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.