This is necessarily to say that the Bee Gees have deep roots in one of the most neglected areas of rock music, the popular romantic ballad. What is called rock and roll sprang not only from the blues, rhythm and blues, and country-western, but also from the American popular song. Even the early vocal groups mined this lode of mediocre material: "The Way You Look Tonight" by the Jaguars anticipates "Where or When" by Dion and the Belmonts in this respect.
often the adoption was not so direct, although (for instance) Bull-moose Jackson's early rhythm and blues recording "I Love You, Yes I Do" is clearly in the tradition of big band ballad vocals. This ballad tradition is not dead, even in rhythm and blues: James Brown has done several resurrections of "I Love You, Yes I do." The early interaction of American popular music with rhythm and blues and country-western produced unique conventions in both of these forms for the treatment of the romantic ballad. Thus rock and roll even at its inception could draw on "impure" romantic ballad traditions in both rhythm and blues and country-western.
But in some cases the link of rock with the American popular song was more direct. Paul Anka is really unthinkable without a tradition of Johnny Rays before him, and the later Platters essentially formed a symbiotic relationship with the American romantic ballad mediated by rhythm and blues. Out of all this attention several definite, definable rock traditions of the romantic ballad arose with their own specific conventions.
So there we have the Bee Gees: banal, graceless, trite, let us add melodramatic. And let us also add that this is all in one of rock's oldest and strongest traditions. Finally let it be said that in their chosen area, with the romantic ballad set of conventions, the Bee Gees are impressive masters of their heritage. Hell-bent on sounding pretty, defiantly reactionary and out no doubt for the bread and popular air-play, the Bee Gees have their game down very well. The crude essentials are there even on the first Bee Gees big hit in Australia, "Spicks and Specks."
But we are still missing an essential component of the Bee Gees, namely that they are a British group, a commercial wake for the middle Beatles. An analogy may be permissible here: the Bee Gees are to the Beatles as Cliff Richards was to Elvis Presley; if the Righteous Brothers embodied virtuoso codification of the rhythm and blues set of conventions, the Bee Gees embody the virtuoso codification of the British group set of conventions.
In this regard, listen to "Playtown," "Big Chance," and "Tint of Blue" on Rare Precious & Beautiful, a new reissue of early Bee Gees material recorded in Australia. On this reissue we can hear the developing Bee Gees: only a few ballads ("Jingle Jangle" in particular), a lot of British group imitation. It's al