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One (BR&M Gibb) 1989 and Alone – (BR&M Gibb) 1997 Bee Gees

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Following the European success of the ESP album, the Gibb brothers began work on One in early 1988, in March of that year their youngest brother Andy suddenly died and the brothers took a break to mourn their loss and spend time with close family (family members above at Andy’s funeral). In November they returned to the Mayfair Studio (London) to complete the album, making One their first album since Mr. Natural to be recorded partly or fully in the British capital. The tone of One was more melancholic than previous albums, the song Wish You Were Here was dedicated to Andy, and other tracks reflected the sombre feelings of the brothers including Tears, and Flesh and Blood.

The title track was a polished, soulful pop song that artfully combined irresistible hooks, with sonic bite and catchy rhythms, and it charted #7 USA, #11 Canada, and #8 Brazil, while the album climbed into the top 40 in nine countries including #4 in Germany, and #29 in the UK and Aust. But the disco-phobic US market was still a no-go zone for Bee Gees albums at this time, although One did bring the band back to US radio there and indicated that future hits in that market were possible. On March 6th 1992 Hugh Gibb died of internal bleeding at the age of 76, he had never recovered from Andy’s death and a drinking problem that he had wrestled with most of his life had become more substantial, Barry commented at the time “I miss my father of course, but he stopped living when Andy died and I’m sure he’s happier now.”  Hugh and Barbara Gibb below.

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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 his remarks Wilson commented on the Bee Gees extraordinary contribution to popular music – “We dare you to listen to the high-flying harmonies of the Bee Gees without singing along. Few bands can say they stuck together for more than forty years, let alone that in that time they sold more than 200 million records. These brothers had an almost supernatural instinct for creating chart-toppers, and their talent in songwriting, production and performance skills lent them an artistic control that established them as Seventies icons.”

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In the same year the band remarkably returned to the charts again after an absence of nearly two decades, with a very successful new album, Still Waters charted #2 in the UK, #10 in Australia and #11 in the US and sold five million copies globally. 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.

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Barry Gibb was inspired to write this song by the feelings of being alone, even when surrounded by family and friends, he described it as the loneliness that a child feels inside, and the way that people seek confirmation and solidarity from others to ward off feelings of isolation or estrangement. During their journey together the brothers had famously split back in 1969, Robin poured out his melancholy and loneliness in Saved By The Bell and other songs, and when the brothers re-united, their first single release was How Do You Mend a Broken Heart, so all three knew what it meant to be alone, even though they were the most famously public band of brothers in the world, and spent most of their working lives together.

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Maurice Gibb explained how the song gradually came together and their use of bagpipes for the first time: “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.”

“I was a midnight rider on a cloud of smoke/ I could make a woman hang on every single stroke/ I was an iron man, I had a master plan/ But I was alone”.

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, an 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.

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