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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Time machine week 17- The Robin Gibb Wake

This week in 1970, there weren't any Bee Gees.  Frustrated by Robert Stigwood's apparent preferrence for Barry as the band's lead singer, and the relegation of his composition Lamplight to a b-side while the latest Barry single, First Of May, tanked, Robin left the band in mid 1969 for a solo career, scoring a #2 UK hit with Saved By The Bell.  Barry and Maurice, along with the band, soldiered on, but despite also hitting UK #2 with Don't Forget To Remember, the lp Cucumber Castle bombed and the brothers split up.  However, in about three weeks, Robin and Maurice would begin working together; in August, Barry would join them.  Within the course of a single day, Robin and Barry would write two of their biggest hits- Lonely Days and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.  The Bee Gees were reborn- and it wouldn't be the first time.

In honor of the passing of Robin Gibb, we have a very special Time Machine- An almost all Bee Gee TM  We will look at the top 25 Bee Gees tunes, along with this week's charts from 1970.  Hang on to your hats, and here we go!

Out of 16 debuts in the top 100, I have three I'll spotlight.  Way up at #63, Three Dog Night comes in with Mama Told Me (Not To Come);  way-er up at #59, the Jackson 5 hits with The Love You Save; and way-est up at #51, The Temptations hit with Ball Of Confusion.

Before we hit our birthday songs of the week- and you'll soon see why- let's do the first round of the Bee Gees top 25 according to Billboard.

25- The Woman In You, 1987.   From the soundtrack to the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive, this one made it to #24 in the US of A, but tanked elsewhere, not breaking the top 70 in the UK or Canada.

24- To Love Somebody, 1967.  From their first US lp, Bee Gees First, this song was written for Otis Redding, but he died before having a chance to record it.  The boys then did it themselves and it hit #14 here and top ten in Canada and their musical birthplace of Australia, though it missed the top 40 in the UK.

23- Holiday, 1967.  This one wasn't released in the UK, but it's somewhat-eerie organ took it to 16 in the US and 18 Down Under.  One of the rare tunes in which Barry and Robin shared the lead vocal, Maurice wasn't even on the record.  Thus, he liked to horn in, fall asleep, pretend boredom, and other comic bits during this song live.

22-My World,  1972.  This Robin-led hit was a non-album single, released while they were recording To Whom It May Concern.  It was composed during a guest spot on a game show called Golden Shot.  In this game, viewers would call in and direct a cameraman with a crossbow mounted on his camera, aiming at a target in the studio.  One time, a dude called from a pay phone and directed the camera/bow while watching a display TV in a shop across the street.  Before he could get the shot lined up, however, a stock person at the store changed the channel.  Ooops!  The song itself hit 16 both here and in Jolly Ol' but was top 3 in Australia.

21- Run To Me, 1972.  This song is the reason this was a top twenty-five rather than twenty.  One of my all time favorites, it was on that earlier mentioned To Whom It May Concern lp.  Only got to 16 here, but was top ten in UK, Canada, and Australia.

20- Words, 1968.  Another non-lp single, they wrote this to give to English superstar Cliff Richard, but he never recorded it. Top 15 in US and Australia, top ten in UK and Canada.

And now it's time to look at our birthday songs this week, and we're going to pull one out of sequence.  Turning 45 this week-

19- New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife Mr. Jones), 1967.  Another Barry/Robin vocal split, this record was sent out to DJs in a plain white sleeve, hoping to take advantage of those who believed the rumour that "Bee Gees" stood for "Beatles Group".  Top fifteen in the US (14), the UK, and Australia.  Canadians probably didn't like Coal Miner's Daughter either.  (I lied; Loretta Lynn hit #1 on their country charts, too.)

Turning thirty this week are (speaking of country) Alabama's Take Me Down, Huey Lewis and the News' Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do, Journey's Still They Ride (a quick "awwww..." to all you chicks still lusting after Steve Perry [like Laurie's sister]), Van Halen's cover of Dancing In The Street, and Kim Wilde's Kids In America.  Turning 35 are Babs Streisand's My Heart Belongs To Me, Jackson Browne's The Pretender, and Bad Company's Burning Sky.  Turning 40, Derrick and the Dominoes' Layla, Procol Harem's Conquistador, and Alice Cooper's School's Out.  Joining the Mining Disaster at 45 are the Association's Windy, Scott MacKenzie's San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair),  and the Doors' Light My Fire.  And finally, turning 55 are the Everly Brothers (keeping with our theme, apparently) and Bye Bye Love.  Blow out the candles...

The big dropper this week is John Lennon's Instant Karma, falling 39 spots to land at 64.  The big gainer for a change was NOT the Chairmen Of The Board; climbing 17 to 72 were Tommy James and the Shondells with Come To Me.  Speaking of  moving...

18- Boogie Child, 1977.  Pretty much the last big hit before Saturday Night Fever, this was top fifteen in the US (12), but was the b-side of the title cut Children Of The World elsewhere (brilliant move; that song only charted in New Zealand).

17- Fanny (Be Tender With My Love), 1976.  One of the first songs featuring Barry's falsetto, the guys never performed this in public (at least at first) because of all the overdubbed harmonies.  Like Boogie Child this song hit in the US (12) and Canada (2), but not in the UK or Down Under.

16- Massachusetts,  1967.  You might remember from an old six degrees that the boys wrote this on the Staten Island Ferry on the way to the Statue Of Liberty, and they had never even been in the state.  But not only was this Robin-sung hit their first UK #1, it became one of the biggest selling records of all time, with over 5 million discs sold.  #1 in Canada and #2 in Australia, it inexplicably peaked at 11 in the US.

15- I've Gotta Get A Message To You, 1968.  Written by Robin after a fight with his wife, he imagined it as a Percy Sledge song.  Percy recorded it, but not before the boys' version hit 8 in the US, 3 in Canada and Australia, and #1 in the UK.

14- One, 1989.  I'm one of the few on my block who had this CD.  7 in the States, 11 in Canada, but barely grazing the charts elsewhere.

13- Nights On Broadway, 1975.  A big hit in North America (7 in the US and 2 in Canada), but didn't chart in the UK, where Candi Staton (Young Hearts Run Free) covered it and hit #6 (Wikipedia speculated that she hit because she left out the slow-down part in the center of the song.).  My Favorite, hands down.

12- I Started A Joke, 1968. Another of Robin's vocals, the melody was taken from an airplane trip:

According to Robin Gibb, the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane:
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. So it was decided! We accosted the pilot, forced him to land in the nearest village and there; in a small pub, we finished the lyrics. Actually, it wasn't a village, it was the city, and it wasn't a pub, it was a hotel, and we didn't force the pilot to land in a field... but why ruin a perfectly good story?"[2]
11- Love So Right, 1976.  Barry's first full-song falsetto, it was a big hit in North America (#3 US, # 2 Canada), but not so much elsewhere (#41 UK, #28 Australia).

Enterring the top 40 this week are a quartet of songs.  Moving up 10 to #40 is last week's WATN victims, the Grass Roots, with Baby Hold On. Elvis climbs 10 as well, landing at 37 with The Wonder Of You.   The Brotherhood Of Man, a six degrees contest in and of themselves, come in at 36, up 7 with United We Stand. And at 34, up 8, is James Brown with Brother Rapp.  Now its time for our new version of almost but not quite.  The George Baker Selection peaked last week at 16 and slips to 18 with Little Green Bag; Johnny Cash drops from a peak of 11 to 21 with What Is Truth; Crosby Stills and Nash slip from 13 to 22 with Woodstock; and The Who slip from a peak of 30 to 42 with The Seeker.

Believe it or not, nobody drops out of the top ten!  So, before we go to this week's top ten...

10- Lonely Days, 1970.  The same night in August 1970 that they reunited, they wrote this song and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (Hey, I covered that in the teaser, already!)  #1 in Canada, #3 US, and #9 in Australia, the hopelessly out of step UK peaked it at #33.

9- Night Fever, 1978.  This was #1 on the combined UK-US Music VF chart I mentioned last week.  And curiously despite being at #9 on BB's chart, they also had it as #33 on the Top 100 All Time they did in 2008.  #1 across the board- except a #7 in Australia.

8- Love You Inside-Out, 1979.  A slow funk groove. If the brothers can be believed, they sent off to Robert Stigwood a special version with the alternate line "backwards and forwards with my cock hanging out" (instead of "with my heart hanging out"), just to see if he was paying attention. He was.
# 1 in the US and Canada.

7- Tragedy, 1979. In 1979, NBC aired The Bee Gees Special which showed how the sound effect for the explosion was created. Barry cupped his hands over a microphone and made an exploding sound. Several of these sounds were then mixed together creating one large boom heard on the record.  Australia stalled it at #2; it had #1s across the rest of the board.

6- Too Much Heaven, 1979.  Well, that clears out the #1s off of Spirits Having Flown.  First released for the Music For UNICEF project, it features the horn section from Chicago.

5- You Should Be Dancing, 1976.  Believe it or not, this was their only #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.  #1 North America and #5 in the UK.

4- How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, 1970.  Since I've already told its origin story twice, I'll just add that the song was first offered to Andy Williams before they took it and made it their first #1 in the US.  Even with that and hitting #1 in Canada and #3 in Australia, it was NEVER RELEASED in the UK.  Go figure.

3- Staying Alive, 1977.  Drummer Dennis Byron had a family emergency during recording.  Not happy with a drum machine, they took a couple of seconds of the drum track from Night Fever and put it on infinite loop.  The credit on the lp went to "Bernard Lupe"- and "he" got a lot of requests for work from other acts until the boys let out the secret.  #1 everywhere but (sigh) the UK, where it peaked at 4.

2- Jive Talkin', 1975.  Barry came up with the title without any idea what "Jive Talkin'" meant in the US.  After they found out, Barry re-wrote the words to match.  #1 in North America, #5 in the UK.

And the #1 Bee Gees song in the US of A....

1- How Deep Is Your Love, 1977.  Written for Barry protege Yvonne Eliman, Stigwood convinced them to put it on his new movie soundtrack, and the rest is history.

And now, this week's top ten.  Dropping 4 spots to 10 are the Ides of March and Vehicle.  Bobbi Martin edges up one with For The Love Of Him.  Ray Stevens also moves one to #8 with Everything Is Beautiful.  And as well, Marmalade to #7 with Reflections Of My Life.  Dropping 3 to #6 with ABC is the Jackson 5.  And also dropping 3 to #5 is Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky.  Tyrone Davis holds at 4 with Turn Back The Hands Of Time.  CCR moves up 2 to #3 with Up Around The Bend.  Simon And Garfunkel shoot up from 7 to #2 with Cecillia.  And once again, the Guess Who top the chart with American Woman!

Rest well, Robin.  Pass our best along to Andy and Maurice, would you?

1 comment:

  1. CWM:
    Wow...helluva tribute, and I can remember EVERY one of those Bee Gees songs...
    (still have most all of them in some fashion...all except those nasty 8-tracks...LOL)

    Truly, some GREAT songs that shall remain timeless.

    The rest of the ride didn't let me down either with Spirit in the Sky, Up Around the Bend, Conquistador (real early Robin Trower - great guitarist), and my GOD...I'm OLDER than "Bye Bye Love"...YIKES!

    Great ride this week...
    (and I NEVER need dramamine)

    Keep those hits comin'!

    Stay safe up there.