The Bee Gees: “They’re Beyond Underrated … Criminally Underrated At Points”
Album by album and song by song, three music historians (aka Bee Gee-ologists) — Andrew Môn Hughes, Grant Walters and Mark Crohan — took their collective expertise and appreciation of the Bee Gees and crafted a fascinating exploration into the Gibb brothers’ music, lives and careers in the new book series Decades: The Bee Gees.
The four-volume series (two of which were recently released) break down the Gibb brothers’ legacy by decade starting with Decades: The Bee Gees in the 1960s and then Decades: The Bee Gees in the 1970s. The books share the story of how Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb mastered their crafts as performers, songwriters and recording artists, and rose out of obscurity to find international success. But these books aren’t simply a biography of their lives — these 200-plus-page collectible must-haves are a massive dissection of all of the band’s songs and the stories behind the making of each.
For co-author Grant Walters, his appreciation of the Bee Gees started when he was about two or three years old. His first 7-inch single was “Tragedy,” a gift from his mother, which ultimately continued to fuel his passion for the group into his adulthood. In the early 1990s, Walters started an internet mailing list for the Bee Gees.
For those of you not familiar, this is when social media wasn’t an option and fan groups could only connect through email lists.
“Within a few months we had thousands of Bee Gees fans from around the world subscribed to this thing,” Walters said about the mailing list. “So we started talking a lot about the music, the records, different things.”
Walters, and eventually others, actually kept this email list active and in existence through 2023.
It’s through the internet email list where Walters, a federal government contractor by day, originally met his fellow co-authors Andrew Môn Hughes (who worked for the Bee Gees and now lives in Wales) and Mark Crohan (who wrote a Bee Gees biography in 2000 and lives in Australia). During the pandemic, they reconnected and began the process of writing the book series.
“We didn’t focus a lot on family politics or a lot of the tabloid kind of stuff because that’s all out there,” Walters says. “We only wanted to tell the story insofar as it served how the records got made. Our main focus for these particular books are the records and the actual songs.”
It’s a humongous task considering the Bee Gee’s catalog spans seven decades. They have sold in excess of 200 million records, putting them among the best-selling artists of all time. When we asked Walters if he thinks the Bee Gees are underrated, he was quick to assert:
“They’re beyond underrated — I mean, criminally underrated at points. I think the music industry recognizes their sort of genius,” Walters says. “I don’t think the media has been very kind to them, and I don’t think that’s helped them out. I think that they’ve always been so associated with the late 1970s and all of the things that come with that in the media image that they have written. In terms of songwriting, in terms of production, I mean, they’re right up there with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They’re up there with all the other bands who have gotten their due, and certainly they’ve been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Certainly they’ve gotten awards and things like that. But I think in the public consciousness, when the documentary came out a couple of years ago [Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is available to stream on MAX], I think people were sort of surprised at how much they had accomplished.
“That’s really weird to me when you think of a career that’s lasted for 60-something years, and it’s still ongoing,” Walters adds. “Barry has recently made music, and their music is still being covered. I would say compared to their contemporaries, they have not gotten the recognition or the respect publicly that I think they deserved. And their influence is everywhere. Lots of records in the 1980s wouldn’t have gotten made if it hadn’t been for Saturday Night Fever and Spirits Having Flown. I’ll still hear music pop up on the radio every once in a while from a brand new artist and be like, ‘Wait a minute, where did you get that from?’
In my eyes, yes, they’re criminally underrated. And that was part of the impetus for us to really document this in such forensic detail — sitting down and really telling their story from that perspective so you understand. These guys have been making records since 1963 and have created this catalog and this world of music that has really shaped the course of music history, but they’ve never been credited with that in the way that I think they deserve to be.”
“It’s hard to be proud and humble at the same time,” Barry Gibb said. “It is one of the most special moments in my life and something that I will always cherish. When I think back over 50 years to our beginnings in Redcliffe, Queensland, I could never have expected this to happen in my life.”
The time and research that went into crafting these profoundly enlightening and fact-based books were truly a labor of love. You can order a book by clicking on the links below.