The Bee Gees, “I Started A Joke” and Tribute Bands, Is It Ok?

The other day I was heading back from visiting my mum at the care home, when I decided to swing by our local theatre to find out what was on. I still had a gift voucher which ironically was acquired when I had to return my mum’s outstanding theatre tickets last year after her admission to the home. It was due to expire soon, so I needed to convert it into readies, and if not readies, bona fide tickets at any rate. When I discovered that a show called Jive Talkin’, championing the music of the Bee Gees was taking place that very night, it was a no-brainer that I would ask about seats. As luck would have it there were only two left, in a second circle box, so I snapped them up.

It took me a long time to admit to being a Bee Gees fan around here, as I know they have been heavily parodied over the years and Barry’s late ’70s falsetto has been the subject of much mirth, but only Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson, have outsold them. They wrote all their own songs, performed perfect harmonies and continually reinvented themselves “for the times”. I’ve written about them a few times and I suspect a new category on my sidebar will have to be set up after I press the publish button.

The original Bee Gees line-up – Kind of obvious which of them is a Gibb brother!

But of course there is sadly now only one Bee Gee left, Barry, and I do feel for him if I ever catch him on telly, as he cuts a lonely figure without the rest of his brothers in tow. In view of the fact I will now never see them live, I had no difficulty in making the decision that it was ok to head along to our fantastic theatre, to watch this trio (plus backing band complete with string section) sing songs from the vast back catalogue at their disposal.

I wrote last year about a show called Fastlove, dedicated to the George Michael back catalogue. They took great pains to make sure that, we, the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act” but in fact “A Tribute” to George, so I was hoping this show would follow the same lines. As it turned out, there was a bit more of a pantomime quality to this one, but the voices were pitch perfect and from where I was seated in the second circle, they looked uncannily like the real Bee Gees.

I Started A Joke by the Bee Gees:

The first half was dedicated to their 1960s incarnation and they rattled through 16 classic hits such as Gotta Get A Message To You, To Love Somebody, Words, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (written about here before) and my personal favourite I Started A Joke from the album “Idea” released in 1968. Apparently the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane. To quote Robin Gibb: “The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine “prop” jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. As soon as we landed and reached the hotel, we finished the lyrics.”

As for me, this era of the Bee Gees just reminds me of watching telly with my parents as a child. They were frequent visitors to the TOTP studio and there were always a few raised eyebrows in our house at Robin’s vibrato, as not many pop voices like that at the time. I only realised later that the twins, Robin and Maurice, were still teenagers – A massive amount of success for those so young, the pressure of which led to Robin leaving the band for a while.


So, we’ve had the first half where they were dressed in the classic late era Bee Gees’ uniform of black trousers, shirts and jackets, but what would the second half bring? As expected there had to be an element of pantomime, as the 1970s brought disco, and Barry’s falsetto rose to unnaturally new heights. There is nothing more unnerving than seeing a middle-aged man dressed in tight white trousers and a silver jacket revealing chest hair, but here we were. To be honest I don’t think many of the ladies in the audience cared however, we were all teenagers again, reminding ourselves of the time we heard these songs first time around – Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, You Should Be Dancing and many more.

Up in my second circle box, no-one’s view would have been blocked if I stood up and danced along to the songs, so that was just what happened. Mr WIAA did not partake in the dancing, and was a bit bemused by the whole thing I think, but he was also aware I’ve been working really hard of late trying to support everyone, so if anyone needed to let their hair down, it was me (as he no longer has any).

Every now and again, when emotions are running high, it can only take a few bars of a familiar song, to make you feel quite overcome by it all. When the trio on stage sang More Than A Woman, I was right back in 1978, a year I’ve often mentioned in this blog as it was the summer I left school and went off to work in a country house hotel with my best friend Catriona, who sadly died at age 41. By day we were jack-of-all-trades, chambermaids, laundrymaids, barmaids (yes, still called that back then) but by night we were disco divas, trying out our routines in the local nightspots. At the start of the summer we were a novelty, new girls in town, but as the summer progressed there were a few romances that we knew would go nowhere, but still made the heart flutter. One of the songs that made the heart flutter was this one. The dancing looks tame now and frankly a bit comical, but funny how 40 years on, a warm glow came over me when listening to it – more than goose-bumps, but rather an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia for simpler times.

More Than A Woman by the Bee Gees:

I know tribute acts are the source of much derision, but sometimes an evening of honest to goodness nostalgia is just what is needed, and that’s what I experienced this week. Because of the ongoing situation regarding how to pay for my mum’s care, stress levels have been running high in our house of late, but funnily enough, my evening with the pretend Bee Gees has put paid to that. Mr WIAA will be really glad he (reluctantly) agreed to come along with me.

Until next time….

I Started A Joke Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Maurice Gibb/Robin Gibb)

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

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

‘Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

26 thoughts on “The Bee Gees, “I Started A Joke” and Tribute Bands, Is It Ok?”

  1. Sounds like you had a fun nostagic night out! I went to a Simon and Garfunkel thing with the family a few year ago and the singers got the voices just right while also slightly resembling the real duo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly was fun Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite them being a lookalike tribute act. I think you’ve mentioned the Simon & Garfunkel show before around here and yes, if the voices are spot on, it can work really well but I prefer it if they don’t try too hard to look like them what with wigs and the extreme clothing. The first half of my Bee Gees shows was very restrained but an element of pantomime definitely crept into the second half.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Alyson. Sounds like a wonderful evening of music. Although I haven’t seen many tribute bands I see no reason for them to be derided…as long as they’re good, of course. It sounds like that was the case with this Bee Gees tribute. Sorry to say we don’t share a Bee Gees favorite, as “I Started A Joke” has long been one of my least favorite of their hit singles. There’s something about Robin’s voice that always rubbed me the wrong way. It’s not that I can’t listen to it, and I see why it was a hit, but it just doesn’t connect with me. I love a lot of songs from this era, and I’ve become especially fond of the Odessa album. I also love the disco years and feel bad about the backlash against them. Sure, they were overexposed for a while and we all probably needed a break from them for a while, but in the U.S. their reputation never recovered. If the three of them were still with us I’m sure there would have been a reappraisal of their incredible discography.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we’ve been here before haven’t we as I know you’re not keen on tribute acts (which I respect) but these guys were very good and I had a really good night out just when I needed it. As for “I Started A Joke”, it was never released as a single over here, just in the US, so it wasn’t until much later that I discovered it – As often happens, the hits become over-familiar over the years so it’s good to find something new. Yes, he does have a really unusual voice, and it wasn’t until researching this post that I discovered it’s called a vibrato. We are all very familiar with Barry’s falsetto but Robin was more of a warbler! Shame in a way the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack took off to such an extent as it took a long time for them to get back to anything resembling a normal career again. Shame so many of them died young and ironic that only Barry left now, the oldest of the four brothers. In time their discography will speak for itself and the parodies will be long forgotten (I hope).


  3. I haven’t seen many tribute bands but I did enjoy a Johnny Cash night at Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree almost 15 years ago. It was mostly acts singing Cash songs but there was one bloke (from Peterhead) who had the whole Johnny Cash thing down pat. He fronted a band called Union Avenue.
    Your Bee Gees night sounds like great fun. I’ve only once danced in the aisles – at the Edinburgh Playhouse when I saw The Four Tops (the originals!) soar through too many hits to count and I was in Motown heaven. Nights when you can lose yourself in the music are the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Johnny Cash show sounds as if it would have been right up my street. I imagine they would have needed to have his very deep bass baritone voice.
      If dancing is allowed, I’m always up for it, even in the theatre. Problem is that you never want to block people’s view if they are too shy to get up and dance, so a box in the circle is just perfect. The Four Tops show must have really hit the spot – Yes, losing yourself in the music is the best feeling.


  4. Good call!

    I still think the intro to SNF -Travolta walking thru downtown New York with his can of paint – and Stayin’ Alive very much to the fore, is one of the most iconic establishing movie images of all time.

    ‘You’re a Holiday’ was one of theirs I always hankered after; I often used to play it on the acoustic at Open Mics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After writing this yesterday I watched a couple of docs on YouTube and of course they both featured that iconic scene where Travolta’s burgundy coloured shoes strut along the pavement. Music and memories are intrinsically linked and the film came out the summer I left school, so it, and the music from it, is tied in with that time in my life. Shouldn’t admit to this, but still the best summer of my life.


    2. Don’t think they sang Holiday in the show actually but they did cover 16 of the ’60s songs in the first half, so covered a lot of them (they were still teenagers at this time but were dashing off songs at the drop of a hat – amazingly talented and prolific).


  5. I’m not sure what the difference is between “tribute band” and “tribute to”. In any case, I don’t see any problem with tribute bands, especially if the original band is no longer touring (or perhaps they are but people want to hear other stuff). But sometimes I wish that the people would just play the music, rather than trying to duplicate the “moves like Jagger” and so on. There are, of course, some tribute bands who go to extremes, even using original material from productions from the original band. Sometimes these are practically indistinguishable from the original (e.g. The Musical Box, one of the hundreds of Gabriel-era Genesis tribute bands (I don’t know if there are any who concentrate on Phil’s time as singer)), sometimes even the members of the original band are fooled. But by and large, I’m there for the music, and unless the show is really good, it is more of a distraction.

    There is something different about hearing live music, and while there is an additional attraction to hearing the original band, there is no reason not to see a good cover band.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the “Tribute Bands” can sometimes be a bit pantomime-like, as they make every effort to look like the originals but do it badly with cheap wigs and ill-fitting clothing. There is also that faux banter with the audience. The George Michael show I went to see was a great West End production where they simply performed the songs and spoke a little about the background to them. I also went to see a really good show called Back to Bacharach where four singers performed many of his hits – None of them were trying to be Dionne Warwick or Gene Pitney, again they were simply singing the songs so it worked well.


  6. Talking of the Bee Gees and tribute acts I seem to recall that the Baron Knights did a version of Tragedy which went:
    When the Bee Gees sing
    It’s a Terrible Thing
    It’s a Tragedy”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh CC, those naughty Baron Knights – What didn’t they sing about back then?

      Sadly, the Bee Gees just got too successful in the late ’70s and after that the only way is down. Funnily enough the song chosen for the encore the other night was Tragedy – Certainly hit the spot so don’t think anyone in the audience thought it was a tragedy at all!


    1. Yes, everyone admits to being a fan of the late ’60s songs but their late ’70s style is now derided. Not by me though as I like both equally and I’m sure all of their songs will stand the test of time eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not a fan but can see the quality in their 60s stuff and their 70s disco stuff, which is at least fun while driving. 🙂 But the 80s and later stuff is just generic pop. Same thing happened to Heart—good in the 1970s, but then overproduced generic pop in the 80s.


  7. “There is nothing more unnerving than seeing a middle-aged man dressed in tight white trousers and a silver jacket revealing chest hair, but here we were.” Haha, I’m with you! Sounds like you had a great night out and now I’m imagining you dancing up there in the stalls, the perfect way to let your hair down and offset some of the stress of recent times – so glad you could. Only problem I have now with hearing ‘More Than A Woman’ is that I can’t get that scene from ‘The Office’ out of my mind… Although I really like some of their ’60s material I’m no Bee Gees fan but that whole sound that followed when they became more disco really does characterise the late ’70s for me too, so I totally get that sense of the time and associated nostalgia you felt.
    As for tribute acts – I saw a fantastic Small Faces one – the Small Fakers – a few years ago at the 100 Club, and it felt about as close as it could get to how it must have been to witness the real deal. They were utterly brilliant and performed the whole of ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ to perfection – I’d go see them again in a heartbeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was pretty gruesome and he looked nothing like snake-hipped Barry who in 1977 kind of got away with the look. I knew you wouldn’t have been a fan but they came along at just the right time for me in that we were working really hard in the hotel all day and evening, then quickly changed into our “going out” clothes for a night of dancing at some local venue that had acquired a flashing dance floor and DJ. I had my granny’s old singer sewing machine with me at the cottage I shared with the best friend and we used to run up a wee outfit in no time. Unbelievably I remember Wallis used to sell lengths of fabric as well as clothes which in those days were expensive and not disposable as they are today.

      The Small Faces concert sounds as if it would have been great and would have given you a really good feeling for how it would have been back in the day. I once went to see the Bootleg Beatles who appearing at our Student Union – Very good. I don’t have a problem with tribute acts and we get many at our local theatre as just so many doing the rounds. Like the play on words with many of them – Small Fakers quite a good one but loads of others, Think Floyd etc.


    2. Ha ha – just re-read my reply there. Of course I meant to say “a venue with a DJ and a floor with flashing lights” and not that the floor and DJ were flashing! Argh…


  8. Excellent post, Alyson. As we’ve discussed before, I feel no shame in admitting to being a fan of the Gibb brothers, despite (or perhaps because) one of my earliest memories is of the Kenny Everett parody.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every time I write about them I feel I have to justify why – Poor Barry will probably also go to his grave, still being lampooned. I did enjoy watching him at Glastonbury a couple of years ago in the Legends slot – Lot of love amongst the crowd for him and a fair few gold lame (can’t find the acute but you know I don’t mean lame) jackets. He took it in jest and even put one of them on although it was a snug fit indeed as his snake hips have long gone.

      Thanks for dropping by as I know you’re busy – Hope the first day back went well. Mr WIAA didn’t go back this year but as we’ve discussed before that just brings on a whole other set of problems, so don’t be too jealous.


    1. I found that picture online so it wasn’t me but I suspect someone has done a bit of photoshopping at some point. Not much though as they all had spectacular teeth!


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