How do the Bees Gees stack up against the Beatles in terms of the impact of their music, their songwriting, innovation, vocals, overall musical ability, etc?
(I know beforehand that pretty much nobody will put them ahead of the Fab Four, of course.)
Then again, if it came down to fisticuffs, I think that the surviving Gibb brothers – Barry and Robin – could likely beat Paul and Ringo. I could be wrong, though…
In the spirit of your OP - namely, you aren’t really trying to compare The Bee Gees to The Beatles but instead are trying to understand how the Bee Gees stack up relative to the Beatles - I will give it a shot:
IMHO, the Bee Gees are an entirely respect-worthy musical act; can’t really call them a band, per se, but they wrote and performed songs. Before, during and after the disco era they had hits that they had written that were some of the most popular of their day - like the Beatles, they once held the top 5 positions on the Billboard charts back when those charts actually mattered.
They weren’t a rock-'n-rolling band, like the Beatles and can’t really be judged that way, but as popular songwriters and performers, they have amassed huge sales and a number of lasting songs…
I’m prepared to be corrected on this, but I don’t think the Bee Gees did much innovating, exactly. Yes, they had their early successes (moreso in the UK than the US) and then blew the heck up here with the “You Should Be Dancing” single. Then they went whole disco hog via the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. But nothing they did hadn’t already been done before. I guess they helped extend and “white-ify” disco, but they didn’t change the music itself or take it in a brand new direction – they helped mainstream it. Meanwhile, the Beatles… well, I don’t need to expound on the Beatles’ innovation.
Musicianship/talentwise, Barry and Maurice were both very good singers, but not nearly as flexible as John and Paul. It’s a little hard for me to judge their instrumental skills, since I’m mostly familiar with their disco output, which showcased their voices and the synthesizer more than anything else (except perhaps the bass). Meanwhile, between them, Paul and John alone could practically play a whole freakin’ orchestra, and what George and Ringo “lacked” in variation of instruments (though George’s ability to master the sitar changed the face of music), their individual skills were breathtaking.
I won’t even bother discussing the Bee Gees’ lyrics, which are practically just placeholders. John Lennon’s, on the other hand… well, he could be brilliant. Even Paul’s worst stuff was better than the majority of the Bee Gees’.
So no, there’s no comparison, but not because the Bee Gees sucked or anything. As much as I enjoy the Bee Gees’ songs on SNF and a few of ‘em here and there throughout the rest of their career, there was nothing ambitious about their music. It’s just good fun. Which ain’t nothin’ to sneer at, by the way – the Beatles had plenty of songs like that too. The difference is that they could stretch themselves, and wanted to, and took music along with them. That’s what made them geniuses.
If I understand correctly the OP isn’t asking us to choose one, rather compare the two.
I like the Bee Gees, but when they first appeared, weren’t they so similar to the Beatles that there was a rumour it was actually the Beatles recording under a different name for a bit of a joke? The group has done so much more over the years than just being Beatles soundalikes, and have reinvented themselves a few times, but in terms of basically everything (from songwriting to production to visual image) they don’t stack up to the Beatles. Still a great act though.
Yes, I was seeking a comparison. I know that no one thinks that the Gibb brothers’ songs are the equivalent of Beatles’ output in quality. I was just wondering how far below the Beatles that you guys would rank them – not too far; very, very far below; etc.
And, of course, I would like to know the reasons why, if you have time for specifics.
I think people dismissing the Bee Gees out of hand are not appreciating their influence and songwriting. In fact I’d have to say the Bee Gees win out over Lennon/McCartney based on time alone. They KEEP writing great songs, and anyone who has had the privilege/misfortune to see “Sgt Peppers…” can hear how superior the Brothers are at singing Beatles songs, topping them at even that.
Just so you know I’m not biased, I just last week saw Paul McCartney live and screamed so hard I nearly wet myself. I’m a HUGE fan of both, make no mistake.
Actually, I’m sure you meant Barry and Robin. Maurice sang harmony and backing vocals, but Barry and Robin mostly sang lead. Maurice usually sang lead on just one song per album and was the so-called “Man In the Middle.”
I own a lot of BeeGees music because their songs put me in a good mood. I mean, seriously, if you don’t want to get up and dance when you hear “Stayin’ Alive” I’m not sure you have a pulse.
I think part of the reason they enjoyed suck longevity is because they were very good mimickers – for instance, you can hear the Everly Brothers influence in their really early stuff such as “Spicks and Specks” and the Beatles influence in “NY Mining Disaster.” They wrote “To Love Somebody” specifically for Otis Redding, and I believe it would have been a hit for him because they nailed his style. Later they channeled R&B when they wrote “Jive Talking.” They even wrote some respectable country songs such as “Rest Your Love on Me,” which they mimic right down to the twang.
So they were excellent at listening to different music and interpreting it through their own eyes and ears. Which definitely takes talent. And you can hardly argue with their success – 3rd best selling behind the Beatles and Michael Jackson, IIRC.
On the other hand, when it comes to great lyrics, the BeeGees are sophomoric compared to McCartney or Lennon, although the former do get kudos for working “ain’t no heavy mr. leather going to paddle my butt” into a song.
What Bee Gees song do you consider “great”? They wrote and performed some good pop music but it’s all very dated and you don’t hear young kids listening to it the way that a new Beatles fan is born every day.
The Bee Gees were very successful in keeping up with the times and maintain their popularity doing so, which is what sinks most musicians. They effectively reinvented themselves. They were brilliant at riding the popular waves at their crest, but didn’t drive any of those trends forward.
what would the Beatles have been releasing in 1976 if their egos and excess hadn’t broken them up? Who knows! The most direct comparison, as has been briefly mentioned above, is with the Bee Gees pre-disco material… yes folks, the Bee Gees existed before disco! (with repsect to PunditLisa and others who already know this). Their early records (1st, Horizontal, Idea, etc) are damn good! Bee Gee’s “First” is one of my favorite records, and seriously, is easier to listen to the Sgt. Peppers, and I consider myself a Beatles fan. I wouldn’t necessarily call them “mimics”, as they were just playing the popular style of music of the day, of which the Beatles were a primary influence, but that shouldn’t count against them. “Red Chair Fade Away”, “Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You”, “New York Mining Disaster 1941”, & “To Love Somebody” are just as good as any Beatles song, IMHO. Shit, “Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You” is way creepier then any Beatles song!
I’m not sure I see the distinction between playing the popular music style of the day and being mimickers. The contrast here is with the Beatles, who were forerunners of a unique sound, something that is noteworthy in and of itself.
Of course, forerunners usually burn out, which is why the BeeGees enjoyed much longer success (the only band to have a #1 in five decades, or something like that) than the Beatles. It didn’t hurt that they were related and actually seem fond of each other aside from their personality clashes.
Don’t get caught up in the anti-disco fever. The Bee Gees were a group of fantastic songwriters, and Barry in particular has gone on to write and produce some really fantastic music into the current century. I don’t get the hate for their lyrics either…