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

The other day I was heading back from visiting my mum in 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 he who shall no longer be named, 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.

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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.

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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 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

The Bee Gees, Al Green and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”

Like many of us, I probably spend far too much time in a day visiting the various blogs I follow but today’s visit to a great series called The Songwriters by Chris over at Winding Road has got me all emotional. Any regulars to this place know that I’m a bit fragile at the moment anyway because of my impending “retirement” so it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. The songwriters of choice today were The Bee Gees and although it took me quite some time to admit to being a fan of both them and their music around here, once I did I was flooded with affirmation that it was ok, so a bit of a relief really.

One of the featured songs in Chris’ post was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, written by The Bee Gees but covered by Al Green in 1972. You probably reside in much calmer households, but with darling daughter back living with us, there seems to be no end of broken hearts around here nowadays and somehow we get caught up in it all. The simple relationships she and her friends had during their schooldays and beyond appear to be far behind them now, and never a weekend seems to go by without some drama or other. This weekend has been no exception so needless to say this song has suddenly become very pertinent.

Because of the subject matter, it pops up all the time on film soundtracks and I probably remember it best from the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill. Poor old Hugh Grant had very bravely but sensibly rejected Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts’ advances, but it wasn’t an easy decision and he had to suffer the emotional fall-out as a result. Cue Al Green and his beautiful version of the song.

Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song one afternoon in 1970 after getting back together after a period of estrangement. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart was obviously relevant to their situation but it also cries out to all those broken-hearted souls who have just seen a parting of the ways. Fortunately for us the Gibb brothers did mend their broken hearts otherwise everything they did after 1970 would have been lost to us. I don’t think this is a spoiler, because just about everyone who would have wanted to watch Notting Hill will have done so by now, but Hugh’s broken heart ends up being mended too!

I did spend a fair bit of time watching Glastonbury on telly this year, dipping in and out over the weekend of festivites. Sunday afternoon is reserved for the Legend Slot and this year the artist performing was none other than Barry Gibb himself. It was for me the highlight of the weekend (and there were many this year) but what can I say, this blog’s tagline is “A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years” and it doesn’t get much more nostalgic for me than hearing Barry sing all those great songs he recorded with his brothers over a 40-year period. The sadness came from the fact that he (ironically the eldest of the four brothers) is now the only one still alive, but they are always up there on stage with him he says, and at one point a large image of the missing Bee Gees came up on the screen behind him. Here is a clip of one of the last times they would have performed How Can You Mend A Broken Heart together on stage, pretty much just as it would have sounded back on that fateful afternoon in 1970.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by The Bee Gees:

So, “What’s it all about?” – From experience broken hearts do get mended, but usually all down to that old chestnut time. Try telling that to a 21-year-old who has just had their heart broken however – It doesn’t tend to go down very well.

Until next time….

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I can think of younger days
When living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do
I could never see tomorrow
But I was never told about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

I can still feel the breeze
That rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow
But no one said a word about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down
How can you stop the sun from shining
What makes the world go round

And how can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

Carrie Bradshaw, Barbra Streisand and “Guilty”

Although my posts often follow on from each other and are somewhat related, the two I wrote last week (from my sickbed) were very different indeed with no obvious link at all. Yet again however a strange synchronicity has come about, and this is the post that links them.

WARNING: It’s all about to get very girly!

In my last post I featured the song Single Girl by The Primitives/Sandy Posey (take your pick). It was all about a girl feeling a bit sad and lonely in a “great big town”. One of the most infamous groups of “Single Girls” were those Manhattan-based stars of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw and her pals, also at times known to feel a bit sad and lonely in a great big town (although not that often to be fair).

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This reminded me that one of my favourite scenes from a SATC episode was the one where Carrie realises that her failed relationship with Mr Big (the nickname her ex-boyfriend is given – he was supposed to be The Big One, the one she married) was down to the same reason that it didn’t work out for Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in the 1973 film The Way We Were. The world is made up of “complicated girls” with wild curly hair (Carrie and Barbra) and “simple girls”, the ones with tame straight hair – Big and Redford chose the simple girls!

As mentioned above, the female star of TWWW was Barbra Streisand. Who then appeared on the cover of the magazine that pops through my letterbox on a Saturday? – Yes, it was Barbra Streisand. I don’t know what it is about Streisand but she has always just looked so beautiful and timeless to me – Gorgeous hair, skin and that kinky nose. She is one of a very small group of artists who have won Grammys, Emmys, Tonys and Oscars, such is the breadth of her talent – The Queen of the Divas indeed.

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Got me thinking and joy of joys I discovered that TWWW resides on Netflix so (again from my sickbed) I decided to give it another viewing as I have shockingly never watched it all the way through from beginning to end in one sitting. Of course I had to have a little weep once we got to that scene at the end where Katie (Barbra) tells Hubbell (Robert) that “his girl is lovely” (although she is no doubt crying inside).

Barbra Streisand doesn’t sing in that one but she did record the lovely theme song which contains the following lines:

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we……?

Ironically, last year, after failing miserably to co-ordinate a date for a reunion weekend with my old “Single Girl” friends, I jokingly sent them an email quoting those very lines with the addendum – Well, apparently not! I thought it was quite funny….but they didn’t. We are all just about talking again now (perhaps that cultural reference was lost on them).

But back to Barbra, it has also of course been known for her to record great duets with some of the biggest artists of the day. Back in 1980 she recorded Guilty with Barry Gibb, on his own, without the rest of The Bee Gees. And this is where the reference to my second post of last week comes in – On St Valentine’s Day I featured a Bee Gees‘ love song and wrote about how sad I felt watching Barry, the lone surviving brother, all on his own at this year’s Grammys, watching a tribute being performed for the 40th anniversary of the album Saturday Night Fever.

Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb:

I am quite frankly amazed that the song Guilty only made it to No. 34 in the UK Singles Chart but looking again at the video clip, Barry and Barbra (nice ring to it) did look oh so very white in it, and this was very much the era of new wave, post-punk and ska where the artists wore very little white indeed and were much, much edgier in terms of their output. Still a great duet however where each of them gets their own boy/girl lines and “nothing to be guilty of” in terms of liking it, as we don’t do that around here any more. The Bee Gees were great songwriters and as mentioned last week I am very proud to have come out and admitted to being a fan.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Who knew that the simple girls always get their man whereas the complicated girls don’t? Well, maybe they didn’t in TWWW, but thirty years later in SATC, Carrie Bradshaw did end up marrying Big. Yes, it turned out he’d made a massive mistake and he did want a complicated girl after all!

As someone with very tame, straight hair but who is not necessarily always simple this is good to know. Sadly back in 1973 it just didn’t seem to be the case but perhaps relationships have evolved and even complicated girls now can have it all!

Until next time….

Guilty Lyrics
(Song by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb)

Shadows falling baby, we stand alone
Out on the street anybody you meet got a heartache of their own
(It oughta be illegal)
Make it a crime to be lonely or sad
(It oughta be illegal)
You got a reason for livin’
You battle on with the love you’re livin’ on
You gotta be mine
We take it away
It’s gotta be night and day
Just a matter of time
And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
I don’t wanna hear your goodbye

Pulse’s racing, darling
How grand we are
Little by little we meet in the middle
There’s danger in the dark
(It oughta be illegal)
Make it a crime to be out in the cold
(It oughta be illegal)
You got a reason for livin’
You battle on with the love you’re buildin’ on
You gotta be mine
We take it away
It’s gotta be night and day
Just a matter of time
And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky

I don’t wanna hear your goodbye

Don’t wanna hear your goodbye

I don’t wanna hear your
And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
Don’t wanna hear your goodbye
Don’t wanna hear your
And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are

St Valentine’s Day, The Bee Gees and “How Deep Is Your Love”

By rights I shouldn’t have time for blogging today as it is indeed St Valentine’s Day and I should be spending it being all loved up with Mr WIAA – After being together for 28 years however, it is a bit hard to muster up the enthusiasm for a day of romance but I have just popped in past our local M&S to pick up one of their very delicious special occasion “Dine In For Two” meal deals (no expense spared here at WIAA HQ). I’m sure if we didn’t both have stinky colds it would all taste lovely, but what with the two cards sitting on the mantelpiece and the planned dinner, at least we’re making a bit of an effort.

st-vs-dayThe main reason I wanted to post something today however is that I have been feeling a tad guilty of late for the following reason – Of the 120 original posts that I’ve published since starting the blog 13 months ago, the only one I’ve “trashed” permanently is the one I wrote this day last year, featuring a song by The Bee Gees. Yes, despite the fact that I’ve written about some ropey acts since starting this blog, once I’d accumulated a few followers, the only one I was really embarrassed about having covered was The Bee Gees. I blame the sheer number of comedy sketches that were made about them during their heyday (that would be Kenny Everett then), as how else can it be that a group who has sold 100 million-plus records; penned the world’s biggest-selling soundtrack album; had 10 UK No. 1s; wrote 4 consecutive US No. 1s and were the first group to have UK Top 20s in 5 decades, be embarrassing? No indeed, today is the day to come right out and say it – I’m a Bee Gees fan and am proud to admit it!

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The Bee Gees circa 1978

For the record, this was last year’s trashed post (fortunately still in a Word doc as I do worry about the day WordPress crashes and we lose all our stuff):

“No long-winded post today as it’s St Valentine’s Day and I’m going to spend it with my lovely husband. (It was a Sunday last year.)

Last time I wrote about the “break-up song” but How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees is from the other end of the spectrum (I think – although retrospectively I’m starting to doubt some of my interpretations of the lyrics). It is still however, my all-time favourite love-song. It was from the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever (starring a young John Travolta) which was released in the summer of 1978. That turned out to be the best summer of my young life to date – School had finished in the June, and the four month period before University was due to start was filled with happy memories that have stayed with me forever. To use the parlance of American teen movies, for my friends and I, that was our coming-of-age summer.

Unusually for me I’m going to leave it there for today – Enjoy that wonderful intro and Barry’s amazing falsetto. Happy Valentine’s day!”

How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees:

But I did say that the main reason for wanting to post something today was to right the wrong of “trashing” a post about this much-loved group of brothers but the second reason is that last night darling daughter and I watched the highlights of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Last year I wrote a post about the 58th Grammys where our own Ed Sheerin came away with a couple of awards and I would probably have been writing a post again this year but they have coincided with St Valentine’s Day and anyway, the big awards, yet again, went to Adele. It was pretty much a re-run of our own Brit Awards last year and my thoughts about that ceremony still ring true (The Brits, The “Suits” and Adele), so no point in covering the same old ground.

What was of interest however was finding there had been a Bee Gees tribute on the big night performed by an array of contemporary acts. It is now 40 years since the making of the “Saturday Night Fever” album and 60 years since the brothers first formed a band singing harmonies together. It did make me sad however to see Barry, the only brother still alive, sitting on his own in the front row watching the performance intently, but sometimes also quizzically. Not the way they used to perform these songs back in the day but here is what the 59th Grammys served up.

How Deep Is Your Love Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb/Maurice Gibb)

I know your eyes in the morning sun
I feel you touch me in the pouring rain
And the moment that you wander far from me
I wanna feel you in my arms again
And you come to me on a summer breeze
Keep me warm in your love and then softly leave
And it’s me you need to show
How Deep Is Your Love

How deep is your love, How deep is your love
I really need to learn
‘Cause we’re living in a world of fools
Breaking us down
When they all should let us be
We belong to you and me

I believe in you
You know the door to my very soul
You’re the light in my deepest darkest hour
You’re my saviour when I fall
And you may not think I care for you
When you know down inside that I really do
And it’s me you need to show
How Deep Is Your Love