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Lonely Days (B R&M Gibb) and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? (B&R Gibb) – Bee Gees 1971

The process of re-uniting the Bee Gees was torturous, both Maurice and Barry had released solo singles during the period of the split and developed solo albums, Barry with The Kid’s No Good and Maurice with The Loner, but neither were ever released, although bootleg copies have emerged. Robin had succeeded with the Bee Gees sound-a-like single Saved By the Bell but his album Robin’s Reign had flopped, it seemed that the time was drawing near for the sniping and soap opera of their split to end.robin gibbMaurice was once again the conciliator, and he soon reached rapprochement with his twin brother, they recruited support musicians including replacement drummer Geoff Bridgford (ex-Tin Tin) and advised Barry that they were going to record with or without him, Barry waited to see if his new solo single I’ll Kiss Your Memory was going to be a hit, it wasn’t, and he too returned to the fold. On June 13th. 1970, the re-united Bee Gees went into the Nova and IBC Studios in London to record their new album, the reflectively, if unimaginatively – titled 2 Years On, as it marked the end of the period of fraternal schism in the group and avoided what was developing into a costly lawyer’s picnic trying to unravel their various business interests and overlapping copyright and royalty arrangements.bee gees17Lonely Days was the only single lifted from this generally uninspiring album, it had started life as a Maurice-inspired piano instrumental piece, but Barry and Robin had exchanged vocal ad-libs to create an altogether different and engaging song, the old magic in the studio had returned.

It was also no coincidence that the Beatles had released their Abby Road album the year before, and the market was artfully appropriating its exotic sounds, song structures and production aesthetics. Lonely Days owes a debt to the Beatles Carry That Weight and Golden Slumbers, the changing tempos and rich harmonies are Beatles-esque, and the alternating piano and string and horn arrangements by BiIl Shepherd (below), were sweet and melodious, beautifully underscoring the ever-present timbre and ethereal harmonies of the three brothers.bill shepherdMaurice shared lead vocals for the first time on a major single release, he had supported both his brothers during the split, performed creditably in the stage musical Sing A Rude Song and mentored and produced the ex-pat Aussie group Tin Tin to an international hit with Toast and Marmalade for Tea, he had won some belated recognition from his brothers, and for the skills he brought to the group. Maurice again played piano and bass on Lonely Days, and his brothers were responsible for the less than inspiring opening line “Good morning Mr. Sunshine…”

Lonely Days was a #3 hit in the USA and their first million-seller in that country and the first by an Australian group there, #9 in Aust and top 40 in the UK, the band were putting their personal troubles behind them, and barely two months after completing the recording of 2 Years On, they were back in the IBC Studios with Robert Stigwood to record their next album, Trafalgar.bee gees18Alarm bells went off when it was noted that the album gatefold cover included a montage of the group members re-enacting the death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, newly-recruited drummer Geoff Bridgford was reading a Beezer comic and there was also an appearance by the brothers’ dad Hugh Gibbs (top left) – it was bizarre! But the brothers were back in harmony again, although the demarcations between them about who got songwriting credits were more pedantically drawn, and Robin exercised his right to only sing on certain songs, so that he did not provide vocals on half of the album.bee gees 21The first single lifted from Trafalgar was the poignant romantic ballad How Can You Mend a Broken Heart on which Barry and Robin shared lead vocals, the brothers duet here is brilliant, Robin’s tremulous first verse solo is counterpointed with Barry’s breathy falsetto response, perfectly blending the tonality and harmonies of two great voices This was the first of nine US #1 hits for the Bee Gees and it was the makeup song that the boys had to record to bring the group back together, it was literally how they mended their broken hearts, and also kept Stiggy (Robert Stigwood) happy.

A moderately successful tour of the US, and a triumphant return tour of Australia in 1971, augered well for the future of the reformed Bee Gees, but musical tastes were changing, and the brothers would face challenging times in the future.


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