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Why you should take another look at the Bee Gees

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I may get disowned by all my indie-rock oriented friends for saying this, but the Bee Gees are one of the best bands of the 70s.

It took me a while to come to this conclusion.  Just like everybody else, I know Stayin' Alive just a little bit too well to really appreciate it.  But as I was flipping through the six radio stations that come in on my drive home to rural Minnesota, I came across Night Fever, and I caught myself singing along.  When I caught myself, and realizing that I was singing along with the biggest group of one of the most reviled mainstream music movements of the last half century, I was forced to reexamine.

I gave myself a chance, and asked for a Bee Gees album for Christmas.  My dad loves these kinds of requests on my wish list.  It's a virtual guarantee that if I ask for a musical act that predates 1980, my Dad will get so excited that I like music that he's heard of that he goes overboard and buy me the most exhaustive greatest hits collection that he can find (see also: Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, even Mozart).  On schedule, I open up my gifts on Christmas to find the hilariously overtitled cd "The Bee Gees: Their Greatest Hits: The Record."  No, you didn't read that wrong.  Even though this is a two CD set, the collection still is called "The Record."  In honor of this absurdity, you will now be subjected to the nearly-as-unwieldy abbreviation: TBG:TGH:TR.

When I first played TBG:TGH:TR, I kind of hated it.  And really, it's mostly because the collection is put together chronologically.  And chronologically, the Bee Gees start out really fucking boring.  They are shitty Beatles knock-offs, by which I mean that they are a shitty band that knocks off the shitty parts of the Beatles' career.  Still, I give every CD I own a legitimate shot, so I ripped it to my computer anyway, fully expecting to expunge all trace of them within six months.

You know what happens next.  I fall prey to their catchy songs enough that I really start listening.  And damn, they are good at what they do.  Their instrumentation is not as lackadaisical as I had thought.  But what really put me over the top was "Nights on Broadway."  Here's a YouTube video.  Listen to it through the first chorus, somewhere around 1:23.

Did you catch that?  The three voices are passing the melody back and forth going into the chorus, but where is the chord resolution going into the chorus?  Which voice is singing the line we're supposed to be listening to?  Go ahead and listen to it again, starting in the bridge section at 0:42, and then tell me where the melody goes once the refrain starts at 1:01.


It still isn't obvious, is it?  Well, here's a hint.  Try listening to the same section starting at 1:42.


There it is!  They bring the melody as an echo.  They make you feel the missing melody in the first chorus by leaving it out entirely.  When they do finally bring it in, it's as an echo, in a nod to the theme of the song, which is an unrequited ballad (with some creepy undertones), sung to another who doesn't return the feeling at all..

Sure, this isn't exactly rocket science.  It's still a pop song.  But I bet you didn't think the BeeGees had it in them, did you?  It's worth taking another listen to some of their catalog.  They were great at what they did. Give them another shot.