Oh! Darling by Robin Gibb (RSO, 1978)

For the first half of the 70s, the Beatles and their music were held sacred. The public held out hopes that the Fab Four only needed a temporary break from each other and that they would soon record again or better play live together. As the decade wore on, those hopes faded. Then two movies came along, aiming to satisfy those Beatles fans’ needs, but missed the target completely.

All This & World War II was a 1976 film that collaged World War 2 newsreels together with Beatles songs as the soundtrack. Not even the original Beatles music. They were all covered by artists as disparate as Frankie Laine, Peter Gabriel & Helen Reddy. Bizarre and very, very wrong.

Not to be outdone in the poor taste department, Robert Stigwood, the Ego-maniac manager of the Bee Gees, decided to make a film starring the Peter Frampton & the Gibbs based on the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. He might as well have just kicked John Lennon in the nuts.

While the movie is not the worst thing in the world, it did kill many careers that were peaking at the time, RSO Records, and just about anything else that touched it, save Steve Martin. Watch it for yourself (the first time, sober), and you’ll understand.

The soundtrack was OK, but course everyone thought they had another Saturday Night Fever on their hands. I think Sesame Street Fever sold more copies. (Actually, the rumor goes that album was shipped platinum and returned double platinum, with most copies buried in the desert.) The soundtrack did yield 3 hits: Earth Wind & Fire’s Got To Get You Into My Life, Aerosmith’s Come Together, and Robin Gibb’s Oh! Darling. (side note: my Mom was furious at Aerosmith and their version of Come Together and would not let me listen to it. I didn’t understand the idea of cover versions and tried to have my mom explain why the Beatles weren’t on the soundtrack. She would just get frustrated and change the subject. But EWF…she was cool with them.)

Robin was the first Gibb brother from the Bee Gees to have a solo hit in the U.S. Oh! Darling made it into the Top 20 in late 1978. Surprising but very fitting for a man who sang on most of the Bee Gee’s hits in the 60s, but started to feel like a second fiddle to Barry by the end of that decade and quit the band. His first attempt at a solo career fizzled, and the Gibb 3 got back together, more robust. Robin’s version had a lovely mellow arrangement, which was in stark contrast to the Abbey Road track with its New Orleans blues feel, Paul McCartney via Fats Domino. But he also gives one of his most understated and smoothest performances, keeping his trademark warble to a minimum. I would have loved to have heard a WestCoast R&B album from Robin, but this is as close as we’re ever gonna get.

Nights On Broadway by the Bee Gees (RSO, 1975)

No one really knew what was to come when the Bee Gees released their LP, Main Course. The Bee Gees were on comeback #2 by this point and after having an album of theirs rejected and unreleased 2 years earlier, they were making a slow steady climb back to the top. This album was their second produced by Arif Mardin, and it followed their commercially disappointing LP, Mr. Natural. But the opening single, Jive Talkin, took off and hit #1. Released as single #2, Night On Broadway hit the Top 10 and while everyone was rejoicing, it still didn’t hint at the dominance the Brothers Gibb would have over the late 70s.

One thing it did do was hint at what became Barry’s signature (and most mocked) sound when he riffs towards the end of the song in his warbly falsetto. Believe it or not, The Bee Gees racked up lots of hits without Barry hitting those high notes. But soon the Bee Gees would be forever linked to that sound. And it’s all because Arif told Barry told let loose and do some screaming towards the end.

But more importantly this is was the first song I learned on the Lowery organ that we bought at Nelson Varon’s Music Center. We got a one keyboard level organ for Christmas 1979 after walking by the store in the Sunrise Mall and hearing the salesman playing over & over. I bought 2 songbooks as well: The Best of ABBA and the Best Of The Bee Gees [the best only going up to 1976] I don’t know why I was obsessed with learning Nights On Broadway. Maybe it was the funky opening, the mellow breakdown in the middle or the chance to sing as high as I could and annoy everyone who was sleeping. All I know is that for a moment I was a Gibb brother in a world where the Bee Gees could do no wrong, singing those ‘straight to the heart songs‘.

I don’t what happened to those songbooks. But we have still have that organ at my mom’s house. And every once and while I power it up, set the cheesy rhythm box to disco and play those opening chords. And if I fuck it up, I just blame it on the nights on Broadway.