For those over 40, it’s easy to remember when the Bee Gees ruled the world. The Aussie / English band lasted a half-century, notching memorable hits all along the way even as trends shifted and tastes changed. They emerged in the late ‘60s as sibling singing sensations, morphed into R&B icons, and rode the tidal wave of dance music out of the ‘70s on the platform heels of the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Love them or hate them, the Bee Gees’ impact on pop culture was—and is—profound.
Sadly, three of the four brothers Gibb are no longer with us: Time has overtaken the ensemble just like it did The Beach Boys (Dennis and Carl Wilson) and Beatles (John Lennon, George Harrison) in the ‘80s-‘00s. Youngest brother Andy (“Shadow Dancing”) died in 1988 from a heart ailment whose symptoms were worsened by the lingering effects of substance abuse. Fraternal twins Maurice and Robin passed away in 2003 and 2012, respectively, leaving leonine older brother (and primary songwriter) Barry the sole surviving Bee Gee.
That the group’s former and current record labels keep cranking out hits compilations only attests to the hirsute harmonizers’ enduring legacy. The Bee Gees created some damn catchy songs in their time—lots of ‘em—producing a treasure trove of multi-platinum LPs and CDs whose brightest gems always seem to reassert themselves into the zeitgeist somehow (if they ever truly fell out of fashion). Despite all the “dinosaur rock” dissing and disco back-lashing, the music of the Bee Gees is money, both literally and figuratively.
Still, there’s no question that the derision sparked by the disco phenomenon loosened the Gibbs’ longstanding stranglehold on pop. The brothers were never solely to blame, anyway. When Barry began flexing his fluid falsetto, he was merely capitalizing on a craze that already existed. What many forget is that when radio turned its back on the Bee Gees in the early ‘80s, the Bearded One wrote another string of chart-toppers for other artists (Barbara Streisand’s Guilty, anyone?), while his brethren recouped from Fever fallout.
A slick, synthesizer-driven Bees Gees appeared at the end of the ‘80s to enjoy continued (if more subdued) success on the melodious merits of albums like ESP and One. They would rebound again in 1997 with Still Waters—and yet again in the new millennium with This Is Where I Came In—before Maurice’s passing put an end to new Bee Gees studio work.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of the Bee Gees on vinyl and tape (and now digital) formats. Now a new generation of fans can swoon to the sweet harmonies and irresistible rhythms courtesy the countless best-ofs and box sets (Ultimate Bee Gees, Mythology, Timeless) and sundry video showcases (One Night Only).
Longtime fans and newcomers alike will enjoy Eagle Rock’s newly mixed and mastered Bee Gees: One for All Tour. Filmed and recorded on the third stop of the One tour (their first in ten years) in Melbourne, Australia, this dazzling Blu-ray / DVD captures one of rock’s most famous family bands on another upswing, with director Adrian Woods’ cameras following the black-shirted, blue-jeaned brothers as they march through new material and revisit austere oldies at a sold-out National Tennis Centre in November 1989.
Robin and Barry share lead vocals on One / ESP openers “Ordinary Lives” and “Giving Up the Ghost,” leaving Maurice to man a Yamaha keyboard (modified to read A-HA) at stage right. The Gibbs delve into the ‘60s with the ebullient “To Love Somebody” and gospel-charged “I’ve Got to Get a Message to You” before ticking off the One title track and titillating new “Tokyo Nights.”
Robin solo hit “Juliet” sits well alongside Barry showpiece “Words” (whose ending the crowd nearly co-opts) and acoustic-powered “New York Mining Disaster 1941.” The unplugged medley continues with the brothers crowded ‘round a single mic for “Holiday,” “Too Much Heaven,” and mash-up of “Islands in the Stream” and “Heartbreaker” (both penned by Barry for Dionne Warwick and Dolly Parton). It’s here that the DNA-designed harmonies entwine tightest.
“Cheers!” Barry greets the overheated audience. “Everybody sticky enough?”
Other latter-day ditties (“It’s My Neighborhood,” “House of Shame”) dot the set, but it’s jangle-pop standbys and funky favorites like “Spicks and Specks,” “Lonely Days,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” and “Massachusetts” that enrapture Oz onlookers most. Barry spends most of the show strumming a blue-tinted acoustic-electric guitar. Maurice shuffles between his keys and a cool-looking Rickenbacker six-string. Robin occasionally double-checks the mix by holding a single headphone to his left ear.
The bodacious backing band boasts two lead guitarists (Alan Kendall, Tim Cansfield), two keyboardists (Vic Martin, Gary Moberley), a nimble-fingered bassist (George “Chocolate” Perry), dutiful drummer (Michael Murphy), and a trio of feisty female vocalists.
The Bee Gees fire up their boogie afterburners for finale numbers “Stayin’ Alive,” “Nights On Broadway,” and “Jive Talkin,” then wrap with elegant (but energetic) encore “You Win Again.”