Trafalgar

No. 19 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

By: Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Maurice
Album: Trafalgar 1971


“Sitting crossed legged on my own and yet I’m not alone”

Maurice not only wrote but also played all the instruments on Trafalgar (orchestra apart, of course) so it is very much his affair.

For me the Trafalgar album is what the early 70s Bee Gees were really about, not Cucumber Castle‘s histrionics or the rather uninspired country of Two Years On.  Here they seem to mine a vein of quiet desolation.  Despite the residual grandeur, there is an understatement which is absent in the epic Odessa.

Trafalgar the album hints at an overarching concept; the cover bears Pocock’s ‘The Death of Nelson’ and the inner gatefold shows the brothers enacting the scene of Nelson’s death.  But just as Odessa falsely implied a concept album, the suggestion turns out to be even more tenuous here.  Walking Back to Waterloo may name-check Napoleon but that’s about it.  Even Trafalgar isn’t about the Battle of Trafalgar at all but ‘a very lonely guy who lives in London and spends a lot of his time feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.’  The song is a gentle cry to be known by others in the face of the city’s vast anonymity.

The music resonates with The Beatles, the verse vocal lines echoing, if not the melodies of Strawberry Fields Forever and A Day in the Life, at least their sense of disassociation;  Maurice’s warbling vocal at the end of ‘square peg fits the hole’ openly acknowledges the influence.  The chorus’ plaintive repetition of the title is simple and quietly moving.  Other songs on the album adopt similar themes, most notably Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself but sound more strained.

Maurice’s gifts in song were his restraint and unassuming down-to earthness.  Those qualities are clearly heard here.

No 18 World
No 20 Lord Bless All

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Suddenly

No. 30 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

By Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Maurice
Album: Odessa 1969


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“Suddenly there’s a boy in the rain alone”

If Whisper Whisper (which follows) celebrates the world’s confusion, Suddenly is disconcerted by it. The confusion could be the rapidly shifting scene of the late ‘60s. But probably ‘Suddenly’ is a direct reaction to the sense of unreality which the brothers were enveloped in (‘How do you know humans are real?’), four successful international albums down the line and still barely out of their teens.

The song dates from a time when Maurice was beginning a relationship with Lulu. The strangely effective yet disconcerting boy/girl twist in the lyrics might stem from a sense of his vulnerability in love. The lyrics can equally well be interpreted as being about one person’s gender or sexual ambivalence as they can about straightforward romantic uncertainty between a boy and a girl. I don’t think Maurice was writing about his or anyone else’s sexual ambivalence but it’s interesting that the words work well this way and that was how I instinctively heard it from the start.

‘Suddenly’ is one of the most infectious songs on Odessa. Its guitar/drums basis is refreshing on a double album much given to orchestral fullness.  Maurice’s vocal – his first lead – is just right.

No 29 If Only I Had My Mind on Something Else
No 31 Turn of the Century

It’s Just the Way

No. 35 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

Written by: Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Maurice
Album: Trafalgar 1971


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“You don’t love me anymore, then goodbye”

Just a fine, semi-acoustic ballad from Maurice, charting his feelings as his relationship with Lulu comes to an end.

Characteristically understated, he simply relates how he feels in an unadorned way, looking ahead to a future which seems bereft.  There is a wish that friendship might yet emerge from the rubble, but the closing line is the sober dawning that ‘I only know that friends can’t be lovers again’.  Bill Shepherd’s sustained closing strings (highly characteristic of Trafalgar) are a long stare towards new horizons.

On an album of extended orchestral expositions, It’s Just the Way has a refreshing simplicity and directness.

Everybody Clap Lulu’s 1971 single written by Maurice

No 34 The Change is Made
No 36 Turning Tide

Everybody Clap

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

By Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Lulu
Single A-side, 1971


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“To the sound of the music”

A rarely played, almost forgotten piece of disposable 1971 pure-pop.

The Bee Gees could handle profundity when required, produce a progressive manifesto or two and would rise to the experimental podium if need be but they never forgot the knack of producing sugar high three minute pop which, in 1971, was Everybody Clap.

Written by Maurice in a style not too dis-similar to his solo album of a year earlier, Clap pulls on hot-pants and white PVC boots and turns up the infectious quotient toe-tappingly high.  Lulu’s voice is perfect for the song’s good time soulfulness.

Clap exists in that fascinating feathercut hinterland which was post-‘60s but not quite peak-period full-on ‘70s pop.  The acoustic and hi-hat intro is at the poppiest possible end of folk-rock and very 1971 (Honeybus, Marvin Welch and Farrer, ‘Cousin Norman’ era Marmalade).  So too are the fat bass and drums which quickly come in along with wailing vocals. Maurice plays on the Top Of the Pops clip [above], seemingly having a great time despite his failing relationship with Mrs. Lawrie.

There is something of Middle of the Road’s highly contemporary sound in ‘Everybody Clap’.  It’s tinged with ever so early glam, a little bit tribal, a glam baby that’s not quite learned to stomp, still pulling at the slightly tattered apron strings of a cute Beatley communal vibe.

‘Everybody Clap’ has ‘hit single’ written all over it and yet it wasn’t.  It is now.

No 49 Who Knows What a Room Is