Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Bee Gees In The 60’s – Andrew Hughes, GrantWalters & Mark Crohan

Book review of The Bee Gees In The 60’s by Andrew Hughes, GrantWalters & Mark Crohan.

The Bee Gees (Brothers Gibb) probably sang three-part harmonies better than any other three guys together ever could or did, with the exception of Crosby Stills & Nash, and with total album sales exceeding 200 million, they’re amongst the top ten most successful artists of all time. They turned schmaltz into an art form and have written and recorded some of the biggest and best-loved hits of all time. Everybody can name at least half a dozen of their songs off the tops of their head. Amongst their other honours, they’ve been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as being recipients of lifetime achievement awards from the BPI and the Grammys.

For most people their first introduction to the band was their April 1967 single ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941’ but, in fact, they’d been playing and recording in Australia for several years prior to this, having released their first two Australian albums in November 1965/66 respectively and, after their relocation back to England early in 1967, their next four UK albums in the ’60s were released between August 1967 and March 1969 .. four albums in nineteen months. An amazing feat for the time, considering the main songwriter Barry Gibb, in 1969, was still only 22 and Robin and Maurice Gibb were only 19. It was even more amazing as, between them, they couldn’t read or write a note of music .. their success being purely the result of following intuition and their passion to create something unique.

Written by three authors with a considerable track record of contributions to Bee Gees books, CD’s and TV shows, this is the first in a series of four books about the band, each of which will consider a separate aspect of their long and phenomenal career (the Disco years, etc.). As no one book could do their legacy justice, however, this book The Bee Gees In The 60’s charts their early development, describing their early peripatetic lives as the sons of a jobbing musician, Hugh Gibb. Hugh moved to the Isle of Man after WW2 to follow his muse before returning to Manchester in 1955 where Barry, Robin and Maurice gradually discover their ability to harmonise; before the family relocated to Australia in 1958. It’s here they begin honing and developing their remarkable talents, prior to their return to the UK in 1967, inspired by the success of Aussie bands The Easybeats and The Seekers, by which time they’d already written dozens of songs, mainly Barry’s, and recorded two albums – plus had had Australia’s biggest hit in 1966 with ‘Spicks and Specks.’

One of the strengths of this highly informative and educational book is the depth of research gone into exploring the band’s early years in the sixties when, as precocious teenagers, they were playing at racetracks and the equivalent of English working men’s clubs and winning audiences over. As Barry said, “Australian audiences are the hardest in the world to please but, win them over here, you can do it anywhere.”

Educational, I hear you say?  Yes indeed. The Bee Gees were there, smack dead centre, at the very beginnings when the behemoth we now know as the music industry was evolving, when the studio technology available to musicians was developing exponentially, enabling the three brothers to develop their trademark harmonies – and not least, the legacy of what the Bee Gees contributed to popular culture, which is considerable. Would ‘Thriller’ even have been written but for the impact of the Bee Gees, is one line of thought offered.  This highly enjoyable book will take you through all of them.

This tome will also reveal more about the Bee Gees in the 1960s than you ever thought you might want to know. It’s not only about their music, it’s a potted family history as well, and if you thought you already knew the band, you’ll learn more here. The book details fascinating insider details given about working on harmonies, their reaches for studio perfection, their occasional disharmony in the studio, where it wasn’t always toothpaste smiles .. oh, come on, they’re brothers .. and disputes with manager Robert Stigwood. But every one of their 60’s albums is examined in forensic detail, with their developing songwriting skills turning out hit singles at the same time, and they’re some surprising observations made about the music.

Later books will talk about how the Bee Gees suffered from the kind of public backlash few bands could survive from, but survive they did and, from this, along with Bowie and the Sex Pistols, they went on to help define the seventies. Alongside the Stones and The Beach Boys, they were the longest-running band still making albums after fifty years or more. But the seeds for all their future successes were sown right here in the sixties, and this book lays it all out for you in as much detail as you could want.

The Bee Gees In The 60’s by Andrew Hughes, GrantWalters & Mark Crohan is out now via Sonicbond Publishing.

Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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