Thursday, March 22, 2012

No. 805 – I Started a Joke

Performer: Bee Gees
Songwriters: Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb
Original Release: Idea
Year: 1968
Definitive Version: None

I just got back from a business trip. It was a conference on digital publishing in New York City—the first time I’d been to the city since 1991. It was interesting, but the less said about the entire experience the better. The things I wrote about NYC a little while back? They still apply. I can’t say I’ve ever been happier to be back in sweet home Chicago.

Believe it or not, that’s actually an appropriate introduction to today’s post, because it involves another business trip a few years ago. First, let me give you a little background, and (trust me) this all ties together by the end in a neat little bow.

My first exposure to the Bee Gees as a kid was probably the same as a lot of people my age: from disco. Well, actually it predated Saturday Night Fever, but it was their firm embrace of disco music with Jive Talkin’ and Nights on Broadway. I was surprised to learn after they blew up that they had a whole career of songs from before then, like Massachusetts or this song. They never played those songs on any radio station I listened to. And like any good teen rocker, by the late ‘70s, I hated the Bee Gees. I mean, who didn’t hate disco? And the Bee Gees were the biggest purveyors of the crap.

Many years later, Jin ended up working with the Bee Gees as an editor for a VH-1 documentary that was shown in the Nineties. She got to meet them all, and, of course, that significantly increased the coolness factor as far as I was concerned. I remember her talking specifically about this song. It was her favorite, and she would humorously overenunciate Robin’s vibrato.

Fast-forward another decade: It’s March 2009, and I was driving Laurie to O’Hare for her to go on a business trip. (See? There’s your bow, right there.) At her old job, she went to an annual health-care conference in Arizona. On this particular trip, she was leaving on the weekend, so I could drive her after to the airport. We took her preferred route, which is a little out of the way, but she likes to drive past the forest preserve on Devon.

Anyway, when we turned onto Harlem to get to the Kennedy, this song came on the radio. Laurie started to sing along—complete with proper and not entirely respectful vibrato. Laurie fancies herself the world’s greatest unknown karaoke singer, and she has a nice voice. So hearing her with Robin accompanying her sounded pleasant and amusing. She also poked fun at the outrageously pity-party nature of the lyrics, so this song started to become a fun and cool song for those two reasons.

And here we are now: Can you believe it? A disco-hating rocker has a Bee Gees song on his top 1,000 list with nary a single trace of irony present.

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