A couple of posts ago, as I wrote about Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco’, I made a big deal about #1 hits that reference places, and how uncommon they were. Of course, just to prove me wrong, the charts now throw up a song about Massachusetts.
Massachusetts (The Lights Went Out In), by The Bee Gees (their 1st of five #1s)
4 weeks, from 11th October – 8th November 1967
And that’s not all that this next chart-topper has in common with McKenzie’s hit. It also, you know, sounds a lot like it. The same light guitar and the same chimes. The same chilled-out vibes. It even references San Fran in the second verse. It’s the (Indian) Summer of Love! Is it harsh to suggest that The Bee Gees were simply jumping on the hippy bandwagon?
Actually, yeah, it would be harsh. This is a retort to songs like ‘San Francisco’. It’s being sung from the point of view of someone who has left his home, in Massachusetts, to join in the summer’s festivities, and who now feels a bit homesick. Feel I’m going back to Massachusetts, Something’s telling me, I must go home… He left his girl standing alone, as the lights all went down in Massachusetts… But he’s now seen the error of his ways: They brought me back, To see my way with you…
It’s an interesting concept, and a quick piece of song writing to get the record out and in the charts mere weeks after the hits that it references. It turns what I initially felt was a so-so, slightly bland song into one worthy of note. The lights are going down in Massachusetts because everybody’s buggering off to the West Coast! I will remember Massachusetts… I wonder if the Massachusetts Tourist Board have ever used it in an ad campaign?
Moving on – largely because ‘Massachusetts’ is a really difficult word to keep typing – let’s take a look at the band. The debutants atop the UK Singles Chart. The Bee Gees. You know, the band that in a decade’s time will take disco to the masses. I think that’s the ‘Bee Gees’ that most people think of: jumpsuits and sparkles and you should be dancing… It’s there in this record, mainly in the vocal harmonies that tremble a little higher than your regular pop record. (Though Robin Gibb sang lead on this one, while Barry sang falsetto on most of their seventies hits.)
They’re a fascinating band, actually. They will spread their five chart-toppers over exactly twenty years, covering three completely different versions of themselves, in terms of sound and image. But they’re not a band I’ve ever really been able to love, and I wish I could like their debut #1 more than I do… (Personally I think their final #1 is by far the best of the five.)
Anyway, they will be back soon enough. In between this and their next #1, they will release ‘Words’, which I can look on fondly as one of the first songs I ever learned to play on keyboard. Other interesting, and less self-revolving, bits of trivia about sixties-era Bee Gees include the fact that none of them had ever actually been to Massachusetts – they just liked the sound of it, and the fact that it was about as far away from San Francisco as you can get on the continental USA. (The Bee Gees, of course, weren’t American – they’re British/Australian.) And… I really like this one… ‘Massachusetts’ was the first ever non-Japanese #1 single on the Japanese charts! How about that…
11 thoughts on “238. ‘Massachusetts (The Lights Went Out In)’, by The Bee Gees”
I’ve always liked this song- but it’s not even the best song with the title “Massachusetts”- in my opinion– I will go with Arlo Guthrie’s “Massachusetts.”
I’ll have to check it out!
Wow I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this song. My parents left Massachusetts to move to California just like many folks. And they’re always talking about songs about Boston/MA and songs about CA… etc… I’ll have to ask if they know this one. My personal favorite song about MA is “Massachusetts” by Ylvis. 😀
Yeah people are now mentioning other songs about Massachusetts, while this is the only one I’ve ever heard of…! Maybe this song was bigger in the UK than the States?
This band knew how to reinvent themselves successfully. I like their early period…
Yeah, shame it gets a bit overshadowed by all the sparkle and disco lights that came later
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I had no idea the Bee Gees had actually started off as a band instead of just the Brothers Three. Huh, that’s interesting. Their sound is very different in the late-60s than the disco/R&B/pop they’d be doing in the late-70s. I like it. It’s kinda folk-rock mixed with psychedelic pop and orchestral pop. Very much of the era and I can definitely hear how 70s pop artists were influenced by this. This song is fantastic. Anti-flower-power. Never heard it before but I’ll be adding it to my playlist. Great song. I had no idea “I Started a Joke” was by them too.