At risk of the Bemolutionary music section becoming a morbid recurring item where tributes are issued to ailing millionaire musicians, we’re very sad to hear Robin Gibb, one third of the Bee Gees, is currently in a coma following treatment for pneumonia and a long recovery from cancer.
The Brothers Gibb have stamped themselves fairly permanently on the Western popular consciousness, their high-camp disco period hard-wiring funk basslines and falsetto refrains into the skulls of millions of unsuspecting people. Our beloved Frank Zappa rarely passed up an opportunity to declare that disco sucked, but, unashamedly, we just can’t agree. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy Stayin’ Alive at some level has either got a heart made of granite or surely can’t be human. That said, Maurice, Robin and Barry were arguably at their best long before their donned their medallions and took to the dance floor, during a creative flourishing in the late ‘60s, where they demonstrated their skill at penning quirkily melancholic ballads. ‘I Started A Joke’, sung and mostly written by Robin, was track number eleven on the band’s 1968 album Idea.
Sedately plodding bass, gently arpeggiated guitar lines and Gregorian-chant backing-vocals from Maurice and Barry provide a backdrop that’s simultaneously soothing and plaintive – apparently inspired by the sound of a British Airways Vickers Viscount in mid-flight – over which Robin’s impassioned bleat can soar. Lyrically, it remains fairly enigmatic, although some have bizarrely suggested it might be written from Satan’s perspective. Music is fabulous, but when there are people offering subversive interpretations of Bee Gees lyrics, civilisation may well have gone too far. Regardless, get well Robin.
And we couldn’t resist.