The Bee Gees were a musical group founded in 1958. The group's
line-up consisted of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio were successful for most of their decades of
recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a pop act in the late 1960s/early
1970s, and as prominent performers of the disco music era in the late 1970s.
Barry Gibb (b. 1946) and fraternal twin brothers Robin (1949–2012)
and Maurice Gibb (1949–2003) were born on the Isle of Man, but the family returned to father Hugh Gibb's home town
of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, England where they went to Oswald Road Primary School, in the early 1950s where
the boys began to sing in harmony. The story is told that they were going to lip sync to a record in the local
Gaumont cinema (as other children had done on previous weeks) and as they were running to the theatre, the heavy
78-RPM record broke. The brothers had to sing live and received such a positive response from the audience that
they decided to pursue a singing career.
In 1958 the Gibb family, including infant brother, Andy
(1958–1988), emigrated to Redcliffe in Queensland, Australia. The young brothers began performing where they could
to raise pocket money. First called the Rattlesnakes, later Wee Johnny Hayes & the Bluecats, they were
introduced to radio DJ Bill Gates by racetrack promoter Bill Goode (who saw them perform at Brisbane's Speedway
Circuit). Gates renamed them the "Bee Gees" after his and Goode's initials – thus the name was not specifically a
reference to "Brothers Gibb", despite popular belief.
By 1960 the Bee Gees were featured on television shows. In the
next few years they began working regularly at resorts on the Queensland coast. For his songwriting, Barry sparked
the interest of Australian star Col Joye, who helped them get a record deal with Festival Records subsidiary,
Leedon Records, in 1963 under the name "Bee Gees." The three released two or three singles a year, while Barry
supplied additional songs to other Australian artists.
Before their departure from Australia to England, Hugh Gibb sent
demos to Brian Epstein who managed The Beatles and was director of NEMS, a British music store and promoter. Brian
Epstein had passed the demo tapes to Robert Stigwood, who had recently joined NEMS. After an audition with Stigwood
in February 1967, the Bee Gees were signed to a five-year contract whereby Polydor Records would be their record
label in the United Kingdom and ATCO Records would be the United States distributor. Work quickly began on the
group's first international album, and Robert Stigwood launched a promotional campaign to coincide with its
Stigwood proclaimed that the Bee Gees were "The Most Significant
New Talent Of 1967" and thus began the immediate comparison to The Beatles. Their second British single (their
first UK 45 rpm issued was "Spicks and Specks"), "New York Mining Disaster 1941", was issued to radio stations with
a blank white label listing only the song title. Some DJs immediately assumed this was a new single by The Beatles
and started playing the song in heavy rotation. This helped the song climb into the Top 20 in both the United
Kingdom and the United States. No such chicanery was needed to boost the Bee Gees' second single, "To Love
Somebody", into the US Top 20. Originally written for Otis Redding, "To Love Somebody" was a soulful ballad sung by
Barry, which has since become a pop standard covered by hundreds of artists including Gram Parsons, Rod Stewart,
Bonnie Tyler, Janis Joplin, The Animals, Nina Simone, Jimmy Somerville and Michael Bolton. Another single,
"Holiday", was released in the United States, peaking at No. 16. The parent album, Bee Gees 1st (their first
internationally), peaked at No. 7 in the United States and No. 8 in the United Kingdom.
Following the success of Bee Gees 1st, the band (which now
consisted of Barry on rhythm guitar, Maurice on bass, Vince Melouney on lead guitar and Colin Petersen on drums),
began work on the act's second album. Released in late 1967, Horizontal repeated the success of their first album,
featuring the No. 1 UK single "Massachusetts" (a No. 11 US hit), and the No. 7 UK single "World". The sound of the
album Horizontal had a more "rock" sound than their previous release, though ballads like "And The Sun Will Shine"
and "Really And Sincerely" were also prominent. The Horizontal album reached No. 12 in the US, and No. 16 in the UK
promoting the record, the Bee Gees made their first appearances in America, playing live concerts and television
shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Two more singles followed in early 1968, the
ballad "Words" (No. 15 US, No. 8 UK) and the double A-sided single "Jumbo" b/w "The Singer Sang His Song". "Jumbo"
was the Bee Gees' least successful single to date only reaching No. 57 in the US, and No. 25 in the UK. The Bee
Gees felt that "The Singer Sang His Song" was the stronger of the two sides, an opinion shared by listeners in the
Netherlands, who made it a No. 3 hit. Further Bee Gees chart singles followed: "I've Gotta Get a Message to You"
(No. 8 US, No. 1 UK) and "I Started A Joke" (No. 6 US), both culled from the band's third album Idea. Idea was
another Top 20 album in the US (No. 17) and the UK (No. 4). Following the tour and TV special to promote the album,
Vince Melouney left the group, feeling that he wanted to play more of a blues style music than the Gibbs were
writing. Melouney did achieve one feat while with the Bee Gees—his composition "Such A Shame" (from Idea) is the
only song on any Bee Gees album not written by a Gibb brother.
By 1969, the cracks began to show within the group. Robin began to feel that
Stigwood had been favouring Barry as the frontman. Their next album, which was to have been a concept album
called Masterpeace, evolved into the double-album Odessa. Most rock critics felt this was the best Bee Gees
album of the '60s, with its progressive rock feel on the title track, the country-flavored "Marley Purt Drive"
and "Give Your Best", and signature ballads such as "Melody Fair" and "First of May"; the last of which became
the only single from the album, and was a minor hit. Feeling that the flipside, "Lamplight" should have been
the A-side, Robin quit the group in mid-1969 and launched a solo career. Robin Gibb saw brief success in Europe
with the No. 2 hit "Saved By The Bell" and the album Robin's Reign. Barry and Maurice continued as the Bee
Gees, even recruiting their sister Lesley to appear with them on stage.
The first of many Bee Gees compilations, Best of Bee Gees was released, featuring
the non-LP single "Words" plus the Australian hit "Spicks and Specks" The CD release replaces "Spicks and
Specks" with another non-LP single "Tomorrow Tomorrow", because Polydor could no longer secure the rights to
the Australian track. "Tomorrow Tomorrow" was a moderate hit in the UK reaching No. 23, but stalled at No. 54
in the US. The compilation reached the Top Ten in both the US and the UK.
While Robin was off on his own, Barry, Maurice, and Colin continued on as the Bee
Gees, recording their next album, Cucumber Castle. There was also a TV special filmed to accompany the album,
which aired on the BBC in 1971. Colin Petersen played drums on the tracks recorded for the album, but was fired
from the group after filming began and his parts were edited out of the final cut of the film. After Colin was
fired, Australian drummer Geoff Bridgford was recruited to complete the recording of songs for Cucumber Castle.
The leadoff single, "Don't Forget to Remember" was a big hit in the UK reaching No. 2, but a disappointment in
the US, only reaching No. 73. The next 2 singles, "I.O.I.O." and "If I Only Had My Mind on Something Else"
barely scraped the charts, and following the release of the album, Barry and Maurice parted ways. It seemed
that the Bee Gees were finished. Barry recorded a solo album which never saw official release, though "I'll
Kiss Your Memory" was released as a single, without much interest. Meanwhile, Maurice released the single
"Railroad", and starred in the West End musical Sing A Rude Song.
The three brothers reunited in the later part of 1970 penning a series of songs
about heartache and loneliness. During this period they became a four piece band joined again by Australian
drummer Geoff Bridgford who after playing on the 2 Years On album and Trafalgar album became the last non-Gibb
brother to be a member of the Bee Gees. Although they had lost traction on the British charts, the Bee Gees hit
No. 3 in America with "Lonely Days" (from the reunion LP 2 Years On) and had their first US No. 1 with "How Can
You Mend a Broken Heart" (from Trafalgar). The trio's talents were included in the soundtrack for the 1971 film
Melody as they performed several songs for the title. In 1972, they hit No. 16 in America with the single "My
World" and "Run To Me" from the LP To Whom It May Concern; the latter also returned them to the British top ten
for the first time in three years.
By 1973, however, the Bee Gees were in a rut. The album, Life in a Tin Can,
released on RSO Records and its lead-off single, "Saw a New Morning," sold poorly with the single peaking at
No. 94. This was followed by an unreleased album (known as A Kick in the Head Is Worth Eight in the Pants). A
second compilation album, Best of Bee Gees, Volume 2 was released in 1973, though it did not repeat the success
of Volume 1.
On the advice of Ahmet Ertegün, head of their US label Atlantic Records, Stigwood
arranged for the group to record with famed soul music producer Arif Mardin. The resulting LP, Mr. Natural,
included fewer ballads and foreshadowed the R&B direction of the rest of their career. But when it too
failed to attract much interest, Mardin encouraged them to work with the soul music style.
The brothers attempted to assemble a live stage band that could replicate their
studio sound. Lead guitarist Alan Kendall had come on board in 1971, but did not have much to do until Mr.
Natural. For that album, they added drummer Dennis Bryon, and they later added ex-Strawbs keyboard player Blue
Weaver, completing the late 1970s "Bee Gees band". Maurice, who had previously performed on piano, guitar,
organ, mellotron, and bass guitar, as well as exotica like mandolin and Moog synthesiser, now confined himself
to bass onstage.
At Eric Clapton's suggestion, the brothers relocated to Miami, Florida, early in
1975 to record. After starting off with ballads, they eventually heeded the urging of Mardin and Stigwood and
crafted more rhythmic disco songs, including their second US No. 1, "Jive Talkin'", along with US No. 7 "Nights
on Broadway." The band liked the resulting new sound, and this time the public agreed, sending the LP Main
Course up the charts. This was their second album to have two US top-10 singles since 1968's Idea. Main Course
also became their first charting R&B album. Mardin was unable to work with the group afterwards, but the
Bee Gees enlisted Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson who had worked with Mardin during the Main Course sessions.
This production team would carry the Bee Gees through the rest of the 1970s.
The next album, Children of the
World, was drenched in Barry's newfound falsetto and Weaver's
synthesiser disco licks. Led off by the single "You Should Be Dancing," it pushed the Bee Gees to a level of
stardom they had not previously achieved in the US, though their new R&B/disco sound was not as popular
with some die hard fans from the 1960s. The Bee Gees' band was now closer to a rock act, with rhythm guitar and
real drums behind the falsetto.
Following a successful live album, Here at Last... Bee Gees... Live, the Bee Gees
agreed with Stigwood to participate in the creation of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It would be the
turning point of their career. The cultural impact of both the film and the soundtrack was seismic, not only in
the United States, but in the rest of the world as well, bringing the nascent disco scene mainstream.
The band's involvement in the film did not begin until post-production. As John
Travolta asserted, "The Bee Gees weren't even involved in the movie in the beginning ... I was dancing to
Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs." Producer Robert Stigwood commissioned the Bee Gees to create the songs for the
film. The brothers wrote the songs "virtually in a single weekend" at France's Château d'Hérouville
Three Bee Gees singles ("How Deep Is Your Love", "Stayin' Alive", and "Night
Fever") reached No. 1 in the United States and many countries around the world, launching the most popular
period of the disco era. They also penned the song "If I Can't Have You" which became a No. 1 hit for Yvonne
Elliman, while the Bee Gees' own version was the B-Side of "Stayin' Alive." Such was the popularity of Saturday
Night Fever that two different versions of the song "More Than a Woman" received airplay, one by the Bee Gees,
which was relegated to album track, and another by Tavares, which was the hit. The Gibb sound was inescapable.
During an eight-month period beginning in the Christmas season of 1977, six songs written by the brothers held
the No. 1 position on the US charts for 25 of 32 consecutive weeks—three of their own releases, two for brother
Andy Gibb, and the Yvonne Elliman single.
Fueled by the movie's success, the soundtrack broke multiple industry records,
becoming the highest-selling album in recording history to that point. With more than 40 million copies sold,
Saturday Night Fever is among music's top five best selling soundtrack albums. It is currently calculated as
the 4th highest-selling album worldwide.
During this era, Barry and Robin also wrote "Emotion" for an old friend,
Australian vocalist Samantha Sang, who made it a Top Ten hit (the Bee Gees sang backing vocals). Barry also
wrote the title song to the movie version of the Broadway musical Grease for Frankie Valli to perform, which
went to No. 1. During this period, the Bee Gees' younger brother Andy followed his older siblings into a music
career, and enjoyed considerable success. Produced by Barry, Andy Gibb's first three singles all topped the US
charts. In March 1978, the Bee Gees held the top 2 positions on the US Charts with "Night Fever" and "Stayin'
Alive", the first time this had happened since The Beatles. On the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for 25 March
1978, five songs written by the Gibbs were in the US top ten at the same time: "Night Fever", "Stayin' Alive",
"If I Can't Have You", "Emotion" and "Love is Thicker Than Water". Such chart dominance hadn't been seen since
April 1964, when The Beatles had all five of the top five American singles. Barry Gibb became the only
songwriter to have four consecutive number one hits in the US breaking the John Lennon and Paul McCartney 1964
record. These songs were "Stayin' Alive", "Love Is Thicker Than Water", "Night Fever", "If I Can't Have
The Bee Gees also co-starred with Peter Frampton in the movie Sgt. Pepper's
Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) loosely inspired by the classic 1967 album by The Beatles. The film had been
heavily promoted prior to release, and was expected to enjoy great commercial success. However, the disjointed
film was savaged by the movie critics, and ignored by the public. Though some of its tracks charted, the
soundtrack too was a high-profile flop. The single "Oh! Darling", credited to Robin Gibb, reached No. 15 in the
US. Previously, the Bee Gees had recorded three Beatles covers—"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight", "She Came
in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Sun King" – for the transitory musical documentary All This and World War
The Bee Gees' follow-up to Saturday Night Fever was the Spirits Having Flown
album. It yielded three more No. 1 hits: "Too Much Heaven", "Tragedy", and "Love You Inside Out." This gave the
act six consecutive No. 1 singles in America within a year and a half (a record surpassed only by Whitney
Houston). "Too Much Heaven" ended up as the Bee Gees' musical contribution to the Music for UNICEF Concert at
the United Nations General Assembly in January 1979, a benefit organised by the Bee Gees, Robert Stigwood, and
David Frost for UNICEF that was broadcast worldwide. The brothers donated the royalties from the song to the
charity. Up to 2007, this song has earned over $11 million for UNICEF. During the summer of 1979, the Bee Gees
embarked on their largest concert tour covering the US and Canada. The Spirits Having Flown tour capitalised on
Bee Gees fever that was sweeping the nation, with sold out concerts in 38 cities. The Bee Gees produced a video
for the title track of "Too Much Heaven" directed by Miami-based film-maker, Martin Pitts and produced by
Charles Allen. With this video, Pitts and Allen began a long association with the brothers.
The Bee Gees even had a country hit in 1979 with "Rest Your Love On Me", the flip
side of their pop hit "Too Much Heaven", which made Top 40 on the country charts. In 1981, Conway Twitty's
version of "Rest Your Love On Me" topped the country charts.
The Bee Gees' overwhelming success rose and fell with the disco bubble. By the
end of 1979, disco was rapidly declining in popularity, and the backlash against disco put the Bee Gees'
American career in a tailspin. Radio stations around America began promoting "Bee Gee Free Weekends". Following
their remarkable run from 1975 to 1979, the act would have only one more top ten single in the US, and that
would not come until 1989. The Bee Gees' international popularity sustained somewhat less damage. Barry Gibb
considered the success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack both a blessing and a curse: "Fever was No.
1 every week ... It wasn't just like a hit album. It was No. 1 every single week for 25 weeks. It was just an
amazing, crazy, extraordinary time. I remember not being able to answer the phone, and I remember people
climbing over my walls. I was quite grateful when it stopped. It was too unreal. In the long run, your life is
better if it's not like that on a constant basis. Nice though it was."
The Bee Gees have sold in excess of 200 million records worldwide At one
point in 1978, the Gibb brothers were responsible for writing and/or performing nine of the songs in the
Billboard Hot 100. In all, the Gibbs placed 13 singles onto the Hot 100 in 1978, with 12 making the Top
At least 2,500 artists have recorded their songs. Their most popular composition
is "How Deep Is Your Love", with 400 versions by other artists in existence