The Bee Gees were a music group formed in 1958, featuring 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. The Bee Gees have occasionally been referred to as The Disco Kings.
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 skiffle/rock and roll group the Rattlesnakes. The family then moved to Redcliffe, in the Moreton Bay Region, 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’ Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (1977) was the turning point of their career, with both the film and soundtrack having a cultural impact throughout the world, enhancing the disco scene’s mainstream appeal. They won five Grammy Awards for Saturday Night Fever, including Album of the Year.
The Bee Gees have sold over 120 million records worldwide (with estimates as high as over 220 million), making them among the best-selling music 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.” With nine #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 The Bee Gees are the third-most successful band in Billboard charts history behind only The Beatles and The Supremes.
Following Maurice’s sudden 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 that the Bee Gees would re-form and perform again. Robin died in May 2012, aged 62, after a prolonged period of failing health, leaving Barry as the only surviving member of the group.
Born on the Isle of Man during the 1940s, the Gibb brothers moved to their father Hugh Gibb’s hometown of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Greater Manchester, England in 1955. They formed a skiffle/rock-and-roll group, the Rattlesnakes, which consisted of Barry on guitar and vocals, Robin and Maurice on vocals and friends Paul Frost on drums and Kenny Horrocks on tea-chest bass. In December 1957 the boys began to sing in harmony. The story is told that they were going to lip-sync to a record in the local Gaumont cinema (as other children had done on previous weeks), but as they were running to the theatre, the fragile shellac 78-RPM record broke. The brothers had to sing live, but received such a positive response from the audience that they decided to pursue a singing career. In May 1958 the Rattlesnakes disbanded when Frost and Horrocks left, so the Gibb brothers then formed Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats, with Barry as “Johnny Hayes”.
In August 1958, the Gibb family, including older sister Lesley and infant brother Andy (born in March 1958), emigrated to Australia and settled in Redcliffe, Queensland, just north-east of Brisbane. The young brothers began performing to raise pocket money. Speedway promoter and driver Bill Goode, who had hired the brothers to entertain the crowd at the Redcliffe Speedway in 1960, introduced them to Brisbane radio-presenter jockey Bill Gates. The crowd at the speedway would throw money onto the track for the boys, who generally performed during the interval of meetings (usually on the back of a truck that drove around the track) and, in a deal with Goode, any money they collected from the crowd they were allowed to keep. Gates named the group the “BGs” (later changed to “Bee Gees”) after his, Goode’s and Barry Gibb’s initials. The name was not specifically a reference to “Brothers Gibb”, despite popular belief.
During the next few years, they began working regularly at resorts on the Queensland coast. Through his songwriting, Barry sparked the interest of Australian star Col Joye, who helped the brothers get a recording deal in 1963 with Festival Records subsidiary Leedon Records under the name “Bee Gees”. The three released two or three singles a year, while Barry supplied additional songs to other Australian artists. In 1962 the Bee Gees were chosen as the supporting act for Chubby Checker’s concert at the Sydney Stadium.
The very first single from 1963:
From 1963 to 1966, the Gibb family lived at 171 Bunnerong Road, Maroubra, in Sydney. Just prior to his death, Robin Gibb recorded the song “Sydney” about the brothers’ experience of living in that city. It was released on his posthumous album 50 St. Catherine’s Drive. The house was demolished in 2016.
A minor hit in 1965, “Wine and Women”, led to the group’s first LP, The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs. By 1966 Festival Records was, however, on the verge of dropping them from the Leedon roster because of their perceived lack of commercial success. At this time the brothers met the American-born songwriter, producer and entrepreneur Nat Kipner, who had just been appointed A&R manager of a new independent label, Spin Records. Kipner briefly took over as the group’s manager and successfully negotiated their transfer to Spin in exchange for granting Festival the Australian distribution-rights to the group’s recordings.
Through Kipner the Bee Gees met engineer-producer, Ossie Byrne, who produced (or co-produced with Kipner) many of the earlier Spin recordings, most of which were cut at his own small, self-built St Clair Studio in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville. Byrne gave the Gibb brothers virtually unlimited access to St Clair Studio over a period of several months in mid-1966. The group later acknowledged that this enabled them to greatly improve their skills as recording artists. During this productive time they recorded a large batch of original material—including the song that became their first major hit, “Spicks and Specks” (on which Byrne played the trumpet coda)—as well as cover versions of current hits by overseas acts such as the Beatles. They regularly collaborated with other local musicians, including members of beat band Steve & The Board, led by Steve Kipner, Nat’s teenage son.
Frustrated by their lack of success, the Gibbs began their return journey to England on 4 January 1967, with Ossie Byrne travelling with them. While at sea in January 1967, the Gibbs learned that Go-Set, Australia’s most popular and influential music newspaper, had declared “Spicks and Specks” the “Best Single of the Year”.
The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs is the debut studio album by the Bee Gees. Credited to Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees, it was released in November 1965 on the Australian Leedon label (1967’s Bee Gees’ 1st would be their international debut album). It is a compilation of most of the Gibb brothers’ singles that had been released over the previous three years in Australia, which accounts for the many different styles of music on it.
Only five new songs were recorded for the album: “I Was a Lover, a Leader of Men”, “And the Children Laughing”, “I Don’t Think It’s Funny”, “How Love Was True” and “To Be or Not to Be”. Barry had more than enough unrecorded songs for an all-new LP, but the rest of the album was instead made up of nine lesser-known singles. Bill Shepherd set the order of the songs.
Barry plays rhythm guitar, and Maurice probably plays the other guitars, like the leads in “I Was a Lover, a Leader of Men” and “How Love Was True”; whether Maurice managed to play the acoustic lead guitar in “I Don’t Think It’s Funny” or the fast piano in “To Be or Not to Be” is less certain, and the organ on “I Was a Lover, a Leader of Men” and “And the Children Laughing” is either Robin or Maurice. Though uncredited on the back of this album, it is confirmed that the Gibbs’ friend Trevor Gordon played lead guitar on “Peace of Mind”, “Wine and Women” and “Follow the Wind”. Gordon later released several recordings under the name Trevor Gordon and the Bee Gees. Gordon went on to find success with Graham Bonnet in the UK-based duo the Marbles, who had a hit with “Only One Woman” written by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry and Maurice with Robert Stigwood.
The original issue of the LP on Leedon is extremely rare. Even the 1967 reissue on the Calendar label is rarely seen in Australia. This album package was not issued elsewhere and was not issued on CD until it was released as part of a 2013 box set, Festival Album Collection: 1965-1967.
Curiously, the “Bee Gees” are spelled with an apostrophe on the front cover, but not on the rear sleeve or labels – and unlike on any of their single releases.
Earlier tracks, like “Peace of Mind”, “Claustrophobia” and “Could It Be”, are in the beat vein that was popular throughout 1964, while later singles like “Follow the Wind” and “And the Children Laughing” reflect the more folky sounds of 1965. Of the new tracks that were recorded specifically for the album, “To Be or Not to Be” was probably the biggest departure, being a blues-based hard rocker. In the compilation Brilliant from Birth, “You Wouldn’t Know” is faded early to 2:03, losing the shouting and laughing in the longer original fade. (wikipedia)
An Australian only release which was mainly a collection of their previous three years of singles. Fairly typical mish mash of late Fifties / early Sixties ballads. Quite folky, yet some songs, such as the opener, “I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men”, have that grand CinemaScope baroque feel which would become a feature of the Bee Gees music. (by Silk Tork)
Yes … folky ballads and they were of course influenced by The Beatles (“Could It Be”)
Barry Gibb (vocals, guitar)
Maurice Gibb (vocals, guitar, organ.)
Robin Gibb (vocals, organ, melodica
Bruce Davis (guitar on 06. + 07.)
Trevor Gordon (guitar on 09., 11. + 14.).
Leith Ryan (guitar on 06. + 07.)
Bill Swindells (bass on 06. + 07.)
Laurie Wardman (drums 06. + 07.)
all other studio musicians are uncredited
01. I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men 3.32
02. I Don’t Think It’s Funny 2.56
03. How Love Was True 2.19
04. To Be Or Not To Be 2.16
05. Timber! 1.48
06. Claustrophobia 2.16
07. Could It Be 2.06
08. And The Children Laughing 3.23
09. Wine And Women 2.54
10. Don’t Say Goodbye 2.25
11. Peace Of Mind 2.18
12. Take Hold Of That Star 2.43
13. You Wouldn’t Know 2.05
14. Follow The Wind 2.12
All songs written by Barry Gibb