To Love Somebody – (B &R Gibb) and Holiday (B&R Gibb) – Bee Gees 1967
The impeccable Everly Brothers-style vocal harmonies that would characterize their many hits, was evident on their album Bee Gees 1st. from which the sublimely soulful baroque pop of To Love Somebody was the second single released. Barry performed lead vocals and the arrangement and lush orchestration by Bill Shepherd were right on the money, the exquisite use of strings – violin, harp, cello – lent a stately elegance to the song and it became an instant standard.
The song was originally written with the band’s manager Robert Stigwood in mind as he had asked Barry Gibb to write a song for him, and although Stigwood was an influential member of London’s gay showbiz establishment, known as the Pink Mafia, Barry Gibb has denied that there were any homoerotic undertones to the song, rather it was a tribute to a person that he greatly respected. Barry has stated that To Love Somebody was his favorite Bee Gees song as it “had a clear emotional message”, a knowing observation by the leader of a group which has been criticized for writing lyrics that were abstract and indirect, shying away from telling their specific stories and sharing their life’s experiences.
The song was written while the brothers were in New York, and recorded at the IBC Studio in Portland Place, London, in March 1967, on four-track recording equipment which was augmented by mixing the first four tracks onto one or two tracks on a second tape, leaving tracks open on the second tape so that more instrumental and vocal effects could be added.
The brothers had played a demo of the song to Otis Redding with a view to the great soul man recording it, but sadly he died in a plane crash late in 1967 before he could. In his absence however, we are left with the Bee Gees original version of this elegantly tender ballad as well as the definitive soul version of the same song by Nina Simone which charted #5 in the UK, and a more bluesy version by Janis Joplin, Michael Bolton took the song to #11 in the US and others including Leonard Cohen have also covered this song, searching for the DNA in its musical nooks and crannies.
The evocative To Love Somebody became an enduring and much-covered ballad which hit the charts internationally – #6 in Australia, #17 in the US and #40 in the UK.
The promo clip is a straightforward miming of the song for a European TV show, only the three brothers appear, even though both Vince Melouney and Colin Petersen had joined the band at this time.
Maurice is seated at the piano and Barry sings lead with Robyn providing backing vocals, the video is a time capsule of mid-1960’s fashions – neck scarves, paisley and flower power jackets, Barry is particularly sartorial in striped pants, beads, frilly cuffed shirt and white boots.
Holiday was not a hit for the Bee Gees in Australia nor the UK as it was only ever released as an album track in these countries, but when released as a single it charted #16 in the US and was a typically lush production with Robin on lead vocals and Barry singing backup, the lyrics were somewhat opaque, and the de, de de, de dees sounded as though the lyrics were unfinished . The song is predicated on the metaphor that a woman is like a holiday – anticipated, enjoyed, and remembered, that’s nice.
The Bee Gees 1st album was an international hit and attracted favorable reviews, charting #10 in Aust, #8 in UK, #7 USA and top ten in France, West Germany and Norway; they would soon launch themselves on the giant US market and their next single, Massachsetts, would confirm their popularity there. In 1967 the Bee Gees output was prodigious, they released no less than four international hit records in the seven months between May – December 1967 – New York Mining Disaster 1941, To Love Somebody, Massachusetts and World.