Kilburn Towers

No. 17 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

By Barry, Maurice & Robin Gibb
Lead Vocal: Barry  
Album: Idea 1968
Single B-side 1968

“… Then I am everything”

I love the modesty of this bossa nova-like song.  It’s not a big ballad, or a rocking wannabe, just a lilting guitar and mellotron vignette about simple contentment in a particular place in time – ‘little white jug, me and Kilburn Towers’.  The singer needs no more.  And neither do we.  And it’s ideally placed on Idea after the portentousness of tracks such as When the Swallows Fly and I Started a Joke.

The ordinariness of the location adds to the intimacy of the moment, an intimacy anyone can feel anywhere, but here it just happens to be Kilburn – so English, so everyday.  It makes me feel both happy and sad when I hear it; a part of something.  I take the ‘towers’ to refer to turreted Victorian architecture but it could just as well be ‘60s tower blocks.

Maurice’s flute-like mellotron delights. Vince’s guitar break cuts a sympathetic swathe through the song.  Subtle crests of strings and a single harp glissando are all the embellishment we need.

Capturing a moment

This ‘capturing a moment in song’ I think of as a particularly late ‘60s phenomenon.  Other cameo songs from the period which spring to mind are Donovan’s ‘Writer in Kilburn Towersthe Sun’, Keith West’s ‘On a Saturday’ and most notably, The Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’.  The range of pop was extended by looking close to home and seeing the simple beauty therein.  A greater softness and lyricism in music expresses this.  No doubt marijuana, paisley patterned shirts and daisy chains all played their part.

When I read the lyrics for the first time, I realised that what I had heard from the start as ‘little white Jack’ – and taken as referring to a small dog – was actually ‘jug’.  I still hear ‘Jack’ and see that little white dog when I hear the song.

The above sums up my feelings about this song over the fifteen or so years that I have known it.  Then, I searched YouTube and came across a comment saying that Kilburn Towers is a ‘ritzy block of flats on Sydney Harbour’.  Actually that makes sense.  I’d always wondered what the brothers’ connection was to the north-west London suburb.  It doesn’t matter though.  Everyone has their own Kilburn Towers.

No 16 Sing Slowly Sisters
No 18 World


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