[Archive 1968] “BEEGEEBOPPERS!” – Portraits of the Bee Gees as young men (Valentine Pop 69)

from Valentine Pop 69
<Click to enlarge>


From Valentine Pop 69, this is about the very young Bee Gees as seen by then secretary of the official Bee Gees’ fan club in London. 

Then 19-year-old Julie Barrett, described as "brown-haired, diminutive and very pretty," works at her desk, "surrounded by stacks of mail." Although she "every day plunges into the pile in an effort to flatten it down.  But each day brings more–although Julie doesn’t mind." 

The writer of the article "arrived for our interview right on time–a miracle considering the bus did a yard-a-minute into Hanover Square, before stopping permatnently just opposite Brook Street–and was ushered into a large, airy room."

So the interview could have taken place at 67 Brook Street, where the Bee Gees green plaque was to be unveiled by Robin Gibb several decades later, in 2008.

At the time of the interview, the fan club was squeezed into a small corner and consisted of one desk overladen with post, a filing cabinet crammed full of letters yet to be answered, and two chairs.

"This is only until we got sorted out," smiled Julie.  "Then I’m being moved down into the basement when it’s ready.  This is going to be the general office, and at the moment, there are so many distractions.  What with the renovations and three other desks in the room!"

(But you can rest assured that by the time you read this, Julie will be happily settled-down in the basement!)

An object, which can only be described as a replica of a huge gold disc on a stand stood precariously along one wall and threatened to collapse every time you looked at it.  I was informed that it was for The Bee Gees for selling over 2,000,000 copies of Massachusetts–and the boys had to cart it all the way back from Germany!

Not bothering to figure that problem out, I asked Julie how she actually became fan club secretary to The Bee Gees.

"Well, I was working in the press office at NEMS when I first heard their record, and I liked it.  So I asked if I could run their fan club.  I was so pleased when they said, ‘yes’–and we’ve been running now since July, 1967."

Up until January, ’68, the fanclub had 4,500 members and the number was steadily increaisng.

"Our oldest member is 76," said Julie.  "And the youngest is only five!  We do have plenty of boys as members, but needless to say, the largest percentage is of girls!"

Julie laughed as she recalled her first meeting with the group.
"They had just been signed to NEMS, and were as frightened as little kids!  They just sort of walked in and didn’t say a word.  It took a lot of persuading to get them talking, but now…you’d never believe they were the same boys.  Each time they come into the club it’s chaos and I have to be prepared for anything! They’re great fun to be with, though–and don’t care who they tease!  Often, I put them to work answering members’ letters–not that they need much persuading! The boys care an awful lot about their fans.  They realise that it’s the fans that made everything possible, and are quite tickled pink when they read the letters or meet them outside.  We had members in when we were at NEMS, but we can’t until this place is straightend out.  Fans often phone up, too, and if one of the boys is here, he’ll gladly speak to them."

For the benefit of those who—unfortunately–will never get the chance to meet their idols, here is Julie’s brief description of them as individuals:

"For a start, there’s Vince.  He’s very charming, but also a bit shy.  Colin has a typically Australian sense of huumour, always cracking corny jokes.  Somethig like Tony Blackburn!  Barry is very debonair and a real gentleman.  He’ll open doors for you, pull out chairs and generally be extremely polite.  Maurice"–a deathly silence–"well, Maurice is the nut!  He’s always fooling around, and half the time, he’s on a completely different wavelength to everyone else.  It all goes in one ear and out the other!  Robin’s the most creative of the group, but he’s inclined to daydream a bit, too.  Really though, they’re one of the nicest and most polite groups on the scene–despite the mad antics!"

Any self-respecting BeeGeebopper will have heard of the pranks of The Bee Gees at one time or another.  Like the time Vince awoke after a heavy sleep to find his sheets covered in shaving soap and toothpaste (mainly Maurice’s doing!)  Or the time Maurice (again!) got trapped in the bathroom half an hour before an important interview with a top New York dee-jay!  They eventually got him out — via a carpernter’s saw and plenty of laughs!

Having read many of Valentine‘s readers’ letters, I know only too well about unusual requests.  But the one Julie related rather beat the lot!

"One member wrote in asking for a sample of Robin’s bath-water–and she got it, too!  Mrs. Gibb collected some of the next time Robin stayed with her and we sent it off!  In fact, we try and help with all the requests that come in!  (Pause while 4,500 BeeGeebopopers take pen to paper to request supplies of Bee Gee bath-water… the mind boggles!)

Birthdays bring a mammoth amount of presents and cards in the offices.  Identity bracelets are the main item–there’s a collection of several hundred lying around-and they all get worn!

"Many of the fans are only about fourteen to fifteen," explaine Julie.  "And the boys realise that they can’t afford a lot.  But you should see them whey they parcels arrive!  They’re like a bunch of kids untying the string!" 

At that tpoint, in stalked Colin Petersen, narrowly missing the Gold Disc, and walked across to the desk in the far corner.  However, he did take a couple of minutes off to chat, in which time I discovered that he DEFINITELY wanted to go back into films in the future; and that The Bee Gees’ proposed tour of Australia in FEB ’68 had been cancelled because they felt they weren’t ready for them, anyway.

"Imagine," said Colin glumly, "we get 2,000,000 sales with a record and all the Australian press can do is slip in a paragraph at the bottom of the stop press saying something like, ‘Oh by the way, The Bee Gees have sold 2,000,000 copies of Massachusetts!’  What would have been the point of touring a country where in some parts they don’t even know you’ve left?" 

Julie was a member of an amateur dramatic society and that night, was appearing in a play–but she hadn’t told The Bee Gees because she was "so frightened they’d all be sitting out front if I did, and then I’d never hear the end of it!" 

We somehow talked our way back to the issue of caring for fans–and Julie related the time when Vince sat down for six solid hours signing Xmas cards for the club members!  "He just insisted on doing it!"

After Colin left there was:

Another interruption.  This time a group of young men–"one of them’s Dick, the road manager. He gets quite a bit of mail, too!"  arrived to dismantle the Gold Disc and drag it off to prepare for The Bee Gees’ reception the following evening. 

Looking back across the years, this all sounds quite idyllic.  Also, as you may have guessed, the popular, young road manager who was getting quite a bit of fan mail is none other than Dick Ashby himself.

I remember I picked up several copies of this Valentine Pop ’69 magazine at around 100 yen each at a magazine stall in Kanda, Tokyo in the early ’70s. They had been marked down from 200 yen to 100 yen, and I bought up all the copies they had left when I saw that they had black & white pictures of the Bee Gees, a story on Barry, and this article about their fan club.  The whole thing cost me around 500 yen (approx. $4.00), if I remember correctly.  That was also quite idyllic, indeed.

{Bee Gees Days}

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