By Barry, Maurice & Robin Gibb
Lead Vocals: Robin, Barry & Maurice
Album Horizontal 1968
Single A-side, 1967
“And the lights all went down…”
In Life With the Bee Gees I explained how my earliest acquaintance with the band was inextricably linked to Massachusetts and my feelings towards the song at the time. Some residue of that still holds true.
Fifty years after Massachusetts‘ release, I’m less concerned with whether the song is an ‘honest’ or original evocation of flower-power as what it tries to impart emotionally.
That certain something
The obliqueness of most Bee Gees’ songs works in their favour but Massachusetts hints at something without ever declaring what that could be. And that’s not intriguing. It’s just frustrating.
What was the experience of being in Massachusetts? What left its mark upon the singer? Was it the place itself or someone the singer met there? Massachusetts doesn’t provide any clues, giving the song a kind of vacant core.
Adding to its sense of slight pointlessness is the fact that Massachusetts isn’t a place anyway but a region. This wouldn’t matter much if the song managed to convey a proper sense of mystery (the brothers chose the name because they liked its sound).
So Massachusetts’ spuriousness isn’t so much that it taps into a kind of flower-power drifter sensibility far too calculatively, (‘gotta hitch a ride to San Fransisco, gotta do the things I wanna do’) as its curious ability to leave me untouched.
I’ve heard the song – by far the blandest, least interesting track on Horizontal – numerous times but still Massachusetts is one place I have never been to.