In Honor of Robin Gibb, Here's His Greatest Hits, "The End of a Quaver"
If you first learned of Robin Gibb's deteriorating health from Facebook, it was through links to newspaper articles and not the usual reposting of YouTube music videos, in part because trying to come up with appropriate song to put out there proved difficult. So many of Robin's greatest moments were the ones when joy and hope seemed in short supply and death hung overhead like a beautiful dark cloud.
OK, maybe "Staying Alive" would be a good one and "Tragedy" another, but that's latter day Bee Gees, when Barry Gibb's falsetto and swashbuckler hairy chest took center stage. It it is the early Bee Gees where Robin's unearthly quaver and frail posture reigned supreme, a time when songs about people dying in mining accidents and men condemned to die in the electric chair were not only commonplace, they were worldwide million-sellers.
Here, for the benefit of those who never had a broken heart that needed mending, are some of Robin Gibb's Greatest Hits.
"New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mister Jones)"
This was the first Bee Gees single released in this country and the opening salvo of Robin's reign. Initial copies of the record were given to deejays sans label copy, leading many to think the song was by the Fab Four themselves. Imagine how many early acid experiments must have gone awry overhearing a nearby radio blast Robin's morbid buried alive advice, "Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide."
"Red Chair, Fade Away"
Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices ranked Bee Gees' first as one of his his all-time favorites, almost as trippy as anything the Fabs and the Pink Floyd were up to at the time and made odder by the insanely lush orchestration. Tucked away on that long player was a song many Wallace and Ladmo fans might recognize as "The Time Machine" theme but in its original Bee Gees incarnation was a song about when Grandpa Gibb told the children scary fairy tales, leading Barry to switch into panic mode. ("IT'S FILLING UP THE AIR!") and his younger brothers to chant "red chair fade away" until the track becomes inaudible. Over that, you can hear Robin's eerie quaver like a frightened baby being carried away by a pterodactyl. In a word: weird. It should be noted that none of the brothers were on the other side of 20 years-old when this album was written and released.
Only Robin knows why the puppet makes you smile. And it's unkind.
"And the Sun Will Shine"
The Horizontal album features even more of Robin's quavering voice than the first one. At one point his vibrato here goes into overdrive, almost sounding like the first recorded instance of strangulation on a pop record. Then all at once, it's quiet, and Robin confers "Then I wake up, then I grow up."