Rhino Factoids: Bee Gees Christmas Special

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Rhino Factoids: Bee Gees Christmas Special

47 years ago today, the Bee Gees’ Christmas special premiered on ABC – that’s the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, by the way – and caused a minor uproar by daring to blend religion and rock ‘n’ roll. GASP!

Recorded 10 days earlier within the hallowed halls of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, the special in question was entitled How on Earth? and featured the brothers Gibb singing an original composition entitled “Thank You for Christmas” along with a medley of “Mary’s Boy Child,” “Silent Night,” and “The First Noel.” Also on hand for the proceedings was a British folk group known as The Settlers, along noted UK disc jockey Kenny Everett, who delivered the Gospel in his distinctly Liverpudlian accent.

Yes, that’s right: those who tuned in got a bit of the Bee Gees as well as a bit of proper religion. In fact, that’s kind of what caused the uproar, although it wasn’t really anything that could be blamed on Barry, Maurice, or Robin.

In Tales of the Brothers Gibb, the so-called “ultimate biography of the Bee Gees,” authors Hector Cook, Andrew Hughes, and Melinda Bilyeu explained that the proceedings were conducted by The Very Reverend Edward H. Patey, Dean of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, and “the progressive nature of Patey’s service attracted considerable hostility both before and after the event,” partly because of the Bee Gees and Everett, but also because viewers bore witness to “teenage girls dancing and screaming in front of their idols, and embracing their boyfriends,” and “there were also reports of beer drinking and smoking.” (Those sorts of things were deemed a trifle scandalous in 1967, apparently, at least when seen on program featuring religious content.)

Thankfully, the Bee Gees managed to ride out whatever controversy may have erupted from their appearance on How on Earth? – if, in fact, they were even aware of it at the time, so busy were they in preparing to head to the US on their first major promotional tour – but there’s no surviving copy of the program, sadly, so you’ll have to make do with the recordings of their musical contributions to the special, which you can find in the below playlist. To fill things out, we’ve also added a couple of other holiday-themed songs…and, yes, of course, we’ve included “Holiday.” How could we not?