No. 22 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Robin & Barry Gibb
Lead Vocal: Robin & Barry
Album Bee Gees’ 1st 1967
Single A-side 1967
“Do you know what it’s like on the outside?”
This song appears to have a kind of twin genesis.
Inspired by the tragic events of Aberfan the year before (a colliery landslide at a Welsh village killed over one hundred people including many children), the brothers, aware of sensitivities, re-worked their basic theme into a fictional tale and came up with a morbidly unlikely subject for a Top Ten single.
Another explanation (the two need not be contradictory) is that Barry and Robin were sitting on a darkened staircase at Polydor during a power-cut and heard the sound of a lift reverberating. This gave rise to a ‘what if?’ conversation on being trapped underground awaiting rescue. Maybe that’s when the Aberfan association came into play.
At the time, there was much speculation that the Bee Gees were none other than the Beatles recording under a pseudonym, such was seen the apparent similarity between the two groups. As the first single to be released since their arrival in England, New York Mining Disaster 1941 must have been regarded as the testing ground for this theory. Its influences – both musical and thematic – are, in fact, primarily folk in origin, a primitivism which the four-track recording emphasises. Perhaps the ‘Beatleseque’ aspect (long before that word was invented) was that the Bee Gees shared with the Beatles a gift for borrowing from multiple genres and making of them something original, accessible and entirely their own.