Book review: The Bee Gees: The Biography

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 4:39pm

The Bee Gees: The Biography
by David Meyer
Da Capo Press
2 stars

Howard Cohen

The Bee Gees: The Biography is touted as the first narrative biography of the group "with two years of investigative research".

There's a compelling story to be told about this family act, which sold more than 250 million records, wrote countless multi-genre classics, helped put Miami on the pop music map, and suffered the loss of three of the four brothers: solo artist Andy at age 30 in 1988, Maurice at 53 (2003) and Robin, last year, at 62.

This book, however, is a woeful missed opportunity that rehashes previously published accounts. It spends a chapter reviewing Barry Gibb's first solo concert in 2012 at Hollywood's Hard Rock Live yet fails to detail more significant topics such as the surviving brothers' falling-out after Maurice died in 2003 from a twisted intestine.

Meyer, obviously not a fan of the Bee Gees' music no matter how much he protests otherwise, is entitled to criticise the trio's music: "The Bee Gees' tracks, save one, have not aged well … No late-period Bee Gees track offers a greater conundrum than Stayin' Alive. A closer listen reveals the core problem. The vocal-only tracks from Stayin' Alive are hard, ugly and effortful. The harshness of the vocals is a hidden time bomb in the song, making it hard to listen all the way through," he writes.

Meyer's prose reaches a vulgar nadir when his observations curdle into outrageous, crass juvenilia. Fanny (Be Tender With My Love), a 1975 hit and clearly an innocuous love song to a woman named Fanny, elicits this response: "It's a Robin, one-off dirty joke, either for the benefit of, or at the expense of, their gay audience.

And then: "The lyrics of More Than a Woman seem both a wink to, and a dirty joke at the expense of disco's gay demographic. How Deep is Your Love addresses another of Robin's recurring obsessions, if his studio-wall drawings are any guide: penis size. Perhaps this issue stemmed from sibling rivalry."

This drivel is a "Tragedy".