45-minutes with Barry Gibb. How many other music greats would spend that amount of time on the phone to an interviewer on the other side of the world? It was like chatting away with an old buddy, all be it one who happens to be popular music royalty of the highest order. This was also my sixth official interview with Barry going back 11 years now and it’s fair to say none of the others have been short either. And still I think of the countless questions I should’ve asked and hope to have the opportunity to put to him in the future. Maybe one day there will be a seventh interview!
Speaking with Barry (we chatted just after his 70th birthday at the start of September) is always such an honour and through the honesty, emotion and humility for which he’s known, there are always plenty of laughs too. I particularly treasure when he reveals something that I’ve never heard him say before and that’s what I’ll try to focus on during this series. With less than a week until the release of his new solo album In The Now (October 7), what follows is Part 1 of Barry Gibb In The Now With Tim Roxborogh. Each entry in this little series will highlight a different transcribed section of my most recent chat with Barry, chosen specifically for diehard fans.
Find out the late period Bee Gees songs Barry desperately wanted to be singles, where he’d like to one day be buried, the full backstory on how You Should Be Dancing was created, why he would pretend to be sick as a child, how his upcoming tour will differ from the Mythology Tour, what he thinks the greatest song of all time is and just how much influence his wife Linda has on his professional life. And of course, there will be an exploration into the sonic and lyrical inspirations on In The Now – just his second official solo album after 1984’s Now Voyager, though fourth if you count the unreleased The Kid’s No Good from 1970 and the Hawks soundtrack in 1988.
As far as part 1 goes, I wanted to ask Barry about song structures with particular mention of You Win Again and Night Fever. Enjoy.
Barry Gibb In The Now With Tim Roxborogh Part 1:
TR: I’ve always wanted to ask you a question about the song structure of a couple of songs. One is Night Fever and the other is You Win Again because sometimes I hear fans and critics say, “I love those songs, they’re so simple, they’re so catchy,” and I think, “No no no, have a look at the song structure!” Night Fever has got one of the craziest song structures of a number one hit in history. You Win Again has a truncated verse that comes in and they’re so catchy that you don’t notice that the song structure is not traditional at all. Was that by accident? By design?
BG: Organic. I mean, for me it just came that way. You know, “what do we need here?” “We need a verse” “What do we need here?” “We need the chorus.” And you’ve gotta’ get back to the chorus but you don’t have to do another verse. You can take a left turn and go back to the chorus that way. And really, the centre of the song, the idea of the song, must always come back, but it doesn’t always have to come back the same way. And that was a concept.
You Win Again – listen to the structure of You Win Again – it’s quite unusual and we did that on purpose. How Deep Is Your Love is quite unusual. There are structures I hear that I’m delighted we came up with them. We didn’t know Night Fever was going to be a number one record and there it is right there. We just thought, how can we just make this a better song than it actually is and that is to go off the path. Go off the path and then come back. Build up to coming back. And I would have those conversations with Michael Jackson on a lot of quiet times and a lot of quiet evenings where we’d talk about that. And how important it was to be not so repetitive, but keep the listener interested.
And secondly, coming up with songs that everyone feels they lived through somehow. A great love song where everyone feels, “Oh we fell in love then.” Or, “That’s how we fell in love.” Or, “That’s how I got hurt.” Or, “That happened to me in my life.” That I think is what the songwriter tries to do and you know, that’s it. Structures, I can’t honestly tell you why they come about, but when they come about, you know it’s right, you just know it’s right.
TR: I’m so pleased to hear that explanation because it’s always interested me. I wrote [once in an article on my blog] that You Win Again goes verse, chorus, then there’s an ad-lib, then there’s a coda, then there’s a second verse – but it’s only a truncated version of the first verse’s pattern! Then there’s an adlib, then there’s the chorus but with a key change – it’s actually spectacularly mathematical!
BG: Right! Yeah, but somehow it flows. And you can’t really explain that, but you know it’s right. Do it, just do it.
Note: Return back to the Roxborogh Report soon for the further parts in this interview series. I will also post links to my soon-to-be-published feature articles for the New Zealand Herald and the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly that are also based on this interview. To hear some of this interview, listen all week to the Coast FM breakfast show October 3-7. Also tune into my Newstalk ZB radio show The Two on October 9th between 8pm-11pm and to my iHeartRadio station Coast Soul.