Happy Birthday Andy Gibb

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014
70s
80s
Happy Birthday
Andy Gibb
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Happy Birthday Andy Gibb

As we celebrate Andy Gibb’s birthday today, it’s difficult to look back on the life of the youngest of the brothers Gibb without wishing that it had lasted longer, but at least he left behind a trio of albums – not to mention a few additional singles, B-sides, and demos – which conclusively confirm that he could croon just as well as Barry, Maurice, and Robin when given the opportunity.

Born in 1958 in Manchester, England, Andrew Roy Gibb was only six months old when his family made the big move to Australia, where he lived until returning to the UK in 1967 in the wake of his brothers breaking it big in the music business. As the Bee Gees’ stock continued to rise, Andy unsurprisingly began the process of following in their footsteps, forming his own band – Melody Fayre, a name which will be familiar to anyone who owns the Odessa album – and, although it ultimately went unreleased, recording his first song, Maurice’s “My Father Was a Reb,” in 1974.

Later that year, Andy took heed of Barry’s advice to return to Australia, which had done wonders for the Bee Gees in the embryonic stage of their career. Teaming with Australian rock legend Col Joye, Andy released his first single, the self-composed “Words and Music,” in November 1975, which was a minor hit in Australia (#78) and slightly bigger in New Zealand (#29). Although he actually recorded an album’s worth of material, only the one single – which was backed with another original entitled “Westfield Mansions” – ever saw release, but the material was enough to sell the Bee Gees’ manager, Robert Stigwood, on signing Andy to his label, RSO Records.

(As a sidebar, it’s worth noting that this era also found Andy doing a brief stint as a member of a band called Zenta, opening for the Sweet and the Bay City Rollers in Australia. The band’s drummer, Trevor Norton, has provided fans with a fascinating listen into this period by uploading several live performances to his YouTube channel.)

Not that brotherly love didn’t have a fair amount to do with it, but given the way the Bee Gees were conquering the charts in the mid-1970s with Main Course (1975) and Children of the World (1976), it’s certainly no surprise that Andy teamed with brother Barry for a few songs on his debut album, 1977’s Flowing Rivers, nor is it particularly shocking that those songs – “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” – were huge hits, both hitting the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. (They also both featured guitar work from Joe Walsh, in case you’ve never looked at the credits.) While the former track was solely written by Barry, the latter was co-written with Andy, who wrote the majority of the album’s songs on his own, although he also co-wrote a pair of tracks – “Dance to the Light of the Morning” and “Too Many Looks in Your Eyes” – with the album’s decidedly Gibb-friendly co-producer, Albhy Galuten.

Andy’s follow-up album, 1978’s Shadow Dancing, avoided any sophomore-slump accusations by being an even bigger success than its predecessor, hitting #7 on the album charts. In addition, the title track provided him with another chart-topper (it would go on to become his only platinum-selling single), while the two follow-up singles, “An Everlasting Love” and “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away,” earned solid showings as well, making it to #5 and #9, respectively. This time, Barry co-wrote four tracks – all of the aforementioned songs, plus “Why” – while helping out with the orchestral arrangements on a few others, but Andy once again co-wrote the majority of the material on the album.

The same can’t be said, unfortunately, for Andy’s third – and final – studio album, 1980’s After Dark, which arguably only exists because Barry did everything he possibly could to help get the record finished and shaped into a releasable state. Deep in the midst of his battle with substance abuse, Andy only co-wrote two of the songs on After Dark, “One Love” and “Someone I Ain’t,” with Barry either writing or co-writing every single one of the album’s 10 tracks. Although “Desire” proved to be a top-5 hit, it also sums up just how desperately the Gibbs were trying to help their little brother at this point: the track was literally a Bee Gees song – originally recorded for their Spirits Having Flown album – with Andy’s vocals plugged in instead of Barry’s. While the follow-up single, a duet with Olivia Newton-John called “I Can’t Help It,” made it to #12, the album as a whole couldn’t even manage to crack the top 20.

Between Andy’s increasing addiction and his decreasing sales, RSO dropped him after he fulfilled his contractual obligations with 1980’s Andy Gibb’s Greatest Hits...which, ironically, earned him another pair of top-40 hits with its two new tracks, “Time is Time” and “Me (Without You).” Overall, however, the ‘80s remained a very rough time for Andy, earning high profile gigs – he co-hosted the syndicated music series Solid Gold from 1980 to 1982 and starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway from the beginning of December ’82 through the end of January 1983 – only to lose them both because of recurring absences.

Although he subsequently cleaned up his act and had begun the process of rebuilding his career by doing smaller live dates, popping up on sitcoms like Gimme a Break! and Punky Brewster, and even starting work on a new album, the damage done to Andy’s heart by years of cocaine abuse combined with a viral infection led to his untimely death from myocarditis on March 10, 1988. The songs still remain, however, so since it’s his birthday, now seems like the perfect time to give Andy’s words and music another listen and remember the good times he gave us.