See also Hee Bee Gee Bees, a parody act played by Peel
The Bee Gees were a pop music group formed in 1958. Their lineup consisted of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio were especially successful as a popular music act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and later as prominent performers of the disco music era in the mid-to-late 1970s. The group sang recognisable three-part tight harmonies; Robin's clear vibrato lead vocals were a hallmark of their earlier hits, while Barry's R&B falsetto became their signature sound during the mid-to-late 1970s and 1980s. The Bee Gees wrote all of their own hits, as well as writing and producing several major hits for other artists.
Born on the Isle of Man to English parents, the Gibb brothers lived in Chorlton, Manchester, England, until the late 1950s. There, in 1955, they formed the Rattlesnakes. The family then moved to Redcliffe, in Queensland, Australia, and then to Cribb Island. After achieving their first chart success in Australia as the Bee Gees with "Spicks and Specks" (their 12th single), they returned to the UK in January 1967, when producer Robert Stigwood began promoting them to a worldwide audience.
The Bee Gees have sold more than 220 million records worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling artists of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997; the presenter of the award to "Britain's first family of harmony" was Brian Wilson, historical leader of The Beach Boys, another "family act" featuring three harmonising brothers. The Bee Gees' Hall of Fame citation says, "Only Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees."
Following Maurice's death in January 2003, at the age of 53, Barry and Robin retired the group's name after 45 years of activity. In 2009, Robin announced that he and Barry had agreed the Bee Gees would re-form and perform again. Robin died in May 2012, aged 62, after a prolonged struggle with cancer and other health problems, leaving Barry as the only surviving member of the group's final line-up.... (Read more)
Links to Peel
The band were never Peel favourites, although when they emerged in Britain in 1967 they were considered one of the more interesting discoveries of that year. They were managed by Robert Stigwood, who also guided the career of Cream, and received plenty of coverage in the music press. Their records were played on Radio London, and Peel played tracks from their first LP on the Perfumed Garden, responding to criticisms that they were too influenced by the Beatles by saying that there was no-one better to be influenced by (quoted in Rob Chapman, Psychedelia and Other Colours, London 2015).
The brothers' two Peel sessions at first glance seem an anomaly to the canon, yet at the time many acts featured on Top Gear were chart regulars keen to promote their material. The playlists and session bookings of the first few months of Top Gear show how in 1967 there was little distinction between "pop" and the allegedly more serious form later known as "rock", which came to dominate Peel's shows of the late 1960s. The first Bee Gees session contains both their big early hit, the folk-influenced New York Mining Disaster 1941 (covered decades later by Martin Carthy) and To Love Somebody, later covered by Lulu in her only session. (Her connection with the band did not end there: she later married and divorced Maurice.)
In a 1968 Melody Maker it was reported that the band 'dug' JP, even if by then their image was of a mainstream pop act with little underground appeal; a "Special Pop Supplement" in a March 1968 issue of International Times (possibly written by Mick Farren) dismisses them as "pretty young lads" . In his column in the following issue of IT, Peel says he found this verdict "somewhat less than enlightening", and later in the year, when he included the Bee Gees in his "ABC of Beauty" compiled for Disc & Music Echo, was more specific in his criticism: "Writers of pretty songs - I must admit to preferring their earlier efforts which seemed less mannnered".
In the late 70s, while Peel was playing punk and reggae, disco experienced a surge in popularity, aided by the film Saturday Night Fever which featured the Bee Gees' material heavily (including Jive Talkin, which had been around for two years before that). Since John virtually ignored the genre, their songs did not feature (aside from one brief, jokey outing), but he found time to play a record by Fut, which was a 1970 parody of John Lennon and featured Maurice's talents.
On 16 July 1979, he played a snatch of a Bee Gees song in response to a request (presumably made tongue-in-cheek) from pupils at Oundle School in Northamptonshire.
In later years, Peel retained a wry attitude toward the Bee Gees' work, viz. his comment on 13 July 1989: "At 9 o'clock, the Bee Gees at the Wembley Arena. Another one not to miss, I think." Nevertheless, he revealed on 01 January 1994 that he and Andy Kershaw received six wine goblets from the band every year.
Festive Fifty Entries
- Two sessions. No known official releases.
- In My Own Time / I Close My Eyes / New York Mining Disaster 1941 / Massachusetts / Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator / To Love Somebody / Cucumber Castle (& World, TX 12 November 1967).
- Birdie Told Me / With The Sun In My Eyes / The Earnest Of Being George / And The Sun Will Shine
Other Shows Played
- Bee Gees
- 17 July 1967: 'To Love Somebody (7")' (Polydor)
- 01 October 1967: 'Massachusetts (7")' (Polydor)
- 21 January 1968: 'Words (7")' (Polydor)
- 04 February 1968: 'Birdie Told Me (LP-Horizontal)' (Polydor)
- 16 July 1979: 'Stayin' Alive' (2x Soundtrack LP-Saturday Night Fever)' (RSO) (abruptly cuts off after 35 seconds. JP: "Well, you asked for it...")
Top Of The Pops
- 05 May 1983 (TOTP): 'Massachusetts' (clip from 26 December 1967)
- 27 March 1979: 'Have You Heard The Word (7")' (Beacon)