The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

 

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In a film dedicated to his late brothers, Barry Gibb remembers their time together.

 

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

 

Fans of the Bee Gees need not hesitate for a moment: Frank Marshall's documentary is an admirably straightforward account of the career of the three brothers from Australia whose songs brought them success in Britain, in America and ultimately all over the world. Barry Gibb as the one survivor is a pivotal figure here, but vast quantities of archive material bring us not only a fine selection of their performances but also detailed comments from Maurice and Robin as well as from Barry. Sensibly enough the film proceeds to tell their story in chronological order with fresh interview footage incorporated from those around at the time (Eric Clapton being one such) and from a younger generation of admirers including Noel Gallagher, Chris Martin and Justin Timberlake.

 

That the focus is principally on the music is entirely apt since the career of the Bee Gees is a rich story in itself. Having moved to London with their parents and with their much younger sibling Andy, they soon found success (their recording of 'Massachusetts' became the UK No. 1 in 1967) and by the age of 21 Barry could claim to own six Rolls Royce cars. Alongside such triumphs, the film is frank about later challenges and conflicts. If the initial appeal drew on three brothers performing together, the acclaim that they received would lead to a desire for individual recognition. That resulted in a two-year break-up and, as all too often in the world of popular music in those days, drink and drugs would come to feature in their lives. However, in addition to finding regular accompanying musicians with whom to tour as a band, the Bee Gees also proved adroit at developing what they offered as tastes changed. Marshall's film traces how, having set up in America, they took on an R & B style and then led the way by incorporating falsetto passages in their songs. Later still they would widen their appeal further by giving songs a disco beat, a move that would result in a request for numbers for the film that would become Saturday Night Fever. That smash hit of 1977 with its best-selling soundtrack album represented their peak of popularity but also led to them losing favour in some quarters due to a large-scale reaction against disco music because it had become so ubiquitous and had invited cheap imitations. Ever ready to find another way forward, the Bee Gees would subsequently write a whole series of hit songs for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick.

 

Boasting well-judged extracts from many songs, this film is at heart a celebration of their career but something of the family history also emerges including the sad fate of Andy Gibb after he had achieved his own singing career as a soloist.  Regardless of any past estrangements, Barry's remarks make it evident just how much he cherishes his memories of when the Bee Gees were together. It would be fair to say that Marshall has given us a work that is first and foremost for those who enjoy the songs that the Bee Gees gave us but, since their appeal was cherished by the widest possible audience, it cannot be doubted that there are vast numbers out there who will relish this chance to look back with Barry Gibb.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Barry Gibb, Linda Gibb, Yvonne Gibb, Dwina Gibb, Lulu, Vince Melouney, Mykaell Riley, Chris Martin, Noel Gallagher, Justin Timberlake, Eric Clapton, Karl Richardson, Nicky Siano, Dennis Bryon and archive footage of Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb and Andy Gibb.

 

Dir Frank Marshall, Pro Nigel Sinclair, Mark Monroe and Jeanne Elfant Festa, Screenplay Mark Monroe, Ph Michael Dwyer, Ed Derek Boonstra and Robert A. Martinez, Music the Bee Gees.

 

Diamond Docs/PolyGram Records/White Horse Pictures-Universal Pictures.
111 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 14 December 2020. Available on VOD. Cert. 12A.