BEE GEES – IN OUR OWN TIME (2010)
Featuring Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb (archival footage) & Andy Gibb (archival footage).
Directed by Skot Bright.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 116 minutes. Not Rated.
Over thirty years on from their blindingly bright supernova of stardom, in which the Bee Gees rivaled the Beatles for all-time chart supremacy (in the summer of ’78, it was a regular occurrence for the top five singles on the Billboard charts to have all been written and/or performed by the Gibb Brothers), the idea most people have of the band is pretty much skewed.
Most people still look at them as a disco band. This is possibly even an understandable misapprehension as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack sold 25 million copies and to this day is one of the five top selling albums ever.
However, the Bee Gee’s music was so much more diverse than the disco tag could ever encompass (and this is coming from someone who loves disco) and frankly even much of their Saturday Night Fever music was not technically disco music.
The Bee Gees had been around and popular for well over a decade before their dance breakthrough and they continued recording together until brother and band member Maurice Gibb died in the early 2000s.
In Our Own Time – named after a song, “In My Own Time,” from their 1967 debut album 1st – gives a smart career overview of the band, looking in all the different nooks and crannies of the band’s songbook and makes a very strong case that the Bee Gees are one of the great bands of popular music history.
The film is made up of new interviews with Barry and Robin Gibb and different collaborators and friends from over the years, as well as extensive archival interview footage with Maurice.
Starting in the mid-60s as an Australian boy-group (the Gibbs were actually born in Manchester, England, but their parents moved them to Australia just before the British Invasion hit), In Our Own Time showed what a chameleonic musical act the boys were from the very beginning, able to embrace and improve the styles of musical contemporaries such as The Everly Brothers, the Hollies, even putting together spot-on pastiches of the Beatles. By the time they returned to England in 1967 they essentially lucked into superstardom, releasing several albums and even more hits by the early 1970s – including such classics as “To Love Somebody,” “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” “Run To Me,” “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart,” “Lonely Days” and “Massachusetts.”
However, by the mid-70s the band’s ballad-heavy output had started to lose their base of popularity and thus the band had one of the most complete reinventions in music history. They were always fans of soul and R&B music but were afraid as white Brits they would not be taken seriously. However, legendary musical producer Arif Mardin talked the brothers into exploring that side of their music. This led to the Main Course LP – which changed the band’s course with the dance singles “Jive Talkin’” and “Nights on Broadway” – as well as introducing Barry’s falsetto vocals, which were used to great effect on a third single, the gorgeous ballad “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love).”
It’s intriguing to hear the Gibbs reliving the crazed days that followed – topping out in six straight number one singles between the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and the follow-up album Spirits Having Flown – mostly because it was such a whir that even the guys living it could only look at the success from a distance to try to comprehend what happened.
There is also a touching section about the life and death of youngest Gibb brother Andy, whose star exploded during the heady late-70s glory days of the Gibb sound before fizzling out due to substance abuse and depression. Andy’s older brothers go into a detail of his problems that they have rarely explored, as well as leaving on the bittersweet note of the stillborn idea of Andy becoming a fourth member of the Bee Gees – an idea that never really came to fruition except for occasional live performances.
The bittersweet tone continues as the brothers try to deal with the fatal cardiac arrest of Maurice Gibb, who was apparently the peacemaker between his two brothers. Barry and Robin both speak movingly about their brother’s tremendous part in their music and their lives.
Other than the new interviews, there is only a limited amount of new footage here – after all the Bee Gees have not released any new music together since the time of their last career-spanning documentary, This Is Where We Came In, which was released in 2001 in conjunction with what turned out to be their final album as a trio. In fact, the surviving Gibb Brothers, Barry and Robin, have only recently made up after a long estrangement following Maurice’s death in January 2003.
However, with all the bad blood seeming to have finally metamorphosized into water under the bridge, it is nice to see the brothers together, talking, joking, planning new projects and most of all finally playing together – shown in touching acoustic duets of old classics like “To Love Somebody” and “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?”
There is a slight bit of revisionist history going on – such as Barry’s statement that they hadn’t released any albums until eight years into the 80s in order to distance themselves from the disco backlash. It’s a nice point, but it completely ignores the underachieving Living Eyes LP (1981) and the six songs they did on the Staying Alive soundtrack (1983). They also dispatch Barry and Robin Gibb’s marginally successful mid-80s attempts at solo careers (Barry’s “Shine Shine” and Robin’s “Boys Do Fall in Love” were both Top 40 hits in 1984) with about one sentence.
That said, no one can question the fact that the Bee Gees are one of the handful of seminal groups (as well as songwriting teams) of the past century and In Our Own Time brings that fact back with a rush. Their work is fully deserving of being mentioned in the company of Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jagger/Richards and Bacharach/David. This film gives a fascinating overview of a vitally important musical force.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 10, 2010.