Jun 112021

Not sure where or how to start this rant, but — well, let me just call all of RTH out (yes, including me) for being a bunch of bullshit rockist pansies. How is it possible that in the 15 years or so that we’ve been bloviating about music we’ve never stopped to acknowledge how truly amazing the Bee Gees were?

And look — before any of you start yammering about their output in the ’60s, or their silly-psych concept albums, or any other rockist justification for liking the band — let’s just call a spade a spade: during the second half of the 1970s, the Bee Gees’ batting average for crafting powerful, moving, era-defining, ethnic ghetto-busting pop music was literally close to 1.000.


My wife and I had to spend a lot of time on the highway over the last few days for work reasons that are too boring to get into here. Because my shoulder is still pretty jacked up, my wife had to do all of the driving — and that meant she got to choose what we listened to as we trundled down the highway. For a while, I was able to sneak shit that I wanted to hear on the rental car stereo, but it didn’t take long for her to start making specific demands — and the last one, made in the interest of staying awake and alert, was “play something you can dance and sing along to.” Enter the Bee Gees. I found a pretty generic greatest hits package on Amazon Music, and pressed play. A full hour later, I was shocked by the fact that we hadn’t exited the 1970s yet, and each and every tune we’d heard was aces.  

And let me be clear:  sure, these tunes are danceable. Yes, they’re catchy. They do make you feel happy. But they’re stealth vehicles for some of the densest Kentonism in pop music. I’m not smart enough to describe the music theory going on behind “Nights On Broadway,” or “How Deep Is Your Love,” or about a dozen other songs that owned the charts 45 years ago, but their music was some seriously brainy shit.

So let’s give it up for the Bee Gees, shall we? And please do so without referencing their 1960s output. That stuff is occasionally excellent, but we need to face the truth here: the Bee Gees made pop music great in the late 1970s.

I look forward to your responses.



  22 Responses to “Yeah, The Bee Gees”

  1. MMMMM…I dunno.

    I really don’t like disco era BeeGees. Their heavily falsetto stuff, Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’ are all seriously marred by the Barry Gibb lead vocal which has some of the unpleasant qualities of Frankie Valli or, God forbid, Lou Christie. And the square disco rhythm especially on these numbers drives me crazy. I do like Nights on Broadway. That one uses the various voices and has more feel in the rhythm. Interestingly, I heard a “rock” cover of that one that sounds almost like the BeeGees voices were flown into a rock Rhythm track of the tune.


    I also saw The Bird and the Bee close a show a couple of years back with a devastating version of “How Deep Is Your Love.”

  2. I watched the HBO documentary hoping to see some of their 60’s stuff because their 70’s songs are so unbiquitous and I don’t know much about the 60’s stuff aside from the obvious hits. But the whole documentary was great and I walked away with a new found appreciation of the disco songs. Robert Stigwood asked the to write some songs for the soundtrack. A few weeks later, he received a cassette with five songs: Staying Alive’, ‘More Than A Woman’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and ‘Night Fever’. That’s pretty fucking impressive.

    I’ve made a lot of personal growth over the years as a guy who was a veteran of the Disco Wars of the 1970s. I always appreciated the Bee Gees but I’ve really come to recognize the awesomeness of Don’t Leave Me This Way, You Can Have It All, and even formally apologized to one of my sisters for disrespecting Boogie Oogie Oogie back in the day.

  3. I absolutely love disco-era Bee Gees. I’m just a sucker for great pop music, and that’s some of the greatest pop music ever. Absolutely fucking killer melodies, passable lyrics with an occasionally really good line or phrase, and oddly underrated playing; it was sadly but predictably pulled down from YouTube quickly, but years back someone uploaded the isolated bass and guitar to “You Should Be Dancing” and that shit was pure fire—here’s just the bass, just recently uploaded, and I’m sure it’ll be gone soon:


    Trust me, Maurice’s bass locking in with Barry’s guitar is Chic-worthy, and there is no higher praise possible.

    What’s more, one of the things that’s fascinating about disco songs in general, and the Bee Gees in particular, is how many of them, for all their uptempo beats and bright colors, were actually in minor keys, such as “You Should Be Dancing.” And given how many of the important disco artists and buyers were people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community, that does not seem in any way to be a coincidence.

  4. 100% agree! I also love pizza!

    Seriously, their music on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack may be the highpoint of disco, a genre I never fully embraced but could love in the right hands. Once Donna Summer got really big and everything got ridiculously coked up, I had no interest in it. Chic, bless them, transcended the worst parts of late-period disco and then skirted the worst part of the ’80s. The Bee Gees, however, wrote and sang great soul songs. I’ll take their disco output over their sketchy ’60s output, which contains maybe a half dozen really good to great songs and a bunch of white-boy crap that desperate white boys started clutching onto once they’d exhausted the dollar bins in the early ’90s of all really good, beat-to-hell ’60s records.

  5. Geo succinctly captured my same issues with the disco Bee Gees. Pass.

  6. Disco, 60s Bee Gees, and Disco Bee Gees all rule. And moderator, it might be a good idea to actually listen to some of those 60s Bee Gees LPs before panning them.

    Never understood the whole “I hate Disco thing.” Super stuff! Making records that great is like Ripley’s.

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    Geo: 1). There is nothing wrong with Lou Christie. His batting average is pretty damn great for a 60s AM radio pop act, as far as I can see. 2). That rockabilly take on “Nights On Broadway” was absolutely awful.

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    EPG: I watched a mini-rockumentary on the making of a disco single at TK Studios in Miami, and it really blew my mind. In the late 70s, I hated disco, the “Be Gays,” and virtually any dance music made by black people in the late 70s. Needless to say, I was utterly wrong about all of that.

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Sorry, meant to add that I’ll try to find that disco studio segment for you. It’s so great. It might be a 60 Minutes segment.

  10. BigSteve

    Sorry but I can never get past the singing. Not just the falsetto of the disco era, the nasally warbling of the 60s annoys me too. I’ve come to love some of the songs via covers, especially To Love Somebody, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. There’s plenty of other music for me to listen to. No disrespect to those who love them.

  11. You know what? When I first saw the Bee Gees post, I thought, “Thanks again for the obvious.” I now see that it’s the perfect opportunity for the anti-disco contingent to make asses out of themselves. Nicely done, Hrundi. It’ll be interesting to see who’s willing to finally chuck the Fonzie jacket.

    And that clip says it all. Honestly, who can argue with that? God almighty, would I have loved to be at that session! Talk about chops!

    One more thing. Beware of any musician who sees the dance floor as an enter at your own risk kind of thing. Trust me, they’re always competent at explaining rhythm in terms of time signatures, tempo, and dynamics, but you’ll never get anything out of them like what you see in that video.

    Back in the day, I always marveled at the drumming superpowers of our buddies Jon Kelsey and Dave Ragsdale. At some point or another, someone in our gang had a seventies party, and I marveled again at their skill on the dance floor. Right away it all made sense.

  12. BigSteve

    Here’s a Grateful Dead story. Recently I’ve been obsessed with Terrapin Station, the magnum opus that takes up a whole side of the album of that name. Reading around about it, it turns out that Hunter wrote many more lyrics for Terrapin Station that didn’t make onto that album. That’s why it’s called Part 1. It seems Hunter kept trying to get Garcia to work on the rest and fill out the story, until Garcia got fed up and blurted out, “Come on, Hunter, for chrissakes we’re a dance band!”

  13. HVB

    I wasn’t exactly saying that Lou Christie (or Frankie Valli) were bad, just that their falsettos at times have a quality best described as disturbing. “Lightning striking again and again and again.”

  14. By the way, speaking of the BeeGees, did I ever mention this?

    Listen to the first 30 seconds or so of this:


    Then play this:


    And just in case you’ve never seen this:


  15. Happiness Stan

    I’ve never had a problem with any period Bee Gees, nor the songs they wrote for others. Went with a mate to see Oasis between their first two albums. He practically choked when I mentioned at least one of the new numbers sounded like sixties brothers Gibb and derided me for weeks, until a magazine he subscribed to published an interview with Noel Gallagher in which he sang their praises for several paragraphs.

    Mr Mod, I don’t recognise your description of their sixties output, Odessa is pure gold throughout.

  16. Geo, that 3rd video is so funny. Please don’t soften your Valli, Christie, Barry Gibb stance though. Pretty sure you were on to something.

  17. Big Steve – Excellent Dead story. I’d never hear that before. Also, I totally get the thing about the nasal falsetto voice. It used to be a thing for me too. I got over it but I can understand why someone wouldn’t.

    Geo – I love that cartoon and have watched it more times than I’ve listened to the song itself.

    Scott – I’m a sucker for isolated tracks videos. Thanks for posting.

    HBV – Thanks for posting that 60 minutes segment. Did anyone else get a cocaine contact high from that video? It brought me back to the mind set that I had when Disco was originally out. By the time I heard and of it, it was probably already in decline. Like any interesting artistic wave, as soon as people figured out there was a buck to be made, it very quickly got calculated, oversaturated and outright corny. I’ve never really liked to dance and I’ve always viewed nonorganic instruments like synths and drum machines with suspicion (I’m slowing getting more open minded on both accounts but neither are a natural fit for me). Despite my longstanding love of “oldies”, I’ve alway hated Frankie Valli, and Barry Gibb was not the only falsetto singer in the genre. So it took a few decades for the legitimately cool tracks to separate themselves from the dreck (the disco version of Chattanooga Choo Choo in that clip? WTF?!), but I legitimately love some of those songs now and consider the Bee Gees to be a once in a lifetime pop phenomenon.

  18. Hrundi, I owe you another high five.

    For my birthday, you sent me a link to Ron Wood’s radio show,specifically the episode featuring an interview with Paul McCartney. During the interview, Ron Wood tells McCartney how much he loves this old Chicago blues 45 by Eddie Taylor entitled “Big Town Playboy”.I made a note of it and decided to track it down. I got it today. It’s great!!!!!

    Thanks again!

  19. “One more thing. Beware of any musician who sees the dance floor as an enter at your own risk kind of thing. Trust me, they’re always competent at explaining rhythm in terms of time signatures, tempo, and dynamics, but you’ll never get anything out of them like what you see in that video.”

    While far from a 1-to1 correlation, I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that several of the greatest drummers in history—including Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, Don Famularo and Steve Gadd—are/were at least semi-pro if not outright professional level dancers.

  20. mockcarr

    I agree with most of the bass players. Too many roadblocks in the relentless falsetto, synthesizers, and typical disco production choices for me. The only impressive thing about disco dancing was wearing all that polyester as your uniform. That stuff is awful.

  21. By the way, that outfit Robin has on in the first video may be the worst outfit ever worn by a pasty white man.

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