Bee Gee Maurice Gibb 8 Years On – Song Of The Week

 

Today marks eight years since Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees died while on the operating table in Miami after suffering from a twisted intestine. He was only 53 and as a lifelong fan of the brothers Gibb, I remember feeling extremely sad but also privileged that I was on the radio and could do a tribute for him that I felt fitting. I’d found out about 7pm NZ time that he’d died and I drove straight into the station where I worked through the night with colleagues Andy Turley and John Budge in producing a 30 minute tribute documentary to be ready by the next morning.

We played that documentary five times across the day on two different stations, Classic Hits and Easy Listening i and on the breakfast show that morning I played every second song a Bee Gees song. If only I was allowed to do that all the time!

Before Maurice died the Bee Gees double CD best The Record had gone four times platinum in New Zealand, but such was the saturation of Bee Gees on the radio, TV and in the news following his death, just two months later it had gone eight times platinum. That equates to sales of more than 120,000 in a country of just four million and is the equivalent of sales of more than eight million in the USA.

Eight years on, the anniversary of Maurice’s death doesn’t attract the media attention of other music legends who have passed, largely because he was not a front-man and was part of a group, but Maurice was so essential to what made the Bee Gees so important in music history, so here is my written tribute to one of my heroes:

Maurice Gibb was one third of the greatest family act in popular music, was part of one of the top five biggest selling artists of all time (with record sales topping 200 million)
and was an integral member in a songwriting team who put 21 different songs at US or UK number one.

From beneath his iconic black Fedora, he was an expert harmonist with few peers and a multi-instrumentalist just as comfortable playing the bass as he was the guitar, drums, mellotron, piano or even moog synthesizer. He was also a husband, a father and the most gregarious of the Gibbs. He didn’t always take the limelight, but was as crucial to the success of the extraordinary band the Bee Gees as his brothers Barry and Robin were.

Born in the Isle of Man on December 22 1949 with an early childhood in Manchester, it was Australia in the 60s where the Bee Gees first earned their stripes as songwriters and local television stars before returning to England in 1967.

A millionaire before he was 20, Maurice and his brothers took on the world in 1967 with international hits like Spicks and SpecksNew York Mining Disaster and Massachusetts. From the outset Maurice, or “Mo” as his family and friends always called him, was able to blend the ideas of the more dominant personalities of his brothers into a final product that would ultimately lead to one of the most hit-filled catalogues in songwriting history.

Starting with their Beatle-esque phase in the late 60s and early 70s, culminating with their astonishing R&B peak in the late 70s and continuing through the 80s and 90s as songsmiths for themselves as well as countless others (including Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross), Barry, Robin and Maurice dominated pop music until Maurice’s tragic death eight years ago in 2003.

As a co-writer of songs as diverse as Lonely DaysStayin’ AliveHow Deep Is Your LoveHeartbreakerIslands In The StreamChain ReactionYou Win Again and Alone, Maurice is an inductee with his brothers into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has received lifetime achievement awards from the American Music Awards, the Brits and the Grammys amongst dozens of others.

It was Maurice who in so many ways held the Bee Gees together. He was with Barry on the massively underrated Cucumber Castle album when Robin had left the group, just as he was with Robin as co-writer on virtually all of his twin’s solo recordings. He was the Bee Gee with the superstar wedding to Lulu and the close pals with names like Ringo Starr and Rod Stewart. But he was also the Bee Gee who battled long and hard with alcohol and nearly lost it all.

His second marriage to Yvonne in 1975 was where he would ultimately find sobriety and stability and together they raised two wonderful children in Adam and Samantha. And during his final years Maurice also emerged as a true character of Miami’s South Beach with a wide circle of friends who were just as likely to know him for his prowess as a champion paintballer as well as the certain musical group he happened to be a part of.

For a band so identified with the late 70s, I always love introducing people to lesser known Bee Gees songs from before and after the Saturday Night Fever years. The song featured here is one of those favourites and I had the pleasure of telling Maurice to his face when I met him, Barry and Robin backstage in New Zealand in March, 1999. My exact words: “Maurice, I always told myself if I ever got to meet you that I’d tell you that Railroad is one of my all time favourite songs.” Maurice: “I’m glad somebody liked it!”

While I’ve interviewed Barry four times over the course of my radio career, that was the only time I would speak to Maurice. That kind of self-deprecating humour is consistent with what people who knew Maurice best said he was like. Railroad was a solo single from Maurice during the period when the Bee Gees were split in 1969-70 and was not a hit, but has always been popular with fans. While the song is definitely a rarity, I like to think I’m not the only person who liked it and was thrilled to see it on the recent Bee Gees boxed-set Mythology (four CDs, a CD each focusing on the four Gibb brothers including Andy).

If you’ve never heard it; if you didn’t know the Bee Gees didn’t always sing in falsetto; if you weren’t aware the Gibbs could do country ballads as well as R&B, then this song is especially for you. Thanks for reading and enjoy Railroad by the late Maurice Gibb, the Roxborogh Report’s Song of the Week.

 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Maurice Gibb was a class act.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Loved him:)

    2. Anonymous says:

      Well done….Mo was not only a first class act, but a beautiful and lovely man.
      may he and Robyn R.I.P

  2. ROSYY says:

    Very interessrting what you wrote

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love the Bee Gees and all of their music. Maurice was always my favorite. He seemed to have been a bit of an under -appreciated talent, but without him there was no Bee Gees sound. Indeed Barry and Robin sounded great together and on their own, but hearing them for the first time without Mo made me painfully aware of how much he contributed to their sound.

    RIP Maurice and Robin. you are beloved and missed.

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