The story about the Bee Gees 1969-1970


The group had released their double album which came in special red velvet cover: Odessa. All of the songs were written with lush arrangements and orchestrations. By now they all had found partners in private life, however the pressures of the first and huge fame of the past few years including the many wild fans, girlfriends, people telling each brother that he didn’t need the other two for success, and the lots and lots of earned money, combined with what Maurice stated those days – the lack of immaturity- , this all drove the brothers apart., while Barry at that time was only 22 and the twins 19!! Odessa was the last album of the 60ties and you recognize some spirituality in it. Barry: “I’ve always been interested in philosophy and ancient civilization etc. We’ve all been interested in the unexplained things and loved to visit places like the pyramids in Egypt. We’ve been there on our way to Australia when we were kids and later on been there again on our way back when we explored some more of the country, very interesting”. Maurice: “I think it’s something Manx in us. We also had many other experiences when we felt something had happened to one of us. In our music we actually never really tried to bring messages between the lines. We just wrote the way we felt. While working on Odessa we were fantasizing a lot”.


Robin, Barry, Maurice at the end of the sixties

They became best group of 1966 and Barry won the prize for best songwriter.
Being 17 years old he had already a very impressive past as a songwriter.
People wondered how a boy at 17 was able to write such emotional love songs.
Many Australian artists recorded Barry’s songs.
Amongst others there was the group Steve & The Board of Steve Kipner, son of Nat Kipner.
And drummer of the band had been Colin Peterson for some time who would later become one of The Bee Gees!!
So just before leaving Australia the group sent some material for their first album and tapes like “Mrs. Gillespie’s Refrigerator”, “Deeply Deeply Me” and “Gilbert Green” to some record people in England.
Stigwood remembers that on those tapes were songs which would become big hits some later.

Letter from Hugh to Robert Stigwood (click for larger copy)

o meanwhile Robin had left the group and the others tried to go on working in the studio which wasn’t easy. The group performed during the Lulu TV show, without Robin. Then Maurice takes a vacation with Lulu before she sings during the Eurovision Song Contest that year. April 27th there are recordings for the TV show Talk Of The Town but Robin definitely doesn’t participate anymore and Barry, Maurice and Colin appear on the show with another Gibb: sister Lesley sings along with them that day. 

It was a spectacular show aired by BBC 2 on May 17th. Instead of Robin there was their 24 year old sister Leslie who stepped in at the last minute to help out. She looked pretty in a little gold dress and not many people knew that only a month earlier she had had twins! Leslie: “I was petrified, all those people watching, I almost burst into tears”. In the audience was the man who gave the boys their first break in Australia: Bill Gates. Amongst the songs they sang that day was a beautiful version of the song Barry wrote when being a young boy: Morning Of My Life. Lesley has never performed as Bee Gee again however for a while she had the idea of starting a singing career too and did record a number of songs even. Finally she decided to go back to Australia with her husband Keith Evans (who’d been Barry’s assistant for a while) and leave show business behind.

Maurice, Colin and Barry with Lesley

Lesley Gibb sings with the Bee Gees during one performance after Robin had left the group, 1969

obin went into the studio working on a solo album: writing, producing, singing and arranging his solo project: Robin’s Reign. The single: Saved By The Bell is quite a success in Europe. Meanwhile Barry and Maurice work as The Bee Gees releasing the album Cucumber Castle. The single “Tomorrow, Tomorrow” was recorded right after Robin quit the group and Barry and Maurice also appeared with comedian Frankie Howard, Lulu and others in the British TV special: Cucumber Castle. A TV project with typical British humor with Barry playing the King of Cucumber and Maurice as King of Jelly all was filmed in medieval costumes. Cucumber Castle was filmed in August 1969 and featured five new Bee Gees songs as well as Lulu singing “In the morning” (Barry Gibb) and “Mrs Robinson” (Paul Simon), Blind Faith performing “Well all right” in a concert clip, and instrumentals of “Cucumber Castle” and “Holiday”. The film script is credited to Barry and Maurice, although they have claimed the director made them change it, and they have mentioned an earlier version as being by Barry and Robin. 

Robin on his bicycle It was re-edited several times and was finally shown to the public on BBC TV in 1971.

Barry and Maurice with Lulu in the Cucumber Castle TV Special

Also in 1969 Maurice and Billy Lawrie, his brother-in-law, had begun their production company Moby and would go on to write songs together over the next few years.

Barry and Maurice had hardly really finished the songs for the album “Cucumber Castle” before Barry and Maurice split up as well in December 1969. According to Maurice some of the late recordings have unfinished vocals, like “I. O. I. O.” and “Sweetheart”.

Colin had played drums on the Cucumber film songs, but was cut from film scenes when he had to leave the group in August 1969. The group was then down to two members. After Colin had left the group in the summer Barry and Maurice finally parted company as well ultimately in December 1969. Just before that there had been plans in October for a Bee Gee record label. The split of the 3 brothers was to last for 15 months. During their split the Brothers gain maturity and a better understanding of themselves.

Robin on his bicycle

1969 / 1970: solo period

Robin’s solo period: included his solo album and some singles and ended when he began working again with Maurice in June 1970 and these sessions eventually led to a reunion with Barry as well. Robin called Barry and suggested they should try to work things out and start working together again as group. Robin recorded enough songs even for a second solo album early in 1970 “Sing Slowly Sisters” but not even a single was released anymore. He joined up with Maurice again and the rebirth of The Bee Gees began.

Maurice started his solo period with a series of sessions with Billy Lawrie and soon produced among other things a complete (but unreleased) solo album to be called: “The Loner”, on which he played many instruments, sang all the lead and backing vocals and produced the sessions with beautiful arrangements, also he made demo’s for other artists. Maurice tried stage acting in the spring of 1970 and produced the cast album of the show: “Sing a rude song”, but he was back in the studio 

Maurice and Lulu

writing and recording songs within a month of the opening on the West End. Of his solo work in 1970, only a single and the cast album were released. “The Loner” material was scrapped more permanently once the Bee Gees reunited. Four of the songs appeared in 1976 on a Dutch fan club record of the fan club: Bee Gees Information. (one of the earlier Bee Gees fan projects Marion of GSI worked for).

Maurice in the musical Sing A Rude Song

Barry began recording a solo album in his solo months of 1970, and recorded a few more songs with P P Arnold besides. It’s not known whether songs were selected from this material and sequenced for an album, but the only record release was a single in England and Europe. The months-delayed album project seemed to come alive again around the time Barry joined Robin and Maurice for a reunion Bee Gees album, but any plans for a dual solo and Bee Gees career were dropped quickly. Barry had written a large number of songs during the solo months of 1970, some were country songs, bluesy and pop numbers and even fine harmonies and he already began to record them. A not released solo project is known as: “The Kid’s No Good”. Also a number of songs were published in the so called: Barry Gibb Poetry Anthology sent out by The Barry Gibb Fan Club in 1971 (see special page of this GSI web site!). This book also included a number of already recorded songs.


Maurice and Lulu

1970: Back Together Again

The Brothers became involved in the fact that Robert Stigwood, their manager, was taking the RSO Record Label to the stock exchange. Lots of talks followed with lawyers and financial people something the brothers didn’t like much. They preferred to write music. By the time they came together again as group and also as brothers and family they began working on a new project. First Robin and Maurice started to record again in June and August 1970 then shortly afterwards Barry followed to join the sessions again halfway August. He had lived in Spain for a while. Lots of songs were written and recorded although in the beginning they had to get used on working together again. Of all these new recorded material they made their reunion album as The Bee Gees : “Two Years On” with amongst others the hit single “Lonely Days” which became the first number one hit for the group in America. Barry: “Yes and it was written the day we came back together and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” even was written at the same session. The song is really about how we felt about being apart and ‘How Can You Mend…”in fact was how we felt about coming back together”. Maurice: “On Lonely Days even the wives were clapping along”.

left: 'You may now kiss the bride', Barry and Linda married. right: Happily married with their 'kids' at the time: Snoopy and Barnaby

arry had divorced his first wife Maureen with whom he married back in Australia. For the past three years he’d been happy with Linda already and now was the time for them to get married too. So on Barry’s 24th birthday he married Linda Ann Gray in Caxton Hall, London. Linda’s dress was white, floor length with a lace cover-slip and Barry’s suit was in light blue, single-breasted with a waistcoat. (Barry, by the way, was famous those days for the way he used to get dressed and in the summer of 1970 he had been awarded with the title: Best Dressed Pop Star!) Their wedding cake was in the shape of a horse shoe. No time for a honey moon as there was a lot of TV and radio work to do after the release of “Two Years On” and there was a preparation to do for the tour to America early 1971. Their first single of the new album: ‘Lonely Days’ reaches the number one spot at the U.S. charts before the end of 1970. The Bee Gees were back and ready for international touring again.

To be continued.
Part six: History


Dick Ashby

In November 1967 Robin and Molly were involved in a serious train crash which they survived without major injuries but in which sadly dozens of people died.
It appears the song “Really and Sincerely” was based on Robin’s feeling due to this terrible accident.
1968 also started with a hit: “Words” got to number 1 in Germany and was a big success in several other countries.
In the first few months of that year they made their concert debut in America and received the astronomical amount of $ 50,000.- for two performances.
During their visit to America their second album was released. “Horizontal”, which contained several big hits again.
The group was supposed to star in and write a movie about the Boer War entitled: Lord Kitchener’s Little Drummer Boy that year too, but this project never materialized.

Barry, Linda and Barnaby

  The Bee Gees

Back from America it was time for a European concert tour.
In every way it would be the wildest tour they’d ever experienced especially regarding their performances in countries like Germany.
The fans behaved wilder than ever and the police provoked them with guard dogs and water canons. The Bee Gees in the Royal Albert Hall

The Netherlands too experienced their first major Bee Gees concert on Sunday the 6th of October 1968 in the Houtrusthallen in The Hague.
Wild but fantastic concerts, but the group also discovered that the fans could be dangerous sometimes.
Hysterical girls during lots of concerts and in Switzerland for instance thousands of children were waiting for them at the airport and their hotel had pour security which resulted in the place being trashed and they had to flee back to England.
One of the highlights during this period of wild and enthusiastic concerts undoubtedly was their performance on the 27th of March 1968 in the Royal Albert Hall in London with an orchestra of 67 musicians, an orchestra of the airforce consisting of 50 musicians and a big choir!
Dick Ashby: “It was their last concert of their third tour of England.

The Bee Gees in the Royal Albert Hall

While they were singing: I Have Decided To Join The Airforce suddenly musicians of the airforce orchestra appeared through every door in the hall playing the song and amongst the public a choir suddenly started to sing Birdie Told Me etc, etc”.
After all the success suddenly a single didn’t became a hit song: “Jumbo” more or less was a miss and would it have changed anything if Robert would have chosen “Singer Sang His Song” for the a-side?
We don’t know.
Then some time for reflection and a holiday.
And again a smash hit: “I’ve Gottta Get A Message To You” reached number 1 in England again and got to the top 5 in Germany and it was the first song to reach the top 10 in America.
After their return to England, the past 16 months had been incredible for the group on top of which they also received an incredible amount of prices.
They were chosen the best group of 1967, received the Valentine’s Award for the group with the best future. In a short while they reached number 1 with 2 dozen hits in 15 countries, won the Golden Otto (German magazine Bravo), the Golden Lion from Radio Luxembourg etc. But they hadn’t really broken through in America and their American tour in the summer of 1968 had been somewhat disappointing except maybe for the shows in Forest Hill, New York and Los Angeles.

On June first 1968 Colin married his Joanne while Vince had gotten married in Australia earlier to Diane, they would separate later on.
Barry and Linda had been inseparable for a long time.
Robin had met Molly Hullis, receptionist at NEMS and Maurice became friends with pop singer Lulu.
In the summer of 1968 their third album was also released: “Idea”, the third album in little that a year!!
Amongst the songs the hit song: “I Started a Joke” about which Robin told that in writing the music for this song they got inspired by the engines of an airplane.
In the press rumors started circulating about problems within the group.
Finally it was Vince who left the group because he wanted to find his own musical identity.
The other Bee Gees were busy writing music for The Marbles and in the fall they started working in the studio for the first time without Vince to record their fourth album which originally was named An American Opera, then it got named Masterpeace and it finally became the double album called “Odessa”.

“Odessa” which also became the title track was a very long song about a shipwreck dominated by strings and acoustic guitar.
Somehow during the recording of the album the group lost contact with the original concept, whatever it was.
The album was recorded in New York and England and this continent hopping could well have contributed to the dissolution of the concept..
The felt-clothed double album “Odessa” contained a number of extraordinary songs.

The Marbles

And in this period the brothers featured in the news more often.
You couldn’t pick up a pop magazine or you would read about the relations between the members of the Bee Gees.
The quarrels increased and the rift between the brothers grew wider.
The ambitious album project “Odessa” drowned in a sea of problems.
Barry: “Everything got out of hand and we didn’t know which way we were heading.
We’d never really finished the album.
It was our own production and we were very proud of it, but it all turned out different.”

Despite everything “Odessa” still became an amazing achievement.
The title song “Odessa” was mainly Robin’s work and it still is an important song for the group.
The beautiful “Melody Fair” became the title song for the movie Melody and reached number 1 in Japan.

Also remarkable were songs like “Marley Purt Drive” (area code 213) about an orphanage with 35 kids, “Lamplight” with lyrics partially in French and “Odessa” even contained three instrumental songs.
The album was released in the beginning of 1969.
Barry: “It marked a period of breaking up and we weren’t talking to each other, so we weren’t in the studio together half the time and weren’t as friendly toward each other.
The recording took three or four months which was a long time in those days.
Bee Gees First was done in a month.
It would be nice to re-master the album once and as a bonus maybe do a live version of some of the songs”

The first single from the album: “First Of May” leaded to the biggest quarrel.
Because Robin thought the b-side: “Lamplight” would be released as the a-side and this triggered the rest.
Luckily in their personal lives the brothers all three had found a woman at their side, they would be a support to each of them.

Robin and Molly during their wedding day

t was Robin who married his Molly on the 4th of December 1968.
Molly: “It wasn’t love at first sight, but it has grown.
He’s so romantic”
The couple was already living together for some time. Maurice and Lulu leaving the church

Their honeymoon had to be postponed due to the fact that the boys were still recording in the studio.
It started going down hill with the group due to the quarrels and the speed and such.
Barry: “Robin was the one who suffered the most and he kept on taking pills.
He couldn’t stop anymore and was living in his own world.
Finally we split up”
Molly, just married to Robin, had a hard time.
Hugh and Barbara tried to do what was best for Robin but it turned out to be a nightmare, for the family too.
That’s how the lives of the Gibbs started in the year 1969.
On the 18th of February 1969 Maurice married singer Lulu (real name: Marie McDonald McLaughlin Laurie) in the church of Gerrards Cross.
Lulu wore white boots, a white mink-trimmed coat and white mini dress and Maurice wore a white suit.
In the beginning of March the group performed in Top Of The Pops to promote “First Of May” and it would be the last performance with Rob before it al blew up.
On the 15th of March Robin announced he’d be leaving the group and talks followed with family, Stigwood and the lawyers.

To be continued.
Part five: History, starting in 1969.

Maurice and Lulu leaving the church