|Justin Timberlake (Robin Gibb), Barry Gibb & Jimmy Fallon (Barry Gibb).|
*SEE JANUARY 6TH UPDATE BELOW.
Christmas has come early, the real Barry Gibb has just performed on the beloved Saturday Night Live skit The Barry Gibb Talk Show. And what was he wearing around his neck? The pounamu (greenstone) he was given in New Zealand in February this year. As a Kiwi that makes me feel pretty proud.
For the past decade Jimmy Fallon as Barry and Justin Timberlake as Robin have been a part of one of the most popular recurring SNL skits and even though there were rumours they were bringing it back for last night’s episode, who knew the real Barry would be there too?
Barry once told me in an interview that he loved The Barry Gibb Talk Show and for me as a diehard Bee Gees fan, I always felt the same. Yes it was a parody – a mad, maniacal parody – but underneath it was also flattery by two people in Fallon and Timberlake who are genuine admirers of the Gibbs. And most essentially, it’s hilarious.
If you haven’t ever seen it, the premise is that Barry interviews politicians and newsmakers about “the issues of the day.” The joke is that he doesn’t just sing in falsetto, he speaks in falsetto while brother Robin barely says a word. Barry also has an alarmingly short temper and won’t stand for guests interrupting or disrespecting him: “I’m Barry effin’ Gibb!!” The actual saying of “effin'” as opposed to swearing making it so much funnier.
Best line from Fallon last night: “I wasn’t born in the Isle Of Boy, I was born in the Isle Of Man!”
In real life the portrayals of Barry and Robin couldn’t be further from the truth, but that doesn’t really matter when the skit is this fantastically strange. As one praise-filled critic said, “Why would Barry Gibb be hosting a political talk show? Doesn’t matter!” I’d argue that the existence of The Barry Gibb Talk Show has been good for the real Barry’s profile and for that of the song whose melody the theme music shares, Nights On Broadway (see further below).
So in case you missed the real Barry Gibb on The Barry Gibb Talk Show, here it is:
Paul McCartney* was involved in the other highlight for me which wasn’t so much his own skit with Fallon but more seeing him and Barry hugging after the show. According to the Guinness Book of Records, these two men are the most successful songwriters in popular music history. But more than that, they are music survivors of the same era, both with their careers and for the sheer fact they’re alive.
They haven’t been known to be close over the years, but Barry adores Paul and it wasn’t for a lack of hits he covered the Beatles The Long And Winding Road on his first solo tour this year. Witnessing them together must’ve been very special.
|Paul McCartney and Barry Gibb.|
All told, there was a surprising amount of poignant symbolism for an episode of Saturday Night Live. Barry’s appearance means that contrary to those who only remember (and then misunderstood) the infamous 1997 Clive Anderson walkout, he is self-depracating.
This was also the first Barry Gibb Talk Show since Robin’s death last year and shows that the real Barry is happy for Timberlake to keep portraying his brother. And again with the McCartney hug, it spoke volumes for the respect these two men have for each other. 51 years since Love Me Do and 47 years since New York Mining Disaster and here they both were, all rivalry dissipated, embracing on live TV just days out from Christmas.
As for the New Zealand pounamu around Barry’s neck, maybe he just likes the look of it. Or perhaps it’s symbolic of his affection for a country where the Bee Gees popularity has not significantly wavered in almost 50 years of music.
In closing, here is my favourite version of the original Barry Gibb Talk Show theme music, a live performance of Nights On Broadway from the 1979 Spirits Having Flown tour. This is the brothers at the height of their fame and on the face of it it’s all tight white pants, hairy chests, medallions and flashing floors, but it’s also song-craft and harmony of the highest order. Indeed the harmonies of this funky, pre-Saturday Night Fever track are best heard live to see just how exceptional they were. Merry Christmas, Tim.
*UPDATE: On Janaury 6th Barry tweeted it was just the second time he’d met Paul McCartney – a fact which is all the more astounding when you consider not just how big both bands were in late sixties London, but that Maurice and Ringo Starr were (for a time) neighbours.
Across three tweets mentioning the Saturday Night Live appearance, Barry called Paul his “hero,” thanked him for being so kind to his kids and said spending the evening with him was “very spiritual.”
PS. December 22nd would’ve been the 64th birthday for the Gibb twins Robin and Maurice and I’m sure they’d be thrilled to see their brother so happy.