The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: Robin Gibb Goes Solo in ’69
Robin Gibb will be remembered as the falsetto voice on countless Bee Gees hits from 'Massachusetts' to 'Stayin' Alive'. Back in 1969, however, Gibb briefly split from brothers Barry and Maurice and commenced an intermittent solo career with the UK smash hit 'Saved by the Bell'. Keith Altham interviewed him for Top Pops magazine in August of that year——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
With Robin Gibb hurtling up the charts with his first solo single, 'Saved by the Bell', it would appear that the answer to the question, "Who was the key figure in the Bee Gees' success?" has been firmly given. If Robin had a motto it would be covered by that line from the Max Bygraves hit of yesteryear — "You've Gotta Have Heart."
"I don't sing with my voice, I sing with my heart," Robin informed me during a recent interview. "I sing how I feel. I know I haven't got a great voice but I manage to touch something inside other people that they understand. It is an accident but the best kind of accident — one with no blood involved."
Robin quite rightly believes that his distinctive vocal style is an important ingredient in his success although he likes people to listen to the lyrics he writes as well. The imperfect, broken quality of his voice is something that he quite deliberately retains and regards the suggestion of taking singing lessons with understandable indignation.
"If I did that it would not be me, would it?" he says. "Dylan sings in the same way as me. He uses his heart as an instrument. Even I can't understand completely why this works but it does. It's not possible for any artist to jump outside themselves and see themselves for what they are. Even when you look in a mirror you get a reversed image!"
There has never been any secret made of the fact that Robin is an over-sensitive personality and he reacts like a finely strung instrument to the vibrations of life as those tensions and frustrations tear at him. He maintains that he has never objected to constructive criticism but that gossip in the press and those elements who seem intent upon prying into his private life both hurt and anger him.
"I actually like constructive criticism in the press but there is too little of it," said Robin. "The thing that really hurt me, and was the deciding factor on my splitting from the Bee Gees, concerned a feature which was conducted between a reporter and my wife. It took things entirely out of context which she had said and slandered both my character and her own. It made it look as though Molly was a bad influence on me instead of the inspiration she is."
What other inspirations does this talented young composer draw his work from?
"Perhaps because I am unduly sensitive, things like the Hither Green rail crash in which I was involved affect me deeply," said Robin. "That had a lasting effect upon me — I saw bodies and people being given the last rites. I'm frightened stiff of death.
"It also enabled me to work out who my friends were. The curious merely wanted to know whether I had seen any dead bodies — the friends were those who wanted to know how I felt.
"Sometimes things that I read touch me — writers like Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens affect me. I read this piece in one of Dickens' books where he was trying to get published an article condemning the spectacle of public hangings. The law of the day slapped a writ on him for interfering with public entertainment!"