

enochroot, Monday, 17 December 2018 18:56 (three years ago) link

They're not exactly short of Beatleseque tracks.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Monday, 17 December 2018 18:58 (three years ago) link

"Holiday" was posted on Saturday

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 19:31 (three years ago) link

Missed it too, great song, great non-ovine vocal from Robin too.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ (Tom D.), Monday, 17 December 2018 19:35 (three years ago) link

Ah, so it's a track a day. Got it.
(i'll save my Taxman/Doctor Robert comparisons for tomorrow)

enochroot, Monday, 17 December 2018 20:41 (three years ago) link

I can skip tracks on weekends, if ppl aren't around as much

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 20:53 (three years ago) link

I almost missed this! Yay! Bookmarking so I can join in. Thanks for starting this up Shakey... we are in for QUITE a journey I think! :D

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 December 2018 20:55 (three years ago) link

I missed the start of this as well. Cool idea – tho maybe we should name the song explicitly? Esp. since the song titles don’t show up if using the app and they’re embedded in videos.


Turn of the Century – not much I have to add to Οὖτις’s take on this.

Holiday –

Who knows what this song is about, really. Beautifully eerie.

Yeah no idea but Robin singing about puppets and repeating “Throwing stones” in a descending melodic turn defines melancholy. The first Robin classic if not a three-hanky one.

Red Chair Fadeaway – I love the “IIIIII can feel/The speaking sky” twist of the chorus. There are bits here near the end of the choruses where the melody drops away and the drums and bass keep pounding away and there are little trumpet flourishes that have, yeah, a real Revolver/the tape is still rolling feel. But the whole thing feels a little too “psychedelia for your auntie” to be mistaken for that record.

One Minute Woman – not sure I have much to say beyond that it’s one of Barry’s earliest soul tunes and fairly successful for what it is.

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 17 December 2018 21:25 (three years ago) link

Great thread. I don't expect to add much but will listen with pleasure.

Ned Trifle X, Monday, 17 December 2018 21:28 (three years ago) link

yeah sorry, I will add the songtitles in posts from now on!

Οὖτις, Monday, 17 December 2018 21:34 (three years ago) link




Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 December 2018 22:50 (three years ago) link

I have no idea why I haven't contributed enough, but I wanna shout out my love for Spirits Having Flown's title track. I love the keyboard hook.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 4 November 2019 23:18 (three years ago) link

I quite like the 80s Robin albums, I mean, diminishing returns by the final one, but they're still better than "Living Eyes".

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Monday, 4 November 2019 23:31 (three years ago) link

"Boys Fall in Love" would've been touching in 1983 as a A Flock of Seagulls or Peter Schilling knockoff: a lonely planet boy riding to earth on synths.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 4 November 2019 23:33 (three years ago) link

Robin is the original lonely guy just thinking baout things.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Monday, 4 November 2019 23:37 (three years ago) link

oh shit

Οὖτις, Monday, 4 November 2019 23:37 (three years ago) link

omfg are we really up to "spirits having flown"

i have so much catching up to do

tantric societal collapse (rushomancy), Tuesday, 5 November 2019 00:39 (three years ago) link

That was a whole album ago

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 5 November 2019 00:42 (three years ago) link

Track No. 179: Be Who You Are ("Living Eyes", 1981)

In yet another stylistic left-turn, this song opens with an extended and sumptuous orchestral introduction (over 2 minutes long!) worthy of Robin's more grandiose moments. When Barry finally enters it's just his isolated vocal and a bit of electric guitar, with strings and piano gradually creeping back in and building up through the first verse. Barry's melody is kind of all over the place; he leaps from his lower register all the way into his falsetto more than once, and by the first chorus we are solidly in 80s power ballad territory complete with melodramatic power chords and plodding drums. Wordless harmonies come in, doubling by violins, towards the end of the second verse (or is it a chorus? the structure of this one kind of eludes me with its endless crescendos and diminuendos). The 80s gloss on this type of overblown balladry feels a little off to my ears, maybe this would've worked better with a more roughly hewn early 70s-type sound, there's at least half of a good hook somewhere in Barry's lead melody but it gets lost. An album closer that reaches for epic but doesn't quite get there.

This album is a bookend for the second phase of their career. I wish I could say we were ending this survey on a high note, but let's face it this album is pretty bad. They still had quality material in them - the 80s hits they penned for others are generally very high quality ("Islands in the Stream" obviously at the top of that heap), plus weird solo experiments and a certain white-jumpsuited duet smash hit, and they would regroup and return to the charts again towards the end of the decade. But by 1981 they were exhausted, adrift, and feeling like more of a running joke than one of the most successful bands ever. By this point, thankfully, I think some measure of critical rehabilitation has set in; they've always had a massive fanbase in Europe, and the hits from their peak eras are undeniable.

RIP Robin and Maurice.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 5 November 2019 16:44 (three years ago) link


― Οὖτις, Friday, December 14, 2018 11:08 AM (ten months ago) bookmarkflaglink

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 5 November 2019 20:40 (three years ago) link

Don't really know what they're trying to do with that closing track but I suppose it's different. I hope people re-visit this thread, if only to listen to some Bee Gees (how) deep (are your) cuts!

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Tuesday, 5 November 2019 21:23 (three years ago) link

This album feels like a compilation of random leftovers from other albums

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 5 November 2019 21:37 (three years ago) link

That final song sounds like compilation of random leftovers from other albums.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Tuesday, 5 November 2019 21:38 (three years ago) link

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 5 November 2019 21:41 (three years ago) link

what a strange trip it's been
Thanks for your tenacity, shakey, I have heard some pretty, pretty odd music via this thread, and I wouldn't have otherwise.

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Tuesday, 5 November 2019 22:51 (three years ago) link

Yeah, this has been a super-fun thread. Thanks for doing it! Any other bands you'd want to do this for?

DJI, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 01:27 (three years ago) link

Me? lol no I’m takin a break

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 01:41 (three years ago) link

OK, having sorted through this thread here's my pick of Bee Gees' deep cuts. "Children of the World" I know was technically a hit but since I managed to go 43 years never having heard it before I'm going to classify it as a "deep cut".

How Deep Are Your Cuts? The Bee Gees 1967-1979

Record 1: The 1960s

Side 1:
Cucumber Castle
Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You
I Close My Eyes
Sinking Ships
Down To Earth
Out of Line

Side 2:
Kilburn Towers
Indian Gin and Whisky Dry
Swan Song
Odessa (City on the Black Sea)

Record 2: The 1970s

Side 3:
The Greatest Man in the World
It's Just the Way
Paper Mache, Cabbages & Kings
Please Don't Turn Out the Lights

Side 4:
I Can't Let You Go
Children of the World

Note: I didn't listen to every single song posted to the thread...

tantric societal collapse (rushomancy), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 02:08 (three years ago) link

Charade? For real?

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 02:13 (three years ago) link

I like clarinet solos.

tantric societal collapse (rushomancy), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 03:03 (three years ago) link

If this collection was ever released that would make two albums I'd have to skip "Charade" on.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 07:36 (three years ago) link

whatever, you probably don't like benny goodman either

it did occur to me reading this thread that the osmonds literally rock harder than the bee gees. that's pretty impressive.

tantric societal collapse (rushomancy), Thursday, 7 November 2019 01:07 (three years ago) link

Thanks for this whole thing, Οὖτις! I was quietly reading and listening along to this oddness almost all the way through. (Though I think I de-lurked a bit before realising I was never really saying anything.) Cheers!

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 7 November 2019 05:04 (three years ago) link

it did occur to me reading this thread that the osmonds literally rock harder than the bee gees. that's pretty impressive.

You can almost count all the instances of the Bee Gees legit "rocking" on one hand:
Heavy Breathing
In My Own Time
Such a Shame
Back Home
Bad Bad Dreams
Down the Road

Οὖτις, Thursday, 7 November 2019 17:18 (three years ago) link

Even after following along with this thread, it wasn't apparent to me just how popular the Bee Gee's were prior to their falsetto reinvention, but this data visualization really drove it home:

They were one of the top 10 selling artists for most of the 70's (i.e. the first 2 minutes of the video)
Didn't realize the Odessa/Trafalgar/Tin Can period sold so well.

enochroot, Monday, 11 November 2019 01:07 (three years ago) link

I would guess a lot of that is back catalog sales actually. None of those albums sold particularly well.

Οὖτις, Monday, 11 November 2019 02:14 (three years ago) link

Although Lonely Days and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart were big hits in the US

Οὖτις, Monday, 11 November 2019 02:16 (three years ago) link

that data visualization is fun to look at and doesn't even remotely track with reality.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 11 November 2019 09:15 (three years ago) link

That's why you're my fact-checkin' cuz

enochroot, Monday, 11 November 2019 14:05 (three years ago) link

two weeks pass...

I hate that I gave up on this thread.

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 29 November 2019 06:01 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

Ok I’ve been getting back into this thread as a result of the documentary. So great. Some proverbial thoughts – I’ll quote the full posts bc they deserve more love and attention:

Track No. 42: I Have Decided to Join the Airforce ("Idea", 1968)

In the vein of Pink Floyd's "Corporal Clegg" or the Kinks' "Tin Soldier Man", in my opinion this fairly silly military nostalgia cosplay song/character sketch achieves a little bit of added depth when it swerves into minor-key territory on the middle eight. Accompanied by a time change that switches from a stiff march to a standard 4/4, the "don't ask me why/it's my mind and it's right/don't ask me why/it's my life/it's better, it's better than being alone/alone on the ground" adds an eerie quality that undercuts the otherwise child-like arrangement and delivery. Another in a long line of Robin's misty-eyed fantasies of the bygone British empire.

Agree with posts that suggest what an earworm this one is. The 2’14” flies by.

Track No. 70: My Thing (Cucumber Castle, 1970)

Maurice's discovery of major 7th chords apparently inspires him to write and perform an entire song, by himself, about his dog. And honestly aside from the muffed piano chord at the beginning, it's pretty great! The structure is fairly basic - a repeated two chord pattern that drops the major 7th when it gets to the refrain and then shifts towards the end to a major key I-IV-V pattern, and the wistful melody and drifting mellotron are coupled with an endearingly dopey lyric that eventually devolves into wordless harmonies. For something that was obviously conceived as something of a jokey bit of fun it's actually quite pretty. A welcome bit of silliness amidst all the other maudlin weepiness on this record.

This is the first time I’ve listened to the Cucumber Castle LP in ages – so much of this record kind of glides by in a country-ish, Spector-ian echo chamber wash, tho I do like Sweetheart and Don’t Forget to Remember. But My Thing really feels like a Harry Nilsson track to me, from the lyric to the wordless singing to the tossed off nature of the thing. I get a similar vibe from Lay It On Me, which also shares similar strings to those Mike McNaught arranged for Knnillssonn later in the decade.

Track No. 74: 2 Years On (2 Years On, 1970)

Opening with a striking choral a capella bit directly referencing the split and reunion is a canny move, serving as an immediate reminder of what was missing in the intervening period as well as whetting the appetite for things to come. An abrupt jump-cut into the main body of the song opens the door on Maurice's rumbling bassline and a steady backbeat from
new drummer Geoff Bridgford (borrowed from the Maurice-produced Aussie band Tin Tin) and an uncommonly strident lyric and lead vocal from Robin. Barry apparently does not sing on this track, but I assume that's his guitar (I suppose it could also be Maurice). The chorus is great, everything a Bee Gees chorus should be. And although the transitions from the chorus back into the verses feel a bit forced, the tune is capped off by a brief ascending falsetto melody at the end. A solid albeit nakedly autobiographical opener. Unfortunately, things go downhill from here imho...

Great write up but for me it’s the reverse: I always think of this record as a dud and forget how good this song is. The “Only you can see me” refrain in the chorus is classic.

Track No. 75: Portrait of Louise (2 Years On, 1970)

Actually, things don't go downhill quite yet, as evidenced by this compact little tune. While Robin is apparently absent from the track, the vocal harmonies still sparkle, particularly on the overlapping "you can shelter in my arms/and I won't ask you why" refrains after the key change at the end. The orchestration gets a little busy in places, can kind of tell Shepherd was trying to fill the bars of some fairly simple chord changes. Bridgford acquits himself nicely; after his deceptive opening kickdrum hits suggest a more uptempo song, he settles into a gentle groove with Maurice that rolls along with none of the stiffness that characterized Petersen's playing.

can hear some traces of Barry's disco-era falsetto peaking through as well

Are we sure Robin isn’t on this? Maybe it’s Barry’s falsetto but the chorus blend sure sounded like the three of them.

Track No. 79: The 1st Mistake I Made (2 Years On, 1970)

Honestly this song makes me a little irrationally angry, its half-assedness is practically an insult to the listener. With little more than a barely-there 4-bar vocal melody repeated ad nauseam, Barry delivers a nonsensical lyric that consistently undercuts the titular refrain (how can you have more than one first mistake?), begging the question of how something this stupid was not immediately flagged as a mistake in its own right. The one mildly interesting detail is the brief snatches of Maurice's phased electric guitar, which was a relatively new sound in their arsenal. But this is the second song in a row where their usual attention to craft and innate melodic skills really fail them, as they don't seem to have been deployed at all.

So I really wanted to bring this one up bc I agree this seems to be an unremarkable song. But the first time I heard it I actually loved it. That’s because it was this version, by the Dwight Twilley Band’s Phil Seymour:

What’s kind of incredible about this is that it doesn’t on the face of it sound that different than The Bee Gees version. And I’m kind of neither here nor there about the sax solo. But the piano plod and string arrangement add just the right amount of weight and sweep, and the vocal is exceptional in its understatement (Seymour was a terrific singer). What’s shocking is that he heard anything worthwhile in the original.

Track No. 91: Remembering ("Trafalgar", 1971)

Robin's first turn in the spotlight and he lays it on thick with a melody that spans his full vocal range and another morbidly morose lyric. The orchestration really does the heavy lifting in the arrangement, with multiple countermelodies from the strings popping in and out, plus some timpani accents for good measure. Barry and Maurice are decidedly in the background, their backing harmonies serving more as a choral compliment to the orchestra. Not a bad song by any means, but I feel like Robin overdoes it with the vibrato, making his vocal cross the line from affecting to silly.

I was always struck by how underwhelming most of Trafalgar was once you got past How Can You Mend a Broken Heart – Israel is weird with all of Barry’s emoting, and the Greatest Man in the World feels overly melodramatic.

As for this song, well, it at least stuck out to me and was memorable. And yes, it has moments of outright parody. The second, falsetto “When you left/I FELLLLLL TO PEEEE-SEZ” is hilarious – probably only bested by the chorus of When Do I (which I still sort of enjoy? I almost can’t explain it).

Track No. 94: Don't Want to Live Inside Myself ("Trafalgar", 1971)

For evidence of just how far Barry's innate melodicism can carry a song, look no further than this passionately delivered slice of total nonsense. A bunch of randomly thrown together lines, very sloppily overdubbed, sail over an arrangement that never seems to settle on a tempo, with random dramatic drum fills, pounded 8th notes on the piano, and melismatic strings just sort of bobbing along trying to keep the vocal afloat. That being said, the overall effect still somehow works, to my ears at least; the descending refrain still managing to convey that particular Bee Gees combo of eeriness and melancholy.

I’ve never been able to get past the fact that the verse here feels like a straight-up ripoff of CSNY’s Helpless, which, given when it was released, it might’ve been.

Tom D.’s commentary on this stretch of songs is amazing BTW.

I’ve always enjoyed the highlights of theirs from 1970-74– there is maybe two solid records of really good stuff in this period, possibly a bit more—but listening straight through it’s around this time that I begin to realize how they got stale post reformation. It’s almost as if the old chemistry is there but they aren’t really enjoying being around each other the way they were in their 1960s heyday. And so there are just so many more songs that are either underwritten or under-produced – as if they’ve resigned themselves to having to be around each other for their careers.

At any rate, I’m really liking this! And pissed I didn’t stick with this last year. Will pick up a bit later.

Naive Teen Idol, Saturday, 26 December 2020 21:05 (one year ago) link

(Worth noting that I’m discussing mostly 2 Years On and Trafalgar here—I think there’s a good but more energy and variation on To Whom This May Concern—but holy shit those records are a slog)

Naive Teen Idol, Saturday, 26 December 2020 21:20 (one year ago) link

I don't have any particular comments about the tunes just mentioned, but I wanted to say that although I wasn't here to comment on this thread at the time, I was reading every post. I do agree that the 70-73 period is hit-and-miss compared to before and after. Two Years On is especially dreary.

I'd love to have the chance to participate in more threads of this sort, either song-by-song or (like the Lightfoot thread) album-by-album. Xenakis is a little too dry (no offence intended to his biggest fans).

Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 26 December 2020 22:54 (one year ago) link

Agree. I could mayyyybe be interested in contributing to or doing an addendum for Robin’s Reign and Sing Slowly Sisters (which wasn’t officially released when we did the tracks poll).

Naive Teen Idol, Saturday, 26 December 2020 23:05 (one year ago) link

Robin's solo material is every bit as nutty and, in some ways, even more nutty but there's a lot less variety to it. Love it, of course.

Eggbreak Hotel (Tom D.), Saturday, 26 December 2020 23:48 (one year ago) link

somebody should consider taking up the mantle on shakey's abandoned sly stone track-by-track thread

budo jeru, Sunday, 27 December 2020 03:16 (one year ago) link

Honestly, I found that thread slow going. It never seemed to get out of Sly's adolescence.
It's good to be judicious in selecting a time period to explore. How much of a slog would this thread have been if it started with the Bee Gees' Australian albums?

Halfway there but for you, Sunday, 27 December 2020 03:51 (one year ago) link

I think Shakey starting the thread when Sly was 4 years old (or whenever) was a bit much. After all, he ignored all of the Bee Gees' Australian recordings, which had at least produced, "Spicks and Specks".

Eggbreak Hotel (Tom D.), Sunday, 27 December 2020 11:16 (one year ago) link


Eggbreak Hotel (Tom D.), Sunday, 27 December 2020 11:16 (one year ago) link

A few more thoughts:

The discussion around To Whom It May Concern about Robin's last sole compositions and lead vocals reminds me of an interview I saw recently, might've been in the documentary, where Barry says it was Robin, of all people, who really pushed Barry to write songs for his falsetto. He also said that Robin was the one who was most driven for chart success.

Good posts on “I Held a Party” — a song I really like.

"You Know It's For You” feels like Maurice has traded Nilsson for the Moody Blues.

By the time To Whom It May Concern reaches “Please Don’t Turn Out the Lights” and “Sea of Smiling Faces" I realize how much more I enjoy listening to this record than anything since Odessa (other than the Robin albums, each of which leaves 2 Years On and Trafalgar in the dust in terms of consistency). It’s clearly a (the?) highlight of their post-reunion/pre-disco records.

Plowing through the disco records now ...

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 13:49 (one year ago) link

Re. their songs about getting laid too much, it’s interesting that Barry has been happily married to the same woman for, like, 50 years.

Good call on “Country Lanes” having an Eric Carmen vibe.

And yeah, I agree that Main Course feels a lot more similar to the previous records than it seemed – the second side in particular is really a throwback to the 70-74 grab bag era once they got their disco out of the way. As a result, the disco records feel like less of a slog – like what they really needed was some tempos variation!

On to Children of the World ...

That being said, even with Barry firmly in the lead, it's worth noting that song credits on their disco era albums are all almost uniformly split between the three brothers, possibly an act of solidarity on Barry's part that was both smart and generous.

I’ve always wondered about this. Even later hits, songs like “Islands in the Stream” are credited to the three brothers. Is it possible Barry was simply being generous? Yes – but that doesn’t explain why, say, other songs on those records he wrote for other artists were credited solely to him. Not to suggest Barry wasn’t the most creative force with the band around this time but I’m wondering if maybe he really did lean on them for some of the bigger hits.

I’m not sure I ever heard “Lovers” before. This is hilarious! “Boogie Child” is kind of also bizarre as fuck, but the chorus is terrific. “Love Me” feels like it fits well here – I’d forgotten it but it def. among the most hilarious Robin vocalisms in their catalogue.

You’re right that “Tragedy” has more than a little Moroder going on – the Oberheim riff alone carries a lot of that. But it’s always felt a little like sub-Moroder to me, like “Oh hey, let’s try that sound” – as opposed to legitimately having to have it. Weaver kind of stumbling onto it in the session video kind of makes it seem as much.

Maximalist is right – almost every song on this record feels over the top other than “Until” which is kind of a spooky way to close out this era.

As for Living Eyes ...

After Shaky mentioned it was Jeff Porcaro on the title track, I’d have bet money it was him doing his patented shuffle on “He’s a Liar.” What a weird choice that is for a single. Seems to have all the hallmarks of neither the label nor the band having any idea how to market them by this point.

“Paradise” is the debut “Really smooth and boring yet still memorable ballad” from these guys that they’d become so well known for. I can almost see the pointing at the camera in the video and solemn nodding that accompanies it. “One” starts here, folks.

Will report back once I’ve had a chance to refresh my memory on the rest of this record ...

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 18:38 (one year ago) link

In terms of songwriting credits, I remember reading that Robin in particular was good at coming up with memorable lyrics at the spur of the moment, even if a given song had its genesis with Barry.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 18:57 (one year ago) link

I also remember Blue Weaver complaining that a song where he composed the chords that Barry sang a finished lyric over came out credited Gibb/Gibb/Gibb.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 18:59 (one year ago) link

He doesn’t get a credit on “How Deep Is Your Love” notwithstanding the fact that he and Barry both remember writing the song the same way.

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 19:47 (one year ago) link

By the time To Whom It May Concern reaches “Please Don’t Turn Out the Lights” and “Sea of Smiling Faces" I realize how much more I enjoy listening to this record than anything since Odessa (other than the Robin albums, each of which leaves 2 Years On and Trafalgar in the dust in terms of consistency). It’s clearly a (the?) highlight of their post-reunion/pre-disco records.

I get the feeling that "To Whom It May Concern" is sometimes considered the nadir of their 1970-74 period (by those lucky people who might not be aware "Life in a Tin Can" even exists), the title has such an air of desperation about it, but I agree it's actually pretty enjoyable. "Trafalgar" is something ridiculous like 48 minutes long and if you lopped off about 15 minutes it would be a really good album. "Mr. Natural" is clearly the best post-reunion/pre-disco album.

Eggbreak Hotel (Tom D.), Wednesday, 30 December 2020 20:26 (one year ago) link

A few more thoughts re. the disco years ...

Blue Weaver is kind of the secret weapon of this era. He clearly was paying close attention to Stevie Wonder and Cecil/Margouleff programming on stuff like “Lovers” and “Children of the World” with all that floaty melodic polyphonic stuff. But he’s also clearly the engine behind a lot of these arrangements other than the horns. Great Rhodes and piano parts everywhere. Even as late as Spirits of the World, he’s adding synth riffs and textures.

“Boogie Child” really is a kick – it takes Bowie’s “Fame” riff and actually does something with it. All in all, I think Children of the World might be their best from this period.

Lastly, re. “Country Lanes,” I listened to that song about 7x in the car just now. There’s something incredibly moving about that chorus as it builds and builds, with Robin melodramatically proclaiming he’ll never “belong” to anyone again. Hits me right there as well, Tom (tho why is it “in” country lanes instead of “on”?). Makes me feel like writing some of those gloppy YouTube comments mentioned upthread.

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 23:52 (one year ago) link

four months pass...

Has no-one pointed that the narrator of "I Started a Joke", be it Adolf Hitler or whoever, actually dies in the course of the song?

― The Vangelis of Dating (Tom D.), Friday, 8 March 2019 16:39 (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

wracking my brain for whether or not that's unique in their catalog - it might not be!

― Οὖτις, Friday, 8 March 2019 16:48 (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

It isn't. Robin (who else?) also dies in his solo track, "One Million Years" - although the first line in the song is actually "I'm dead" he later tells us "I passed away". It's like Sam Beckett but managed by Robert Stigwood. He also claims he dies in "Saved By the Bell" but that's a bit more ambiguous.

Are Animated Dads Getting Hotter? (Tom D.), Monday, 17 May 2021 18:30 (one year ago) link

seven months pass...

"i started a joke", same energy same voice:

In the past, I have fallen for this trick over 100 times. I've suffered professionally and mentally as a result. Their tactics are ruthless.

— wint (@dril) December 6, 2021

mark s, Thursday, 13 January 2022 10:48 (ten months ago) link


The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 13 January 2022 11:08 (ten months ago) link

ten months pass...

i regret having fallen off of this thread early, after a binge-y catchup on the first two albums. but that experience absolutely stuck with me, 'cause i've recently ended up acquiring copies of both records! i've really been loving the time spent with Bee Gees' 1st this week. it's an odd duck in that it's definitely greater than the sum of its parts, but also really oddly sequenced... even several listens in, i keep expecting something to be a side-ender and then there's two more songs after it. why on earth is "Please Read Me" not the album closer?? that would be great.

but it's really enjoyable as this charming and sometimes brilliantly hooky exemplar of slightly trippy 1968 pop-rock, tremendously influenced by both Pet Sounds and the Beatles' last few releases, but without the rockin' instrumental deftness of George and Ringo, or the harmonies and more directly emotional/confessional lyrics of Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. the combination actually does work, mainly because of the really distinct and committed (if sometimes mildly affected) vocals. and the songs are more varied and interesting than pretty much any other up-and-coming bubblegum psych act i've heard. like, i have a longstanding fondness for the Lemon Pipers' Green Tambourine, and this is a way way better record than that. i would guess that the Brooklyn Bridge's debut album is probably in a similar vein but i remember trying it out once and it was just a dreary chore. etc.

most especially "to love somebody" has risen tremendously in my estimation over the past ~4 years, i now think of it as an obvious towering classic of the genre. you can easily imagine that chorus as a fondly-remembered garage-rock hit by an otherwise unknown band, but the strings and vocals are so unmistakably part of this unique Bee Gee fusion. it really packs a wallop!

Doctor Casino, Saturday, 19 November 2022 18:54 (two weeks ago) link

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