Family members capture that distinct Bee Gees sound

Jive Talkin'
Jive Talkin'

Three real-life family members are bringing Bee Gees hits to Horsham this month.

Jive Talkin’ presents The Bee Gees Live In Concert at The Capitol on Friday, November 21 (7.45pm).

The show boasts stars from TV and London’s West End, as well as a stunning band and live string section.

But, as lead vocalist Gary Simmons (Barry Gibb) tells the County Times, the real reason to see the show is the vocal harmony between him, his brother Darren (Maurice) and Darren’s son Jack (Robin).

Gary explains that Jack, who grew up listening to his father and uncle sing Bee Gees tunes for a living, is ready for the limelight.

“He’s now come of age and he’s joined the line-up as the Robin Gibb and he’s excellent in the role,” says Gary, talking about the advantages of performing with family members.

“A lot of people say ‘well, that sounds a bit dodgy’ and ‘I wouldn’t like to work with my brother’ but there’s been nothing but gains for us,” he continues. “Not to make it sound too profound, but there’s almost a kind of telepathy going on. When you’re singing and you’re looking at each other and you think alike, if you have to think on the fly, you both tend to know what the other one’s going to do.”

“We’ve always been incredibly happy with our blend,” he adds. “But having that third harmony now, also from the same family, it’s just creating a blend that we’re very excited about this year.”

Performing in the style of Bee Gees isn’t easy though, says Gary, who explains that even catching a cold can have a devastating effect on those high vocals.

“In the ’60s it’s very much regular singing for four voice vocals,” says Gary. “But when you do the ’70s stuff in the second half of the show, a lot of it – ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘Night Fever’ – is all in the falsetto voice. This is obviously a much more demanding voice but it’s also a very big part of the show because that’s when people get out of their seats and go crazy for the songs.”

However, both Gary and Darren have had a lot of time to practise. They started performing Bee Gees music in the late ’80s and made a memorable appearance on Stars In Their Eyes the early ’90s.

“It was actually the very first series of Stars In Their Eyes,” Gary explains. “Me and my brother Darren. I think I was like 17 at the time. We were just kids and it was when Lesley Crowther was hosting it. In fact, that’s how the Bee Gees show came into being. Before we went on Stars In Their Eyes me and my brother were just going around the pubs. We were just performing general covers and within those covers would be a few Bee Gees songs.”

People started paying attention once they realised how good their Bee Gees numbers were and, seeing as the singers lived in Bristol at the time, audiences dubbed them The Bristol Bee Gees.

“When an agent, actually against our will, put us into Stars in Their Eyes to sing ‘Night Fever’, we went along with it very reluctantly,” Gary admits.

The lads thought it would just be a bit of fun but the public thought differently.

“Piers Morgan gave us a really nice write-up in The Sun, saying that we were his favourite and all that. Then the phone started to ring and people wanted to book a Bee Gees band.”

So why does Gary think the Bee Gees are still so popular?

“I think it really is as simple as if you write a good song it can be performed in any age and in any interpretation,” he says. “If you take some of the Bee Gees ’60s songs like ‘To Love Somebody’ and ‘Words’, they were being covered in the ’80s and ’90s by people like Boyzone. You had ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ covered by Take That. You had ‘Stayin’ Alive’ covered by ’N Sync.”

“I first fell in love with the Bee Gees because of their harmony vocals,” Gary continues. “We do a little bit in our show where we tell the band to take five minutes. Then we sit down with just an acoustic guitar, the three of us, and we do a 20-minute acoustic set, which, for many people turns out to be kind of the highlight of the night in many ways.”

What’s the highlight of the show for Gary?

“My favourite song, just because of the reaction and ‘feel good’ factor, is probably ‘Stayin’ Alive’,” he says. “In the first half we concentrate on the ’60s music and it’s all kind of slow with luscious strings and that type of stuff. But when we go into the ’70s, Stayin’ Alive is the first song where there’s just this massive change in the way that everything sounds. When it comes in with that guitar intro, everyone is just off their seats. It’s just a great feeling and it’s a great song to sing as well.”

Gary’s love of the Bee Gees has given him an unconventional career, as well as some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

“We had a chance to perform with the Bee Gees themselves in 1997,” Gary reveals. “We used to go up to Heart FM in London and record jingles for their breakfast show in the style of the Bee Gees.”

One day the singers received a phone call. They were told that the real Bee Gees were coming in to the studio and the tribute singers ended up duetting with the stars on the radio, singing ‘To Love Somebody’.

“We ended up chatting to them for about an hour afterwards and they were really nice guys,” says Gary.

Having proved themselves with the real deal, it’s safe to say that these tribute singers know what they’re doing.

And they haven’t become bored of their careers either – quite the opposite, in fact.

“Right now, in this moment in time, I enjoy performing the stuff more than I ever have before,” states Gary. “Which, when you’ve been doing it for so long, is something to say.”

Tickets for the Capitol gig cost £19. Call the box office on 01403 750220 or click here.