They were just three boys who loved to sing. But they took the world by storm with their songs: from Massachusetts, Alone, How Deep is Your Love to Staying Alive and Night Fever. Three decades later, the Bee Gees songs still strike a cord with the people.
Maurice Gibb, one of the Brothers Gibb, talks candidly to In Conversation about the Bee Gees' triumphs, trials, setbacks and comebacks.
Q: Maurice Gibb, welcome to In Conversation.
M.Gibb: Thank you.
Q: Well, this is where you come in.
M.Gibb: This is where we came in.
Q: Well, you've had such great successes. You're a legend now. How are legends made?
M.Gibb: You know, it's very hard for anyone to see as an icon or a legend or whatever. To me that is very funny. I am sorry. It seems, I mean if somebody dies, yes, it's okay. But being so prominent as people put that name on us, I mean, we don't perceive ourselves as that or ...
Q: What do you see yourself as?
M.Gibb: Three brothers trying to be bigger than Beatles.
M.Gibb: We're still trying.
Q: You feel you haven't made it yet?
M.Gibb: No. No by a long shot.
Q: But you certainly have had all the successes of the Beatles have had in the sense.
M.Gibb: All because they have stopped. If they had kept on going and John hadn't died and so forth. Who knows?
Q: But then that's what's great about you. Your group has survived where others has just stopped.
M.Gibb: It's the songs. It's the songs more than anything. If you can write a good song that last for years. I mean that is a great blessing. And the Beatles did that. But it's just that they are not productive anymore after that period. We were. We just kept writing more songs and we do need to do.
Q: Well how have you been able to do that? You needed to reinvent yourself every other day.
M.Gibb: You don't think about reinventing. You don't think about that. You just do what you love to do. We're persistent little buggers. We keep on trying and trying and trying. We've had pitfalls, we've had valleys, we've had mountains. And if you didn't have the valleys you wouldn't know about the mountains.
Q: Well why don't you tell me something about the valleys, the really tough times.
M.Gibb: You know, I don't like talking negative about stuff because that recycles in my head the memories that I did I went through.
Q: But then you survived you survived...
M.Gibb: Because we persisted in our talent in what we wanted to do like any actor. John Travolta for example... kept on persisting. Now look where he is.
Q: And what was it that you require to sort of survive that trough.
Q: You took a long time
M.Gibb: Everybody has two training thoughts. It's either fear or love. Nothing in between. It's always the one or the other. I love to live in love today. I don't live in the negative I don't think negative. I don't pursue anything that is negative. I don't even ask questions that are negative. I just go for what I enjoy. And love to do what I to do. And if I am loving it then it's incredible. That you can do something that you love as you work or your hobby whatever. To have that blessing.
Q: You've had great successes in Europe more than America.
Q: And then now Asia. Asia is also picking up a lot of your music and a lot of Asians love your music too. Do you ever think when you write a song what sort of audience you are writing for?
M.Gibb: No. We always write our songs that we love and record what we love and we hope that everybody else would love what we love. We don't make records or cds or anything like that just to please the public. We always write the songs that we love to write and perform and record. Some songs don't make it to the album, some do. Those also are covered, so we've got people who wanted songs, we've got extra songs to give to them. But creating in that way and the love that's involved to be blessed with that, it's amazing. We still do what we love to do. And still loving it.
Q:Well, one of the things about the group is that it survived as a family group where others have not. What's this about the family that's kept you going?
M.Gibb: I was saying earlier, I think that would change our lives more than anything, was losing Andy. When he died we became very ...Life's too short... taken away like that, we have to be bonded and I remember saying to Barry and Robin at the funeral, I said that we have to stay bonded. We have to be together because without each other, we're nothing. And we realised that, not because of Andy's death. But we realised it of all the things we've done years before, we've gone … this cannot happen. We cannot loose each other. And that made our bond much stronger. So that was a tragedy that helped.
Q: So now, is the family really together...
M.Gibb: Oh yeah ... even our kids, with Barry's kids and Robin's kids, it's all very very together.
Q: What sort of music do your kids like?
M.Gibb: Well, my daughter, she is 21 in July and my son is 25. They write songs together, they've done an album. I recorded eight tracks, produced it. Blew me away. It's like Romanian pop. It's like gypsy music but funky and I produced that and I did the eight tracks. My daughter blew me away, my son blew me away and the way she sings, sounds very blessed. Lots of kids are. Barry's kids, too. One's an incredible DJ guy. He loves to … Travis, he loves to play the stuff and get involved in all the mixing and engineering and the stuff. Well, Ashley is an engineer. Ashley is also credited on the new album, because he assisted engineering for us for about three weeks on the album. We put his name on because we want to open doors for him.
Q: Well, when you enjoy sit back relax, what sort of music do you listen to?
M.Gibb: Classical mostly...mostly classical. I love some country stuff, I really do. I love Tim Mcgraw. I love his stuff, and I mean it's so ...it's just the way the guitar sound and the way he sings, I like all that stuff. ...It's like a mixture. We have so many different types of music I love and that's the greatest thing about music is that it's totally loveable and it's totally an international language. No matter where it comes from, not mad about rap, because somebody talking on a record doesn't qualify him as a singer. It doesn't do it for me. That's it. But that's not my favourite kind of music. Even a lot of rap artists have done our songs.
Q: What about the relationship between the artists and the recording industry? I mean you've had major problems in the past, legal battles that you fought in, you survived. What do you think it should be like?
M.Gibb: You know, it scares the hell out of me if the people, the kids that are in these boy bands that have no experience of longevity. They have no experience in the business. They're just put together. 'Okay, let's make the record.' It's a formulated thing. It's all formula. And management and record companies make lots more money than the group. They make fortunes but the group don't. They may be just get a nice bit of payoff. But they can't choose their own songs. They can't record what they want to record. Everything's told exactly what you have to do. Take it or leave it. If you don't like it, bugger off. It's that simple. I find it that it is almost close to slave labour. The labour, slaves, you do what we tell you.
Q: But they also ....
M.Gibb: Thank god, we never gone through that.
Q:But they help you become major icons.
M.Gibb: Yeah, but maybe there'll be one or two maybe out of all these groups that are around today that may come out blossom and become incredible talents like George Michael did with Wham. Might be the same thing. But we wrote a song, for instance, after the Backstreet Boys in an album called "Sacred Trust." We wrote it for them, they ask us for a song. We said: "Yeap! We'll do it." We sent it to them, they loved it. They went crazy over it. They loved the demo. They want to do it exactly the same as the demo. Of course the producer stepped in and said: "No! I didn't write it, you can't record it."
So that was it, so we said: "We're going to record it. Because we feel for the song, we know the song .... "That's what you're up against. But I feel for the kids when their approval goes away. The ultimate buzz of being approved by the masses, big success big hit records. What do you do when that's taken away. You don't have any experience. So you're likely to turn to other things that will give you a buzz. Like your alcohol or drugs or whatever. I know I've been there I've done that.
Q: So how are you dealing with it now?
M.Gibb: Oh, it's ten years in September for me that I last had my drink, my last drink. And I've never lived a better life. My life is totally together, which is very rare in this business.
Q: Do you still get the buzz when you see the people .coming up?
M.Gibb: Oh definitely.... like hearing the song for the first time on the radio, a new song.
Q: But you've done it so many times before so many people have come up against. So what sort of motivates you and inspires you?
M.Gibb: Just the whole thing. Every thing that is involved in it. Creating the song, producing it, writing it, getting into the studio, it's like one of our kids, put all the colours on, release it to the world and hope it does well. When it doesn't, it doesn't. But that doesn't mean: "Oh God what are we going to do, we just carry on. Because the worst thing you can do for any new group any new artist is to give up. Don't give up. If you really believe in what you are doing keep going, keep doing it. No matter what it is, whether you are a writer a cameraman or a cinematographer or lawyer, whatever. Go the extra mile. Go that bit further and you will achieve incredible results.
Q: Well, what is your latest CD, 'This is where I came in' all about?
M.Gibb: It really represents five decades of what we've been influenced by. And we recorded the same way as we did the late 60s. We always thought what would be the album we would make if Fever never come along and just do what we wanted to do and all that stuff we did for Fever was R & B. We weren't disco. We never heard the word disco. And so KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer, they were disco to us. The Village People. It was all that happy dance music that would go on longer than the normal record. And we thought that was disco; that was great fun times, you know. The one that was "Stayin' Alive" and "How Deep Is Your Love," songs of that credibility, of substance that lasts for years. We weren't thinking disco. We never even knew what disco to us was. Just great dance fun. We knew about the R & B from the Stylists, Delphonics, so forth. And that falsetto voice, but it was black, and it was R & B, it's soul and that's been our influence for years. Besides even the Beatles explain that too, it's like, Paul was always very influenced by..
Q: Well, you do have something from the Beatles in the first track of your CD.
M.Gibb: Oh yes... absolutely ... that was John's guitar.
M.Gibb: He gave it to me for my 21st birthday and I said we got to play this. I changed the string, I still have got the original strings not going to lose them. I changed the strings and we played "This is Where I came In." And also the apertone, which I used for the beginning of "She keeps on coming." That was John's.
Q: Wasn't it John who introduced you to scotch?
M.Gibb: Yes scotch and coke. Well he said that was funny. I didn't even know he was sitting next to me. I am sitting in this club and there was my future wife-to-be, Lulu, and this lady called Cynthia. I didn't know. I was chatting away and I feel a tap on my shoulders, scotch and coke isn't it? Ya, even if it is cyanide, I would have drunk it. I didn't realise it was John as he had the other, the whole outfit from Sgt Pepper cover ... they just come from a shoot, he's wearing his full uniform that he wore for Sergeant Pepper cover and with the moustache and the glasses. Holy cow! And when you are 17 in a club, idolising these people only months earlier, in Australia buying a Beatles fan club book and suddenly I am getting drunk with the guys. What is going on? This is incredible! But we became really good mates. I miss John, I miss him terribly.
Q: Well, what's with this get up now, the hat and the ....
M.Gibb: This is a get up is it? I've been called other things but never that. I've always worn this. This was what I worn in the 60s.
Q: But you never let go of the hat?
M.Gibb: No, I can't get it off. It's screwed on. The wife's gotten used to it and the boots.
Q: Well, on the CD, This is where I came in, there is the song that you've done, "Man in the Middle", that I really like and you really do sound like as if you're talking about what you've been through with your family, with the group. Is it right?
M.Gibb: Yes, Yes .... I am more or less in the middle. I've always been between Barry and Robin. I think we should tour in October 19 whatever okay. ... I don't really want to do that. I'll say: "Listen if you do this we do that, we can do that, we can do that, we can do that. Oh okay, we'll do it." But I am always the decider. I decide ... which ... I just came about, I mean this is just the way we lived. It's just been our life that I always end up being the man in the middle. So they call me the engine. They call me all sorts of stuff. Barry and Robin have these different types of egos sometimes they come out and they stop. And I've got to cut myself out here. I don't want to be like them. So being down to earth is probably more important than anything else. And they're like that. They're just great guys. They're just guys like you and me. We sit and we chat, it's the same thing.
Q: Are you also the peacemaker?
M.Gibb: Yes, yes... I've been in my time...
Q: Well as little boys what would you fight about? What are the things you would do?
M.Gibb: Oh God ... later year … Actually in the 70, 71 was the fact that Robin sang "Lamplight," this lovely song that ... and Barry sang "First of May" which we did in New York... and we just got this piano and his vocal, got to keep these two tracks, because you can't recapture that. And that's the greatest thing about recording a demo, you capture the mood and emotion that you can't go back three months later, and say, I need to do that vocal again. It will never be the same. It's always sung the first time you sing the song.. something happens. So there's a lot of jealousy going on between those two singers. We split up for about 15 months, which is like 15 minutes of our life... and realised that together we're magic, separately we're not.
Q: So when the three of you get together, how do you actually get working on the song? How does it happen?
M.Gibb: Usually atmosphere... we're always, we don't actually we'll say let's go in we got to write we're going to do this, we're going to do that. We usually go in and say I feel crazy today, we'll do something. Yes, let's go back. It's just the two of us to start with and then one of them will join us. I'll call Robin, I'll call Barry up: "Listen I've got this great idea, got to come down, listen I need your input." And everybody, if each brother says something that's not quite right, there's a reason why he's saying it. So the other two always listen. What is it about it that you want to keep? What is it that's making you argumentative or creative? What is it? And then we'll explore that area totally. If I have something: "No we shouldn't go there, we should be here." There's a reason why I am saying it. And each of us now over the years respected each other's opinion. So when that comes into the fold … oh he's really going on about this. What is it? What is he keeps on talking about it? There's something in his head that he can't through to us. What is it? So the three of us will sit and talk about what it it that you feel about the song. What is it that you want to change? What is it that you want to improve on? Whatever.
Q: Well Maurice, one last thing. This is where I came in sounds very much an album that a group that is now a legend achieved everything that it possibly can, has brought about and you're talking about the five decades you put in. Well, what after this, is this really the end of the road in the sense?
M.Gibb: Ya I'm going to miss have a sex change over the weekend and going to move to Island Madagascar … a pig farm in Devon, I don't know. It's just we don't even think about that. It's something, it's beyond our reach, that's you know....
Q: You're doing your world tour. Are you coming to Singapore?
M.Gibb: Oh absolutely, Oh God ya... we're going to do every place we've always wanted to play again. It's been a while...
Q: When are you going to be in Singapore?
M.Gibb: Tomorrow morning? It'll be about .. It takes about six months to plan this whole thing... so it'll be next year, probably the summer of next year.
Q:What's a typical Bee Gees song today?
M.Gibb: Typical ... that's a strange word...
Q: Do you have a typical Bee Gees song?
M.Gibb: Oh, I would think on the new album "Wedding Day" is definitely classic Bee Gees if you like, the big ballad thing ... So yes I would say that .. is probably the most original type of Bee Gees song. But the other stuff is totally different.
Q: Well, Man in the Middle, Maurice Gibb, thank you very much on being on In Conversation...
M.Gibb: Thank you...thanks a lot...