Monday, October 2, 2017

The Bee Gees – Benn Hall, Rugby 1967

The Bee Gees – Benn Hall, Rugby 1967
by Pete Clemons

This coming December sees a show advertised as ‘Jive Talkin’ perform The Bee Gees – ‘The timeless repertoire of the Bee Gees is brought to life in this stunning stage production’. And this show is being held at the ‘Benn Memorial Hall’ in Rugby.

And after seeing this show advertised it immediately struck me if the folk who run the Benn Hall nowadays were aware that the real Bee Gees once appeared at their venue.

So I threw a comment onto their Facebook page to stimulate a bit of debate on the subject. I am not sure they took my comment to seriously initially. But thankfully ex Pinkerton Assorted Colours guitarist, Tom Long who has a wealth of local knowledge, became involved in the conversation and added more meat to the bone.

After immigrating to Australia in 1958, from Manchester, the Gibb Brothers soon continued the singing career they had begun in England. And it was in 1963 that the Gibb brothers first made the Australian charts with a song they had written. By 1966 they were voted Australia’s best singing group.

The Gibbs then decided to try their luck back in England and made the return journey. On arrival back they contacted every agency they could. They were soon contacted by Robert Stigwood who, at that time, was joint managing director of NEMS Enterprises along with Brian Epstein. Within days of that approach they had been signed up.

It was decided soon that the Bee Gees had to extend their range and become more of a band and so alongside Barry, Maurice and Robin would have been fellow Australians, guitarist Vince Melouney and drummer Colin Peterson.

Australian born Robert Stigwood was a dynamic manager and impresario, and his organisation would have presented the concert as he personally managed the Bee Gees. Robert was famed for his fanaticism and perfection in musical accomplishment.

Almost immediately he had the Bee Gees on the road and they were playing venues up and down the country and this included a visit to the Benn Hall 50 years ago, during October 1967 incredibly, at the same time the hit single ‘Massachusetts (The Lights Went Out In)’ was topping the charts.

As far as my research has taken me I believe the set list for the Rugby gig would have been something like: Massachusetts, Turn of the Century, Holiday, In My Own Time, Jingle Jangle, New York Mining Disaster 1941, I Can’t See Nobody, Gilbert Green, To Love Somebody and Spicks and Specks.

In fact 1967 was an incredibly busy year for the band. Apart from the hectic touring they released the album ‘Bee Gees 1st’ (actually their third studio album) during July. It was however the band’s first ever album release for the Polydor label.

During an interview by Barry Gibb at the time he mentioned how they drove the producers and technicians mad as they had nothing knocked out for the album. Apparently they sat about, thought up a subject, and wrote a song on the spot. It seems they did the whole of the ‘Bee Gees 1st’ LP like that. It was spontaneous and off the cuff.

By 1968 the band had completed a tour of the U.S. and was touring Scandinavia and the U.K. with a full orchestra under the direction of Robert Stigwood.

Tom Long’s own recollections along with a guy he knows who worked at the Benn Hall at that time of the Benn Hall ultimately came up with the following list of bands and artists that also appeared at the venue: the Small Faces, Status Quo, The Kinks, The Walker Brothers, Long John Baldry, Jeff Beck band with Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Zoot Money and possibly Joe Cocker.

Tom’s friend who sold the food also mentioned that ‘all the bands had their pre-gig meal taken down to the dressing room’. The Bee Gees apparently came to the kitchen to collect their own. What a memory!

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