The strange story of when Robin Gibb quit the Bee Gees and they released an album without him

17 August 2021, 15:30

Barry Gibb and Maurice Gibb split from Robin in the late 1960s
Barry Gibb and Maurice Gibb split from Robin in the late 1960s. Picture: Alamy/Polydor

By Mayer Nissim

Did you know about Robin Gibb's short-lived sixties solo moment?

From the Everly Brothers to Oasis, relationships between brothers in music are often tempestuous.

But one group of brothers who stayed together longer than most were the Bee Gees.

Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb's musical partnership stretched back all the way to their earliest days in Manchester, when they formed skiffle group The Rattlesnakes in 1955.

Bee Gees in 1964
Bee Gees in 1964. Picture: Getty

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That would have made Barry about 9 years old, and twins Robin and Maurice only 6.

Within three years, before the boys were even teenagers, they became the Bee Gees.

They happily stayed together for a whopping 45 years until Maurice Gibb's untimely death in 2003 at the age of just 53. Well, sort of.

While everyone knows about the Gibbs' solo efforts in the mid-1980s (Barry's Now Voyager, Robin's How Old Are You?, Secret Agent and Walls Have Eyes, and Maurice's 'Hold Her in Your Hand' single), the band's splintering at the end of the 1960s is often forgotten.

Read more: A Bee Gees movie is coming from the Bohemian Rhapsody producer

The Bee Gees had their first wave of success in 1967, with a string of Top 20 albums in their new adopted home country of Australia, as well as the UK and US.

But tempers soon flared. Robin felt that the band's early manager and producer Robert Stigwood was pushing Barry as the frontman, and he wanted the spotlight for himself.

So he quit the group to start a solo career. Undeterred, Barry and Maurice pushed on with drummer Colin Peterson, and they even roped in their sister Lesley to temporarily join the group.

Bee Gees back together in 1971
Bee Gees back together in 1971. Picture: Getty

Just 24 years old and a month after giving birth, she performed for a TV appearance on Talk of the Town.

"I was petrified, all those people watching, I almost burst into tears," she said.

Barry and Maurice went on to record Cucumber Castle, still the only Bee Gees album not to feature any of Robin's vocals (though he does get a co-writing credit for 'Turning Tide', which he composed with Barry before he quit the group).

Despite the success of single 'Don't Forget To Remember' (number two in the UK), the album stalled.

It even looked like the Bee Gees might be over, with Barry and Maurice parting ways and both recording solo albums that would remain unreleased.

Read more: Barry Gibb and Brian Wilson hint at making music together after mutual praise

Meanwhile, Robin had recorded and actually released his own solo album Robin's Reign.

Like his brothers Bee Gees' effort, the album didn't do that well despite having its own number two UK single with 'Saved By The Bell' (that was later covered by Elton John).

It was clear that the Bee Gees were very much more than the sum of their brilliant parts, and it was only a matter of time before they got back together.

Robin was the one who broke the ice, ringing up Barry in mid-1970 to say "let's do it again".

Maurice added: "We just discussed it and re-formed. We want to apologise publicly to Robin for the things that have been said."

Read more: Bee Gees statue is unveiled near their birthplace on Isle of Man

The reformed Bee Gees put together comeback album 2 Years On – led by single 'Lonely Days' – before the end of the year, and that was that.

Barry said the Bee Gees "will never, ever part again", and despite their work on solo albums and other projects over the years, that remained true.

After Maurice's sad death in 2003, Barry and Robin performed together only intermittently in the years that followed.

Robin contracted liver cancer in 2011 and died the following year, leaving big brother Barry as the sole surviving member of the Bee Gees, and the one who continues to keep the disco flame lit with his solo music and live performances.