599. ‘You Win Again’, by The Bee Gees

They’re back. Again! One of the most resilient pop groups in history returns for a final hurrah on top of the charts…

You Win Again, by The Bee Gees (their 5th and final #1)

4 weeks, from 11th October – 8th November 1987

I’m not sure quite how many reinventions The Bee Gees went through in total. But in chart-topping terms, this is Bee Gees MK III. Folk-tinged pop in the ‘60s, disco behemoths in the ‘70s, now a middle-aged, man-band. (In the video, they’re all sculpted beards, lounge bar jackets and, er, a beret.) But while ‘middle of the road’ is usually thrown about in an insulting way, I’d say this is one of the best examples of the genre.

In fact, I’d say this is my favourite of their five #1s. I love the clanking, industrial intro. I love the deeper timbre of Barry Gibb’s voice, compared to their famous disco falsettos. (It does re-appear, almost, in the second verse.) And then, by the chorus, an initially dark and melancholy number has turned into an Irish jig of a tune. But it’s all still very recognisably Bee Gees – their sound is so flexible and, while they haven’t always been fashionable, they’re one of the best pop song-writing teams ever.

Certain moments are a little too glossy for my tastes. It is still 1987, after all. The high synth notes are catchy, if of their time, and the electronic horns in the solo are a cheesy touch too far. There is also an unintentionally (or not?) filthy line in the second verse, as Barry describes how he’s going to win back his woman: Gonna hit you from all sides, Lay your fortress open wide…

‘You Win Again’ was a huge comeback for the Bee Gees. It was their first Top 40 hit since 1979, and it made them the first group to score #1s in three different decades. (Elvis, Cliff and Paul McCartney having already got there as soloists.) It was also a huge hit across Europe, but in the US ‘disco-sucks’ seemed to have stuck to them, as it got no higher than #75. Though we should mention that they were so heavily involved in Diana Ross’s own big comeback smash, ‘Chain Reaction’, as writers and backing singers, that they should probably have been given a ‘featuring’ credit.

Anyway, ‘You Win Again’ set them up as MOR superstars, and they’d score intermittent Top 10 hits throughout the nineties, including ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (which for a long time I thought must be a Metallica cover…) and the brilliant ‘Alone’ in 1997, which was on the very first NOW album I owned. (‘Now 36’… I think. Or ‘35’… Or maybe ‘37’. Memory ain’t what it used to be…) In 2003, Maurice Gibb died unexpectedly, and the remaining two brothers retired the Bee Gees name out of respect. In 2012, Robin died from cancer, while Barry still performs the band’s music in his solo tours.

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13 thoughts on “599. ‘You Win Again’, by The Bee Gees

  1. You hit the right spot with everything here. I must admit the ‘ooo-er missus’ double entendre hadn’t occurred to me before, by the way. But yes, we’d known The Bee Gees as plaintive love song balladeers with the occasional gallows lyric thrown in to prove its wasn’t all sugar, and the kings of British disco. This was something else, and as you say arguably the best of their five chart-toppers. In the previous year we’d had two reissues from the pre-Beatles years going all the way to the top, and now we had one of the UK’s (OK, UK/Aus) most enduring bands who had risen, fallen and kick-started themselves again. To rephrase an old cliche, don’t hit a band when they’re down – they may get up again. The Brothers Gibb did, again and again. (It was the comeback era, wasn’t it – the week after this dropped off the top, George Harrison became entrenched at No. 2 for four weeks. Old guys rule…)

  2. Loved the Bee Gees at every stage of theiŕ career and loved that were always trying new styles, follk rock, love songs, big ballads, country, funk, disco, retro, soul, and now synth. Maurice had been inspired by Depeche Mode and guided this one. Fabulous, though i merely say it is every bit as good as their previous chart toppers, but in a different way. 🙂

    • I think the disco backlash stuck to them more in the US…? Whereas in the UK they had been around before and after disco, and had helped Diana Ross to a big hit they year before. Shame, because it’s a good tune.

    • I remember one of the band telling an interviewer shortly afterwards that they felt it was more of a ‘British’ sounding record, hence the unexpected if disappointing low US chart position.

      • Interesting theory from a band member. There were plenty of British bands that got their music noticed over here in the 80s.

        I think my generation is guilty of ignoring them, as they were “disco” when we were younger. They were no longer “cool.” They got stigmatized and pushed aside. I don’t think this was a “British thing.” I think this was a “fickle American thing.”

  3. I haven’t heard this one since 1987 probably. I liked their late sixties sound the best but they had plenty of eras to pick from!

  4. Pingback: 600. ‘China in Your Hand’, by T’Pau | The UK Number Ones Blog

  5. Pingback: Recap: #571 – #600 | The UK Number Ones Blog

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