BARRY, ROBIN, MAURICE … AND LESLEY?
Q: I recall that the Bee Gees split up in the late 1960’s but what was the reason for the split and how did their sister Lesley become involved?
A: By the time the Bee Gees emerged from the IBC Studios in London in July 1968 having completed their third international album, Idea, they had written and recorded three albums in one year, all the brothers were taking speed to enable them to maintain the frenetic pace necessary to write and record at least 50 songs a year, and maintain a hectic touring schedule, the fraternal bonds were at breaking point. Substance abuse problems began to divide the group, the names Barry, Robin and Maurice were at this time interchangeable with “potty, pilly and pissy” as they revealed to Rolling Stone magazine in 1991. The first full tour of the US by the band in 1968 was disastrous, tour dates were cancelled due to Robin’s nervous exhaustion and poor ticket sales, it was a financial failure and they would not return to tour the US again until 1971.
Artistic ego was also fracturing the relationship between Barry and Robin, who were respectively the melody and words of the Bee Gees songs. Robin believed that he was not getting due recognition for his efforts, that his song choices for record releases were unappreciated and unsupported, and that Robert Stigwood was more intent on promoting his older brother with the matinee idol looks as the leader and creative focus of the group. The final straw for Robin had been the decision by Barry, supported by Robert Stigwood, to make First of May, a Barry Gibb solo vocal, the first single off the album Odessa, over the competing claims of Robin’s Lamplight.
In 1969 Robin would quit the Bee Gees and embark on a solo career, despite the best efforts of the conciliatory Maurice to broker a peace, the schism continued for the next eighteen months, with the Bee Gees and Robin writing, recording, and performing separately.
After collapsing with nervous exhaustion following his split from the band, Robin barely survived an attempt by his parents Barbara and Hugh to make him a ward of the court due to his perceived addiction to amphetamines,
During this period Robert Stigwood came up with the novel idea of recruiting the brothers’ elder sister Lesley Evans (nee Gibb) to fill in for Robin at live performances and she was rushed from her Sydney home to London to commence rehearsals for an upcoming BBC special: The Talk of the Town: The Bee Gees in London, to a broadcast audience of tens of thousands. Lesley performed creditably but ultimately returned to her husband Keith, her twin daughters and pet Staffordshire bull terriers in Sydney’s west, and rarely reflects on her brief brush with stardom as a member of the most famous band of siblings in popular music history.