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.