I remember when I was a kid, The Bee Gees were always viewed as a joke. Sure, they still appeared on TV, but it was as nostalgia guests on Wogan or Des O’Connor, talking about the old days and Saturday Night Fever and having a laugh, but being just a dinosaur in the era of Duran Duran, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and all ‘our’ new bands. As an adult, I love all three bands and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (why is there no question mark, Gibbs???) is a fantastic look at the band, from their first massive period, through the insane SNF period, to their songwriting for other people period – hell, this band wrote Islands In The Stream and Woman In Love when they were, you know, passe.
It is Noel Gallagher who points out that the first period of the band is very Beatlesque. There is some amazing footage from this period, I had little knowledge of this part of their career, but they were a guitar band, like The Animals or The Zombies, selling out stadiums and having fans laying on top of their cars wherever they went. I had no idea that they had sent a demo to Brian Epstein who passed it on to Robert Stigwood ‘because he was Australian’, it is absolutely fascinating to watch this young, fresh band that you know from the silver jumpsuit years and I will certainly be hitting the Spotify machine to check out more of this side of the band, fantastic.
Aaaand then, Stigwood sets up RSO and asks the boys to write a couple of songs for the soundtrack of a little project called Saturday Night Fever. Of course, it is hard now to know what a risk the film was, John Travolta was not yet an icon and lest we forget this was an 18 certificate film. The band sends a cassette with five songs on it and voila, one of the biggest selling albums of all time is created. Interesting to hear that Night Fever was considered for the film’s title, but sounded according to Stigwood ‘too much like a porno’. Fantastic to hear such snippets of trivia about songs that you thought you knew all about – even better, you always think of Stayin’ Alive as an upbeat disco song, but the band explains that it was about a period in New York, where the city was blighted by blackouts and looting as well as The Son Of Sam. This will forever change how I hear one of the best songs ever written.
There are guests galore here, from the aforementioned Noel, to Eric Clapton, Justin Timberlake, Mark Ronson and Nick Jonas – who explains how being in a band with your brothers differs from just a band of friends. It’s a select version of the traditional ‘talking heads’, but all have something interesting to add to the documentary.
My only dislike here, is actually not what is presented in this excellent documentary, but what is missing. With DVD (it is also on Blu) able to hold hours of extras, there are none here. Nothing. They could have put on music videos, or TV appearances or live footage, there is so much stuff in the main program which is only shown for a few seconds, but obviously exists in its entirety, that it seems strange that none of this is included. I know, I’m basically saying “This golden goose is very golden but can’t you add more gold?” and if you have ever found yourself shuffling to Night Fever, or weeping along to How Deep Is Your Love? then this is an essential music documentary that will send you running back to one of the most under-rated (critically) yet biggest selling artists ever.
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray