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Bee Gees back in time :"JUNGLE BOOK TO BEE GEES" (David Griffiths, Record Mirror, February 3, 1968)

On now to an appointment with the Bee Gees in the jungly pad of their manager. Surrounded by pelts and stuffed animals' heads, we argued. You can rely on Bee Gees to get a good argument going - they're always putting forward varying viewpoints contradicting each other. Because they are so open and eagerly talkative they make excellent interviewees for a journalist. Some popsters have nothing much to say for themselves, others babble away and still don't come up with anything interesting, others think too carefully, calculating what they ought to say - which makes them overcautious. But the Bee Gees just let rip, talking how they feel, letting anybody make what they will of their remarks. Terrific!

Our meeting started calmly enough, as usual. Lon Goddard (who'd come along with me to peer closely at the group; see his cartoon on this page) sat quietly on his best behaviour. While the other Bee Gees wandered about, Robin talked about how they had written a whole LPs-worth of songs in the last few days -"In our spare time we write, it's our hobby, it's how we relax." I said how much I admired the bright cover picture on their Bee Gees First album. "Yes, it was done by Klaus Voorman who did 'Revolver' for the Beatles."

On the table in front of us was Sgt Pepper's LP, no less, and I picked it up while offering the opinion that this one could have been more attractively packaged.

"I agree," said Robin. "I expect The Beatles supervised most of the artwork themselves. They're taking too much of other people's business in their own hands."

I murmured that I rather admired them for having a go and seeing what they could do. This led into a discussion of 'Magical Mystery Tour' with all Bee Gees contributing their opinions.

Robin: " I sat down prepared to enjoy it and it was all right for a while and then I got bored and gave up."

Barry: "It was badly directed and edited. You can't direct yourself properly, you're not in a position to judge how things are going."

Maurice: "I liked it."

Robin: "But it was so dated - that sort of thing had all been done in 'Help'. Look at that 'I Am The Walrus' scene. Flower power went out months ago. They're behind their own trends."

Vince: "The Beatles have been around for five years now... They've gone so far, how far can they go? Everybody's got to have some sort of flop. They were at least trying a new thing. On the whole, I liked it - except for the abrupt ending."

Colin: "Doing it for themselves is the only way they'll get to know anything about it. I enjoyed little parts of the film but there was no unity..."

Barry: "No actual plot. Well, it obviously failed in some respect." (Perhaps it did, but I honestly don't think "Magical Mystery Tour" was anything for the producers to be ashamed of; I didn't expect anything smooth and glossily professional; it received a farcial excess of inane abuse and McCartney seemed far too ready to apologise for inadequacy; there were many merry touches).

What about the Bee Gees' film plans? "We are about to make two," answered Barry. "The first is 'Cucumber Castle,' an hour's show for television based on the Knights of the Round Table. We've just finished writing the script."

Hold on! Isn't that getting like The Beatles - taking other people's jobs, "I don't think so," replied Barry. "We are, after all, song WRITERS."

Well, after what you've said about The Beatles you can't complain if your scriptwriting efforts get put down.

"We're expecting to get slammed," confessed Barry. "But if it doesn't work out it won't be released. Anyway, two top professional comedy writers -Galton and Simpson- have read it and said it's very funny."

"And we'll have a top director and top cameramen," added Maurice.

"We're not going to go out and do things that aren't our jobs," pointed out Robin.

Unlike The Beatles, the Bee Gees are not putting any of their own money into this television film - or into their forthcoming cinema film vehicle, "Lord Kitchener's Little Drummer Boys." And Barry was insistent that if they did venture some of their own capital in a movie they'd make all the more sure of having the services of a skilled director.

So we talked of other matters - of how their first number one record in USA had been in Boston, Massachusetts. The song was "I can't see nobody", though it was the flipside, "New York mining disaster", that attracted more attention elsewhere. In gratitude to the good record buyers of Boston the Gibb brothers wrote 'Massachusetts", which was a top seller in many parts of the world. But not in Boston, Mass.

And we talked of how really sick and sleepless with worry the Bee Gees were when it looked as though Vince and Colin weren't going to get work permits and were going to have to return to Australia, thus breaking up the group just when it had struck it rich. (They couldn't go on to USA because they'd be liable to be drafted into the armed forces).

"It looks as though we got our permits, at the last minute, because we were earning a lot of foreign currency," said Vince.

"We're Backing Britain," commented Robin.

There followed a discussion of the effects of the amount of work they're doing these days. "It doesn't seem hard at all," admitted Colin, "yet six months ago it would have seemed ridiculous. We've just got used to the pace but we reckon we're getting near the limit. We haven't much time for anything."

Vince: "I worked harder in Australia than I did here." (He was with the down-under top group Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs). "Now we're involved in interviews, picture sessions, TV shows with little or no playing. I'm not playing as much as I'd like."

Robin: "Still, there are compensations."

Vince: "On sure, money and success. But playing is what I like best."

Colin: "Yes, I'd like to play more than we do."

Robin: "Of course, I feel differently because of the writing. If we played a lot more I'd feel too tired to write."

Vince: "Another trouble is that we mostly play to teeny-boppers and they might know a good guitar solo from a bad one but they don't know enough to recognise a really good solo. It's discouraging."

By this time, Barry and Maurice had resumed their wandering about. There was a certain tension in the air. Robin began accusing Vince of being insulting about his fans. He challenged Vince to name guitarists and blues artistes he greatly admired. Vince obliged and Robin dismissed at least one of these artistes as a load of rubbish. Outraged, Colin stormed away to the other side of the room, shouting to Robin that he was a fool who shouldn't shoot his mouth off. All hell was breaking loose around the peace-loving heads of Lon and myself; we tried to lower the temperature by making flippant suggestions, such as would make for the RM if Colin were to express his disagreement by hurling Robin through the huge plate-glass window. Robin chortled, thoroughly enjoying the situation.

As the drama subsided I took my leave, along with Lon -who'd been delighted at an opportunity to observe Bee Gees faces registering all kinds of emotions from laughter to fury


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Image credit:  Getty Images
“New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones)”
Written by Barry and Robin Gibb (1967)
Performed by Bee Gees


The MusicWhen the Bee Gees debut US single was released in April 1967, a lot of people thought it was The Beatles masquerading as another band. Even the name Bee Gees was read as code for “Beatles Group.” But within a year, brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb established themselves not only as hit makers in their own right, but as chart rivals to the Fabs. “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” the first of thirty-some hits, is one of those rare pop songs in which the title never appears in the lyrics. Most people still refer to it by its subtitle “Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones.” Inspired by the Aberfan mining disas…