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Massachusetts by Bee Gees
Album: HorizontalReleased: 1967Charted:
Sometimes appearing with the title "(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts," The Bee Gees wrote and had their first UK #1 with this song in 1967, but it wasn't until some years later, during a chance meeting in London between the Seekers lead singer Judith Durham and Maurice Gibb, that Judith learned the amazing truth that "Massachusetts" was originally intended to fulfill The Bee Gees' dream of writing a hit for The Seekers.
Upon arriving in London from Australia (following in the path of the Seekers, who had arrived several years earlier) the Bee Gees had been unsuccessful in getting the song to the group, so they recorded it themselves. After reuniting and touring Australia again perhaps for the last time in 2003, the Seekers were moved to perform the song as a tribute to Maurice after his untimely death. So popular was the song there that the group decided to finally record it and it was included on their Ultimate Collection CD released that same year. It fits perfectly with what the Seekers themselves selected as their best classic songs of the mid 60s, having been recorded almost 40 years later. (thanks, Stu - Suffern, NY)
The Bee Gees had never actually been to Massachusetts when they recorded this; they just liked the sound of the name. Robin Gibb explained in 1000 UK #1 Hits
by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: "We have never been there but we loved the word and there is always something magic about American place names. It only works with British names if you do it as a folk song. Roger Whittaker did that with 'Durham Town.'"
This was the first Bee Gee single on which the quavery Robin Gibb sang lead.
Robin Gibb recalled to The Mail On Sunday November 1, 2009: "This was a bittersweet victory. The day it went to #1 it was Bonfire Night and I was in the Hithergreen Rail Crash in Lewisham. Forty-nine people died and it was one of Britain's worst rail disasters. Luckily I didn't get injured. I remember sitting at the side of the carriage, watching the rain pour down, fireworks go off and blue lights of the ambulances whirring. It was like something out of a Spielberg film. I thought, at least there is one consolation, we have our first UK number one.
For the Bee Gees, music always came before lyrics - except for the title. "We always believed there's no such thing as a title you can't write a song to, like 'Massachusetts,'" Robin Gibb explained to Daniel Rachel, author of The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters. "We wrote that in a boat in New York harbor as a challenge. When you look back, it's quite a good exercise if you are songwriters to challenge yourselves to do something; we'd never been to Massachusetts. It's an unusual title with all the S's. [Assumes pompous voice] 'How could anybody possibly write a song called...,' so we did."