At the start of The Bee Gees How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, Barry Gibb quotes Gustave Flaubert “there is no truth … all is perception”. By the end of the movie, you’d be hard pressed to disagree with him.
For those of a certain age, the Bee Gees songs probably punctuate your life. Songs, like smells, bring back the past in an almost physical way. I can remember hearing “Spicks and Specks” in a café on the Sandgate pier way back when. I can almost smell the fish ‘n chips. It doesn’t matter if you are a Bee Gee’s fan or not, their story is music history. It charts their rise in the 1960s and 1970s to the changes of the 1980s. The killing of disco and the malignment of the Bee Gees is a particularly apt reminder that perception truly is everything. I didn’t realise how many hits they wrote for others: Streisand, Dion, Rogers and Parton.
Their personal lives are part of their history and told in an intimate but not sensational way. The family squabbles are all too real – sibling rivalry, complex familial relationships, marriages (I didn’t know that Maurice married Lulu) and deaths, it’s all there. The archive footage rounds the narrative: Brisbane of the 1960s, Carnaby Street London, Miami Florida of the 1980s.
What the movie does particularly well is to interview important contributors, the behind-the-scenes musicians and producers, people of great quirks with snippets of real interest—not just mates praising their music or telling us what great guys they are. There are plenty of anecdotes, such as the creation of Barry’s famous falsetto and how well Barry and Robin’s voices blended so that we perceive the voice as one. Oh, can I just say Roger Stigwood – google him. Now, there’s a blast from the past. He managed the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton and their relationship is a fascinating glimpse into the small world that was the music recording business.
Barry Gibb ends the movie with a moving observation – he looks directly to camera and says that he would trade all of their successes to have his brothers back again. It is a poignant moment for anyone who’s suffered family deaths. Do you write about the Bee Gees in the past or the present tense—can you separate the men from their music? Their music lives on and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart reminds us how deep is their legacy.
The Bee Gees How Can You Mend a Broken Heart release date is Thursday 3 December 2020. Duration 107 minutes, Rating M.
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