THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"BEE GEES: IN OUR OWN TIME"
Nothing against the Beatles, the Stones, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, or Bruce Springsteen, but you can have 'em. For me, the greatest act in music history is the Bee Gees. I grew up with them, their songs serving as a soundtrack for my childhood. As an adult, I still listen to the group, even though my overall musical tastes have veered more toward the realm of alternative rock. There's just something to be said for the Bee Gees' ultra-catchy songs, their incredible harmonizing, and the richness of their instrumentation. It was therefore with great interest that I sat down to watch Bee Gees: In Our Own Time, a two-hour documentary now on DVD. To sum it up in two words: total bliss.
The disc mixes extensive new interviews with Barry and Robin Gibb with an archival Maurice Gibb interview, recorded not too long before his death. Together, the brothers retrace their history, starting from the moment when, as kids, they spontaneously harmonized on the song "Lollipop" and realized they were on to something. Australian TV appearances as children led to an adolescent journey to England, where they hoped to ride the British New Wave. Record company execs forced two additional members upon them, in an effort to create a "band." After some mild success, they briefly called it quits, only to reunite as a Gibb-only trio. Things really started to click when they hooked up with legendary producer Robert Stigwood, who put them on the path to superstardom.
In Our Own Time looks at most of the seminal events in the group's career, from their segue into "disco" music, to the accidental evolution of their trademark falsetto sound during the recording of "Nights on Broadway," to the phenomenon of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. This last bit caused the Bee Gees to become so saturated in pop culture that they had to disappear for a while. Maurice Gibb recalls that when radio stations started advertising "Bee Gee-free weekends," they knew the backlash had begun.
The Gibbs also talk about writing songs for other artists, how they created their famous soundscapes, and, most touchingly, the effect the death of their brother Andy had. The younger Gibb, who wanted to be part of the group but found success as a solo artist, unwisely turned to drugs and alcohol, only to die way too young while his older siblings stood by unable to help. Perhaps that's why, years later, Maurice followed his brothers' advice when they told him to go to rehab for alcohol abuse.
The documentary concludes with Barry and Robin talking about the equally unexpected death of Maurice, who suffered a heart attack after going to the hospital for a twisted intestine. In the wake of his passing, the two remaining Bee Gees didn't know what to do. Barry says he felt there were no Bee Gees without Maurice, while Robin felt his brother would want them to go on. The final scenes show us the men performing together again, with an announcement that they have new projects in the works. This excites me more than I express with words.
If you're a Bee Gees fan, this DVD is a must-own. It's packed with great archival footage of the group performing at all stages of their career. Some of this stuff I'd never seen before, including their earliest TV appearances and some great in-studio film of them recording "Tragedy." Hearing the Gibbs tell their own story is the masterstroke, though. There's no outside narration - just three men giving you the lowdown on the highs and lows of an incomparable career.
My sole complaints are things that only a die-hard completist would nitpick about. There's no mention of the Gibbs' ill-fated foray into movie stardom, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The bizarre estrangement and semi-public feud between Barry and Robin following Maurice's death is just barely referenced, and even then only in vague terms. Stuff like that.
But hey - as George Carlin once said, you can't have everything (because where would you put it?). Besides, there's more than enough here to make this essential viewing for the Bee Gees fan. In Our Own Time is a thoroughly engaging viewing experience, made sublime by cranking up the volume on your surround sound system.
( 1/2 out of four)