1963


The Bee Gees were signed at the start of 1963 to Festival Records, the largest independent record company in Australia. They were assigned to the Leedon label. In the course of three years the group would record a total of nineteen songs spread across eight singles and one album. Following something of a tradition at Festival, the boys also appeared uncredited on disks by a variety of other Festival artists, some of them still being discovered more than forty years later.

Oldest brother Barry Gibb started a second career as a professional songwriter. Bee Gees recordings account for less than half of his published songs during these three years. This set the pattern for all of Barry’s life in music.

The Bee Gees were still something of a novelty act, precocious kids doing comedy and song. It was hard to take them seriously as a musical group. Their name was well known but they did not sell a lot of records. Barry’s songwriting career seemed to have more long-term potential and he gradually built himself a solid reputation in the business. The first record producer to give the Bee Gees much respect was Bill Shepherd, but that was not until 1965.

It may sound like a teenage dream to do nothing but music, but it was far from idyllic. The boys’ childhood slipped away. Australia had good laws against child labor but by one means and another the boys’ manager— their own father— evaded the law and kept the boys working day after day. At his urging they did what was necessary to please government officials and local promoters. Hugh offered little musical advice or encouragement either. Maurice lamented years later that their father never told the boys whether they’d sung well, but only whether the audience had liked them.

The Bee Gees’ Australian recordings were owned by Festival Records until 2005. The Bee Gees had no control over them. The recordings have been reissued countless times, not always by permission, and sadly have been more readily available than much of the group’s later and better work. When these songs were committed to tape, the Australian record industry was still young, and engineers had to rely on intuition and ingenuity to get passable sound out of the minimal equipment available. The Bee Gees’ sessions were short, and as kids who had not had a hit, they were given less than usual attention. As a result the technical quality of these early recordings is below any of their later ones.


songs


THE BATTLE OF THE BLUE AND THE GREY
Barry Gibb
A side by Bee Gees, March 1963

THE THREE KISSES OF LOVE
Barry Gibb
B side by Bee Gees, March 1963

TIMBER!
Barry Gibb
A side by Bee Gees, July 1963

TAKE HOLD OF THAT STAR
Barry Gibb
B side by Bee Gees, July 1963

I’D LIKE TO LEAVE IF I MAY
Barry Gibb
B side by Lonnie Lee, August 1963

LET’S STOMP, AUSTRALIA WAY
Barry Gibb, Johnny Devlin
A side by Tony Brady, October 1963

LUCKY ME
Barry Gibb
B side by Tony Brady, October 1963

BREAKING UP A DARN GOOD THING
Barry Gibb
Australian copyright September 1963. no record

HERE SHE COMES
Barry Gibb
Australian copyright September 1963. no record

TRUE TRUE LOVE
Barry Gibb
Australian copyright September 1963. no record

SURFER BOY
Barry Gibb
Australian copyright September 1963. B side by Noeleen Batley, November 1963

The reason for copyright registration is to protect the songs, so the unreleased titles here were probably either performed publicly by the Bee Gees or sent to artists’ representatives as demo recordings or sheet music. The surfing sound was big in Australia the summer of 1963-1964.


recording sessions


Bee Gees

Barry Gibb — vocal
Robin Gibb — vocal
Maurice Gibb — vocal
Joy Boys — guitar, bass, drums
engineer: Robert Iredale
producer: Col Joye
probably February 1963, Festival Studio, Sydney

THE BATTLE OF THE BLUE AND THE GREY
Barry Gibb (1963)
mono 2:05, lead vocal Barry Gibb
A side, March 1963

THE THREE KISSES OF LOVE
Barry Gibb (1963)
mono 1:46, lead vocal Barry Gibb
B side, March 1963

This was the Bee Gees’ first session for a release on disk. They had sung on television and radio for a few years and had sometimes pre-recorded their songs for the broadcasts.

Festival’s studio in Harris Street, Sydney, was equipped with two-track tape recorders. The usual procedure was to record the instrumental backing first, mixing it all live to one track, and then similarly record the vocals to the other track. The production staff could then mix the two tracks to a good balance for release in mono. None of the Australian two-tracks have survived. In those days master tape was often wiped and reused once the mono master was made. From those mono masters come all the available copies of these songs.

Robert Iredale was the engineer in charge. He was known for his ingenuity working with the limited equipment available and for somewhat short patience with rock and roll groups. He sometimes played piano and percussion on sessions, but it’s not known whether he did so on any Bee Gees records. Their Australian sessions are remembered by the group for their brevity. Other Festival artists recall the practice of recording two songs as quickly as possible and then seeing them go out on a single within a couple of weeks. No studio time was wasted on experiments or editing.

Col Joye recalls producing this session and using his group the Joy Boys for bass, drums, and guitar. The simple arrangement leaves space in the midrange for vocals. At this very early stage in the group’s history, Barry sings the lead vocals and the thirteen-year-old twins do fairly squeaky harmony and backing vocals, all recorded together in one pass.


Bee Gees

Barry Gibb — vocal, guitar
Robin Gibb — vocal
Maurice Gibb — vocal
others — bass, drums, violin, piano
engineer: Robert Iredale
producer: Robert Iredale
probably June 1963, Festival Studio, Sydney

TIMBER!
Barry Gibb (1963)
mono 1:46, lead vocal Barry Gibb
A side, July 1963

TAKE HOLD OF THAT STAR
Barry Gibb (1963)
mono 2:38, lead vocal Barry Gibb
B side, July 1963

‘Timber!’ may sound like it has orchestral backing, but actually it is just a single violin plus string bass and drums. Credit the echo chamber and some Robert Iredale sleight of hand. It’s the last of the songs with chirpy vocals by the twins, whose voices changed around this time. The high pitch and the breakneck pace almost make it sound like the record is being played at the wrong speed. Note Barry’s lyric, ‘Timber, baby, because I’m falling for you’. It was that sort of time in pop music.

The ballad B side shows in the middle solo sections that Barry at age sixteen was already in full voice just as he would sound for years to come. He also debuts on guitar, along with a lounge style piano, and again the string bass and drums.

At about this same time, Barry attended a session with Lonnie Lee, and the boys all sang on a record by Judy Stone— possibly all the same date. Details below.


Judy Stone

Judy Stone — vocal
Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb — vocal
others
engineer: Robert Iredale
producer: ?
probably June 1963, Festival Studio, Sydney

IT TAKES A LOT (TO MAKE ME CRY)
Kenrich, Bella
mono 2:02, lead vocal Judy Stone
A side, July 1963

Judy Stone was a popular singer of the day, and the Bee Gees knew her from working in shows together. This guest appearance was not planned. The Bee Gees happened to be in the studio the day Judy was cutting this vocal, and they were invited to sing backup.

Judy recorded an album with Col Joye around this time called The Best of Col and Judy. She was a friend of Noeleen Batley, who later recorded four songs by Barry.


Johnny Devlin

Johnny Devlin — vocal
Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb — vocal
others
engineer: ?
producer: ?
probably October 1963, Festival Studio, Sydney

STOMP THE TUMBARUMBA
Johnny Devlin, Joy Inman (1963)
mono 2:17, lead vocal Johnny Devlin
A side, November 1963

The Bee Gees sang backup vocals on this record, but their contribution is minimal. Johnny Devlin is a New Zealander who recorded in Australia. Tumbarumba is a town in northern New South Wales. The stomp was a popular dance this summer— notice a few following titles.


Jimmy Hannan

Jimmy Hannan — vocal
Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb — vocal
others
engineer: Robert Iredale
producer: Robert Iredale
probably November 1963, Festival Studio, Sydney

BEACH BALL
Frank Gari, Jim McGuinn (1963)
mono, lead vocal Jimmy Hannan
A side, December 1963

YOU GOTTA HAVE LOVE
Don Robey [Deadric Malone] (1963)
mono, lead vocal Jimmy Hannan
B side, December 1963

YOU MAKE ME HAPPY
Jimmy Curtiss (1963)
mono, lead vocal Jimmy Hannan
A side, April 1964

HOKEY POKEY
Larry LaPrise, Charles P Macak, Taftt Baker (1951)
mono, lead vocal Jimmy Hannan
B side, April 1964

The Bee Gees make another uncredited appearance as backup singers on four sides for television star Jimmy Hannan.  They also do some talking in the background to build up the party atmosphere on ‘Beach Ball’. Among the titles was one of the corniest novelty songs of the 1950s, released under the more contemporary title ‘Hokey Pokey Stomp’.

Trivia: the young writer of ‘Beach Ball’ Jim McGuinn later founded the California harmony rock group the Byrds, where he was also known as Roger McGuinn.


selected record releases


Bee-Gees : single
Australia: Leedon, March 1963.

A THE BATTLE OF THE BLUE AND THE GREY
B THE THREE KISSES OF LOVE

The Bee-Gees (with a hyphen on this disk) charted in Sydney with their first single, the last hit for a while. They appeared on Bandstand on April 24 to lip-sync to both songs.

CD: Both on Brilliant from Birth, Festival (Australia).


Col Joye : single
Australia: Festival, May 1963.

A PUT ’EM DOWN
B (UNDERNEATH THE) STARLIGHT OF LOVE

‘Starlight of love’ was among the songs that inspired Col Joye and his brother Kevin Jacobsen to bring Barry and his brothers to Festival Records. Col Joye was a very big name in Australian pop music, however unknown he may be abroad. His endorsement of their talent carried great weight, and so did his recording of one of Barry’s songs. Within just a few months, Barry saw the start of both his recording and songwriting careers.

Col and (presumably) his Joy Boys perform the melodic music-hall tune with the familiar arrangement of ukelele, bass, and drums, with backing vocals by an uncredited group. The Bee Gees never recorded the song.

CD: ‘Starlight of Love’ on Assault the Vaults, Festival (Australia).


Judy Stone : single
Australia: Leedon, July 1963.

A IT TAKES A LOT (TO MAKE ME CRY)
B I CRIED

Backing vocal by the Bee Gees on ‘It Takes a Lot’.

CD: Judy Stone 4,003,221 Tears from Now, Festival (Australia).


Bee Gees : single
Australia: Leedon, July 1963.

A TIMBER!
B TAKE HOLD OF THAT STAR

The second Bee Gees single did not tickle the public’s fancy.

CD: Both on Brilliant from Birth, Festival (Australia).


Lonnie Lee and the Leemen : single
Australia: Leedon, August 1963.

A ACRES OF EVERYTHING BUT LOVE
B I’D LIKE TO LEAVE IF I MAY

The Bee Gees are not on Lonnie Lee’s recording of ‘I’d Like to Leave If I May’ but Barry was in the studio advising Lonnie Lee and his group how he envisioned it being recorded. Lonnie’s smoothly impassioned performance is the first real rock and roll recording of a Barry Gibb song.

CD: ‘I’d Like to Leave If I May’ on Assault the Vaults, Festival (Australia).


Tony Brady : single
Australia: RCA, October 1963.

A LET’S STOMP, AUSTRALIA WAY
B LUCKY ME

Tony Brady was known as the ‘Australian Frank Sinatra’ for his appearance and vocal style. For one of his last releases he shifted gears and tried a stomp dance song co-written by Barry Gibb and writer and performer Johnny Devlin (see the next release below). For good measure the B side was another Barry Gibb song.

Tony had by this time started a career on the business side of music with the publisher Belinda, and he believed strongly in promoting Australian songwriters. Barry signed with Belinda in the later part of 1963. On this and other records (including Lonnie Lee’s recent single) Barry’s songs were marked proudly with the notation ‘Australian Comp.’.


Johnny Devlin : single
Australia: Festival, November 1963.

A STOMP THE TUMBARUMBA
B I BEG OF YOU

This is the first of two (known) Johnny Devlin singles that had the Bee Gees as backup singers, and was probably the first Top Five hit record the brothers appear on. It was also their first record release outside Australia: in 1996, a fan reported finding a single released in 1963 or 1964 on the Olga label in Scandinavia.

CD: Johnny Devlin, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Festival (Australia).


Noeleen Batley : single
Australia: Festival, November 1963.

A FORGIVE ME
B SURFER BOY

Barry wrote ‘Surfer Boy’ specifically for Noeleen Batley after she passed on some other songs he played for her in Tony Brady’s office at Belinda. She had had her first hit record in 1959 when she was just 20 and was by now a top-selling artist. Her excellent vocal makes the most of Barry’s song.

CD: Noeleen Batley : Festival Files, Festival (Australia).


Jimmy Hannan : single
Australia: Reg Grundy, December 1963; US: Atlantic, August 1964.

A BEACH BALL
B YOU GOTTA HAVE LOVE

Bee Gees backing vocals on a Top Five hit for Jimmy Hannan. This single was also the Bee Gees’ first American release— however as on the Australian original there is no mention of them on the label, and only a few copies are known to exist.