No. 37 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Robin Gibb
Lead Vocal: Robin
Recording: 1969 [Robin solo project: unreleased]
“Farmer Ferdinand Hudson had lost much more than he’s won”
Hudson Fallen Wind tells of a farmer who, one night, is left with nothing following a terrible storm. The song relates the suffering of his family and animals and the destruction of his home and livelihood. He dies amidst the wreckage the following morning.
‘Hudson Fallen Wind’ is an epic piece of over twelve minutes in length but the version which saw the light of day on Robin’s Reign was a mere three minutes long. In its truncated form and re-christened Farmer Ferdinand Hudson, it shares in the sense of palpable loss which permeates much of Robin’s Reign but the composition is wounded. Losing a narrative grandeur, its unconventional structure is entirely undone.
Hudson Fallen Wind would have made a powerful poetic statement with which to conclude Robin’s Reign. Uniquely in the Bee Gees canon, the song alternates between passages of solo, homophonic synth and heavily orchestrated verses (possibly representing the storm and the broader landscape within which the private tragedy unfolds). The contrast between the primitivism of the synth and the lushness of the orchestra means that a strange kind of dichotomy, separation almost, runs through the song. Robin’s 12-string also features, at times giving an Odessa-like feel but a drum machine during the storm passage (a sinister, repeated ‘thwump’ sound) marks this out as a solo Robin project. The synth melody can sound a little meandering and repetitive, especially on first few listens, but this also seems to work oddly in the song’s favour, creating a kind of experimental unease.
The work (‘song’ hardly does it justice) can broadly be heard as five segments, each separated by a pause: an initial recited scene-setting opening (0.00-0.51) gives way to a lengthy (0.52-4.07) 12-string guitar and orchestral strings ballad-like section of repeated verses (whose lyrics I can unfortunately barely decipher due to audio quality on available versions of this officially unreleased song); next (8.41-9.20) is an instrumental section depicting the storm – sliding strings and drum-machine beats; and finally the storm’s aftermath (9.21-12.00).
The short version on Robin’s Reign joins the full version for its final few minutes, fading-in with the storm at 8.41, but suffers additionally from a crude cut at the start of Robin’s vocal at 9.53 (0.38 in ‘Farmer Ferdinand Hudson’) so as to omit a solo synthesiser passage which precedes it.
Robin the Outsider
Hudson Fallen Wind perhaps expresses the height of Robin’s outsider tendencies which grew more pronounced throughout 1967-69. His involvement in the horror of 1967’s Hither Green train crash must have played their part, crystallising aspects of personality which were already latent. Barry remarked that ‘he never seemed the same after that’. Robin’s compositions were frequently introspective reflections upon the fragility of life and love suffused with an expressive sensitivity and vulnerability. For some, these songs demonstrate an excessive nostalgic backwardness, a tendency to the maudlin at a time when songwriting was moving away from the apparent sentimentalism of the pre-pop era in a bid for the holy grail of authenticity. Yet for Robin, his songs clustered around the ideas, images and sensibility of earlier times as a vehicle for his own imaginative heroic romanticism. In that sense they were utterly authentic.
His record company’s decision to release Barry’s First of May as a single in preference to his own I Laugh in Your Face felt like a massive rejection and seems to have fuelled Robin’s decision to walk away from his brothers, an action which, in itself, must have engendered a sense of solitariness and probably isolation. Some of his musings to the press around this time hint at a young man at odds with the world, fuelled, no doubt, by his substantial intake of speed. Robin seemed turned inwards towards a kind of self-created persona encompassing both the self-consciousness of the set-apart pop-star and an individual with his own intensely private concerns. He was barely out of his teens yet had achieved success beyond the wildest dreams of many in a short space of time. In 1969, Robin’s outsiderism could only find expression outside of The Bee Gees and Hudson Fallen Wind was its apotheosis.
[Timings given for ‘Hudson Fallen Wind’ are approximate]