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New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones)

by

Bee Gees



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

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. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
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. (thanks, Ben Dirks - Nijmegen, Netherlands, for above 2)
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.
The Barclay James Harvest song The Great 1974 Mining Disaster is based on this Bee Gees song. (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3)
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.)
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Comments (7):

They lived in Australia from 1958 to 1967, but are actually from Manchester, England. They moved their with their family as kids because a) their dad couldn't find work as a musician in Manchester and b) Robin and Barry would've been sent to reform school for always getting into trouble with local authorities for rowdy behavior.
- Dana, Woodbury, MN
It's too bad that when most people think of the Bee Gees, they think of all those disco hits they had. On NY Mining Disaster, you can hear what good musicians and performers they actually are.

This song came out at roughly the same time as the songs on Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow," the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper," "The Jimi Hendrix Experience" and other seminal rock 'n' roll recordings. This song holds its own with the others and has its own distinctive sound. I don't think anyone could've asked for much more than that.
- MusicMama, new york, NY
When this hit the airwaves, it was widely believed to be part of the "British invasion"; many of us were surprised to learn that they were actually from Australia.
- Fred, Laurel, MD
Ben Dirks - Nijmegen, Netherlands:
Actually, it's the other way around; the second verse has one more line than the first. ***
All: This was their breakout hit in the U.S., as well. I think it was their first single released in the states; if not, it was in any case their first national hit here.
- Fred, Laurel, MD
One of the most ominous songs I know
- robert, los angeles, CA
There were three different versions recorded of this song.
- Marty, San Francisco, CA
song got me into the bee gees
- mb, Newburgh, NY
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