TEN QUESTIONS FOR BARRY GIBB
I've heard that Jimi Hendrix was a Bee Gees fan.
Barry: I don't think it was a matter of being a fan. We were friends, and we all came out of that same late '60's syndrome, and we got to know Jimi in London. He actually came to my 21st birthday party. We never discussed music. It was just friendship. I went with Ahmet Ertegun and Robert Stigwood to see Jimi in New York, outside in the park with The Rascals, in about 1968. I was backstage with them at that particular concert. That's a great memory.
What do you recall about writing Massachusetts?
Barry: It was the first time the group went to New York. We stayed at the St. Regis Hotel, and while our luggage was being moved in we wrote it sitting on a sofa, the three of us. It came from our first exposure to America, our first thoughts of writing a song about flower power, which the song is about-or it's basically anti-flower power. Don't go to San Francisco, come home for Chrissakes, ha ha.
Noel Gallagher loves a lot of your early songs. How do you feel about Oasis?
Barry: I like their work very much. They do some good stuff, but they've yet to really grow. They need to get past, basically insecurity between each other, and how crazy it is when you become famous for the first time and what it does to your head. I think they're about to get past that. What happens next? It's like Maurice once said in an interview, to the Gallaghers, "If you want to know what happens next, give us a call" (laughs). Because we've
basically been through the whole thing-fighting, drugs, the drink, all the scenarios you can imagine. We've done all that and still survived. I've got a feeling those guys will, too.
I like the lyrics of early songs like Harry Braff and The Earnest Of Being George-they were evocative without being locked into a literal meaning.
Barry: There was a lot of that in those days-psychedelia, the idea that if you wrote something, even if it sounded ridiculous, somebody would find its meaning. People used to ask if we took LSD. And we suddenly realised that that's what it really was about. People get carried away. It's like The Beatles and songs like Strawberry Fields, where people assume that it was drugs that concocted those songs- and we all know that some of it was-but I think there's a very rare gift that existed inside John Lennon, and also
inside Paul. I think it came from more than drugs or drink.
Your vocal on Lonely Days seems almost like a tribute to Lennon.
Barry: It's possible, yeah. We were very influenced by The Beatles, no question. A manager we had about five years back heard Lonely Days in a restaurant and he said to a friend, "That's one of my favourite Beatles songs." And he was managing us!
A few years back, you expressed a desire to produce McCartney-and he got miffed about it.
Barry: He's always under the wrong impression that we'd criticised one of his albums. The fact is, we'd never heard the album he was pissed off about. I'd heard one song, Hope Of Deliverance, which I thought was going to be a Number
1. Maurice and Robin had heard in and didn't think it was going to be. Anyway, some reporter was interviewing us that week and we'd only talked about this one song; Maurice or Robin said something like, "It would be great for McCartney to work with somebody who would really push him harder than he pushes himself." I thought that was a fair comment-not a criticism as such. I think Lennon was always more muscular than McCartney. He challenged Paul. I think that now Paul is so ingrained in our lives and in our souls that he's
of the belief that no-one else can push him. I just disagree with that belief. But I think the reporter told him we'd criticized his album, and he said something like, "Oh well, they can f**ck off then." We sent a little note saying that we were in fact probably the three biggest fans he's ever had, that we would never have criticized his work and still wouldn't, and he sent another note saying, "Well, you can still f**ck off," ha ha. So I just
thought, Never mind, these things happen. But I dearly wish that he knew the truth. I'v always loved Paul. If I ever bump into him again, I'll try to tell him, but I doubt that he'll listen.
Any truth to the story of Ginger Baker setting fire to a Bee Gees mastertape?
Barry: I've never heard that, ha ha. It wouldn't surprise me, knowing Ginger. I've heard of Ginger hanging Robert Stigwood out the window by his shoes, three or four stories up, demanding his money. One good story was the [Stigwood] Sgt. Pepper album-they shipped about two million, then found about a million of them by the side of the road! Those days you could go platinum based upon your shipping. They'd shipped all those albums, but with no demand. So someone dumped a million!
Since Saturday Night Fever, you've been known for your falsetto. Do you ever feel trapped by that?
Barry: No, I do it when I love it and I don't do it when I don't feel like it. The story is that during the recording of Nights On Broadway, Arif Mardin asked if any of us could go out there and scream ad libs-R&B style. I volunteered, and in doing so, sort of discovered that this voice was hidden back there. Then I started developing it. When I look back it's actually something I ought to be proud of. Brian Wilson, Frankie Valli and even Prince-they don't make any bones about it. The first rock'n'roll record I ever heard was Little Darlin' bt The Diamonds-that was falsetto. So in a way it's been an integral part of rock'n'roll. It's nice to be a falsetto that's well known.
What's the story behind the Clive Anderson chat show?
Barry: With the greatest respect in the world, we've never commented on that story. We don't want to. It was a very upsetting experience and the guy was really out to ridicule us if he could, and every remark he made was, in a sense, created to try to ridicule us. I had just about enough of it and walked off. And Maurice and Robin followed me. It was not a nice experience. That was it. We never commented when it happened. Apart from what I've just said, I don't want to say any more. The details were not pleasant.
What's next for you all?
Barry: I want us to go on making records. We're in our prime, believe it or not. I think vocally and mentally we've managed to stay intact, somehow. Two of us, Robin and I, don't smoke any more. I think that's made an enormous
difference to the strength of our throats and our muscles. I'm the eldest at 51, and if the Stones can drag themselves around once more, then there's a few more albums in us. As long as you're having fun, that's the key. The moment it becomes a grind, it's over.
PUSHING BACK THE FRONTIERS OF SEXUALITY
Bee Gee Robin Gibb outraged his family and friends by revealing on live radio, "My wife's a lesbian and I love it." His outburst caused such reverberations that he refused even to confirm whether it was true or not.
Now, Robin and Dwina talk for the first time about their most unusual marriage...
(Interview by Ian Woodward)
The Bee Gees string of pop hits brought Robin Gibb 50 million but, he says, it was his wife Dwina who brought him liberation.... As we sit by the pool in their sumptuous Miami mansion, he looks at her and says: "Dwina's brought
something to my private life which I doubt any other woman could bring." As for Dwina, she says: "If Robin hadn't come along, I would never have married. Definitely not."
She may not be a great advocate of marriage, but the couple have been together 15 years now and celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on July 31st. They have even weathered the storm that raged in the British tabloids following Robin's revelation on American radio that his wife was a lesbian.
At the time, a shocked Dwina said "I'm going to kill him", and Robin has remained tight-lipped on the subject since then. But now the couple want to tell it how it is. Robin, 45, whose hits include "Night Fever", "Stayin' Alive", "If I can't have you" and "Massachussetts", explains: "I was being interviewed by the biggest shock jockey in the US on live radio. You have to shock with him or you become the butt of his treatment, so I got in first. It wasn't until I got on the plane later to go to London that I realised
what a can of worms I'd opened... but yes it's true, Dwina is bisexual with me."
Dwina says she wasn't hurt by Robin's revelations, but admits: "His comments did upset me, but only because I was worried about how my family, my mother and our son Robin-John (now 12) would take it. I didn't have shames about
what Robin said, and I still don't. I've always been liberated. No one can hurt me in anything they do or say, I just carry on living my life."
And a very luxurious lifestyle she has, too. After the dust had settled, she decided to impose a fine on her husband: "I said, "You owe me the biggest diamond ever", and as I like Jaguars he gave me a diamond-blue XJRS with a
numberplate that says DRUID." Dwina, who was born in Northern Ireland, is a Druid leader as well as a successful artist and novelist. And, to show him all was forgiven, she gave Robin a gold ring with a cameo of Lord Nelson which had belonged to Lady Hamilton.
The couple are physically very different - Robin is extremely thin in drainpipe jeans, with diamond ear stud and bikers boots, and Dwina, 40, is blonde and blooming - but they believe they are kindred spirits.
"We share the same philosophy about breaking down the barriers erected by society, about pushing back the frontiers in terms of sexuality," says Dwina. And Robin says that she's "made me more open, liberated me". He
insists: "We have freedom to do our own thing. If we're parted from each other for two or three weeks, we don't worry about it. We don't have any jealousies. We've passed the frantic boyfriend / girlfriend thing."
"If Robin met another woman and wanted to have a fling, so what?" asks Dwina. "We have a spiritual / physical bond whereby we know we're always going to be together. And, because of AIDS, we're extra careful not to march
unthinkingly into extra-marital affairs."
Robin comes straight to the point. "I knew Dwina was gay when we married, but that didn't matter because I was in love with her; I still am very much in love with her. And, anyway, she is bisexual with me. She is the best wife any husband could want."
"If we find somebody who sexually excites us, we can actually talk to each other about it," says Dwina. "We'll discuss it without fear of feeling guilty. It's totally open. We like to cruise and we like to watch."
The Bee Gee leans forward. "All of which is why I got an enormous kick from talking about this on the radio. There was no malicious intention, just high-spirited tomfoolery in order to engage the moment."
Says Dwina: "He was trying to shock - and he certainly shocked my mother!"
So what did his brothers Maurice and Barry, who live close by, think?
"They're used to Robin," Dwina answers. "On one radio show they were asked what past lives they might have led, and Robin piped up, "Barry was probably a rent-boy for Oscar Wilde". He tends to throw in these bombshells.
That attraction began back in 1980. "Our first meeting was at Maurice's house", she recalls. "Robin was going to commission me to do some artwork, and I remember him peeping out from behind the curtains as I arrived with
Robin, who has two older children (Spencer, 22, and Melissa, 21 in June), was going through his divorce. He says: "I wasn't actually looking for anybody to have a relationship with. It was a pretty heavy period for me,
but in the end, we were both won over. We have the same sense of humour, the same interests in history and life.
"She's always accepted me totally for what I am, as I have her. We've both benefited from each other's lives, attitudes and personalities. It's a chemistry thing. Ours is very much a case where two similars have attracted.
I couldn't live with somebody who was opposite to me, or who held grudges. We never go to bed on an argument."
Dwina remembers, "I'd been a loner for about 10 years when I first met Robin. I'd had a little girl who was born prematurely and. sadly, she died. I was too busy working to give any thought to romance, living among brick dust in a house in south-east London while trying to do it up. I didn't have a roof over my kitchen and I was using the electric fire to cook three course meals."
She now has an in-house chef in each of her millionaire-rowhomes.
She goes on: "Not long after Robin and I met, we both knew we wanted a child together before actually being with each other. We felt ours would be good genes to put together. But the baby never came along until we started living
together. Robin found a breath of fresh air blowing through his life when he met me. I've brought him so many things, and vice versa. I'm poet, artist and novelist, and he has helped me to focus on getting things finished."
Dwina is certainly a prolific author. She's just finished a novel, "The Shackles", set among the gay and straight communities of Miami's South Beach area. Two other yet-to-be-published books, "Under Wraps" and "Whispers Tell Lies", explore women's relationships.
"Writing about a woman who has this deep love for another woman is a subject that's completely natural for me to tackle," she says. "There's a section in "Whispers tells Lies" about lesbianism and voyeurism. These are books I just
had to write. I don't like the boundaries that society confronts us with and Robin's the same. He was breaking boundaries when he talked about me on that radio show."
As they look back on 10 years of marriage, Robin, whose solo hits include "Oh Darlin" and "Saved By The Bell", says: "We weren't really that interested in the idea of being married. We didn't even contemplate it, lt alone expect it."
"Anyway," reflects Dwina, "I don't think that a piece of paper really ties you down. I've always been a rebel in that respect, and so has Robin."
"But," he insists, "that doesn't mean we have multiple partners. It simply means that we make our commitments in the eyes of God."
Robin says he fell in love with Dwina for her looks, personality and sexuality as much as for her spirituality. Today, she is a Druid leader - her full title is Patroness of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids - and one room in the Miami home houses spiritual artefacts from around the world.
"I've always shared Dwina's spirituality," says Robin, "though I've never actually been converted to Druidism. It's really a belief in the elements and the worship of nature, rather than dancing naked around Stonehenge."
But Robin does have some unusual beliefs of his own. He believes he was Dwina's brother in a previous life. Dwina, descendant of an Irish king, looked into their family trees and found that one of her ancestors married one of his ancestors. She says: "We're almost like twins. We were born on the same day."
And he's also obsessed with historical figures. "First it was Charles Dickens, the Oliver Cromwell, then Winston Churchill. Now I share my bed with Horatio Nelson," reveals Dwina. "And, of course, living in a house with such historical connections as this, he's in his element."
Apparently the house was frequented by President John F Kennedy 30 odd years ago. He took a succession of blonde lovelies there for amorous trysts, including Marilyn Monroe. "Our bedroom is where Kennedy made love to all his
girlfriends," says Robin, who seems to have a penchant for buying former lovenests. His previous Miami home, four doors down, was the hideaway of gangster Al Capone and Hollywood movie queen Lana Turner. When Robin-John was born, the Gibbs moved to their present abode.
"It was like the castle after Sleeping Beauty's 100-year sleep, all over-grown," he says. "And inside, it was almost like Miss Havisham's house in "Great Expectations": everything covered in dust. It had been pretty much empty since Kennedy's assasination. I used to drive past it every day though you couldn't see the house for overgrowth. The gates were open and people would drive in and use the
grounds for love-making sessions. I saw there was potential. I just knew this had to be my house in America. We've now been here for 12 years and I never tire of the place."
Their Miami home is where Robin and Dwina work, Robin on a new Bee Gees album at their own recording studio in Miami and Dwina finishing her Celtic saga, "Cormac: The Sage". When they want to relax, they go to their 4 million medieval property set in 20 acres in Oxfordshire.
Theirs may not be a conventional marriage but they're adamant it is one that works. "Our marriage has always been the same," she says softly, "and I think it always will be. We have a special relationship."
"A very special relationship," endorses her husband, as they sit in their gazebo looking across a magnificent moonlit bay. "We have a healthy understanding of each other's needs. I understand her creative spirit."
"It's impossible," insists Dwina, "to have a conventional lifestyle if you are creative people."
"Ours is not a conventional lifestyle," says Robin. "We don't live by the rules. What we do in our private lives might not be to many people's liking, but that's their problem. Life should be lived to the full, and that's what
we're doing. I'm not a monk, and Dwina's not a nun!""
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