Bee Gees – Part 2: Rise to International Fame

“You can’t deny talent. And the talent was so obvious.” (Robert Stigwood, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart)

Prior to leaving Australia for England, Hugh Gibb, the father of Barry, Maurice and Robin and their manager at the time, had sent some demos to Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Epstein passed on the tapes to Australian born expatriate Robert Stigwood who had recently joined NEMS, a music store directed by Epstein. Stigwood liked what he heard, and after an audition in February 1967, the Bee Gees got a 5-year deal with Polydor Records to oversee their releases in the UK, while Atco Records would handle U.S. distribution.

Before going to the studio, Vince Melouney (lead guitar) and Colin Petersen (drums) joined the group. In July 1967, the Bee Gees released their first international album titled Bee Gees’ 1st. Stigwood launched an aggressive promotional campaign boldly declaring the Bee Gees were the “most significant new musical talent of 1967.” Lead single New York Mining Disaster 1941 became another hit, reaching no. 12 in the UK and peaking at no. 14 in the U.S. Co-written by Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb, the stunning tune became a top 10 in New Zealand, the Netherlands and Germany, where it reached no. 3, no. 4 and no. 10, respectively.

Bee Gees’ 1st also featured another classic: To Love Somebody, which was co-written by Barry and Robin as well. It also became the album’s second single in June 1967. While it almost matched the chart performance of the predecessor in the U.S. where it peaked at no. 17, it was less successful in the UK, reaching no. 41 there.

Only three months after To Love Somebody, the Bee Gees released another gem that became their first no. 1 single in the UK: (The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts. The beautiful tune, co-written by the three Gibb brothers, also topped the charts in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Austria, and peaked at no. 2 in Switzerland, Ireland and Australia. The Bee Gees had fully arrived on the international scene.

1968 saw the first trips to the U.S., including an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in March, as well as tours to Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland. The Bee Gees also scored their second no. 1 in the UK with I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You, released in September that year. Co-written by all three brothers, the tune climbed to no. 8 in the U.S. and also was a hit in many other countries.

While the Bee Gees had achieved significant international success, not all was well and things would soon unravel. By 1969, Robin began to sense that Robert Stigwood was favoring Barry as the group’s frontman. Following the release of the next studio album Odessa in March 1969, Robin left to launch a solo career. Barry, Maurice and Colin Petersen went on to record the Bee Gees’ next album Cucumber Castle. Vince Melouney had left the group in 1968.

In December 1969, Barry and Maurice parted ways as well. They each worked on solo albums that didn’t appear. Meanwhile, Robin released his solo debut Robin’s Reign in February 1970 and had a no. 2 single in the UK, Saved by the Bell. But the brothers realized they needed other and reunited later that year. In November 1970, the Bee Gees’ next studio album 2 Years On came out. Here’s the record’s single Lonely Days co-written by all three brothers.

The Bee Gees’ next studio album Trafalgar, which came out in the U.S. in September and in the UK in November 1971, brought mixed success. While lead single How Can You Mend a Broken Heart became the group’s first no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, the album only reached no. 34 on the Billboard 200 and did not chart in the UK at all. By 1973, chart success had largely become elusive. After touring the U.S. and Canada in 1974, the Bee Gees found themselves playing small clubs in England. Something needed to happen to reignite the group. A change in musical direction and singing style would open their next chapter.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

17 thoughts on “Bee Gees – Part 2: Rise to International Fame”

  1. I became a fan based on these songs that you mentioned. They oversaturated themselves in the late seventies but I don’t blame them…the demand was there.

    I do wish this era would have lasted a little longer but they had a long career…divided by different eras.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oversaturation definitely is part of the problem the Bee Gees had. At some point in the late ’70s in the wake of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, between them and their younger brother they had five songs in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Somebody in the documentary rightly pointed out that chart dominance was comparable to The Beatles.

      The other major challenge the Bee Gees had is they were lumped into disco, which helped them while disco was popular and put their career into a tailspin when the backlash against disco hit. Maurice at some point in the documentary said it got so bad they received bomb threats and needed FBI and Secret Service protection – over disagreement about music – that’s just nuts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John Travolta is another that suffered from the backlash…his acting career went dormant for years because of it. They were huge at the time…everywhere you looked…there they were.

        I didn’t know about the FBI and Secret Service protection that is just crazy stupid. Some people are really nuts.
        Speaking of nuts… a little off topic…look at the news and what happened in Nashville this morning…I just don’t understand people.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. OMG, I had not seen that news about that explosion. We’re just living in times I truly thought I’d never witness in this country.

        Sadly, hate and demagoguery tiggers more of the same. And all of this on Christmas. How low can you sink?

        I really cannot wait for this dreadful year to be over. Hopefully, we’ll say better days come Jan 20!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I live around 40-50 minutes away from it. I had friends texting me this morning.

        I so hope next year is better. We have a low bar to reach for it to be better than 2020!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Being associated with Disco- and the backlash against Disco in the late 70’s early 80’s. Barry Gibb one of the most underappreciated songwriters of the era. Even decades later it seems like their image needs rehabilitated at least to some people. Maybe the recent documentary will help right some wrongs.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. the only fault i had with the doc was it covered the last 30 plus years very quickly but to be fair the heart of the story was the earlier years which was covered in depth. I’ve recommended it to a couple friends and I think they have basically ‘rolled their eyes” when I said Bee Gees. Hopefully they will watch it- excellent.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It may have been that the years were fairly uneventful- other than the much too early passing of Andy- Maurice and Robin. Most docs are like that I guess- you concentrate on the most notable times.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s definitely fair to say a lot more happened until Saturday Night Fever than thereafter. For much of the ’80s the Bee Gees were songwriters for other artists since nobody wanted to hear them.

        Even though they managed to stage a comback starting in the later part of the 80s, they didn’t regain the visibility they had in the late ’70s.

        To some extent, that may have been a good thing, since more ubiquity could have led to a second backlash.

        Liked by 2 people

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