Barry Gibb talks about life back on the road for the first time since the death of his brothers. Martin Hutchinson reports.
WHEN Barry Gibb walks on stage he will have the thought that brothers Maurice and Robin are at his side.
The 66-year-old, possessor of one of the finest (and most ear-splitting) falsetto voices in the business, is embarking on his first ever solo tour to celebrate the music of The Bee Gees.
It will be a poignant moment for Barry who was used to performing alongside his two brothers.
Maurice Gibb died at 53 in 2003 after complications from a twisted intestine. Robin lost his battle with cancer aged 62 last May.
“The last time I was in the UK was for Robin’s funeral,” says Barry.
Entitled Anthology, Barry’s UK tour is a journey through an astounding and fulfilling career.
“Although it’s essentially my show,” Barry says, “I’m celebrating all of us.”
But is it strange singing those songs without Maurice and Robin?
“They’re always by my side,” he says poignantly.
He was fraught with indecision over whether to do the tour.
“It was a big decision,” he says. “It took a year in the end as I always go though a ‘self-doubt’ phase, but once I’d done a trial show I got bitten all over again by the performing bug.
“It’s been over 10 years since the three of us toured and it’s about time. I have a real hunger to play and to play for people who care about the music.
“I don’t encroach on their (Maurice and Robin) songs. I don’t sing the songs that they sang lead on.”
He recently took the show to Australia where it went down a storm,
“They (the shows and audiences) were wonderful. We have such as history as we spent so long in Auustralia. It was a spiritual thing really.
“But I’m really looking forward to coming back home and playing the show in the UK,” he says enthusiastically.
“We’ll have about a dozen musicians on stage including my eldest son Stephen and Mo’s daughter Samantha.
“Sammy’s a great singer, whereas Stephen’s voice is more primeval and he’s a great guitarist. It seems the musical streak in our family goes on as dad was a drummer and mum a singer.”
I suggest it is perhaps almost a Bee Gees – The Next Generation?
He laughs: “You said that. Not me!’’
Barry’s voice was the trademark sound of the Bee Gees from the mid-Seventies onwards.
But before they became the kings of disco music, the band had been plying their trade since the 1950s when they were living in Manchester having moved there from the Isle of Man.
“They were wonderful times,” Barry says. “I love Manchester. The sun not going down till 11 at night,’’ he laughs.
“Mum and Dad were always working and we were always in trouble, then destiny took over and we started singing together.”
Along with his two younger brothers, the twins Maurice and Robin, Barry discovered that their voices blended in a unique way and they started singing at every opportunity.
Not long after their brother Andy was born in 1958, the family emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. It was there that they formed The Bee Gees and perfected their harmony style.
Not only that, but they were blossoming song-writers and whilst their song Spicks and Specks was at the top of the Australian charts, Barry (then aged 19), Maurice and Robin (then aged 17) were on their way back to Britain to audition for Robert Stigwood.
Then history was made.
The New York Mining Disaster (1941) and To Love Somebody were their first two singles and their third, Massachutsetts, topped the charts.
“They were great times,” says Barry.
In the early Seventies, the hits dried up and for a time Robin left the group.
“We thought it was over in 1970/71,” says Barry.
“We assumed that every group had about five years in them and we were growing and having families at that time.
“But we never stopped writing and Robert Stigwood was always creating something for us, bless him.”
The resurgence began in 1974 when the album Mr Natural was released with the hit single Jive Talkin’. It was then that Barry’s vocals started to become a focal point.
“The falsetto vocals came about when they were looking for someone to scream really,” he says.
“Arif Mardin, the producer, suggested that we try them out on Nights on Broadway (which was a hit for Candi Staton), and it went from there.”
From that moment on, The Bee Gees became one of the biggest bands on the planet.
“No-one could have foreseen what happened then, all the opportunities were there,” Barry states.
They were asked to supply songs for the movies Saturday Night Fever and Grease – and they delivered.
The three brothers could do no wrong as they had hit after hit.
They were also in demand as writers and producers with hits for Diana Ross (Chain Reaction), Dolly Parton (Islands in the Stream) and Barbra Streisand (Guilty).
“One of us would bring in an idea and we all worked on it,” he says.
“We had a room where we worked and no-one ever saw us write – it was always just the three of us. Robin and Mo were such great talents and it was always a pleasure writing with them.”
The Bee Gees garnered Ivor Novello awards and each were made CBEs in 2002.
After losing his younger brothers and having a heart scare himself a few years ago, Barry is philosophical about life in general.
“It was devastating to lose Maurice and Robin, and it was worse for mum,” he says. “I live in the moment now and I’m learning not to worry about the future.”
* Barry Gibb brings his Anthology tour to the Birmingham LG Arena on Saturday, September 21. For tickets tel: 0844 338 8000