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New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones) by Bee Gees
Album: Bee Gees' 1stReleased: 1967Charted:
This Beatles-inspired song was the first single The Bee Gees recorded in England. It became their first international success.
This song is about a miner trapped beneath the surface who wants to contact his wife. There was no such event, and the lyrics are totally fictional.
The Gibb brothers wrote the song when they were sitting in the dark on some studio stairs at Polydor Records imagining they were stuck in a mine accident. They placed it in New York; far from Wales where a recent accident had taken place so as not to offend those who were hurt by it.
The second verse has one line less than the first verse, which is an example of The Bee Gees intricate songcraft in their early years.
There was no mining disaster in New York in 1941, although there was one in McIntire, Pennsylvania which killed 6 people. The song though appears to have been vaguely inspired by the Aberfan tragedy in South Wales. On October 21, 1966, 144 people were killed, 116 of them children, when a waste tip slid down a mountainside; unsurprisingly the story generated massive media coverage, and even 40 years on the name Aberfan is synonymous with the tragedy.
In the biography The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, Maurice Gibb is quoted as saying the song is "A total rip-off of the Beatles" although later he is said to have retracted this.
This song was covered by Chumbawamba on their 2000 album WYSIWYG.
Gibb recalled to The Mail On Sunday November 1, 2009: "We recorded this at London's IBC studio because it was dark and emulated a mining shaft. The result was a very lonely sound."
Maurice Gibb recalled in a June 2001 interview with Mojo
magazine: "The opening chord doesn't sound like a conventional A minor. Barry was using the open D tuning he'd been taught when he was nine, and I was playing it in conventional tuning. It gives an unusual blend. People went crazy trying to figure out why they couldn't copy it." (This interview is available at Rock's Backpages
This was also the first Bee Gees single to include Australian drummer Colin Petersen as an official member of the band. Peteresen would leave the group two years later.