Family room, Melbourne, June 2012
You don’t have to own every song you like. You don’t have to possess all the music you love.
After Robin Gibb died in May 2012 I watched a Bee Gees documentary with my wife Julie and our youngest child, 15 year old Reuben. We sat together on the couch, eating chocolate.
At the end of the documentary I told Reuben that while I’ve always enjoyed The Bee Gees’ songs – especially the ballads – I don’t have a record or cassette or CD of theirs. Not an album. Or a tape. Or a single. Nothing. I said that I grew up with their songs on the AM radio and on the black and white telly. There was always a Bee Gees song in your head: Spicks And Specks, To Love Somebody, Massachussetts, Words, Run To Me…
From the mid-1960s through to the early-mid 1970s, The Bee Gees music was a part of everyday life – like playing in the backyard til dark, like riding a bike without having to wear a helmet, like eating spoonfuls of Milo straight out of the tin when Mum wasn’t in the kitchen.
But, I later realised that evening, I do have a Bee Gees song in my possession. Just the one. Islands in The Stream. Written by Barry, Maurice and Robin, it was, of course, a huge hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton in 1983. I liked the song back then but I was too much of a music snob to admit it.
I mean, Kenny and Dolly? Weren’t they mainstream country singers? White-bread country? Weren’t they just a bit too sweet, a bit too saccharine?
In 2007 Australian country singer Troy Cassar-Daley and indie-pop darling Ella Hooper did a delightful version on RocKwiz, the rock and roll quiz show on SBS-TV. Cassar-Daley looked very country in a dark open neck shirt with white piping and Hooper, sporting blonde hair, looked as sweet as ever. They’re both smiling with the joy of performing the song.
And now, here I am five years later, watching a RocKwiz duets DVD, a Christmas present from a few years back.
Islands in the Stream is still as catchy as hell, like so many of The Bee Gees’ songs. And since 2007 it’s had the RocKwiz seal of approval. I play the song twice for the heck of it.
As the song finishes and I reach for the remote control to play it yet again my wife suggests I might be watching Ella Hooper more than listening to the song. I don’t disagree.