Following their initial assault on international charts between 1967 to 1971 the Bee Gees endured three hitless years in the UK and USA from 1972 – 1975, but the more R&B/soul-flavored albums Main Course and Children of the World produced two US #1 hits in Jive Talkin’ and You Should Be Dancing. The success of these albums would ultimately be dwarfed by the phenomenal 40 million- seller disco classic Saturday Night Fever.There was however a considerable backlash after the phenomenal success of Saturday Night Fever, so the brothers had kept active by writing and producing hits for other artists including, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, and Dionne Warwick, but they craved success as the Bee Gees.The brothers had collaborated on a soundtrack to a sequel to Saturday Night Fever, unimaginatively entitled Stayin’ Alive, directed by Sylvester Stallone, whose brother Frank also contributed songs to the soundtrack. The sequel again starred John Travolta as Tony Manero and featured five new Bee Gees songs, there were no single hits from the soundtrack, The Woman In You peaked at #73 on the local charts, but the film’s soundtrack album did good business internationally shifting 4.5 million units on the strength of the original blockbuster.In 1987 they were reunited with producer Arif Mardin (above) in Miami, where they had first found their funky R&B dance groove in the 70’s, the ESP album was the result, and the first single released from the album in August 1987, was You Win Again. The title had been borrowed from a Hank Williams song although the brothers were originally unaware of the Williams song and had thought that their title was perhaps too similar, to a 1977 hit by Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again.The song features truncated verses, key changes, codas, ad-libs, lead vocals by Barry who also composed the melody, synthesizer by Robbie Kondor, and a stomping percussion developed by Maurice Gibb and drum programmer Rhett Lawrence, who had demoed the drums in Maurice’s garage. Warner Bros. did not approve the mix, as the Bee Gees had not previously featured dominant percussion on their singles, but the brothers fought to retain the sound, which became the most distinctive feature of the track, booming out at the opening to the song. Phil Collins was so impressed with the stomping percussion that he asked Maurice for a copy, and it duly appeared on Collins many hits throughout the eighties.
The monochrome promo video for the song features the brothers in a studio sharing a microphone, Barry’s beard and ponytail, Robin’s mullet and beret and Maurice’s fedora and designer stubble, were all very 80’s chic. By now the brothers were estranged from Robert Stigwood and litigation over unpaid royalties and attempted unfair restraint of trade related to the single Chain Reaction for Diana Ross, was in train, these matters were ultimately the subject of a huge out-of-court settlement and the warring litigants parted company in 1981.The song was an international hit, #1 in the UK and throughout Europe and top ten in Aust, selling 1.5 million copies, however the disco backlash still stymied the band in the US and You Win Again stalled at #75, but they would return to the top 10 in the States in 1989 with One. The success of You Win Again in the UK meant that the Bee Gees were the only band to have UK #1 hits in three consecutive decades – 60’s, 70’s and 80’s- and only Lennon and McCartney have written more US #1 hits than the Gibb brothers.The recording session for ESP was again punctuated by discord between Barry and Robin, Maurice continued to pacify his siblings long enough to complete the album, but the death of their younger brother Andy the following year caused Maurice to resume his heavy drinking. Touring was becoming less feasible due to Barry’s severe arthritic back condition, so their live commitments were limited and became increasingly so in the future.In 1997 the Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio by Brian Wilson, in a ceremony that also inducted Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell, the Jackson 5 and the Young Rascals, on that night the Bee Gees were the star turn.In the same year the band remarkably returned to the charts again after an absence of nearly two decades, with a successful new album, Still Waters charted #2 in the UK, #10 in Australia and #11 in the US and sold five million copies. The lead single was the bagpipe-driven ballad Alone, which featured dual lead vocals by Barry and Robin and was produced by the three brothers and Russ Titleman, it charted well internationally climbing into the top 5 in the UK, top 30 in the US, and top 10 in Australia and most other markets, with sales in excess of 1.5 million copies.
Maurice Gibb explained about the track: “That was one of the first ones we wrote for the album… I got some bagpipe sounds and BG programmed this groove on the computer, we thought it was cool. We don’t usually go in and plan to write a ballad or an R&B song. We just say, ‘Let’s go that route,’ and we’ll follow it, and Alone came out of that. I love the line ‘I’m on a wheel of fortune with a twist of fate”, and because the harmony and the chorus was like a bit of ’50s as well. I also liked the idea of it being a sort of Beatlesque type of song and rambling like a kind of Byrds 12-string guitar sound. We weren’t too sure about the bagpipes, but Robin persisted, he said, ‘They’re great; you gotta keep the bagpipes…It was a very exciting demo.”
Two promotional videos directed by Nick Egan were made for the song, the first one, not shown in the United States, featured the brothers singing in a spinning room intercut with a female astronaut slowly removing her space suit in zero gravity, a homage to the opening of the 1968 sci-fi cult film Barbarella.The promo for the US featured the brothers recording the song in a studio, intercut with various clips of the brothers throughout the years, as well as segments of the original video.Australia farewelled the brothers at a massive live concert at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium at Homebush in March 1999, in front of 72,000 fans. The Bee Gees were once described by Barry as “the enigma with the stigma” in a reference to the critics who had often unfairly dubbed them Beatles clones, or disco dance dissemblers. Barry was particularly sensitive to such criticism, but with a stellar career of more than forty years in show business, the brothers Gibb were truly amazing, they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in recognition of their three decades of amazing music in 1997, along with Paul Kelly and Graham Bell. Sadly Maurice, affectionately known as Mo, passed away in early 2003 as did his twin brother Robin, affectionately known as Bodding, who died in 2012.