Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Bee Gees, The #6 Artist of the Seventies*

This amazing trio of brothers lived in Chorlton, Manchester, England until the late 1950's, and formed the group the Rattlesnakes.  The family then moved to Queensland, Australia, and then to Cribb Island.  At Cribb, the brothers went to Northgate State School.  By then, the group had changed their name to the Bee Gees, and they became successful in Australia.  They were featured on television shows and performed at resorts in the area. 

In 1963, the group signed a deal with Leedon Records.  In 1965, the Bee Gees recorded their first album, The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs

The group returned to the U.K. in 1967 but before doing so, they sent demo tapes to Brian Epstein, famed manager of the Beatles.  Epstein passed the tapes to producer Robert Stigwood, and the Bee Gees and Stigwood would become famous together.  Stigwood helped the trio get a recording contract with Polydor Records in the U.K. and Atco in the U.S.  All the pieces were now in place.  Immediately afterwards, the Bee Gees scored their first hit with "New York Mining Disaster 1941". 

The Bee Gees posted ten more hits in the 60's to become one of the top artists of the decade, and several songs, most notably "Massachusetts", "Words", "I've Gotta' Get A Message To You", and "I Started A Joke" were #1 songs in multiple countries.  The trio suffered from several starts and stops in the early part of the decade--the only reason this legendary group is not ranked higher.

By 1970, Robin and Barry had both recorded solo albums, and the early success of the Bee Gees had not been matched by their last album.  On December 1, 1969, the Bee Gees parted ways with his brothers professionally.  While Robin concentrated on his solo album, Barry and Maurice worked on Cucumber Castle, a project that they had started in 1967.  The two brothers finished the album that was finally released in 1970.  It turned out to be one of the best and most consistent in the Bee Gees' career.  Lush arrangements and a country flavor characterize "Sweetheart".

The brothers brought in spiritual overtones on "Bury Me Down By The River".


Another outstanding track on the album is "Don't Forget To Remember". 


The following year, all three brothers reunited and released the album 2 Years On.  As the single "Lonely Days" proved, by going to #1 in Canada, #3 in the United States, #9 in Australia, and #10 in New Zealand, the Bee Gees were back.  More importantly, "Lonely Days" became the group's first million-seller in the U.S. 


Barry sounds a bit like John Lennon on this song he wrote, "Every Second Every Minute".


The group followed that with the release Trafalgar in 1971, which included the debut of guitarist Alan Kendall.  Kendall would go on to become a key ingredient in the group's sound for the next 20 years.   "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" was a monster hit, a #1 song for four weeks in the United States and also #1 in Canada, #3 in Australia, and #6 in New Zealand.  It too sold over one million copies.

The Bee Gees contributed music to the "SWALK" Soundtrack, then released the album To Whom It May Concern in 1972, which represents one of the finest examples of the individual contributions of all three brothers.  The single "My World" soared to #3 in Australia, #9 in New Zealand and the Netherlands, #11 in Canada, and an underrated #16 in both the U.S. and U.K.

"Run To Me" continued the momentum, hitting #3 in Australia, #5 in New Zealand, #6 in Canada, #9 in the U.K., and once again, a very underrated #16 in the United States.


Robin wrote of the best songs of his life--"Never Been Alone".


And Barry was beginning to show the talent (both songwriting and vocals) that would soon catapult the group into the stratosphere, on the song "Alive".


Maurice also wrote one of his best songs that is included on To Whom It May Concern--"You Know It's For You".


In 1973, the Bee Gees released the album Life in a Tin Can on Stigwood's newly-formed RSO Records.  The album did not do well, nor did the next one, Mr. Natural.  But the latter provided glimpses into the future, as the brothers honed their songwriting talent.  This is "Down The Road".

Once again, the group's career was at a crossroads.  They heeded the advice of Eric Clapton and relocated to Miami, Florida to record.  The Bee Gees also brought in Blue Weaver to play keyboards for them, and shifted gears to more up-tempo songs.  The trio also hired producers Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson.  These moves paid off in a big way on the 1975 album Main Course, which became their first Gold album.  The single "Jive Talkin'" was a huge hit, #1 in both the U.S. and Canada, #3 in Australia, and #4 in the U.K.  It became the trio's third million-seller.

The group released a solid follow-up, "Nights On Broadway", #2 in Canada, #7 in the U.S., and #8 in the Netherlands.

For the first time in their career, the Bee Gees scored three hits off an album, as "Fanny Be Tender (With My Love)" reached #2 in Canada, #7 in Australia, and #12 in the United States.

But the Bee Gees were much more than their single releases.  The album featured their great harmonies on the  group's version of the song they wrote for Olivia Newton-John, "Come On Over".  We will feature two outstanding album tracks from Main Course--the first is "Country Lanes".

The Bee Gees also included this winner on the album--"All This Making Love".

The title song has become one of the all-time fan favorites from the group.
It had been an amazing comeback for the popular 60's trio, but they had only started.  The following year, the Bee Gees released the album Children of the World, which peaked at #8 on the Album chart and went Platinum.  The lead single, "You Should Be Dancing", took the group to heights they had never experienced before.  The song hit #1 in both the U.S. and Canada, #2 in Australia, #4 in Ireland, #5 in the U.K., and #10 in New Zealand, and also sold over one million copies.

The Bee Gees released the ballad "Love So Right", #2 in Canada and #3 in the United States, which gave the Bee Gees their fifth Gold Record.

"Boogie Child" went to #9 in Canada and #12 in the U.S.

The trio released the compilation Bee Gees Gold in 1976, which, appropriately enough, went Gold,  Most of those sales come from their 60's material, but the album did include some 70's songs that have to be factored into these rankings.


In 1977, the group released Here at Last...Bee Gees...Live, a #8 album that showed the amazing sound of the group in concert and went Platinum.  The group released the live version of "Edge Of The Universe", which peaked at an underrated #16 in Canada and #16 in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Bee Gees were asked to come up with music for a new movie about disco music starring John Travolta.  If the group was hot before, they ruled the world after this project.  The movie was Saturday Night Fever, and the trio recorded four new songs for the soundtrack, and "You Should Be Dancing" was featured prominently in the movie as well. 

The first single from the soundtrack was "How Deep Is Your Love", #1 for three weeks in the United States, and #1 in Canada and Finland, #3 in the U.K. and Australia, and #8 in the Netherlands.  It too sold over one million copies, and earned the Bee Gees a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group.

The group released "Stayin' Alive" next, a monster #1 of four weeks in the U.S., and #1 in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico, #2 in Germany, #3 in the Netherlands, and #4 in the U.K.  Thus, "Stayin' Alive" was a Top 5 song in every major country in the world, and sold two million records.

Right on the heels of that smash, the Bee Gees released the single "Night Fever".  All it did was remain at #1 for eight weeks in the U.S., top charts in the U.K., Canada, and Spain and reach #2 in Germany and New Zealand, #3 in the Netherlands, and #7 in Australia, and sell over two million copies.

The Bee Gees earned Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and Album of the Year for Saturday Night Fever, and Best Arrangement of Voices for "Stayin' Alive".  The trio also came home with Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group and Favorite Soul/R&B Album (for Saturday Night Fever) at the American Music Awards.

The Bee Gees were as successful during this period as nearly any act in recorded history.  No one has matched the Beatles' record of owning all five of the Top 5 songs in a given week, but the Bee Gees came the closest.  In the Billboard Top 10 on March 18, the Bee Gees owned #1 ("Night Fever" and #2 ("Stayin' Alive), and had written the #3 song ("Emotion" for Samantha Sang", and the #5 song for brother Andy, "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water".  The following week, another song the brothers had written for Yvonne Elliman for the movie ("If I Can't Have You") entered the Top 10 at #9.  In fact, six songs written by the Bee Gees held down the #1 spot for 25 of 32 weeks.

Although the Bee Gees themselves did not record five songs in the Top 5, they had written five in the Top 10.  At that point, they probably could have had as many hits as they released.  One song remained from Saturday Night Fever that had not been released as a single, but the Bee Gees refused to release "More Than A Woman", saying "they didn't want to get greedy", or "overdo it".  Many radio stations played the song anyway, and it became another smash #1 in those markets, and the song is one of The Top Album Tracks of the Rock Era*.   

Saturday Night Fever has now sold over 40 million albums, to make it not only one of the top soundtracks of all-time, but one of the top albums of all-time.  The group then starred in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and recorded for the soundtrack album.  The movie fell flat, however.

The following year, the Bee Gees released the album Spirits Having Flown, which went to #1 on the Album chart in every country in the world except Austria, where it peaked at #2.  The album quickly went Platinum.  The lead single, "Too Much Heaven" topped charts in the United States, Canada, Italy and New Zealand, #3 in the U.K., and #5 in Australia.

At the height of their popularity, the group organized the Music for UNICEF Concert with producer Robert Stigwood.  The Bee Gees donated all profits from "Too Much Heaven" to UNICEF.  So the group was not only one of the top acts of all time; they were good people also.  As of 2007, the song earned $11 million for UNICEF. 

The Bee Gees went on a highly successful tour, performing to sold-out crowds in 38 cities.  They released the single "Tragedy", which became their fifth #1 song in a row.  It reached that position in the United States, the U.K., Canada, Italy and New Zealand, and went to #2 in Australia.  "Tragedy" gave the group four consecutive Platinum singles.

The single "Love You Inside Out" set a Rock Era record when it peaked at #1--it was a record-setting sixth straight #1 song for the trio.  The record held until Whitney Houston posted seven consecutive #1's from 1985-1988. 

And "Reaching Out" presented soaring romantic vocals that we had become accustomed to from the group.

The Bee Gees captured another Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group honor at the American Music Awards, and they won another AMA for Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Spirits Having Flown.  The title track was another hidden gem, another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

Later in the year, the group released the compilation Bee Gees Greatest, a double album that went Double Platinum. 

The Gibbs worked with Barbra Streisand on her album Guilty and with Dionne Warwick on her album Heartbreaker.  The Bee Gees continued to record into the 80's though sadly, with the deaths of first Maurice and then Robin, the Bee Gees had their last hit in 2001.

In 2001, the Bee Gees released Their Greatest Hits:  The Record, which went to #1 on the Album chart and sold one million copies.  The albums Number Ones and The Ultimate Bee Gees, followed, which both went Gold.

The Bee Gees earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979, and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.  Very few artists are members of all four of the above. 

In 1997, the group received the Legend Award at the World Music Awards.  In 1999, the Isle of Man Post Office launched a set of six stamps which honored the Bee Gees.  In 2000, the Bee Gees received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards, and a Legend Award in 2003. 

In 2001, the Bee Gees were named Commanders in the Order of the British Empire.  In 2004, the "Saturday Night Fever" Soundtrack was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  In 2007, the Bee Gees were named BMI Icons at the BMI Pop Awards.  Collectively, the three brothers have earned 109 BMI Awards in their career.

In 2013, a statue of the Bee Gees and "Bee Gees Way" was unveiled in Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia.

The Bee Gees exploded for 23 hits in the Seventies, plus numerous album tracks that were just as popular.   Thirteen of those went Top 10, with an incredible eight #1 songs.  They sold at least 20 million albums in the U.S. alone. 

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