A demo by it’s very nature is not meant for public consumption. It is a blueprint for the band, whoever they may be, to get an idea of what the songs are going to sound like, or for trying out different arrangements to find the best possible version. The role of the demo tape in the Bee Gees’ history is mixed.
For me – and I suspect fans of other bands may feel similarly – I’m more interested in those songs that don’t make it to public release, and how they compare to other songs from the same period that did get released. But demos of released tracks can also throw up some interesting things, most notably different lyrics or different lead vocal.
On the demo tapes for the Spirits (Having Flown) album, for example, there is a fairly long recording of the demo for “How Deep Is Your Love”, which is different to other demos in the fact that you can actually hear the song taking shape.
I don’t have every single demo tape out there, but I have enough to know I could never cover them all here, hence why I’ve put “part 1” in the title. I’m going to use this one to start a series of reviews of demos, starting at the beginning and continuing in order.
>Bee Gees First
One Minute Woman – with lead vocal by Robin; this is interesting as the released version has a lead vocal by Barry. They are both excellent in their own right and either would fit on the final album. The burning question is: why the change of vocalist? Listening to other demos, this sort of thing very rarely happens – normally whichever brother sings the demo does the final recording. The arrangement on the Robin version is different, especially the intro and it may be that his voice did not suit the final arrangement of the song.
Gilbert Green – unreleased until the “Studio Albums”. Sounds like it was worked up to an almost complete stage. It was released in 1967 by Gerry Marsden. This is an excellent song that could have made it onto the album or at least a B-side to a single. This is a recurring theme of Bee Gees demos – many of them are excellent and could have easily been released.
N.Y. Mining Disaster – different arrangement. In fact there are at least five versions of this that have surfaced! This version has a fuller arrangement and lacks the eerie feeling of the final version. Although it’s interesting to hear, I fully agree with their reasoning for changing it. Another version, closer to the released version, has a horrible squealing, feedback effect before breaking into the guitar intro.
House of Lords – unreleased until the “Studio Albums”. Robin in fine form on the lead vocal. The almost Elizabethan-style arrangement is mesmerising. One of my favourites from this period. Released in 1967 by The Monopoly.
Turn of The Century. Slightly different arrangement and some lyrics are different from the final version.
Cucumber Castle. This is what I call a straight demo. The arrangement differs slightly, but only in that it’s more basic (as you’d expect of a demo). You can hear in the final version where the song has been improved and “tarted up”
Harry Braff. What, you ask? But this is on Horizontal! Yeah, you’re right but the song was first recorded for this album. We’re lucky in this case because another rarity in the Bee Gees’ history is the re-visiting of old demos for possible inclusion on a later album. Another “Straight demo”, with it’s basic arrangement and the groundwork complete for the final song. Some lyrics were changed – omitting “Harry Braff for president” and repeating the “chequered flag for Harry Braff” from the opening was probably a good call!!
I’ve Got To Learn – unreleased. Robin in great voice again. If there’s one song that I wish had been given a proper release it’s this one. There are so many images in the lyrics such “I’ve been sold so many times, don’t know what I’m worth. I’ve failed every single thing I’ve tried, I wash my face in the dirt”!
I Close My Eyes, Craise Finton Kirk and I Close My Eyes are further straight demos with nothing of real note different to the released version.
Mr Wallor’s Wailing Wall – unreleased until “Studio Albums”. When you hear this, fan or not, it’s not difficult to understand why this wasn’t chosen for release. Another one with a few versions doing the rounds. A Robin vocal with some very weird lyrics, sung in a very “nasal” way.
All Around My Clock – unreleased until “Studio Albums”. This is a jaunty little number that could easily have been released. I quite like this one for it’s simplicity and the catchy lyrics.
If you want to know more about these songs and how they fit in chronologically see Joe Brennan’s site (a link is top right). Details of these tracks are filed under “1967”.
The man is a legend in Bee Gees fan circle and has manage to collate some brilliant information on his site that is well worth a look.