Classic Songs of My Youth Revisited #6

Andy Gibb – I Just Want to Be Your Everything

Probably no musical collective has dominated a year’s airwaves like the Gibb brothers did in 1978. The only competition is The Beatles in 1964, when they landed 5 of the top 16 songs, including the top 2, on Billboard’s year-end charts. The Gibbs managed to top that by farming out some of the work. The core trio, known to the world of course as the Bee Gees, had three of the top six songs in 1978, and, in various combinations, they wrote three more of the year’s top 19: “Grease” by Frankie Valli, “Emotion” by Samantha Sang (I am yet to be fully convinced this wasn’t just a clean-shaven Barry Gibb in drag) and “If I Can’t Have You” by Yvonne Elliman. Finally, they turned to little brother Andy to put them over the top, and he came through with two big hits of his own, including the year’s top song in “Shadow Dancing”.

Of course, when Andy first came on the scene in 1977, we had no idea that such a juggernaut lay in our futures, nor that it would end so soon. The Bee Gees’ hits dried up in mid-1979, and Andy’s the following year. He made a series of bad life decisions, then cleaned up and started trying to get his career back on track, but the damage was done, and he was gone less than a week after turning 30.

I wonder if people have forgotten how great this song is. I never hear it on the radio when my wife plays an oldies program, Acclaimed Music ranks it as only the 128th best song of 1977, and on Spotify it has a relatively paltry 36 million plays, of which I have contributed a healthy proportion. The first time I heard this was in my parents’ car on a bright day in the late spring, coming out of what I’m sure was another miserable Cape Breton winter, and I remember that feeling of just instantly loving a song so much that I wanted to live inside it for a while.

It has a sort of slow-roll disco beat, with just enough rhythm to make it danceable. Synths and faux strings gently glide along, the percussion is subtle, and the effect is sunny despite lyrics that are a cry of love to someone who may not feel the same, and the desperate fear of loss that presents (“If I stay here without you, darling, I will die”). The vocal shows that passion, with the trademark Gibb brothers falsetto that makes so many songs sound like they are life and death (check “Fanny (Be Tender with My Love)” for what I think is the best example of this). I think it also makes a very simple but true statement about how love should work: “If you give a little more than you’re asking for, your love will turn the key”.

What really makes this – and all of the Gibbs’ songs – so great is that they are just the most fun to sing along to. I could write 20 of these about those songs (and “Tragedy” is definitely going to happen). I think it’s the falsetto. Even the most voice-challenged listener can muster one up, and it – though you’ll have to check with my poor wife to confirm this – helps hide the weaknesses of the singer’s delivery. Plus, it’s really fun to play the castrato and just howl. There’s a lot of music that I used to love that I no longer have time for, but there will always be a place in my life for the Bee Gees and their tragic junior partner.