Bee Gees' Comeback Is No Jive Talkin'

The Bee Gees In Our Own Time Eagle Vision, 116 minutes, $14.98.

When you think of musical "comebacks," perhaps the greatest one belongs to the Bee Gees. Think about it: In their mid-20s, the Manchester, England-born Brothers Gibb had already had success as children/teens in Australia (whence the family had emigrated), a string of international pop, storytelling and psychedelia-tinged hits, and had even already broken up and gotten back together.

But by the mid-'70s, the band was floundering - hitless, listless, and directionless until two things occurred: They collaborated with producer Arif Mardin in an attempt to move into a more R&B sound, and then Barry heard an odd "chukka-chuka-chuka" rhythm while in a car crossing a bridge. The rhythm became the basis for the hit "Jive Talkin'."

A couple of years later, the band was hired to write a few danceable numbers for this film about a horny Guido paint-store clerk who blew his money at a disco every weekend.

That was Saturday Night Fever, and the Bee Gees-heavy soundtrack was No. 1 on the album charts...for six months. In the process, they became the biggest band in the world. Now that's a comeback.

In Our Own Time is a generous, two-hour-plus documentary on the 50-plus year career of the Brothers Gibb, stuffed full with vintage television clips, concert footage, still photos and - most importantly - extensive interviews with all three members.

That includes Maurice, who died unexpectedly in 2003, and whose own musical contributions to the band are shown to be greater than most casual fans would think.

The brothers are also surprisingly candid about their music and each other, even when Barry and Robin are seated together. They also delve into the deaths of Maurice and non-Bee Gee brother Andy Gibb with genuine heartfelt remembrances, especially in the case of Andy's booze- and-drug-fueled demise.

And that patented Barry Gibb falsetto? Turns out it was only released from his bearded throat after some goofing around at the end of recording "Nights on Broadway."

"I didn't even know I could sing falsetto!" Barry recalls.

The DVD's one weak spot is that is spends too much on the band's career in the past 25 years with long-performance videos and screen time (and Celine Dion). It's not that the group hasn't produced good music - for themselves and others - in that time period, it just gives more it relevance than that arc of their career deserves.

One glaring omission is any mention or footage of 1978's Sgt. Pepper musical movie which, love it or hate it, was a pretty significant event in the band's career, but has simply been excised from their official history.

Somewhere, George Burns is weeping.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero