am 5. Juli 2013
There is a pleasant conciseness to breaking down the group's career into thirteen different distinct sections. Meyer's allows himself to provide and analyze backup quotes to explain the dynamics of the family from the late 50's in Manchester to the current day. The first four chapter's deal with the sixties period; both in Australia and in England. It is clearly suggested that Robin and Maurice looked to Barry as the father figure musically. It's an uncomfortably true insight. However, it was Hugh that got the Bee Gees going and made critical decisions about their early career until another father-figure appeared. That was Robert Stigwood and from that point onward, Hugh Gibb was in the background and Barry became second in place - for a while. This account is almost legendary.
The chapters that cover `Bee Gees 1st', "Horizontal', Idea' and `Odessa' are very clear in how the public viewed the Bee Gees in the UK and the USA. It seems the rest of the world adored them without question. By the end of 1969, the band was in turmoil, brother spilt from brother. However, there were still remarkable moments when the bond simply could not be broken. Even when Barry at age 21, pompously declared how he'll be too old to record music and plans on being a big film star. The reader finds themselves in disbelief. However, the pressures, talent, career manipulations and their young ages are a true conundrum and it's a miracle that any of them survived at all.
The period of "Robin's Reign" is covered extensively with a gracious nod to the unreleased, "Sing Slowly Sisters". Also, the coverage of Robin's extensive amphetamine abuse is stunning and frightening. The comments and behavior are startling to read. Robin was obviously extremely ill, Barry was confused in his role as a brother/artist and Maurice was a heavy drinker, threatening his very public marriage to Lulu. This account is brutal.
There is a disappointing absence of many things that occurred from 1971 through to 1974, most notably, only one page devoted to discussion of "Life In A Tin Can" and less about "A Kick In The Head Is Worth Eight In The Pants". "The Midnight Special"; a career stabilizer during a crucial period is never mentioned. This is a time they have often described as their `hungry period' which kept them going. This absence is very odd. The statement that no singles were released in 1973 is also erroneous.
Meyer jumps back into the fray with detailed descriptions of how Arif Mardin pushed the Bee Gees in a new direction. Dodgy at first, struggling to abandon the ballad styles and learning to adapt to a funkier sound, Mardin did a miracle. Perhaps, "Mr. Natural" was only a precursor, but what followed is a Main Course", still a major album of the century. When a contract dispute rises, the Bee Gees produce themselves with "Children of the World", an album the author accurately describes as both funky and awkward. With a new team of producers and engineers, a new dynamic occurs with Barry again taking lead. It's all uphill from there. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the book is the detailed description of the stay in the unglamorous ramshackle studio in Chateau d'Herouville, France. Filled with a the entire Gibb families and band members, the two-bathroom chateau proved an annoying bore of a place, but one that would create the songs that define the Bee Gees career, warts and all. Of particular note is the dynamic of the group that develops with, gain, Barry taking the lead. The "Live..." album and the following album were to be recorded here and the ingenious methods undertaken to record each song in a severely meticulous manner are legendary. Just the part on mixing `Stayin Alive" is thrilling to read about. The amount of work produced in that short time fame is mind boggling.
'Saturday Night Fever' gets a complete and through analysis worthy of Wikipedia, with nothing left out. The sheer complexity of the request from Stigwood for a few songs for his `little movie' proves to be sheer genius. The story of Nik Cohn, Studio 54, and the already thriving disco scene in New York and how the Bee Gees gets pulled in are finally told in the most complete manner to date. Of course, the movie, the record sales, the author's dissection of `Saturday Night Fever", through no fault of the Gibbs.
"No good deed goes unpunished" and Meyer includes the disaster that is "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", but the reason, rhymes and the relentless Robert Stigwood are all on display, telling you that Stigwood is far more than a businessman or a showman. He has no fear, to his credit and fault. Nearly everyone associated with that film and recording disappeared form site and the sheer volume of records (illegal and legal) is another story not to be missed. Once again, the Bee Gees have to prove themselves and al this after a monster hit like "SNF".
Meyers again dissects the next period of life and the album "Spirits Having Flown" both praising and taking away from its glamor with his astute analysis of the recording process. There were period when the Gibbs went from organic to nearly mechanical. Barry seems to be the dragon in charge and never has a more precise or committed to detail person has rarely been written about. Obviously, the album went to #1 as did the following double LP `Greatest Hits". During all this time, a young boy named Andy Gibb was watching and his story is told.
Andy Gibb's chapter is one of the most heart-breaking and painful stories ever told and Meyer pulls out no stops. The ups and downs surpassed the Bee Gees and in a very very short period of time. From teen idol with three #1 hits off the bat to a Broadway star with the worst attendance history on record. In only a few years Andy had it all and lost it all. Many people release quotes about Victoria Principal and Meyer is gleeful to tell all. One cannot blame him. The comments made by her and others will tell you more than others have dared to. It literally hurts to read.
There is one chapter that chronicles the lives of the Bee Gees from 1980 to their first concert in 1989, which include all the artists they produced huge hits for and albums that went multi-platinum. Yearning for their brotherhood again, they came back in 1987, though it wasn't until 1989's "One" that they hit their own mark again. It's fairly standard with no real new information, but it's necessary for perspective.
Of course, the story unwinds with chapters devoted to the passing of Maurice and then Robin. The personal behavior of both of these twins is truly disturbing, and sometimes it seems that every good ounce of soul they inhabited was payback for the pain they endured. Bot these accounts are as sad as Andy's.
The last six pages are directed solely for Barry. Chronicling his last few years, it appears that Barry loses his golden armor and becomes a human after all. Noting the solo concert in Florida, Meyer's quotes Barry, "I'm the last man standing". The entire biography glosses over nothing. It's real and older fans will discover how their heroes paid their dues.
This book is full of new details and insights, but is not uplifting or inspirational by any means. Leave that to the music of the Gibbs.