Bee Gees – To Whom It May Concern

Not quite a coherent album, especially following Trafalgar, but one which definitely rewards repeated listens, To Whom It May Concern shows the Bee Gees firing pretty strongly during their so called wilderness years even if the album lacks a signature identity.

The two main singles are both in their familiar ballad vein but very contrasting – the smoothly reassuring Run to Me and the frantically persuasive Alive.   It’s perhaps surprising that the huge success of How Can You Mend a Broken Heart hasn’t inspired deeper ventures into smooth soul.  Run to Me really feels quite teenage beside How Can You Mend’s … silky, adult aspirations.

Elsewhere, the brothers search for new sounds and land on a number of touchstones.  Maurice is absurdly McCartnesque on You Know It’s For You, whilst Alan Kendall’s aggressive lead guitar propels Bad, Bad, Dreams into the crunchy spotlight.  Paper Mache, Cabbages and Kings is one of the wackiest tracks but it shows the Bee Gees could still marry quirkiness to a decent tune and leave you to read into the weirdness as much or as little as you like.  But perhaps most surprising is the moog prog of Please Don’t Turn Out the Lights, the closest the brothers would come to truly experimental in this incarnation at least, though it’s far from the strongest track here.


So diversity and a slightly low key approach ensure To Whom It May Concern is never tiring like Cucumber Castle and rarely dull like 2 Years On but, taken overall, not brilliant either.   The main problem is a lack of overall plan or purpose, its scattergun approach feeling slightly cobbled together, pervaded with a sense of doubt as to whether anyone out there was listening let alone cared.

Not many fans or casual listeners will head for this album as their first Bee Gees port of call, but when you’ve exhausted the big hitters, there are some surprises to be found here and I think you’ll find To Whom It May Concern grows on you.


To Whom It May Concern [1972]

Side 1
Run To Me
We Lost the Road
Never Been Alone
Paper Mache, Cabbages and Kings
I Can Bring Love
I Held a Party
Please Don’t Turn Out the Lights

Side 2
Sea of Smiling Faces
Bad Bad Dreams
You Know It’s For You
Road to Alaska
Sweet Song of Summer

Singles 1972 [related to To Whom It May Concern]

My World
On Time

Run to Me
Road to Alaska

Sea of Smiling Faces
Please Don’t Turn Out the Lights

Paper Mache, Cabbages and Kings

->  Life In a Tin Can 
<-  Trafalgar

Bee Gees Top 50 1966-72
Bee Gees’ Home Page


Bee Gees – Trafalgar

Trafalgar looks to new horizons with an uncertainty which sums up the band’s situation at the time.

Despite huge singles success with Lonely Days and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, the Bee Gees’ chart entries increasingly feel like isolated milestones measured further apart.  But here they turn the tenuousness of their position to their advantage.

Trafalgar is simply the Bee Gees’ best early 70s album, one which needs to be heard from the first to last groove and preferably in one sitting.  Allegedly it was to have been a twenty-track opus, thus overtaking Odessa, but even in two-sided format, Trafalgar’s monumentality is an altogether more measured affair and as a twelve track album of forty-seven minutes, it doesn’t feel at all foreshortened.

Emotional landscape

At last the Bee Gees have come up with a vision for the new decade and the songs to match it.  Those who only know the Bee Gees for their ‘disco’ hits are often stunned at hearing relatively unknown tracks like Trafalgar and Walking Back to WaterlooTrafalgar is underplayed and touching whilst Walking Back to Waterloo marks a breadth, maturity and sheer emotionality which is perhaps unrivalled in the brothers’ back catalogue.

Elsewhere, the extended songs which were tiresome on 2 Years On come alive, especially Don’t Want to Live Inside Myself where Barry really expands his vocals.  They almost savage Lion in Winter whilst When Do I sounds like a strange vocal exercise.

Sensuousness, alienation, frustration, a search for the heroic and the occasional influence of The Beatles (still) are felt in Trafalgar.  Maurice’s deep bass and chordal piano sound great and Bill Shepherd’s dignified arrangements provide orchestral weight.

It’s a different landscape – moody, expansive, atmospheric – and it works.

Trafalgar [1971]

Side 1
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

The Greatest Man in the World
It’s Just the Way
Somebody Stop the Music

Side 2
Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself
When Do I
Lion In Winter
Walking Back to Waterloo

Singles 1971/72 [related to Trafalgar] 

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
Country Woman

Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself
Walking Back to Waterloo


Other artists 1971

Lulu – Everybody Clap

-> To Whom It May Concern
<- 2 Years On

Bee Gees Top 50 1966-72
Bee Gees’ Home Page

Just wanted to say…

We begin this second selection of retro greetings cards with an atomic baby:

Happy 1st Birthday 1965

There’s a propogandist feel here.  Those eyes are looking forward to a new political dawn, the future light upon the face the glow of a protective atomic bomb.

I’m reminded of my mother telling me that two friends decided not to have children because, in the era of the Cuban missile crisis, the prospects for world peace looked so bleak.


Here is a playful take upon the paternal role in bringing up baby, again from 1965:

Giving Birth 1964

The handy father seems to be somehow supporting the pram.  This was back when prams still resembled spindly, nannyish devices from the Edwardian era (a year after Mary Poppins) not the armoured personnel carriers of today.


Staying with 1965:

Now You are 1 1965

That perenniel favourite, the cute kitten seen here with some kitsch acoutrements and hint of a Spanish holiday souvenir.


Now we are four and it’s 1968:

4 Today, 1968

Local newsagents were packed with cards like this.  The fezed monkey seems especially redolent of the time.


This has a decidely continental air:

Just for You, 1972

Slightly Bohemian, faux naive yet somehow also sophisticated.

Looking in shops today, I notice the very limited palette of most cards; often just one colour is used to offset monochrome and its typically red, pink, mauve in descending order.

But here vibrant, gypsy hues and an overall patterned design evoke European folk art.


This might be a scene from a Sunsilk shampoo advert.

Mother's Day 1974

The orange, nostalgic glow definitely pins this picture to the early-mid 70s.  1974 to be precise.


How many flowers can you fit into a dessert bowl?

Happy birthday card

Faking spontaneity, this sweet concoction would have been very carefully assembled indeed, probably with a little help from adhesive.  Its 1972 miniaturist precision is a million miles away from the boutique, long stemmed, au naturelle look of 2018.


We end with this wholesome scene from 1969:

Birthday child's 1966

A Little Something Especially for You


Moving House 
Growing up with Lego
Cuisenaire rods

A Little Something Especially For You

Among the many family belongings I am still sorting through are stacks of greetings cards from the early 1950s to the early noughties.  

I thought I’d share some of those from the 60s/70s in random order across two posts. 


Is this charming or merely kitsch?

Happy Birthday 1969

It straightaway reminds me of the highly sentimental portraits of children lining the walls of department stores in the 70s (Woolworths, Boots, Timothy Whites).

Those shop waifs and strays invariably possessed doe eyes crying tears of dubious size down dimpled cheeks.  But this cheerful twosome have something of Bill and Penelope about them.


The Woolworths associations apply even more strongly to this portrait of cute, moral uprightness from the mid-late 60s probably aimed at doting grandparents:

Best wishes card

The prayerful pose would probably never find its way onto cards in our far more secular age, at least not outside of cathedral bookshops.  This isn’t how we want children to be any more.


I’m surprised that this Wedding Anniversary card dates from as late as 1966:

Birthday 1966

It could easily be from at least a decade earlier.  I imagine the vase carefully positioned in a palatial hallway by a butler’s begloved hands.

My collection is stuffed with variations on these rather stiff bouquets in as assortment of urns and classical vases.  They strike me as emblems of prestige though not of material aspiration, representing a kind of official good taste.  But they are also dull and respectable, joyless even.

In an age of care bears and other fluff, it’s the adult seriousness of this card which dates it most.


This has 1960s stamped all over it:

Anniversary card 1960s

The chequered brown, yellow and green background adds a modernist touch though the card belongs squarely next to a gilt carriage clock on a tiled mantelpiece.  When I look at this, I hear Frank Chacksfield, Royal Daffodil or perhaps Jim Reeves. 


A card which inspired a dozen These You Have Loved  LP covers.  Or was it the other way round?

To My Darling Wife, 1960s

To be given accompanying a large box of assorted milk chocolates.  The surprisingly underplayed message is rather endearing and all the more effective for that.


An Englishman’s home is his castle.

It’s 1969 and here we have a reassuring image of sturdy masculinity in the making:

5 Today, 1969

Background props are crucial; the bookcase implies inculcating a love of learning but the fireplace spreads parental warmth.

More choice selections in two weeks time.


Moving House 
Growing up with Lego
Cuisenaire rods

Bee Gees – 2 Years On

If Cucumber Castle was hyperbolic, 2 Years On is pervaded with an insipid feel and, for me, a sense of disappointment and anti-climax.  They got back together – for this?  Had the brothers used up their stock of quality material on their 1970 solo albums?  Perhaps but thankfully, as it turns out, they were also stock-piling for 1971’s Trafalgar.

Off their high horses

It’s clear the Bee Gees weren’t going to get back on their art-pop high horses to continue where Odessa left off.  Given the splintering in rock which had grown into a chasm during that 1969/70 hiatus, it just wouldn’t have been a credible move.  Indeed, the low-key feel of 2 Years On can be heard as a deliberate antidote to the ‘excesses’ (which I would argue were not excesses at all) of their red-velvet high watermark.  Only Lonely Days (the album’s only single) feels vital and attention grabbing here, though being just short of a Beatles‘ pastiche it is hardly impressively original.

For once, Bill Shepherd’s arrangements seem to suck the life out of the (fairly lifeless) songs.  Most are slow paced and sometimes over-stretched; The First Mistake I Ever Made is a repeat offender.

We have so-so country (Portrait of Louise), a would-be weepie (Tell Me Why) whilst the raw, lively though slightly out-of-place tour blues lament Back Home is annoyingly allowed to dissipate.  2 Years On might have worked in Robin’s Sing Slowly Sisters style but as an album opener it’s just uninspiring and meandering (nice chorale prequel though).  Sincere Relation is Robin at his most eccentric but with its gravely portentous ‘but then he died …’ can’t make me feel much – a shame as I sense it’s probably a most personal piece.  Robin’s contributions generally come off worst of the three.

Sub-prime Bee Gees

Hearing 2 Years On makes me long for the clipped precision of songs such as Lemons Never Forget.  The album actually feels most successful at its most incongruous – the stripped-down Back Home, the swampy Every Second, Every Minute (mimicking 1968’s The Earnest of Being George) and rootsy Lay It On Me which playfully hints at Maurice’s drink problem.  But these diversions into sub-prime Bee Gees territory often feel more forced than earlier excursions such as Lemons Never Forget (why do I keep coming back to that song?)

The brothers are in good voice and of course it’s great to hear them harmonising again but this hardly trumpets a return to form let alone an inspirational new departure.  Overall 2 Years On lacks identity, feels pedestrian and fails to create much in the way of atmosphere.

Already two albums into the new decade but it seems as if the Bee Gees are adrift in the 70s.  Thankfully they get it together on Trafalgar.


2 Years On [1970]

Bee Gees - 2 Years On

Side 1
2 Years On
Portrait of Louise
Man For All Seasons
Sincere Relation
Back Home
The First Mistake I Made

Side 2
Lonely Days
Alone Again
Tell Me Why
Lay It On Me
Every Second, Every Minute
I’m Weeping


Singles 1970 [related to 2 Years On]

Lonely Days
Man For All Seasons

-> Trafalgar
<- Cucumber Castle


Bee Gees Top 50 1966-72
Bee Gees Home Page

Bee Gees – Cucumber Castle

High drama meets sock-it-to-me sentiment in big productions numbers.  The Bee Gees may be down to a duo but what they lack in manpower they make up for by delivering an onslaught of thick, multi-layered, multi-tracked, cavernous sound.

Cucumber Castle is moderately enjoyable as a genre-pastiche album, the genre being a kind of schlocky, Spectoresque take on country but it’s too dripping with sentiment to truly engage.  Talk about over egging the pudding…  And most worryingly, the songwriting has gone down a couple of notches as well.

Lacquered emotion

If Only I Had My Mind on Something Else is an uncharacteristically reflective, unassuming opener but thereafter we’re mostly drowning in choirs, horns and oodles of emotion.  I Lay Down and Die plasters it on so lavishly you have to admire its bravado whilst Bury Me Down by the River successfully marries a dark lyric to an instantly singalong, though somewhat generic, gospel-country melody.  I prefer to end the album with Turning Tide reaching out to Trafalgar so as to avoid the lacquered emotion of Don’t Forget to Remember.

My problem with Cucumber Castle is that it unashamedly pulls out all the stops for massive and massively sentimental ballads, providing the band’s detractors with all the ammunition they need for decrying the Bee Gees as appealing to bored, middle-aged housewives.  In contrast, Odessa carries sentimentality aloft amidst waves of unabashed grandeur, the orchestration aspiring to splendour not whipped up ersatz cream.  If there is a link between the two albums it is First of May which just about works within the context of Odessa but alarmingly signals the degree to which the brothers were prepared to ratchet up the sentimentality.

Cucumber Castle tires you the more you hear it.  And the stark corrective of Robin’s contributions are missed.

Cucumber Castle [1970]

Side 1
If Only I Had My Mind on Something Else
Then You Left Me
The Lord

I Was the Child
I Lay Down and Die

Side 2
Bury Me Down By the River
My Thing
The Chance of Love
Turning Tide
Don’t Forget to Remember


Singles 1969/70 [related to Cucumber Castle]

Don’t Forget to Remember
The Lord

If Only I Had My Mind on Something Else


Unreleased 1969/70

Who Knows What a Room Is

-> 2 Years On
<- Odessa 

Bee Gees Top 50 1966-72
Bee Gees’ Home Page

Bobby Goldsboro – Look Around You (It’s Christmas Time)

The 60s are relatively bereft of Christmas pop which has stayed the course fifty years on.  The exceptions are The Beach Boys Christmas Album and Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift From You though even The Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick is not heard with anything like the ubiquity of offerings from the 70s (you know which ones).

Looking to see what has been forgotten, I came across Look Around You (It’s Christmas Time), a chugging, self-penned 1968 single by Bobby Goldsboro with a Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell feel.



Conscience at Christmas 

What’s interesting is Goldboro’s take on 60s’ social conscience given a seasonal twist.

The lyrics paint a dismal, dysfunctional picture of plastic trees, empty churches and a one armed beggar selling pencils for a dime.

The twin contemporary evils are materialism and alcohol, especially the latter:

We will deck the halls with holly if we make it off the floor.

Sometimes the social commentary is heavy handed, bordering on the unintentionally comic:

Santa Claus on every corner
As he braves the winter night
Bells are ringing in his left hand
And a bottle in his right.

Yet despite the imploring title, the message is ultimately reassuring: to simply remember the true meaning of Christmas.

I don’t think this obscurity is about to be revived anytime soon but it’s interesting to discover a piece which sits a little differently alongside Bobby Goldboro’s resolutely conservative back catalogue.