As much as I pontificate here about having been a disco-hating punk rocker in the late 70's, I've always had a secret affinity for the Bee Gees.
The fiasco that was Sgt. Pepper not withstanding, the Gibbs, as well as younger brother Andy, formed a background score to the most influential years of my young life. And though Maurice Gibb was the harmonizer and back-up singer, he was the Bee Gees to me.
Growing up, I was surrounded by music. Always the stereo - which back then was a giant piece of wooden furniture with a built in television - or the radio, a huge tuner with spinning dials that seemed to play nothing but doo-wop and the current pop trends. My mother was constantly singing, humming, making us listen to show tunes and standards from the 30's and 40's. I hated her for it then, I thank her for it now.
In 1967, The Bee Gees released their single New York Mining Disaster 1941>. I don't know if that is the exact year that it first made its way onto the wooden stereo system in our house, but I do remember the song's impact on me.
In the event of something happening to me
There is something I would like you all to see
It's just a photograph of someone that I knew
Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what it's like on the outside?
Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones
The lyrics gave me a funny feeling in my stomach, one that I could not understand when I was younger, but I fully understood later on, when the concepts of death and wistfillness were not so foreign to me. I would be reminded of those feelings later on with David Bowie's Space Oddity (tell my wife I love her very much). I still, to this day, cannot listen to Mining Disaster without getting that same feeling I had when I was a child; that need to hold on to someone.
A few years later, I've Got to Get a Message to You was a hit, and it had that same underlying tone as Mining Disaster. Another main awaiting his death, but wanting to send his love to someone before he died.
I've just got to get a message to you, hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through, hold on, hold on.
Sure, this particular man was evidently a murderer, but the sorrow evident in the lyrics and singing tone still made me sad for him.
Other Bee Gees songs crept into my youth and carved their little places in my mind. Lonely Days, Lonely Nights, a song that was on the jukebox in the firehouse party room, and I can almost smell the beer and hear the dings and buzzes of the pinball machine that was tucked away in the corner ever time I hear that song.
Perhaps no non-disco song of the Bee Gees ate at my soul more than I Started a Joke. My mother used to insist the lyrics were about Jesus or God. I suppose everyone has a way of putting their own feelings into it when analzying a song; in my young mind the song was about feeling lonely and unwanted, as if you were a big joke that was set upon the world. Either way, it's one of the saddest songs I have ever heard.
Everything changed for the Brothers Gibb in 1975 with the release of Main Course. Nights on Broadway and Jive Talkin' set a course that would take the Bee Gees to new heights - and the top of the disco charts.
I was 16 years old when Saturday Night Fever came out. I loved the movie, but the soundtrack drove me crazy. The song Stayin' Alive is forever etched in my mind not as part of Saturday Night Fever, but as the song Jack and Elaine were dancing to in Airplane! when the bar patron was stabbed in the back and everyone thought he was doing a funky dance.
It was about that time that I stopped listening to music with my mother and barricaded myself in my bedroom instead, headphones on or stereo turned up way too loud, trying to drown out the strains of whatever mom was listening to at the time.
I still love the old Bee Gees. I still get those pangs of melancholy when I hear Mining Disaster or I Started a Joke. And I will still deny that I ever danced to Jive Talkin' while in a drunken frenzy on my eighteenth birthday.
So long, Maurice and thanks for the memories.