No. 43 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocals: Robin & Barry
Album: Idea [US release] 1968
Single A-side, 1968
“And for once in my life I’m alone”
One of the Bee Gees most celebrated songs, a UK Number One and a Top Ten hit in at least ten countries including the US.
A potentially morbid theme is rendered human by emphasising not the protagonist’s imminent death but the urgency of his plea. Robin describes it as ‘a torch song, but within a very sort of theatrical sense’* and it must rank as one of the most dramatically intense of the brothers’ songs. There is nothing at all abstract or philosophical about the lyrics. They just tell a very human story which unfolds at a very specific time and place but where emotions are universal. A sense of the narrative being almost in real time adds to the urgency.
Something about this song makes it stand out from its contemporaries though I can never quite pin down what it is. I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You was the last song from Idea to be recorded and maybe that has something to do with its slightly standalone feel.
Although the arrangement uses characteristic Bee Gees compressed piano (albeit relatively sparingly in the mix) the piccolo choruses give the song a character of its own and a certain sound quite different from anything else the brothers did. Heard on Idea, it sounds precisely like a big single added to the album in a way that New York Mining Disaster 1941 on Bee Gees 1st or Massachusetts on Horizontal, do not.
The brothers sound more like a fully fledged soul group here and it’s not surprising to learn that Percy Sledge (the song was written with him in mind) covered I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You in 1970.
* Idea: Rhino CD re-issue, (2006), Andrew Sandoval’s accompanying booklet notes, page 12