No. 48 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Barry & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Barry
Album: Cucumber Castle 1970
“The whole world joins in”
I can’t help having reservations about the Bee Gees‘ shift towards out-and-out romanticism and high powered emotional melodrama at the start of the ’70s. And listening to I Lay Down and Die is rather like drowning in a sea of tears (which is just the sort of phrase you might expect to pop up in a Cucumber Castle lyric). The emotion is such an all-enveloping world of its own that it allows no insight, no irony, no way out. It just keeps on indulging itself until there’s no more emotion to wring out. But still it goes on, determined to plunder the depths of despair. A man tears out his heart and falls to his knees to the pounding of huge, cavernous pianos, thunderous drums and Spectorish strings.
All too beautiful?
If my slightly flippant tone annoys you, I apologise. It’s just how I feel about ‘I Lay Down and Die’. It’s all just a bit too beautiful, like wondering around in a Hollywood mansion. Yet it’s undeniably glorious too in its own way. If you can feel this jewel encrusted Grand Canyon as your own, it might just convince you.
The most awe inspiring part of the song (and I think ‘I Lay Down and Die ‘demands our awe) is the falling away before the returning piano stabs take us to even greater heights (or should that be depths?). The semi-pauses during this closing section are magnificent, almost there but not quite. Barry whips up the orchestra, brass blasts, drums roll and all and sundry (that’s the whole world) join in, including, buried in the reverb-soaked finale, some rather amazing other-worldly screechy vocals (P.P. Arnold?) And I love the way it all builds even as it fades.
So as pure production, I Lay Down and Die captures and perhaps even enraptures me but, for all its bombast, it can’t quite touch me.