The Brothers Gibb’s 2nd number one picks up where their first – ‘Massachusetts’ – left off. Melancholy and minor key-ish. This time, though, with a hint of gospel about it, a touch of something more funky. I like it more than ‘Massachusetts’ (and always have done…)
I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You, by The Bee Gees (their 2nd of five #1s)
1 week, from 4th – 11th September 1968
The lyrics immediately remind me of Tom Jones’ monster hit from a couple of years back, ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’, as they concern a man condemned to die. Is it worth making a new sub-genre of chert-topper? The death row #1? Probably not. In GGGOH, the singer was dreaming in an attempt to escape his inevitable fate. But in this one, the singer is under no illusions. The last rites are being read… The preacher talked with me and he smiled, Said come and walk with me, Come and walk one more mile…
The end is nigh, but he wants to get one last message out to his beloved… I’ve just got to get a message to you, Hold on… Hold on… One more hour and my life will be through… Whether or not he manages to get the message out is never revealed. In the background some very late-sixties percussion and an organ make things sound much cheerier than they should.
Another key difference to GGGOH (something very satisfying about banging that out in caps…) is that we are left in no doubt that the singer dunnit. He killed a man – I did it to him, Now it’s my turn to die… And it might even have been a crime of passion: It’s only her love that keeps me wearing this dirt… Is she grateful, or sad, or has she already shacked up with someone else…?
For the final verse we get a key change. Which means this record about a murderer preparing to face the electric chair ends on a strangely uplifting vibe. He’s still alive at the end, and the listener is left to wonder if maybe, just maybe… I do like a song that tells a story!
As much I like this record, however, there is something irritating about how The Bee Gees sing. While not quite the falsettos from their disco phase, it’s still a bit nasal, a bit whiny, especially after the key-change. Minor quibbles, though, minor quibbles. They would score further hits with classics like ‘Words’, ‘I Started a Joke’ and ‘World’, the latter of which forever has a place in my heart as one of the very few songs that I ever managed to master on a keyboard. This can be seen as the end of The Bee Gees MK I. They will fade from view, chart-wise, for most of the early-seventies, until disco comes along and we meet them again in a decade or so.