tom briggs

Holiday by The (pre-disco) Bee Gees*

Maybe I’m a deranged and myopic 71-year-old yearning for the halcyon days of yore when blossoms of youth perennially bloomed from the gutters even, but the 1971 black and white YouTube footage of this song reveals its stirring and spiritual quality like no other footage.  This is a number done with a rare and profound intensity of emotion. The solemn dirge-like strings and brass of the philharmonic orchestra seemed to portend the tragedy that would befall the Bee Gees decades later. The melancholy tones, from both Robin and Barry Gibb and the orchestra, are a thing of genius, in my (non-lugubrious) opinion. It seems to me that it somehow carries centuries the collective remorse of English history with it! Beautiful. I don’t really understand the lyrics in this one, as I do in their other songs of the period, but it doesn’t matter. While the studio/top-40 version of this piece is great, this live-concert show version is in another galaxy altogether. When I watch something like this clip, I am convinced that God assigns the wisdom of the heart to youth, which manifests in art, writing, and music.

Many had called the Bee Gees 1960’s stuff ‘sugary’ and adolescent and maybe some of it was. But much of it is deep, moving, and mature. (And I love hard-edged soul/rock: James Brown / Spenser Davis / Kinks / Stones, to name a few) Much of their pre-disco stuff still hangs with me. Massachusetts / To Love Somebody** / Words / Got To Get A Message To You / First of May / New York Mining Disaster 1941 are timeless.  Robin and Barry Gibb are considered by many to be among the greatest songwriters in the history of 20th century England, and the blood of that nation seems to run through every word and note of their early art.  Their immense talent was largely shunned by the ever-knowing’ media’, but heck, they sold over 220 million records, and a sizable part of that was from the pre-disco incarnation.  How many hearts and souls did they touch? Thanks, Bee Gees. May your early songs live forever.

*I had thought this was a Hollies number for over 50 years!
**To Love Somebody was originally written by the Bee Gees for Otis Redding

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