Robin Gibb's pyromania and other trivia left out of the new Bee Gees documentary

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/21/robin-gibbs-pyromania-and-other-trivia-left-out-of-the-new-bee-gees-documentary.html

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best part of the Sgt Pepper movie was seeing Barry Gibb punch Steve Tyler in the face.

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First of all, I would never disparage another person’s taste in music - or anything else, for that matter. the fact that the Brothers Gibb were incredibly talented is obvious, but talent doesn’t lead to an outcome that everyone likes. As someone who “came of age” as they say in the 1970’s, my friends and I never cared for disco in general, or the Bee Gee’s in particular. I don’t think there was any aspect of racism or homophobia, we just didn’t like music that wasn’t flat out Led Zeppelin set your pants on fire rock and roll. Were those issues really that prevalent? I had never heard that before.

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For me, it will always be Billy Preston as the deus ex machina who literally saves the day, while singing “Get Back”. Honestly the best version recorded of that song, IMO.

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Ya, a new interpretation for me as well. Personally, I leaned towards folk/country rock and the coming of disco meant for me greater expectations from women. No longer was an acceptable date sitting on a couch listening to albums, eating homemade chili and maybe a smoke. “Dancing!? You can’t dance to Gordon Lightfoot!”. “Dress Up!!? These are my best Levis!” . I was very aware at the time things were changing and not in my favour :slight_smile:

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Yes, they were.

You likely never noticed because of your privilege.

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Thanks for reminding about this. I’ve added it to my watch list.

How this doc missed any mention of the Sgt Pepper film escapes me. It’s like a disaster unfolding in real time that you just can’t look away from.

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Just watch Saturday Night Fever (seriously, it’s an extremely good film). That film is steeped in the racism and homophobia of the disco culture. You can’t even claim any revisionist history as the film’s popularity (and of course its infamous soundtrack) is literally what pushed disco from the fringes into the mainstream.

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Yeah I’m old enough and I remember. Racism and extreme homophobia were very much in the zeitgeist. But that was not what drove the hatred of disco and disco culture, at least not for all of us that hated it. Punk came for a reason, and it wasn’t just a reaction to super groups and art rock. There was a lot to hate about disco, both the music and the culture, and the corporate behaviour, that had nothing to do with racism or homophobia.

I remember hearing The Clash for the first time, and then the Sex Pistols, and I felt such a sense of relief and liberation, along with the energy and honesty.

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Ouch, that seems a little harsh for a guy that’s just trying to learn about a different point of view. I’m not saying homophobia and racism weren’t part of it, I’m just saying that the collective of friends that I had didn’t like care for disco because we didn’t like the sound of it. I don’t like cubism, but that doesn’t mean there’s some deep seated hatred of Spaniards. And it’s true, we were mostly white and straight, and just because we benefitted from that but that doesn’t mean we hated everything that wasn’t like us. It also doesn’t mean that we can’t grow, evolve, and become more understanding. I was just commenting that I’d never heard that theory before, or never thought of it that way. I didn’t mean to offend anyone, and I’m sorry if I did.

Or, if you just made that comment to be ironically funny - good one, you got me.

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The corporate behavior I can get behind, and I can understand the contrarian desire to break out of the mainstream and get into something different. You can hate the music on its aesthetic merits as well - not everybody will like the same thing. But when you hate on “the culture”, that’s rooted in racism and homophobia. Disco was literally invented in gay dance-clubs and is based on African and Latin beats and musical sensibilities. Disco was also started as a counter-response to the rise of rock music and dance music being marginalized at the time — because of, you guessed it, racism and homophobia.

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That is very true - if it was not for that movie, disco would have had a much different place in music history I think. And the racism in the movie was certainly obvious, and I guess now, thinking about it in retrospect, so was the homophobia. But as someone else alluded to in the comments, we weren’t interested in getting dressed up or dancing or any of that sort of thing. It wasn’t because we thought that was something gay people did, it’s because it was something we didn’t. But, these conversations (as BoingBoing social discussions often do) have opened my eyes to a different viewpoint, and I’m going to have to think about whether or not those things impacted 18 year old 1975 me without realizing it.

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I watched the documentary and wondered why this movie was left out of the discussion. It was a very big deal when it was released and again when it subsequently bombed. It also seemed as if the documentary glossed over the excessive drug use especially when discussing Maurice and Andy Gibb. I guess they wanted to bring it in under two hours.

The Bee Gees were omnipresent in the mid-70s and while I never owned any of their records, I enjoyed them all the same. I’d never previously considered the anti-disco movement as racist, but once I watched the documentary it became clear to me that the disco backlash was aimed toward two particular groups of people.

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And that’s perfectly reasonable - but maybe consider why that was? Was it purely an aesthetic dislike or was it something else? Maybe there was some unconscious bias here? Or maybe not.

While the eventual mainstream rejection of disco was absolutely rooted in racism and homophobia, that doesn’t mean yours was. Everybody’s circumstances are different.

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Well this is a slightly silly debate. But if you weren’t there it is hard to understand how omnipresent the music, and the Bee Gees in particular were-- music channels were very limited indeed, and like it or not, you got a lot of disco. But I think I can be excused the charges of homophobia and racism-- what I WAS listening to at the time included a lot of glam and reggae…

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To be fair, you can’t really edit any part from that movie into being a reference in another film. A single clip of the film exists, and it’s the entire film in full.

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That is an excellent question, and just the one this conversation has driven me to start asking myself. 1975 was a very different time, and maybe there was some unconscious bias. I appreciate this community for giving me the opportunity to think about these things and try to evolve.

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Nobody is accusing you, personally of anything. I was was just responding to what you wrote: you were against the corporatism and over saturation of the music, which is fine. But you also wrote you were against the culture. A culture that is inextricably linked with certain groups of people. Maybe that’s not what you meant but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable interpretation.

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When Disco came on the scene I was living in the West End of Vancouver in a community with many openly gay people, refugees, POC, who I interacted with regularly. The only person that I knew from those days who liked disco to the extent that he had the clothes and the moves was a mullet wearing (to this day!) conservative guy, but experience differs.

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Wait? What’s harsh about that though? No one is insulting you or your friends, it’s just that you just explained why you never noticed and not having to notice racism or homophobia around you with your mostly white friends is the privilege being spelled out.

No one said you hated everything that wasn’t like you. They said you didn’t notice racism and homophobia around you because you were privileged not to have to.

I didn’t notice racism and homophobia around me until it started actually impacting my life either. I’m not ashamed of that, it’s just the actual way that works.

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