Segarini: The Brothers Gibb

45 years ago this month I was driving back to Stockton from Los Angeles in my brand new Cadillac Eldorado. On the seat next to me was what was left of a bucket of Pioneer Take Out chicken from the little walk-up fast food outlet on Sunset Strip. It was my last stop before hitting the highway home. It was around midnight. I hadn’t eaten all day, and Pioneer made the tastiest, greasiest, chicken you could ever imagine. Next to Pioneer, KFC is flat and sadly tasteless, not to mention that when you bit into a Pioneer thigh or leg, grease squirted everywhere and the flavour of the chicken, the spices, and the breading overwhelmed you with tasty goodness…especially if you had just smoked a joint of Panama Red.

I had made this drive many times over the last few years, and loved doing it in the middle of the night. When the weather was perfect, which it was on this night, the sailing was smooth, the traffic was minimal, and you would stay awake easily thanks to the radio and the long-haul truckers, who would use their headlights to signal you to pass, or warn of police, or tell you when the next gas station or all night diner was coming up. You learned these signals when you toured the West Coast as much as we did, and it made you part of the trucker’s world, not to mention the feeling that someone was always watching your back.

The radio was the other reason traveling at night was such a pleasure. When the weather was right, you could pick up stations from the L.A Basin all the way up into the Grapevine, the mountainous region that separated L.A from the rest of California, part of which encompassed the Angeles National Forest. There were sometimes scary fires there, lighting up the horizon as far as the eye could see. Other times, the Santa Ana winds could kick up enough dust and dirt to sandblast the paint right off of your car…or worse, fan a forest fire into a frightening and destructive threat to life and limb. Where were we…oh yeah, the radio.

The radio is tuned to Art Laboe’s Oldies But Goodies show, and I’m getting my doo-wop fix as I pass the Anhauser-Busch brewery on my way out of the valley. I am also getting grease all over everything, napkins in one hand (also on the steering wheel), the Pioneer bucket in my lap, and a thigh in my other hand, every time I take a bite. Art, on a low watt station somewhere in the valley, starts to fade out, so I punch a preset to KHJ, at the time, my favourite radio station on earth. I believe Johnny Williams was the all night guy. Whoever it was comes out of a record and says, “Something new in the night. Came in today. Doesn’t say who the artist is, but I think you can guess. All we know is their name starts with a B, and they’re from England.” I turn up the radio just in time to hear a strange, melancholy, strummed, guitar chord…then this.

It is a month before the new Beatles LP drops (which I will hear in Portland, Oregon in less than 3 weeks thanks to David Crosby). Could this possibly be a track from the new album? It does sound kind of like the Beatles, but that lead voice is…different. But by then, we never knew what to expect from the Beatles, so…maybe, maybe this was them. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one taken in by this record company’s (Atco) marketing ploy. From Wikipedia: At the time, rumours circulated that the Bee Gees were The Beatles recording under a pseudonym (the Bee Gees’ name was supposedly code for “Beatles Group”), in part because the record referenced NEMS Enterprises (Brian Epstein‘s management agency, which had just been joined by Bee Gees’ manager Robert Stigwood). Atco distributed promos with a blank label and the suggestion that it was an English group whose name started with B. Many DJs thought it was a new Beatles song and played the song heavily. Atco also retitled the song, to make sure people could find it in the shops, “New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones).

I heard the song 3 more times on the way home on three other stations. By the time I got back to Stockton, I couldn’t get it out of my head. That was my introduction to the Bee Gees, Maurice, Robin, and Barry. It is hard for me to accept the fact that only Barry remains, the twins, Maurice and Robin, even younger brother Andy, leaving him behind far too soon, far too young.

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From that night in the Caddy, the Bee Gees became a part of my musical life and heritage that I carry with me to this day. From the early string of hits, the astounding Odessa double album, and the out and out ownership of the record charts during their resurgence in the ‘70s, the Bee Gees joy of performance and those incredible harmonies were an inspiration to me and many of my peers. If you have never heard the Odessa album, here’s the whole thing. Find the time to give it a listen…and remember, this was recorded in 1969. Odessa.

A Little Musical History

They started out as a kid act in Australia, singing on television ala the Osmond Brothers. This was their first Australian television appearance. Barry wrote the song. Time Passing By

However, the Osmonds didn’t tackle Bob Dylan when they were this young…and the incredible gift of harmony has always been there. Blowin’ in the Wind

Their first Number One down under. Spicks and Specks

Robin’s voice. This song was such a throwback even then. People forget the incredible song writing ability the brothers had. That they could sing like only siblings can was icing on the cake. I Started a Joke (and Barry’s First of May)

The Bee Gees brought taste and talent to everything they did (the Sgt. Pepper movie being the one horrible moment, but even they knew it was a mistake.) Say what you want about Disco and the music that sprang forth during that era, but this song still raises the hair on my arms. Too Much Heaven

The last Bee Gees studio album (and the accompanying documentary) got a lot of play on my house when it came out in 2001. They were still writing great songs, still singing wonderful harmonies, and still growing musically. We have lost so much, and my heart breaks for Barry. This is Where I Came In

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When All the Young Dudes signed with Columbia Records back in 1975, we were not prepared for the support we would get from our management and label. Although we were less than happy about how the album turned out, they threw us a party in Montreal that was spectacular in the extreme. CBS rented the Royal Suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal, a $5000 a night showcase of objects de art, antiques, and plush luxury. The main salon alone was bigger than the entire apartment I was living in at the time. The master bedroom (where my ex-wife and I would spend the night) was the room (and the bed) where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spent part of their second honeymoon. Among the party goers…Kim Fowley and Ian Hunter. The day after the party, we left on our first national tour…3 weeks across Canada…opening for the newly reinvented Bee Gees. Their latest album, Main Course, had produced a hit single, Jive Talking, and a new career.

It was a family affair for the brothers Gibb. Along for most of the tour were their father, Hugh, and little brother, Andy. Andy was 14 or so at the time if I’m not mistaken. Barry also had his wife with him, and I think the other brothers had theirs along too. We didn’t see much of Maurice or Robin on the tour. More time was spent with Barry, little brother Andy, and their keyboard player, Blue Weaver.

Let me say this about the Bee Gees. Of all the groups I have ever toured with, they were the most generous, the most helpful, and the most fun to be on the road with.

The first show (in Montreal) set the tone for the whole tour. We got an encore (home town boys make good), and, standing onstage watching us, Barry told us to go ahead and take it. Unthinkable from a headlining act in those days. We also had full use of the P.A and lights, also unusual. After the show, Barry came into our dressing room to congratulate us and welcome us aboard. He looked around the room and asked us where our hot meal, deli trays, liquor and garbage can full of beer was. We told him we didn’t get any of that. From the next show on, we got the same treatment (and perks) that they did.

Barry would have us over to their hotel(s) after some of the shows for KFC. He LOVED that chicken. He also gave me some great advice about writing pop songs (“If you can’t say it in 3 and a half minutes, don’t say it”). When Hugh and Andy left the tour, Hugh thanked me for being so nice to Andy. Years later, I would spend time with Andy again.

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An old school chum who became a previous band’s manager, then lawyer, called me in Toronto from Los Angeles one day and told me he was coming to town to take care of some business with another client and would I like to get together and have dinner. Yes I would.

The dinner took place at Barberians, a fine, traditional steakhouse just off Toronto’s fabled Yonge Street in the heart of the city. There were a half dozen or more of us at the table including John Frankenheimer’s (my lawyer/friend) client…Andy Gibb.

Andy was starring in the stage play Pirates of Penzance with Barry Bostwick and Pam Dawber. We would see the play several times during its run, but it was the late night visits with Andy that I will never forget.

He would show up after the shows at our little house on Armadale Avenue with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a baggie of pot. He would occasionally ask me to find some cocaine, which in those days was not a problem. He was still the nice kid I had met years earlier on the Bee Gees tour, but he was going through a very difficult time in his life.

We would sit on the couch, drink, and get high, and Andy would talk. He needed to talk. After a string of hit records his career had started to falter. He became the host of a television program called Solid Gold, and had developed what was becoming a serious drug problem. Those things weren’t what he talked about though. What he talked about was Victoria Principle, how much he loved her, and how he was losing her because of the drugs and (in his mind) his downward spiraling career. He talked, I listened, and all the while we sat there doing drugs and drinking until the sun came up. We did this many times while he was here in Toronto. We were both our own worst enemies. Andy never recovered from losing Victoria Principle. Some people even blame her for his journey into the abyss, but no…Andy just didn’t pull up in time.

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A family with so many blessings, the Gibbs’. So full of life, so talented, and such a big part of so many of our lives thanks to their music. Someone mentioned to me the other day that they were fascinated by how big an impact entertainer’s deaths have on so many of us, even though we didn’t know them at all, just felt like we did. When something as powerful as music is involved, we do feel like we know these people, and when a Donna Summer, or a Doug Dillard, (two other musician/singers who left us these past few days), passes away, we feel their loss as surely as we feel the loss of a close friend or family member. In the case of Andy, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, I feel a great sadness. I can only imagine what Barry Gibb is feeling, and pray he carries on for a long time to come. Thanks for all the great music Robin, and Maurice, and Andy. Hope you are singing together somewhere right now. An Everlasting Love

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Segarini’s column appears every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

20 Responses to “Segarini: The Brothers Gibb”

  1. Excellent piece, Bob. Great memories.

  2. Wow, thanks for a peek behind the red velvet curtains…

  3. Dean Thut Says:

    Great story ,Bob. I assume the acetate that David Crosby turned you on to was Sgt Peppers.

  4. Howard Brown Says:

    Great piece of wrting Robert….Panama Red!!!!! Ahhhhh
    The memories

  5. Jim McRae Says:

    As an entertainer who has travelled many roads myself I know we sometimes get close to others who have made the “big time.” These little snapshots make our lives richer like nothing else can. Thanks for the stories Bob of the Bee Gee family. It reminds me of the ones I’ve been fortunate enough to experience also.

  6. Thanks Bob – caught your link on facebook and will look for your blog from now on. Was that Elderado red with white leather guts?

  7. Dave Charles Says:

    Bob,

    Had the pleasure to meet the Bee Gees twice. Once in Toronto and again the Melbourne. Nice people and great songs! RIP Robin. Thanks for another great piece. Dave Charles

  8. Barry McKillican Says:

    Great story…Thanks for the memories…

  9. Thanks for inviting us in, Bob. It’s nice to know that some of your heroes where and are gentlemen too.
    As silly as it may seem, one of my fondest memories is delivering the morning paper and hearing Holiday on my transistor radio. I can even remember what street I was on at the time. Funny what songs can trigger.
    The Odessa Lp was killer. I srill have my red velvet Lp jacket. Peaceful journey Robin Gibb…

  10. Steve Mortenson Says:

    Absolutely wonderful piece Bob. Well done! I, too, had the pleasure of meeting Andy (Gibb) in August, 1977, at the CNE. His solo career was just taking off at that time. What a genuine chap he was.
    Very friendly and approachable. Sadly, now there is just one brother left. To Barry, and the whole family, go my most sincere condolences. The world has suffered so many entertainment losses recently. This one hits home very hard indeed.
    Steve
    (England)

  11. marty hogan Says:

    Thank you for that intertaining story. I partied one night (very lightly) with Andy in 1986 and he was so gracious. I have met the entire family at one time or another and they truly are generous and pleasant to be with. You had a great journey there – something few artists get to enjoy. Thanks for sharing and our hearts go out to Barbara and Barry and the entire family.

  12. Tim Stull Says:

    Bob is back….Wonderful work Bob. Oh do I remember. There were tunes that when they hit…stuck forever in my musical psyche. “The New York Mining Disaster”, (the Stones) “Wild Horses”, (Stephan Stills) “Love the One Your With” and “Sit Yourself Down”, and many…many more. It is not a genera per say; it is my life. Each of these tunes sealed a moment in the amber of my soul. “Give Me Some Teenage Love” may be the only that got more than one… Thanks Bob. Please keep writing.

  13. Max Brand Says:

    Great story Bob and thanks for sharing cause you pretty much knew the Gibb Family and they were musical geniuses of every sense of the word. I’ll be doing a internet radio show on June 20th comemorating the month aniversary of of Donna Summer & Robin Gibb so tune in to Thwe Phoenbix Radio Program for that. http://www.fenx.us from 6:00 till 10:00.

  14. Jim Chisholm in Campbell River, BC Says:

    Hi Bob
    I got to this blog at a late date but it still hit home. I would like to add a note … i’s not something that occurred to me at all before, but The BeeGees vocal prowess seems to have had a great influence on your music and in particular those great Wackers vocal tracks. Just sayin’. You wore it well.

  15. Thanks for sharing your stories!! I enjoyed reading about your time spent with Andy Gibb!!! I am a big fan and he always seemed to be such a nice person! He left us too soon!!

  16. Deborah CRISTINA Says:

    Thank you so much, Bob!!!
    Your sharing is so precious for me…
    Andy’s smile, eyes, talent and kindness will never pass!
    Big hugs from Italy… Deborah

  17. StageDoor Lady Says:

    Wonderful writing. The way you moved from Pioneer Chicken, all-night FM radio, and night driving in Southern California to the requiem for the Gibbs brothers is genius. Your writing is both current and evocative of the times, making your stories small treasure boxes. Thank you.

  18. martin hogan Says:

    I met them all. The entire family and I still cannot go through a day when I am not listening to some song they had recorded. Thank you!

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