No. 2 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Barry Gibb
Lead Vocal: Barry
Recording: 1966 for Spicks and Specks sessions
Album Inception/Nostalgia 1970 compilation
“Building castles in the shifting sands, in a world that no one understands”
This song alone inspired me to roll back my ‘early years’ canvas one year to 1966 so I could include Morning of My Life high in my Top 50.
Morning of My Life (originally known as In the Morning) has a longer and more complex gestation than perhaps any other in the Gibb canon. Written in 1965 it was first recorded in 1966 while the brothers were in Australia. Given its standout quality, it’s surprising that the song wasn’t picked for inclusion on an early UK album but then there was such a wealth of material to choose from.
So instead, Morning of My Life surfaced as cover versions, most resplendently, perhaps, by Nina Simone. This was the version I heard first with its jazz piano accompaniment and replete with Miss Simone’s distinctive vocal and turn of phrasing. As she has done so many times elsewhere, every nuance of feeling is elucidated but upon first listening, what made me sit up was perhaps less her performance and more the song itself.
Some years later, I heard the Bee Gees’ recording of Morning of My Life, the one included in the 1971 film Melody. I must have assumed this was their only version, perhaps recorded in response to the popularity of the Nina Simone cover. The Melody version is very much in keeping with early ‘70s ballad-orientated Bee Gees – slow pace, lush orchestration and sung in Barry’s soft, feather-light style. Gorgeous though it is, it seemed to add loveliness upon loveliness to lesser effect. And that tootling flute is just a little too much. So Nina’s remained the version for me.
Until, that is, some years later again, I came across the Bee Gees’ original 1966 version. Immediately its clarity and straightforwardness seemed a perfect vehicle for allowing the song to simply speak for itself in all crystalline fragility and innocence. The lyrical images seem to paint instant pictures as if out of thin air. Barry’s voice has gentle, natural warmth. The guitar just strums and the percussion shuffles away nicely in the background.
Some comment on Morning’s breadth, its apparent insights hinting at a ‘spiritual’ quality – how could this have been written by one so young? Maybe (as the title suggests) that’s the point. It takes freshness and vulnerability to be able to feel life this way. And that again is why I prefer the earlier version. I’m surprised to hear myself say this as I generally prefer more ‘worked over’ versions of songs.
I’ve heard In the Morning compared to Donovan’s Colours and, yes, I can hear the similarities. But with its delightful day in a life/life in a day conflations and sometimes startling lyrical freshness, Barry’s composition is more subtle and moving than Donovan’s simple colour-list love song.
Somehow I don’t want to unpick Morning of My Life too much. Really you just need to take a listen for yourself.