I bought The Bee Gees’ 1st a few months back because I love Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You with a real passion. One of the finest songs ever written, if you ask me. Not asking? Of course you are. Anyhoo, I first heard that song about 10 years ago and thought “there’s no way that’s the Bee Gees”. It’s incredible. It led to me check out their early stuff and, as you can probably guess, I liked what I heard. See, before the mega-popular disco shenanigans, the Bee Gees made some fairly splendid records (granted, some may consider the disco stuff to be fairly splendid, but the older records are splendid-er).
Although not their first, The Bee Gees’ 1st is their first international release (they had released Bee Gees Sing And Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs in Australia in 1965 and scored a hit with Spicks And Specks the following year). Like I say, there’s nothing to throw shapes at; it’s all dreamy psychedelic poppery here. Think Everly Brothers, Hollies, and that obscure band from Liverpool that called themselves The Beatles or something. Now sprinkle on some 13th Floor Elevators, The Beach Boys, Love, and Walker Brothers. It really is marvellous stuff; overflowing with beautiful melodies, harmonies, swelling strings, and, well, just an overall loveliness.
And, did I mention Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You is one of the greatest songs ever written? No, well, Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You is one of the greatest songs ever written. Fact.
Most folks will know the overflowing loveliness of To Love Somebody (which, according to my sources, was written for Otis Reading, but he never got the chance to record it), but the rest of the album is seriously stellar. The psychedelic pop rhythm shenanigans no better illustrated than on Red Chair, Fade Away. Seriously, that one plays like yon Beatles lot channeling Love (with heavy hints of Strawberry Fields Forever).
As well as having loads of nice kooky moments, brilliant vocal melodies and a bunch of nice rhythms, there’s also some lush string arrangements in there too. Sure, some of it might sound like it’s trying to tug at the heartstrings a wee bit too much, but it often shimmers and adds a rather sparkling effect when you listen with the sun splashing through the window (though admittedly the blinds are down and it’s, eh, dark out – but you get the drift, right?). Then there’s the melancholic beauty of the likes of New York Mining Disaster 1941, I Can’t See Nobody, and the tremendousness of Holiday.
Red Chair, Fade Away is a psychedelic masterpiece. Seriously – one of the absolute best tracks you’ll ever hear. It’s got some great vocals and mellotron (I love mellotron – the musical Transformer. Or the Transformer fruit, right?). It also signals a pretty stellar run, with the ‘blue eyed soul’ of One Minute Woman, the Beatles-esque In My Own Time, and the truly wonderously splendiferous Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You. Seriously good stuff. Did I mention that one is one of the greatest songs ever written? etc etc.
There’s a lot of great stuff on Side B. New York Mining Disaster 1941 is full of melancholy and the beat and rhythms are spot on … everything just moving with an understated beauty. Vocally? Woah. Tremendous. There’s not much else to say about To Love Somebody, but I Close My Eyes is all technicolor splendour and I Can’t See Nobody is as good as sad blue eyed soul jams get. Cucumber Castle isn’t quite as bonkers good as the title would have you hope, but Please Read Me is pretty spectacular. A loose groove and a chorus that Lennon and McCartney would have killed for. Seriously.
The Bees Gees’ 1st is definitely a winner. An album as wonderful as that Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s, and as psychedelically splendiferous as Disraeli Gears and The Doors. Just a shame that it isn’t remembered as fondly. Or at all (probably fondly by those who dug it, though). Timeless.
… and the cover is by that man Klaus Voormann. Responsible for Revolver and Harry Nilsson’s Knnillssonn.