|The Bee Gees circa 1981.|
One year ago today I was lying by the pool in Bali, checking email and realising one of my heroes had just died. If you click here you can link to the piece I wrote later that day in a disastrously a/c-free internet cafe about Robin Gibb’s death and what I called “the fight for the Bee Gees legacy.”
That article highlighted one of the finest late-period Bee Gees songs For Whom The Bell Tolls – a UK top 5 hit and South American #1 from 1993 – which showcases virtually everything that made the Bee Gees great. As I wrote at the time:
An unforgettable title; a massive chorus, with unusual verse and bridge structures; Barry singing in both falsetto and natural voice; three part background harmonies topped with a powerful Robin lead.
And then the lyrics. Not surprisingly for a song entitled For Whom The Bell Tolls (borrowed from Hemingway), they are poignant in times of loss. Here is the song once again:
Going back in time 21 years before For Whom The Bell Tolls and 41 years from the present day, here is another Bee Gees song I love which has shared Barry and Robin vocal leads. I’ve launched a mini-Internet campaign to get Alicia Keys to cover this song, though three Tweets about it in the space of a year is probably not what you’d call “viral” at this stage.
Nevertheless, Please Don’t Turn Out The Lights is a soul song and a modern day soul singer needs to rediscover it. Just listen to that second verse in particular, starting with Robin’s plea:
Baby I don’t feel too reliable /
I can only do what I’m viable
Then Barry takes over with the ultimatum:
But if you want to leave me /
Love me and just leave me
Then Maurice joins his brothers on the echoed, harmony-filled chorus of:
If you turn down the lights /
Please don’t turn out the lights
This isn’t just soul, it is the structure of black gospel music and songs this good don’t deserve to remain to buried. For Robin Gibb, one year on from his death, this is Please Don’t Turn Out The Lights:
Afterword: If you are new to the Bee Gees or they somehow are lodged in your mind as just Saturday Night Fever, click here for a list of their scarcely believable achievements and records. The article is also about the country / soul / gospel album by the Gibbs from 1969, Cucumber Castle.