I watched the Bee Gees HBO documentary last weekend, not out of particular interest but because I kept seeing tweets about how good it is. The fact is, I have never been a Bee Gees fan. Yes, I can sing every word of every song going back to “Massachusetts,” but if you grew up in an English-speaking country in the ’60s and ’70s, how could you not? The Bee Gees on the radio was like oxygen in the air, everybody was drinking it in.
I loved this film. It’s a story of 3 (and later 4) brothers, who had that siblings-singing-harmony alchemy down from an early age. The storytelling style is what I loved. It’s admiring but honest, and honest but not voyeuristic. There is no mythmaking or melodrama. The brothers’ towering achievement as songwriters—the bit I never truly appreciated—is slowly revealed, and shines even brighter for the understated telling.
There is clarity about the debt the band owed to Black and gay artists, throughout their career and particularly in their disco years. It was new learning for me that the “disco sucks” backlash, which I barely noticed at the time, was racist and homophobic at the core.
I was most impressed by the part I never knew anything about: what they did after their staggering second act came crashing down. The last line of the film, from an interview of the sole surviving Gibb brother, Barry, had me in tears.
Really good. Also: my God, the clothes they/we wore! The hairdos inflated without irony, the shirts unbuttoned without mercy! And the music. I’m kind of fond of it now.