Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bee Gees: 50 Years of Great Hooks




The BeeGees First album has a place of honor in my collection because it is still fun to listen to and it confirms a couple of my personal theories. One is that first albums from a group are always the best. And second, that 1967 was the greatest year ever for rock and roll.



Perhaps I was smitten by the haunting lyrics of New York Mining Disaster 1941 (In the event of something happening to me...) or the anthemic sounds of To Love Somebody (You don't know what it's like...) that led to the powerful hook of the title phrase. Or maybe it was that their lyrics seemed more cerebral than their competitors in the British Invasion. Like Chad and Jeremy the word pictures made me feel as if I lived just around the corner from Carnaby Street and it was nearly tea time with Uncle Albert.

Those thoughts seem quaint in light of the super stardom that followed twelve years when Robert Stigwood asked them to write some songs for a John Travolta movie. That later period of history was served up in spades last Sunday on the CBS Grammy special honoring Barry, Robin, Maurice and in a backhanded way, little brother, Andy.

Even the Waring Blender processing that Grammy and CBS have taken to excess (glitz, celebrities, dancers, light shows) could not overwhelm the song writing genius of the Brothers Gibb. Unfortunately the show gave short shrift to the historic footage of The Rattlesnakes as teeny boppers in matching outfits in order to showcase people once nominated for a Grammy trying to imitate the sibling harmonies and showmanship of the originals.

Keith Urban did a creditable solo only to be let down by the sound mix on the crescendo line of To Love Somebody.  John Legend pulled off How Can You Mend a Broken Heart thanks in part to a sweet harmonica from Stevie Wonder. (How can you keep the rain from falling? How can you stop the sun from shining? What makes the world go round?). And the surprising a capella version of
Too Much Heaven from the Pentatonix was a treat.

As for the rest of hit parade, I preferred the real BeeGees who were captured for PBS cameras during the Las Vegas special in 1997, "One Night Only," which is on DVD and will no doubt be resurrected for future fund-raising weeks.



Travolta looked ageless on stage in his white sport coat and his anecdote about how the BeeGees came up with five songs during a weekend at a French chalet was charming. Each of those songs became a number one hit off the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that was the biggest seller of all-time until Thriller bumped it off.

The mega single of the album, Staying Alive, has usually had a brassy, disco production and overdubbed chorus that all but drowned out the words. Now that the song has become a two word philosophy it is worth hearing the lyrics:

Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin'
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive...
Life goin' nowhere. Somebody help me, yeah
Stayin alive

That epic hook seems to have its origins in the mine shaft first envisioned in 1967.

Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what's like on the outside
Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones.






6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Sorry we missed the Grammy Award's show, but grateful for your report.
    Am also an early Bee Gees fan but I still want to shake body parts when I hear their great disco era hits.
    BTW Legend can do almost anything well and Pentatonic is always superb.
    Your prophetic interp of their lyrics is brilliant. Another great read!

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  3. Thanks much. I think they had an early influence and then joined the ranks of Paul Anka and Neil Diamond as hit machines. Keep dancing!

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  4. I just watched this show. Judy had recorded it. I liked watching Keith Urban move. He's like a snake. And Celine Deon should go in a dark room and hide. She looked like she'd been rode hard and put away wet. But the music, especially the earlier hits, was great. I agree with you though about the originals being better than the copiers, except for Urban and Pentatonix. Good review, as always, Frank.

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  5. Thanks Bruce. I agree that Celine's performance was embarrassing. And Urban was a pleasant surprise.
    Frank

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