The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
This new documentary speaks very highly of the Bee Gees, charting the Gibb brothers’ Beatles-like beginnings to their later success as supreme songwriters for stars such as Diana Ross and Dolly Parton, via a little-known disco album called Saturday Night Fever.
Frank Marshall’s (husband of LucasFilm’s president Kathleen Kennedy) movie is remarkably brisk, covering decades of musical ground in under two hours. It makes the case for the subjects as “pop chameleons” – never categorisable but always adaptable – as they weathered the British Invasion, the birth of the Miami Sound Machine, and the disco boom, followed by subsequent backlash that ushered in a zeitgeist of dross in the 1980s.
What’s great about How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is that it presents the Bee Gees through their own words by incorporating new input from the trio’s living brother Barry and archival interviews with the late Robin and Maurice. The other contributors featured are well-suited to speak on specific aspects of the group’s expansive career, including Noel Gallagher’s discussion on performing with siblings and Chris Martin’s on receiving hatred for commercial success.
The documentary includes incredible footage from a festival where a riot nearly breaks out because the whole band have been advertised but only Robin turns up as a solo act, along with chilling scenes from Disco Demolition Night: a racist, homophobic act of “book burning” for black music. The film highlights the irony of the Bee Gees bearing the brunt of the “Disco Sucks” movement when they weren’t even working full-time within the genre; they just happened to define this cultural era with a best-selling soundtrack album (although no mention is made of the Sylvester Stallone-directed sequel, Stayin’ Alive).
It’s fascinating to learn or be reminded that the three-piece only introduced their signature falsetto sound almost 20 years into their career, by which time they’d already achieved fame, broken up and married and divorced Lulu (though that was just Maurice to be fair). The story behind the iconic Stayin’ Alive beat is also culturally significant. After their drummer left to attend a family emergency, the Gibbs took the percussion element from Night Fever, looped and slowed it down, contributing to the beginnings of modern music production in the process.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is a loving, illuminating and touching exploration of the music and personalities of three men with flares and a flair for writing hits.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is released digitally on demand on 14th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart here: