Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Bee Gees

The Bee Gees' career can really be broken into four separate categories ... the first phase would include their early hits that crossed over to our charts in the late '60's like New York Mining Disaster 1941 (#14, 1967); To Love Somebody (#17, 1967); Holiday (#12, 1967); Massachusetts (#11, 1967); Words (#15, 1968); Jumbo (#40, 1968); I've Gotta Get A Message To You (#3, 1968); I Started A Joke (#6, 1969); First Of May (#18, 1969) and Tomorrow Tomorrow (#32, 1969), MOST of which you RARELY hear on the radio anymore ... despite the fact that nearly ALL of these were Top 20 Hits and considered classics at the time. (The focus on the Disco-Era of their career has virtually wiped away the memory of THESE lush productions from those early years.  In hindsight, this is even more peculiar when you consider that it was the Disco-Era Hits that caused all The Bee Gees backlash in the first place!)

After a very public break-up in 1969, they came back "Two Years On" and gave us back-to-back #1 Hits with Lonely Days and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (both 1971). But their OTHER hits from this era: Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself (#39, 1971); My World (#15, 1972); Run To Me (#11, 1972) and Alive (#26, 1972) ... NEVER seem to get played anymore. (In all fairness, SOME of these really haven't aged very well ... in many cases, they're SO slow ... and lushly produced ... and repetitive ... that they just haven't been able to sustain any kind of lasting affection with most listeners.) This would be Phase Two of their 40+ year career.

Then, in 1975, all hell broke loose when The Bee Gees released their first disco track. Phase Three kicked off with a bang when Jive Talkin' went straight to #1 ... and for the next four years you literally couldn't turn on your radio and NOT hear a Bee Gees song. The soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever" only helped to fuel the fire. In quick succession, The Brothers Gibb scored MONSTER hits with tracks like Nights On Broadway (#4, 1975); Fanny (#9, 1976); You Should Be Dancing (#1, 1976); Love So Right (#3, 1976); Boogie Child (#12, 1977); Edge Of The Universe (#26, 1977); How Deep Is Your Love (#1, 1977); Stayin' Alive (#1, 1978); Night Fever (#1, 1978); Too Much Heaven (#1, 1979); Tragedy (#1, 1979) and Love You Inside Out (#1, 1979).  
(And, for those of you keeping score, that was SIX straight #1 Records for The Brothers Gibb!)

Couple this with the hits they were writing and producing for other artists ... "Islands In The Stream" (#1) by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, "A Woman In Love", "Guilty" and "What Kind Of Fool", three straight Top Ten Hits for Barbra Streisand, "Heartbreaker" (#10) by Dionne Warwick, "Emotion" (#1) by Samantha Sang, "Grease" (#1) by Frankie Valli, not to mention a string of eight straight Top 20 Hits (including three #1's) for younger brother Andy and there was absolutely no escape ... the musical influences of The Brothers Gibb were everywhere.

And then the backlash hit. Suddenly The Bee Gees couldn't BUY a hit. Radio held Bee Gees-free weekends and jocks like Chicago's own Steve Dahl blew up disco records at baseball games!  Ridiculous (and erroneous) as it sounds, The Bee Gees were pretty much universally blamed for the entire disco era. As such, MOST of their releases were ignored for the next 20 years ... and that's a shame because there were some EXCEPTIONALLY good tunes written and recorded during this period (aka Phase Four).

Over the next few days, we're going to feature some Bee Gees tracks that you probably haven't heard in AGES ... some that you may have forgotten all about ... some that you maybe never heard at all during their radio black-out.

We kick it off today with "I Started A Joke" and "First Of May", both from 1969. When's the last time you heard THESE songs on the radio???

I Started A Joke  (#6)
(This was a HUGE hit ... SOMEBODY should be playing this!!!  It also just may be the quintessential Robin Gibb lead vocal ... and the one he's best remembered for in this early phase of The Bee Gees' career.)

First Of May  (#18)
(Here's a great, long-overlooked track.  You know the First of May is just around the corner ... maybe you could use THAT as an excuse to finally feature this one on your program!!!)

And, working our way into "Phase Two", here are two Top 20 Hits from 1972 that just NEVER seem to get played anymore ... 

My World (#15) 


Run To Me (#11)

It's really pretty amazing to think that, after barely speaking to each other for the better part of two years, "Phase Two" of The Bee Gees began in the studio one night when the brothers gathered to see if they could still write songs together.  They could ... in fact, they wrote two songs that night ... their first night together in ages ... "Lonely Days" and "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" were the fruits of their efforts ... and both records went on to top the charts!  By all appearances, The Bee Gees were back ... but it was pretty short-lived.  A few more ballads charted in 1972 but the band now seemed to be typecast as middle-of-the-road balladeers.  Who could have EVER guessed that the next time they'd top the charts would be with a whole, new R&B-flavored sound ... that eventually evolved into what most of the world now refers to as "The Dreaded Disco Era"!!!  (More Bee Gees music tomorrow in Forgotten Hits!)  kk