REMEMBERING ANDY GIBB ON WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HIS 65th BIRTHDAY
Last year we told you about a brand new biography about Andy Gibb.
Long-time Forgotten Hits Reader Scott Paton got to know Gibb quite well during his time spent working on Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" radio program ...
And he connected me with author Matthew Hild, who had just written this first of its kind biography of Andy ... and was kind enough to send me a copy, which I read immediately, promising to do a review and brief interview after I was done. (Hild's book had already been profiled in "People Magazine" ... so I felt quite honored to even be considered for doing a follow-up piece!)
But (as has been the way for the better part of the past year or so) I never had the time to actually complete the piece ... something I felt just awful about because:
- A) I gave my word that I would do it ...
and B) I learned quite a bit from the book and DID have what I thought might be some interesting questions ...
and C) This would have been a very exciting project to be involved with.
Unfortunately, I could never put together the time required to deliver the goods.
Which is why I was SO happy to have been privy to a conversation / interview between these two principle participants, Author Matthew Hild and Music Historian Scott Paton, which I am now able to run exclusively in Forgotten Hits.
It's a good book.
My first reaction after reading the intro was that it might turn into a "fanboy" account of Gibb's career ... but the deeper I got into the book, the more I began to realize and recognize Andy's inner demons, which ultimately drove ... and then destroyed ... his career. I feel the book presents a fair accounting of all the facts ... meaning that we, as readers, are exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly ... and there are plenty of all of the above to digest when accessing The Andy Gibb Story.
On the one hand, you can easily write this off as just another case of the kid who had it all ... and then threw it all away once drugs were introduced into his life ...
But there is a LOT more to the story here, as you will see as you dig deeper into Andy's life and circumstances. I find it a bit unfair (as some have done) to judge his mega-successful brothers at fault for not setting aside their own careers to help their struggling brother walk the straight and narrow ... because repeated attempts to do so only failed and led to more frustration and separation within the family. ("Am I my brother's keeper" indeed!!!) But I CAN find some fault and blame here on The Brothers Gibb's "ever-willing-to-help" Mom, who seemed to cater to Andy's every whim.
It's a fascinating read ...
And we are proud to present this exclusive back-and-forth between Matthew Hild and Scott Paton (Ironically, you'll find the two sort of interview each other within the context of this enlightening conversation!) kk)
A Discussion Between Matthew Hild, Author of Arrow Through the Heart: The Biography of Andy Gibb, and Scott Paton, radio industry veteran and friend of Andy’s
Matthew Hild: When and where did you meet Andy?
Scott Paton: I had started working at the syndicated radio show American Top 40 several months earlier and did an initial phone interview with Andy after RSO Records pitched him to me when “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” was released (April 1977). We’d had a good conversation and, a few weeks later, I met him backstage at an awards show he attended with his brothers at the Hollywood Palladium. I introduced myself, reminding him of the interview, and he exclaimed, “Hey, you’re around my age!” (In fact, we were born a month and a day apart.) He told me that he was staying at the Beverly Hilton and that I should give him a shout and come hang out. That was the start of our friendship.
MH: Did you get to meet the Bee Gees or other members of his family?
SP: I did an interview with Barry within a few days of that first chat with Andy. He was busy mixing the Here At Last … Bee Gees Live album that was released the following month. But our conversation was predominantly to promote his kid brother’s first record in the States.
I met Andy’s parents, Hugh and Barbara, as well as his “little sister” Beri — actually his niece — when I met up with him at the hotel.
MH: How well did you get to know them?
SP: I got to know Hugh and Barbara quite well over the course of the next couple of years. On one of my trips to Miami, where all the Gibbs lived at the time, I did an interview with them on the houseboat on which they were living. A terrible storm broke out while I was there, and Barbara insisted I sleep on the couch ‘til it passed. When I woke up early the next day, I found that she’d put a blanket on me and put a glass of water for me on the coffee table.
If you’ve ever seen that footage of the Bee Gees working on the Spirits Having Flown album, where Barry creates that thunder sound effect on “Tragedy,” Andy and I were there at Criteria Studios in Miami that day. I wish the camera had caught us in a frame of that, then I’d have a photo of Andy and me together.
I never really got to know Robin at all, although I interviewed him once. I had some nominal interaction with Barry. But Maurice, who was probably the nicest guy in a very nice family, provided me with some great comedic relief on a flight from Miami to L.A. where we battled it out for all the Coca Cola for our respective cocktails. And at the premiere party for the ill-fated Sgt. Pepper film, Mo and I played a silly game of tag throughout the evening.
MH: What kind of relationship did Andy seem to have with his family?
SP: Andy was very close to his parents, niece Beri and his brothers, especially Barry. But he shared my opinion that Maurice was probably the nicest Gibb.
MH: Over what period of time did you know Andy?
SP: I saw a lot of Andy from ’77 to ’81, tapering off when he started dating Victoria Principal. Prior to that, he had mad crushes on Marie Osmond, Olivia Newton-John and numerous other women that crossed his professional path. Marie was definitely his chief obsession prior to Victoria, but he knew that her commitment to her Mormon faith would prevent them from ever having more than a close friendship.
I saw Andy a couple of times between ’82 and ’83 before we lost touch. I remember advising caution in dating Tanya Tucker based on some first-hand interaction I’d had with her. That was our last conversation.
I’m curious as to what you may have learned about the dynamic he and Marie had. They certainly had great chemistry in the duets they performed on TV.
MH: Just about everyone I interviewed who knew Andy in 1978 (the year he met Marie) said something to me about what a crush he had on her; some of them even felt that he was really in love with her. Some of them also felt that the feeling was mutual. But her family kept her closely protected, and while the Osmond brothers liked Andy and thought of him as a friend, they didn’t want her dating Andy. Nor did her mother Olive, especially when she learned that Andy had already been married and divorced and had a child. And of course, as you mentioned, what Andy called “the religion thing” kept the relationship from going in the direction that it might have otherwise. They saw less of each other as time went by, and the thought of a romance between them became a moot point once he met Victoria in January, 1981, but they remained friends. The chemistry between them was still apparent in their last performance together, singing the Kenny Rogers-Dolly Parton no. 1 hit “Islands in the Stream,” a Bee Gees composition, on the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon in 1986. (It can be seen on YouTube.)
MH: So you and Andy were friends throughout his heyday then. Did he seem to change much over that period of time?
SP: No, I wouldn’t say he changed much. He seemed to grow a little more confident with success, although in hindsight, that may just have been an outward presence he developed. When he learned that I had no interest in joining him in doing cocaine, he would always partake in another room, out of sight. But the only time I ever scolded him about it was when he had a heart murmur in L.A. in ’78. He was quite sheepish about it. He had his failings — often being late, or missing professional obligations, but he always remained a very nice guy.
MH: Did you see him interact with his fans (predominantly girls and young women) much? How did he treat them?
SP: Andy couldn’t have been nicer or more thoughtful to his fans. Never annoyed by autograph seekers and always eager to please. He definitely was a bit girl crazy, as most of us guys were at that age, but he was never rude or lascivious … or entitled by virtue of his celebrity.
MH: The two documentaries that were made about Andy (one for VH-1’s Behind the Music in 1997, the other for the Biography Channel in 2008) both made much of Andy feeling insecure and in the shadow of his brothers. Did you see much evidence of that?
SP: The only significant example I saw of that was a concert he gave in Miami in the Summer of ’78. Toward the end of the show, the Bee Gees surprised him and came onstage to sing with him. Andy went into shock and walked away from them, barely composed. Now, granted, his dream in life was to join the Bee Gees, but I believe I said to him, “Geez, it’s not like the Beatles or Elvis surprised you, these are your brothers!”
But a year later, when Andy joined them onstage during some of the dates on their “Spirits Having Flown” tour, he was the picture of confidence.
Now, I have to ask you: After Andy died, the Bee Gees said that they were going to invite him into the group somewhere around ‘89/’90. Yet, I’ve read comments from Barry in recent years that Robin and Maurice voted against Andy’s inclusion prior to that. Did you learn any more about this?
MH: Barry was telling the press in 1979 about plans to add Andy to the group. But that was also the year that Andy’s substance abuse problems began to really impede his ability to write and record. Instead of adding Andy to the Bee Gees, Robert Stigwood and Barry instead made unsuccessful attempts to get him into rehab. One of Andy’s early-to-mid-‘80s managers says that Barry told Andy during those years that if he could get himself clean and sober, he could become a member of the Bee Gees. But about a year after Andy died, Barry told a reporter that he had tried to add Andy to the group six months before he died (which would have been September, 1987), but that Robin and Maurice voted against it. The Bee Gees documentary How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020) said (with words on the screen) that the Bee Gees had announced in early 1988, just before Andy died, that he would be added to the group, but I don’t know what the basis for that claim was. It wasn’t mentioned in the press at that time. Recording engineer Scott Glasel was working with the Bee Gees then, and he told me the plan was for the Bee Gees to bring Andy on tour with them as their opening act, and some press reports after Andy died said that as well.
MH: Did Andy seem to take his career seriously? Did he seem dedicated to his music?
SP: I think he took it seriously, but in the tumult of sudden world-wide fame, coupled with post-adolescence, girls and substance issues, I think the vagaries of celebrity ended up eclipsing all else. Now, mind you, Andy always remained a very nice guy – except maybe when he was fighting with his good friend and road manager, Tony, a thankless task, by the way — but I think there was some significant loss of focus after the first two albums.
MH: On those first two albums, Flowing Rivers (1977) and Shadow Dancing (1978), Andy did the majority of the songwriting, even though Barry played a bigger role in writing his singles. But on his third album, After Dark (1980), Barry did most of the writing and even contributed a lot vocally. Andy later admitted in an interview that this was largely due to his cocaine abuse, but did he ever say anything to you at the time about his reduced input on After Dark?
SP: Not specifically, no. But he did say that he had to recommit to doing more songwriting which, frankly, I felt he had kind of abandoned by the time Shadow Dancing was released. I never saw him pick up a guitar and work on anything new anymore. But he loved playing Don McLean and Bee Gees songs, which he and I would sing together, much to the amusement of his parents! But as I recall, I specifically didn’t say anything about After Dark to him, which I thought was a bit of a disappointment.
MH: In 1981, Andy started starring in stage musicals (beginning with The Pirates of Penzance in Los Angeles) and hosting the pop music countdown TV show Solid Gold along with Marilyn McCoo. At the same time, he made a single with his TV star girlfriend, Victoria Principal, a cover of the Everly Brothers’ classic “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (a minor [no. 51] Hot 100 hit). What did you make of this? Was he trying to establish himself as more of a separate entity from his brothers? Was he trying to give himself new career options as his records stopped selling as well as they had?
SP: Again, I never really brought up anything regarding Andy’s other entertainment forays into the stage musicals and TV. I rarely watched Solid Gold. I thought all that stuff was merely a dilution of what he really wanted to do, and that those off-shoots would diminish his credibility as a recording artist. I will say, though, Andy’s presence onstage or performing in front of a camera was remarkable. He had the star power that his big brothers only had as a unit of three. I hate to think of him devolving to a club performer, but he could do it very well.
Regarding that duet with Victoria, there’s a funny story. The one time I met her with him, I wasn’t knocked out by her somewhat proprietary air around him, so I’ll admit that might have colored this tale a bit. Anyway, at the time, I was writing and producing a three-hour syndicated radio show in which I would do interviews and review new releases. When the promo of “All I Have To Do Is Dream” came in, I cringed upon first listen. It was simply too sickly sweet, and clearly borne of wanting to cut a record with a girlfriend he’d lost his mind over. So, I did a tongue-in-cheek critical review of the 45, acknowledging in the segment that Andy was a personal friend. As I recall, in mock anguish I said something like, “No, Andy, no!”
A month or two later, I saw Andy when he was back in L.A. and he said, “Hey, mate! What was up with that review of my record with Victoria?” I cringed. I never thought Andy would have heard it, but someone had brought it to his attention. I fumbled an apology and he laughed, saying that my review was far less severe than most of what had been written.
SP: So, tell me what you’ve learned about Robert Stigwood’s dropping Andy from RSO Records? I did not know this at the time, and Andy never told me anything about it. I just assumed that given the Greatest Hits LP that was released and his relationship problems, there was just a long delay in recording and then, of course, the label went out of business. Given the fact that the Bee Gees were RSO’s top act and that Stigwood was their manager, this had to be a very awkward event for all involved.
MH: It was a combination of several things. The After Dark album didn’t sell as well as the first two albums (although it still earned a gold record), and Andy either was in too bad shape to tour that year or just refused to do it. And then Barry told him, according to Andy’s guitarist Joey Murcia, that he wasn’t going to give him any more songs unless he cleaned himself up. Andy recorded three songs for inclusion on the Greatest Hits album (as well as an unreleased cover version of the Bee Gees’ “Morning of My Life”) around the middle of 1980 and then moved to Malibu, California. After that, he practically stopped recording, except for two duets with Victoria Principal. After the Everlys cover didn’t sell too well, RSO declined to release the second duet (a cover of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which Andy had already released on the Greatest Hits album as a duet with P.P. Arnold). I interviewed former RSO executive Bill Oakes, and he said that by then Andy was costing the company more money than he was making for it. So when his contract expired in March, 1982, RSO dropped him, although Stigwood said in an interview 15 years later that it broke his heart to do it. And of course by then, the Bee Gees had sued Stigwood, their 1981 LP Living Eyes had sort of flopped, and Stigwood was about to get out of the record business anyway, so there was no need for him to keep Andy on just to make the Bee Gees happy.
SP: My knowledge of Andy after ‘82/’83 is largely what I gleaned from tabloid coverage post-Victoria and documentaries produced after his death. What did you learn about all these non-recording projects that dominated the last five or six years of his life? Did he enjoy what he was doing?
MH: As his mother later said, Andy loved performing in front of live audiences, especially the standing ovations that he would get after every show in Las Vegas. He seemed to enjoy theater, too, but he lacked the discipline for it, and his publicist at RSO, Ronnie Lippin, later said that “he wanted every night to be opening night.” But he wanted to get back into the studio, and he told interviewers that his goal was to have another hit record. He was always talking about recording projects and songs that he was writing. In 1984, he told interviewers that he was going to record an album with producer Richard Perry, one of the most successful producers of the 1970s and ‘80s. But nothing ever got off the ground, in part at least because of the addiction problems that led him to go into the Betty Ford Center in 1985 and another clinic in Santa Monica in 1986.
SP: What was the turning point that finally got the “monkey” of cocaine off his back? During the time that Andy and I hung out, my vice was Bacardi & Cokes, but Andy never had more than a beer or two. I heard that alcohol became a bit of a problem for him later on.
MH: I heard conflicting stories about Andy’s drinking problem and when it began. Some say it started when he was performing in bars on the isle of Ibiza as a young teenager in the early 1970s. Most people who knew him in the late ‘70s say they didn’t see it though. But some of his band members from the mid-80s, when Andy was playing mostly casinos, theaters, and fairs, remember him drinking vodka frequently. By then, he was having heart problems and chest and stomach pains and being hospitalized frequently, at least in part due to cocaine abuse. He was diagnosed with pericarditis and at least one cardiologist told him that if he didn’t clean himself up, it might cost him his life.
SP: I know that Andy’s fortune had vanished, he was quite a spender. How had he been getting by after he filed for bankruptcy?
MH: Rick Lotempio, who joined Andy’s band as a guitarist in the summer of 1985, told me that Andy “never did live a poor man’s lifestyle during this time.” Andy moved back to Miami in the fall of ’86, and he got a deal living rent-free in a penthouse of a brand-new condo overlooking Biscayne Bay. All he had to do was make some meet-and-greet type of promotional appearances for the developer, and he still had the condo under that deal when he died. He’d been due back in Miami about a week after that to make another one of those appearances. And his brothers provided furniture for the condo and gave him $200 a week.
SP: Barry has famously stated that prior to the deaths of each of his brothers, relationships were strained. How had Barry coped with Andy’s issues in those latter years?
MH: The relationship between Barry and Andy was definitely strained at times during the 1980s. Barry later said that Andy had left Miami for California in 1980 because “everyone” in Miami (meaning, especially Barry) was trying to stop him from using drugs, and Andy told an interviewer in 1986 that he had made the move because of Barry’s stifling oversight of his personal life. At times during the 1980s, Barry would tell Andy that he wasn’t going to do anything to help him if he didn’t get clean and sober. Yet he would also give Andy pep talks, telling him that he thought Andy was the most talented singer and versatile performer of all the brothers. The two of them became close again after Andy moved back to Miami. But as Barry would go on to say often in interviews, the last conversation he had with Andy, a long-distance call about a week before Andy died, was an argument, precipitated by what Barry was hearing from Robin and his mother about Andy drinking heavily again and jeopardizing the planned comeback.
MH: If Andy’s personal problems hadn’t overtaken him after the split with Victoria, how do you think his career would have gone during the mid-1980s? And when you learned that he had signed with Island Records, shortly before he died, what did you think of his comeback prospects?
SP: Well, his personal problems didn’t originate with the relationship with Victoria. His insecurities and his substance addictions certainly seemed to be a factor in the failure of that romance, which only sent him into more of a tailspin. But by all accounts, many of which I’ve learned from you, he largely had cleaned up near the end, albeit with some periodic setbacks.
I had heard that Andy had landed a new record deal and, of course, wished the best for him. By that time, I’d seen enough of show business to know there were no guarantees, but one great record could have brought him back on top. Look at the comebacks people like Neil Sedaka and Paul Anka had enjoyed. Geez, just look at the Bee Gees’ resurgence with the Main Course album in 1975. That may be the most apt example.
SP: How did Andy’s unrealized recording deal with Island Records come about? Was Barry going to be actively involved with the writing and production of the LP that was in the works?
MH: Once Barry’s attempt at making him the fourth Bee Gee was rejected by Robin and Maurice, Barry set out to get Andy a record deal of his own. Barry told the press that he thought that, in part because of the bad press Andy had gotten in the US in recent years, the UK/European market would be where to start. Of course, the Bee Gees’ 1987 “comeback” album, E.S.P., and its single “You Win Again,” had been smash hits in the UK and flops in the US, so one has to wonder if that didn’t factor into Barry’s decision, too. The irony is that Andy had had much more success in the US than in the UK and Europe, but after Barry and Maurice helped him write and record a four-song demo tape in 1987, Barry took him and the tape to Island’s headquarters in London, and Island signed him. How involved Barry would have been in the album beyond those four songs is unclear. The label assigned Andy to work with two songwriters in England to write more material for the album. Scott Glasel told me that Andy planned on recording the album at the Bee Gees’ Middle Ear Studios in Miami, though, which surely would have meant production involvement on the part of Barry.
SP: Had Andy gotten back to writing?
MH: Andy said that after the split with Victoria Principal, he found that he would have a hard time completing the writing of songs that he had started. But in the years following that, he often told interviewers that his next album would consist mostly of songs that he had already written. What happened to those songs is anyone’s guess. At one point, in 1986, his manager obtained a new song written by Phil Collins for him to record, but like all of Andy’s recording plans from that time, it never came to fruition. But Andy wrote at least six songs with his brothers (or at least Barry and Maurice) in 1987, the four that he recorded for the demo for Island, and two others that their niece Beri recorded. Andy also co-wrote two songs on the 1985 Diana Ross album Eaten Alive, which was during that period when the Bee Gees were writing and Barry was co-producing albums for other artists (Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, and Kenny Rogers as well as Ross).
SP: Is there much left in the can of unreleased recordings?
MH: There are enough unreleased early, pre-RSO recordings, mostly done in Australia, for an entire album, although a few of those songs were rerecorded in Miami for Flowing Rivers. There aren’t more than a handful of unreleased RSO recordings, including two that Andy wrote and recorded for After Dark but then chose to replace with songs written by Barry or the Bee Gees. Two of the 1987 demos remain unreleased, including a really strong song written by Barry, Maurice, and Andy called “The Price of Fame” (something that Andy knew all about).
SP: I never gathered that Robin and Andy were remarkably close. Of his four siblings, the pecking order seemed to be Barry, Maurice, sister Lesley and Robin. I don’t say that critically, it’s just what I observed. But what do you know as to why Andy had gone to stay at Robin’s home in England during those final weeks of his life?
MH: Island Records execs wanted Andy in England to work with the two songwriters they had selected for him to write with and to make other preparations for the album. Maurice later said that he thought Andy would be safe there, being with family, but as you just noted, he wasn’t as close with Robin. Several friends of Andy’s who I interviewed said what a mistake it was to send Andy, by himself, to stay at Robin’s estate, where he stayed in a guest cottage. Even Barry later admitted that it would have been better if Andy had stayed in Miami, where he had been spending a lot of time with Barry and Maurice and their families, and saw more of his parents, who lived in California at the time.
SP: It seemed that there might have been good things and happier times ahead for Andy. What were his final days like?
MH: In Miami, for about 16 months until he left for England, he was clean and sober. He played a lot of tennis, appeared at a lot of charity events, and worked with Barry and Maurice on songs for a comeback. He even learned to fly airplanes, something he had made a stab at a decade earlier before his busy career (and substance abuse) got in the way. But about three weeks after he arrived in England, he became depressed, which his mother later said was because he was trying to write new songs and not coming up with anything. During the next (and last) three weeks of his life, he began drinking a lot again and missing appointments. Yet the odd thing I discovered from interviewing his friends is that he made phone calls to many of them during those final three weeks, and they thought he sounded really good and upbeat. Two days before he died, he even invited Rick Lotempio to fly to London and help him work on some new songs. Andy (or Island) even sent Rick a plane ticket. And then, of course, on March 10 , just five days after his 30th birthday, he was gone.
SP: I thought of Andy on his 30th birthday. There were no cell phones then. RSO Records was done. My intermediary contacts were gone. But Andy and I would have been in touch again at some point. A few days later, I was in a hotel in Santa Monica and I got a call from a reporter with Associated Press wanting to get my reaction to Andy’s death. A hell of a way to get the news. It didn’t really hit me ‘til a few days afterward.
Like other celebrities, Andy is frozen in our collective perception in his prime, age 21 or so. If he were still with us, he’d probably be a little paunchy, hair thinning like his big brother Barry. Like me for that matter! So, he will stay forever young. But those trade-offs that come with long life would have been worth it, especially if Andy had found true happiness.
Thanks for writing the book, Matthew.
MH: Thanks for sharing your memories and insights, Scott.
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