No. 39 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Barry & Robin Gibb
Lead Vocals: Barry & Robin
Album: Trafalgar 1971
Single B-side 1972
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“My dearest, this picture, my own memory”
It has been said that many of Robin’s ballads seem to belong to an earlier era. Two songs particularly spring to mind. One is Sincere Relation (which reaches its melodramatic twin peaks with the almost disturbingly declamatory ‘and then he died…’). And the other is the bitter-sweet, cameo vignette, Dearest.
Dearest is the stronger of the two. With a swooning melody steeped in loss, nostalgia and longing, it strongly evokes the semi-forgotten genre of the Victorian sentimental song. Indeed, listening to ‘Dearest’ is the aural equivalent of opening the delicate clasp of a Victorian cameo and gazing lovingly upon the image captured within and that, I suppose, is what the song describes. A string quartet or grand piano accompaniment might have better completed the picture of strained, treasured intimacy.
I imagine a velvet-jacketed Robin performing before a candlelit assembly of quietly enraptured ladies and monocled gentleman in an Edwardian country house drawing-room. Robin perhaps holds that cameo outstretched in his hand, gazing upon it for heightened dramatic effect.
‘Dearest’’s heart is so bursting with seriousness that it paradoxically seems to teeter into precarious pastiche. The emotional pitch is raised alarmingly with ‘and if you could see me today, I will remember you’.
I admit that upon first listening to Trafalgar, (the album) I would often press ‘skip’ when Robin’s opening vocals to Track 10 sounded, not wishing to encounter the somewhat cloying experience of the song. Then, one day, I must have hesitated. ‘Dearest’ made sense and touched me somehow. I think this is quite characteristic of Robin’s songs. They can take time for one to appreciate fully from the inside.
Despite its pre-pop allusions, Dearest surely imparts too much feeling for it to have been written purely as a genre piece. Curiously, at times, it reminds me melodically of ‘I Can Sing a Rainbow’, and certainly shares with that song an utter lack of cynicism and irony. These absences make ‘Dearest’ strange to twenty-first century ears – and then really rather lovely.