[Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images]
Enough news outlets have referred to the Bee Gees as a disco outfit for me to feel the need to refer you, dear reader, to their entire career. This list is a career overview with a few obscurities mixed in among the hits. It's a place to start.
Barry is now the only remaining brother. He mourned brother Andy in 1988, Maurice in 2003 and now Robin in 2012. Our lives are just peachy compared to this.
Let's just get with it!
25) If I Can't Have You: Barry handles most of the disco-era numbers, since it's his voice that can reach the sky. This track is best known as a hit for Yvonne Elliman.
24) Melody Fair: They even let Barry sing in the old days, too! Odessa is a must-have for anyone who ever loved a velvet album cover and a two-record set. The orchestration alone is enough to make you want to go to private school and sip tea in the garden.
23) Words: Also covered by Rita Coolidge and something called Boyzone (sounds amazing!), "Words" was a single that sounded a bit like the Small Faces' "I'm Only Dreaming" in its first few lines, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay a tune. If you didn't sit by the window on a rainy afternoon and cry to this song thinking of bygone love, you really missed out on a good time!
22) First Of May: Another lovely tune from Odessa that sounds like flowers blooming in the Spring, as the "First Of May" clearly indicates should be happening.
21) Black Diamond: Robin takes the lead on another track from…you guessed it, Odessa. 1969 was a good year for music, whereas 1974 was tougher on many combos. For those wondering such things, this is not the same "Black Diamond" as the tune by Kiss, though undoubtedly Kiss were heavily influenced by the Bee Gees money-making potential.
20) Kilburn Towers: Idea is such a great album that it actually gets better near the end. Who does that? Then again albums were about 35 minutes long and they had two sides, so it didn't take as much effort to get to the end. Nowadays, albums barely exist!
19) Swan Song: And when you got to the end of the album, you were greeted with a song that announced it was the last song. Now that's conceptual!
18) How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?: Robin takes the first verse. Barry grabs the second. They denied Maurice a verse, forcing him to sing with them on the choruses. It's between the brothers, Kay!
17) To Love Somebody: Long before disco records were grandly orchestrated, the Bee Gees were doing the same to pop music in 1967, bringing dramatic strings to songs that sounded forlorn no matter how much energy and enthusiasm they brought to them.
16) Massachusetts: How England-born, Australian-bred dudes decided to sing about a state they'd never been to at that point illustrates how our imaginations are better than the real thing. The Berkshires do seem dreamlike on account of that frosting whether or not the lights all go out or not!
15) New York Mining Disaster 1941: When the Bee Gees were taking over the world in the late 1970s, articles would always reference this track as the start of their career. (It was their second UK single.) Truth told, the title didn't exactly make me want to run out and buy it. I know these days we're all nostalgic for the past, but who looks back fondly on 1941? Or on a mining disaster? I expected it to be like one of those seven-minute Dylan songs and it turned out to be just two minutes. What's happening, Mr. Jones?
14) World: Not to be confused with "Words," "World" is another fine piece from 1967, a year that allowed everyone to use a mellotron and add odd vocal treatments to the mix.
13) Lemons Never Forget: This psychedelic piece is proof that we all need to get sillier sometimes and musicians need to turn the knobs in the studio to see what they'll do more often and producers need to unlearn all their formulas.
12) I've Got To Get A Message To You: Robin and Barry were a solid team and they really knew how to make things sound urgent. Which prompts me to ask, has anyone ever pressed '1' for more options?
11) Spicks and Specks: If a band existed before a certain time, they have a record that sounds like it was from a different era further in the past than their others by much more than the year or so that actually separates it. Here they sound like a beat group!
10) More Than A Woman: Saturday Night Fever was everywhere in the late 1970s and it seemed as if that soundtrack album had about forty songs on it and they were all hits. If you were just becoming conscious in those days, you believed the Bee Gees bought the radio station.
9) I Started A Joke: Robin sang lead on many of their early hits. The lost puppy effect will be explained later.
8) Lonely Days: All three brothers join together for three-part harmony, a technique that often sounds corny in less skilled hands. That they sing the song's hook for about half an hour doesn't detract from the song's power.
7) Holiday: Robin and Barry sang this one together. It appeared on Bee Gees 1st, which was their third album, but first to be released internationally. Australia and New Zealand tried to keep them a secret from the rest of us until we threatened not to tell them anymore about the Beatles.
6) In The Summer Of His Years: You want to hear this Robin take flight? Oh jeez, sorry. You're not an official member of the media unless you do this kind of stuff. This track from the group's fifth album, Idea, features the sound of an orchestra trying to drown out our little Robin, but he would have none of it.
5) Night Fever: If you're going to make disco music, you have to make it right. You don't turn it into some kind of art project where you pound on sides of beef and bellow about Satan. You make it universal, user friendly and with a promise of excitement. There will be time to mope later in life. Right now? Put on your shoes!
4) How Deep Is Your Love: You don't know how good this song is until you hear it in a large hall and watch people get up to slow dance to it. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that many women became pregnant upon hearing this song. It's that fertile.
3) I Can't See Nobody: Robin sounded like he lost his favorite puppy on many of the Bee Gees' earliest tracks. By doing so, he made everyone sympathize with the group. We came together to enjoy how he turned his misfortunes into music. In the end, we always hoped he found his pet. Did he?
2) Fanny (Be Tender With My Love): The Bee Gees were very aware that the musical landscape was constantly changing and that if they didn't get with it, they'd be left behind to play country fairs for the rest of their days. So they modernized. They took out the old kitchen, put some shag carpet in the den and in the process applied their impeccable sense of melody to songs that began to show an interest in disco.
1) Stayin' Alive: There likely isn't a person alive who is conscious that doesn't know this song and enjoy it on some level. What kind of nasty piece of work do you have to be to deny the joy of a song that demands you go for a fast walk? You slow-walkin' rebel, you!
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