Monday, March 5, 2012

There Were Two: The Bee Gees: "Don't Forget To Remember"

And now the pace picks up, if only a little. We are in the world of Barry and Maurice Gibb, with Barry, I believe, taking the lead. And it's a country weepie; strings, acoustic guitars, hurtin' lyrics, a piano to ground it all. If Robin has left, to stray into increasingly odd and baroque areas, the other two are playing it utterly straight, ignoring that whole scene altogether. I cannot help but think this song must go back to the country they grew up hearing (in Manchester and Brisbane), the plain-talking that's-the-way-hearts-break music that was the root of so much to come, the seemingly paradoxical no-nonsense attitude it has matched equally with sentimentality.

"You're the mirror of my soul so take me out of my hole" is perhaps a bit much, but unlike so many Bee Gees songs there are no awkwardnesses here, no lines broken down or phrased so oddly as to sound translated from French. Nope, this is about as plain-speaking as The Bee Gees ever got, depicting the smooth misery of an aching heart, a photo on the wall, a whole world that is both present and remote as the stars themselves. The two do a fine job with this song; if it was written to get them a hit, then it did its job; though it wasn't a hit in the U.S. (this is the first time I've heard the song - and the first time I've heard the previous entry's song as well). It was the single from Cucumber Castle (there was a UK tv special to go along with its release, starring Lulu and Vincent Price amongst others) and proved the two could get along just fine without Robin if they had to...though they didn't, as it turned out, have any success with the next single in the U.S. either, which caused Barry and Maurice to part ways themselves for a bit, though by the end of 1970 all three were together again.

So much of what was happening with these three brothers was happening with so many families; fights, reconciliations, experiments and triumphs...the 60s emboldened folks to go it alone, and then being alone was the thing; but the pull for a home is always there, and after one too many strange and disturbing nights, too many bad trips and so on, the pull to go back home looked less like giving up and more like common sense. Maybe the brothers Gibb had to pull themselves apart to appreciate each other more, to sense their own strengths and weaknesses; to realize indeed that for them three was the magic number and what they could do together was far greater than what they could do apart. I can imagine Robert Stigwood shaking his head at them fondly, wondering what took them so long to figure this out.

From these rather slow songs things start to pick up, as '69 comes to a close*...

*I should note here that I won't be writing about M. Gainsbourg et Mlle. Birkin as the same recording that got them to #2 also got to #1; I will eventually write about French music here, but not just yet.

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