I’m first and foremost a metal boy, with 18 years kickboxing my only sport, so I guess it’s a little strange to be heaping praise on the Bee Gees, but today I read that Robin Gibb has liver cancer. The Bee Gees are, of course, famous for the amazing Saturday Night Fever, but they achieved much more than that, of course, and were ultimately credited with sales of 220 million records (according to wikipedia). And, like me, they’re British migrants to Australia.
Obviously the Bee Gees’ music is impressive and exciting, but the thing that I really admire about them, and which is very clear if you look at any of their videos on youTube, or watch any of the movie Saturday Night Fever, is that they come from a time before machismo. In the modern era – especially in Australia – to be a man means to be big, rough, and macho. But back when the Bee Gees reached their zenith, machismo really wasn’t a necessary part of the look, and you could be as poncy and as decorative as you wanted and still be taken seriously. Watch the intro to Night Fever from Saturday Night Fever, or the final dance scene, and you see what I mean: this is a slim man in tight lycra, who is the epitome of manliness in his age. Indeed, back in that time even Dirty Harry didn’t have a physique to speak of, and there was not a tattoo in sight. This is a world where men are judged by their sexual prowess and their deeds, not by how many tough stickers they have or how much time they have spent in the gym. This is the world that metal exploded into, scrawny and spandexed and glittery and bold, only to be dragged down into the dirt 10 years later by the likes of Pantera and Henry Rollins as men’s modern performance anxieties trumped their natural desire to strut, and they withdrew into their brittle modern macho shell. The Bee Gees, with their tight pants and super harmonies, hark back to an era before men had to be tough, when dressing well, moving well and being a man was more important than ranting and raving and looking a man. Is it a coincidence that women of that era were proudly unwaxed? I think not!
So, once again, as we get older we’re faced with the sad reality of the stars of our childhood growing old and getting sick. So here’s to the Bee Gees, masters of disco, and their time that has passed…
fn1: May his name be cursed through the ages