Barely Alive

By Cook, Richard | New Statesman (1996), June 4, 2001 | Go to article overview

Barely Alive


Cook, Richard, New Statesman (1996)


RICHARD COOK gets the heeBee-Geebees over the comeback of the Seventies siblings

There's nothing wrong with being a long-serving artiste. but it helps if you still have something useful to contribute. The blight on rock, as it enters its sixth decade. is that so many of its youthful butterflies have persisted into spidery middle age, refusing to take early retirement, in a way that would have shamed Methuselah.

Making full of the Rolling Stones, who have cheerfully betrayed Mick Jagger's once solemn promise to knock it on the head when he reached 30, is one thing, but at least the old Twickenham blues boys have a certain raddled majesty, a cloak to sling around their shoulders. Far worse are the performers whom the American rock critic Bob Christgau recently grouped under the canny rubric "Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies". There's no reason for these groups or individuals to carry on, beyond paying a few bills: in the words of the Four Tops, they just can't help themselves.

The Bee Gees don' t even have the excuse of needing a bob or two. As far back as 1969. they earned the incredible sum of [pound]3m for a year's work. Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb more or less split up at that point, fed up with each other and the peculiar world of Sixties pop, which involved a great deal of Machiavellian management and demanded a sustained conveyor belt of hit singles, as the pop album had hardly got off the ground in those days. Luckily for the Gibbs, hit singles were what they were best at. If you can remember that far back, you will recall the string of hanky-wringing tunes that seemed to be the Bee Gees' sole trick: "Massachusetts", "I've Got to Get a Message to You", "I Started a Joke" and so on. This hardly seemed like a band for the ages.

But that is what they have become (naturally, after they got back together). The Gibbs are often thought of as an Australian band, but in fact they were born on the Isle of Man, and the family only emigrated after a local bobby advised their father that the mildly delinquent Gibb boys might appreciate a bit of Antipodean sunshine. Barry, the eldest, was only just shy of his 12th birthday when they arrived in Brisbane in 1958.

They came back nine years later, a boy band searching for a hit. Amazingly, they got one. "New York Mining Disaster 1941" doesn't sound like the sort of title Boyzone would have shortlisted for their British debut, but this plaintive tale of trapped mineworkers became an improbable worldwide hit and established the Bee Gees as a force in the London pop world of the day. Under Robert Stigwood's ingenious management. they strung together a series of successes which, by the end of the decade, made them chart fixtures of a kind. It was never very easy to tell who, if anybody, was the creative force in the trio. Barry and Robin vied for the position of lead singer. and often it seemed they were in a contest as to who could come up with the reediest, most quavery delivery.

The Bee Gees were, at least, a proper band. They even played their own instruments. Besides the singles, there was a sequence of watery albums, the kind that singles bands made in the Sixties. That culminated, in 1969, in the double-LP Odessa, often fondly recalled as one of the final follies of the decade: it came packaged in a velvet-covered gatefold that got particularly scruffy when it had been on the record-shop racks for a while. By this point, family bickering had largely sundered the group spirit, and Robin went off to make a solo record.

The early Seventies weren't kind to the group. It is hard to remember anything they did in the first half of the decade. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Barely Alive
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.