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Celebrity Investigation: Andy Gibb
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06-09-2015, 08:29 PM #1
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As a youngster who loved music, I looked forward to weekend evenings because my mother typically occupied herself with other things, giving us control of the TV. Saturday nights at seven were set aside for Solid Gold, probably the closest thing a girl in the early 80s had to American Bandstand. That show had everything: top-charting musicians lip-synching their hits, a talking puppet that could have doubled for Helen Roper, and the Solid Freakin' Gold Dancers. More cheese than Switzerland.

By that time I'd already knew about The Bee Gees (who hadn't?) but this show introduced me to Andy Gibb, and oh he was a cutie even though at the time his biggest songs were behind him (we didn't know it then, though). Sadly, he didn't last long as co-host. One night I turned it on to find Rick Dees, or Wayland Flowers - I forget - in his place.

When you're young you don't usually hear the reasons behind personnel changes on television unless you catch a snip of gossip on the cover of the National Enquirer at the grocery checkout. The 80s passed and I moved on to other crushes, and one day in 1988 I read the news that Andy Gibb had died. I remember being sad, because every report stressed that he had been working on a comeback album, he'd straightened up - no more hard drugs - and he'd just celebrated a birthday. So much potential, gone. 

When you see these "True Hollywood Behind the Music Etc." stories on Andy Gibb, you're told the story of a young man who "had it all," yet was determined to "throw it all away." For a short time, roughly concurrent with the peak of his brothers' success, Gibb was one of the biggest acts in the world. Eight Top 20 singles in the US from 1977-80. Two platinum albums and one gold. 

Andy, though, liked his drugs. He had a documented cocaine habit to which family and friends attribute his downfall. Erratic behavior and drugs cost him his job at Solid Gold and roles in The Pirates of Penzance and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Gibb once claimed his drug habit got him blacklisted at NBC when he was a no-show for a Bob Hope special.

In short, the life of Andy Gibb burned brightly for a brief moment in time, then crashed and fizzled into a death people were saddened but not wholly surprised to see. In some ways, Andy reminds me a bit of Amy Winehouse: they both seemed to shoot into the stratosphere while dealing with various demons before their bodies eventually gave out due to so much self-abuse. With Amy, though, we were treated to regular reports of breakdowns and drama via social media. If we wanted to tsk at Andy's behavior we had to wait for the paper tabloids to catch up.

Amy also died at 27; Andy missed that club by three years. However, if there's any significance in the number 30 and the fact that he died 5 days after his birthday, please share. Born March 5, died March 10.


Finding Things

Mysteries fascinate me, as do conspiracies. I don't necessarily believe every theory, but I enjoy reading various takes on events that leave people scratching their heads. Since I started reading the VC blog I find I notice the symbols in movies and TV more than before, and this is true with my retro-watching. I mentioned Andy Gibb in the previous investigation thread mainly because of something I read in a book that stayed with me.

Dennis Bryon is a drummer who enjoyed brief success in Wales with a rock band. After a short gig as tour manager for Supertramp, he was asked to join the Bee Gees band. He worked on five of their albums, including their biggest (Children of the World, Spirits Having Flown, and of course Saturday Night Fever). Then one day, he was dismissed. To hear him tell it in his memoir, it was done in a cowardly manner. None of the Gibbs actually fired him in person. Anyway, this freed him up to work as Andy's drummer while he performed in Vegas and other shows. Dennis appears in the episode of "Gimme A Break" in which Andy guest starred. Anyway...

One passage in the chapter on Andy caught my attention. Dennis talks about an incident where Andy is supposed to perform but won't come out of a locked room. He barricaded himself in there with a loaded gun, convinced somebody was out to get him. Dennis chalks the incident up to Andy's cocaine use - the drugs made him paranoid. It's entirely possible.

I certainly don't intend to prove here that Gibb's death was anything but a tragic result of drug use taking its toll on the man's heart, but like I said, after reading VC for a while I notice things.

To tell Andy's story, though, we have to talk about his brothers. What comes to mind when you think of The Bee Gees? Disco, most likely. They are practically synonymous with the genre, even though Saturday Night Fever represents a small fraction of their accomplishments. Their first charting single, "New York Mining Disaster 1941" is a far cry from "Stayin' Alive." Early in their career there were numerous comparisons to the Beatles. In fact, Hugh Gibb had sent demos to Brian Epstein in hopes of getting the famous manager's attention. Epstein pawned the Gibbs off on his assistant Robert Stigwood, who would eventually form RSO Records in 1973 with this logo:


Is that a golden calf? Just a simple bull? Who knows.

The Gibbs cut fourteen albums before SNF, and eight afterward. This doesn't include best-of compilations or the impressive body of work done for Barbara Streisand, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, etc as writers and producers. In 2005, it was noted that they stand among the top six bestsellers in music of all time, behind  Elvis, the Beatles, Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, and Michael Jackson.

If I were to say "Bee Gees" to you, does this image come to mind?


How about this one?


VC likes to tell us about colors, and how they symbolize things. We see Taylor Swift in a white dress on an award show, then a red one, and we think it's just a costume change. Really? Maybe it signifies something else. To start this investigation, naturally the first thing I did was a Google Image search. You search on The Bee Gees and you run into that famous "trio in white" pose often. Does white symbolize something here, that this group will be held on a pedestal for as long as the disco craze flourishes? Are they wearing gold to symbolize their worth to the industry as performers and songwriters? Speaking just in terms of US sales, the group had a Top 10 album in 1967 and didn't have another one until 1976, Children of the World. Then:
  • Saturday Night Fever, 1977, #1 - one of the top selling albums of all time
  • Spirits Having Flown, 1979, #1
  • Living Eyes, 1981, #41
Boom, over just like that. They'd come close in 1997 with Still Waters, but once everybody threw away their gold chains and platform shoes that was it for steady chart success. It didn't end their career, though. Number one hits kept coming, for songs they wrote for other people.

I'm getting off track. In this peak time where the Gibbs and Andy overlapped, I see some interesting colors:


Four brothers all dressed up for a big industry awards ceremony. They all look happy, but it's interesting to see Andy is the only one wearing a red flower. Looks like a wound, you think?


Andy cut three albums in his lifetime. He's wearing red on two of them. An interesting contrast to his three brothers in white. It's like he's meant to be set apart from them for some reason. Or, maybe he just likes wearing red clothes.


This shot is from a TV special called Olivia!, featuring Andy with two of the top acts of the day - Olivia Newton-John and ABBA. I have to admit I did a double take when I saw this one. Everybody in white but Andy...plus everybody in this photo except Andy is still alive.

One can speculate that Andy's professional downfall mirrors that of any number of teen idols. A good-looking, talented performer finds fame rather quickly, along with pressures to keep up with the crowd via drugs and alcohol. You think of other hot properties during this time - Leif Garrett, David Cassidy, etc. - and they all had their problems. Andy, however, had the support of his family, but not all addicts are the same, and family can only do so much. When Andy decided finally to wipe the slate and try again, though, he was given use of a family property in the UK to regroup and write songs.

Though he wasn't on hard drugs at the time of his death, it's told he was drinking and suffering depression. Days after turning 30, he complained of chest pains and checked into a hospital. Official cause of death is not an overdose or alcohol poisoning, but myocarditis, inflammation of the heart wall. I've read on other forums that he may have had a pre-existing heart condition, but it's believed that the years of cocaine abuse took its toll, and the later drinking didn't help.

In a sad postscript to this story, the Gibbs' father Hugh became so despondent after Andy's death that he lost the will to live. He died four years and one day after what would have been Andy's 34th birthday. In a 1993 interview with Geraldo Rivera, Barry said, "he wanted to be with Andy."

Some additional information to share that I couldn't fit above:
  • Andy was romantically linked to Marie Osmond for a time. One biographer, Randy Jernigan, claims they had a sexual relationship but were forced apart by Marie's parents. They didn't want Marie with a non-Mormon who was also divorced. Andy had been married in Australia at a very young age and had an infant daughter he saw only a few times. I know the Osmonds had an association with Disney, so there's that.
  • Andy had a public relationship with Victoria Principal, who was several years his senior. After his death, she'd play the "it was the drugs or me" card when explaining their split, though if you hang around the right forums there are claims that Victoria liked to powder her nose on occasion. She was also barred from attending Andy's funeral, and there had been rumors that their breakup intensified Andy's downward spiral. A theorist might speculate Victoria had been a handler of some sort.
  • In the Behind the Music episode on Andy, Pam Dawber talks about how people would just come up to Andy with spoons of coke, like everybody wanted to say hey, I did blow with Andy Gibb. I suppose if people are coming at you from all directions, it's difficult to tell who's working for somebody to ensure your time happens.

I'm going to leave this post without a conclusion, because truthfully I did find this challenging. It's not like with Miley Cyrus where we're bombarded with new, disturbing footage daily. 

I'll be adding more information if I think it's relevant, and invite anybody who spots something to share here.

Andy's been gone for nearly 30 years, and while there's a decent archive of footage on YouTube I haven't had the time to go through all of it. Also, there's a part of me that doesn't want to believe that Gibb's death happened at the hands of some sinister elitist in the industry to make him a sacrifice. Revisiting this story saddens me, especially after reading forum posts from his fans who still miss him, and articles from his brothers who painted him as a warm and caring soul. I'm sad that he didn't get to realize his potential as a performer, and that he never had that chance to reconnect with his child.

I'm also sad that his father died of a broken heart, and that Maurice died the way he did. That death was preventable as well, and I believe he and Andy weren't finished on this earth. I'm sad that Robin is also gone, and that Barry doesn't have his brothers or his father.

Sources consulted:
You Should Be Dancing by Dennis Bryon
Wikipedia, for the record stats
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06-10-2015, 12:25 AM #2
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That was very well written. Heart  it.
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06-10-2015, 01:26 AM #3
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Am I the only one to notice "disco" and "cocaine" in the same sentence every time there is a story about an entertainer from the disco era?
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  • Tarikko

06-10-2015, 02:52 AM #4
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Greatly written, indeed Smile

Btw I don't think the coke is a disco thing, it's more of a showbizz thing ^^ Never understood the fuss about it myself.

“The world outside had its own rules, and those rules were not human.”
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  • Thy Unveiling

06-10-2015, 03:04 AM #5
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Great work Stu!
I look forward to more of your posts like this, you're a natural Cool

Your beliefs don't make you a better person,
Your behaviour does.
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  • Thy Unveiling

06-10-2015, 05:36 AM #6
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Fantastic, well thought out and written post.  

I'm a child from '77 and I literally cut my teeth on the Bee Gees.  My mother played their records non stop and at 5 years old, the first theater movie I can actually remember was Saturday Night Fever's sequel, Staying Alive.  I cannot tell you how many times my little 5yr old backside saw that with my mother in the theater.  When it came on VHS we bought our very own player to play it.  I still have my original record (backups were bought as time, and my mishandlings, broke them).

My point being, it was my childhood obsession, and ability to nearly recite the entire script of that movie from memory which made me in my later investigitory years start questioning "The Industry."  The fairy dust and sparkle of my youth was gone, John Travolta was fat, The Bee Gees were kinda corny to me and gee, was that movie really about a whole bunch of duality?  And if so what was Saturday Night Fever really about?  Who writes these things?  Back then musicians often wrote the entire soundtrack a la Bee Gees.  Questions.  Questions.  

I was too young to know much about Andy, but getting to know more about his brothers led me to a bit about Andy.  There isn't much.  The biggest, I believe, being the Victoria Principle avenue.  The one thing everyone surrounding him seems to agree on about her is she was not be trusted around him.  He was apparently quite smitten and the relationship volatile.  Her foothold in the industry was much more cemented than his.  He would always be second fiddle to his brothers and I wonder if TPTB held that over his head and maybe used her to do that.  Maybe they didn't need to? (That is, if we are to really go on and theorize there is indeed a conspiracy here).

I found your notation of color interesting.  It is something I never noticed before however I did notice his albums being much more individualized.  Hard to tell if he simply wanted to step out of their ginormous shadow or if that truly is color targeting.  The father's death is also interesting.  As you said, the father was trying to make his family into the new Beatles when they were very young.  Barry was going to be a solo artist but then the twins were brought in.  They were shipped from between Britain and Australia a few times I believe.

Did father try to hit gold with younger Andy and something faltered?  Gosh now you have me spinning my conspiracy wheels all over again.  Sweet!

"The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about and refuse to investigate."
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06-10-2015, 10:29 AM #7
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Amazing work DiscoStu! No wonder you don't need to advertise. ^___~

The white suit with the red rose is one of my favorite parts.

Indeed it looks like a wound, but a red spot in a white bg is seen often in film/tv. It symbolizes sacrifice of something innocent, or innocence itself.
This post was last modified: 06-10-2015, 10:32 AM by RiderOfKarma.
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  • Thy Unveiling

06-10-2015, 06:10 PM #8
Beyond the Wall
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Excellent investigation!  Thank you for your hard work.
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06-16-2015, 06:05 PM #9
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I grew up in that era and loved the BeeGee's music very much. I was thrilled when Andy started to sing as well, and his lyrics had interesting underlying themes. I was upset when he died, and while I noticed how he always kinda stood out from his brothers with his clothes, I didn't consider that those differences might be intentional (i.e., sacrificial).

Very insightful, thank u!
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06-17-2015, 11:27 AM #10
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Thanks for the feedback, everybody. 

Like I said, I really hope there was nothing sinister behind Andy's dying, or the death of his two brothers. Seems like sad ending for some very talented people.
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