Monday, May 21, 2012

Robin Gibb and the loss of innocence

It's hard to capture in words what the death of Robin Gibb means to me. But look at this simple photo of Barry, Robin and Maurice, before they were the Bee Gees...

(Scroll down the article to find the black-and-white photo where Barry looks about 12 or 13 years old, Robin (centre) and Maurice about 9 or 10. The caption says the photo was taken during their years in Brisbane, which was between about 1958 and 1966.)

With their white Chesty Bonds-style t-shirts and shorts, and big smiles on their wide open faces - it's a picture of innocence, optimism, and brotherly love.

It's also a photo that breaks my heart - as a parent of two young boys who wonders what life will bring for them.

This black-and-white image of the Gibb brothers seems to capture all that was good and sweet and innocent about 1960s Australia. The tennis whites a reminder of how our champions ruled the tennis world. The guitar that hints at artistic talent. Their faces suffused with a healthy youthful radiance that mirrors how we saw ourselves - a young nation, full of talent and dreams, starting to punch above our weight on the world stage.

It's a photo of three brothers whose futures were inextricably linked, and whose lives would unfold with great highs but also many lows.

Only a few years later, as the Bee Gees the brothers would have their first Australian number 1 (Spicks and Specks), and a few years later their first worldwide number 1 (Massachusetts). After a string of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s featuring the ethereal voice of Robin, in the late 1970s they would define the disco era, with Barry's falsetto their signature sound. They would go on to become Britain's most successful songwriting partnership after Lennon-McCartney.

The lows would come too, with their early split as a band before Robin reunited with his brothers. The periods of drug and alcohol abuse that seemingly came hand-in-hand with their massive chart success. The death of their younger brother Andy at just 30, after years of cocaine use. Later, the deaths of Maurice at 54 and Robin at 62 - both premature by contemporary longevity standards.

And today I think of Barry, now 66, the sole survivor of his three younger brothers. How must he feel? Watch him as an older man sing Immortality, which he dedicates to his brothers. Then look back at this photo of them as boys.

That innocent photo of three boys on the verge of greatness makes me wonder about how life will unfold for our two sons.

I don't wish worldwide fame on them, or anyone else. But you can't help wonder will they be happy? Will they find fulfillment? Will they avoid the pitfalls of drug or alcohol abuse that claims the lives of not just the famous, but ordinary people too - as alcohol helped claim the life of my own father at only 52.

There are plenty of self-help books and gurus to help us understand how to live well. I just hope and wish The Big Fella and The Complicated One may live happy and healthy lives, in times of peace and equality. I hope it's not too much to ask.

It's not fashionable to say so, but the Bee Gees' music has brought me much happiness over many years. Listen to First of May and try not to cry about the loss of childhood innocence. If you're a teenager in love, try How Deep is Your Love. And try not to sway along to Nights on Broadway - it's impossible.

Vale Robin Gibb, brother to Barry, Maurice and Andy.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Slave to fashion at age 4 going on 14

The Big Fella assumed full responsibility for his wardrobe several months ago. He's just turned 4 going on 14.

He's not yet buying his own clothes. Or washing them. But all other clothes-related decisions are his and his alone.

He decides what to wear during the day. And at night.

Spider-Man pyjamas must be matched with Spider-Man undies. Ben 10 pyjamas with Ben 10 undies. Dark blue singlets are preferable to grey. Both are preferable to white.

But it's daywear he's really particular about.

If his Ben 10 t-shirt and hoodie jacket are in the wash, there's hell to pay. Although he's happier now that we have an Angry Birds t-shirt as back-up. And there's always the old standbys of several Spider-Man t-shirts.

We may as well give away all his other clothes, as he only wears the same three outfits in high rotation. Lucky I like washing.

The Big Fella is usually fully dressed and ready to leave the house by 6am or 6.30am at the latest. Complete with shoes and socks, jacket, and Ben 10 cap.

We don't usually leave the house until 8.30am - but he likes to be prepared.

He not only chooses all his own clothes, day and night, he must always dress himself. His brother, nearly 6, would still prefer we dress him and make all clothes-related decisions for him. Quite frankly, The Complicated One couldn't care less what he wears.

It's not hard to work out which teenager will spend all his pocket money on the latest hip outfits - and who won't.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day massacre averted

The Big Fella threatened to assassinate his mum on the eve of Mother's Day. Having just turned 4, we hope he was just asserting his newfound sense of independence, rather than trying to recreate the St Valentine's Day massacre.

"What are you doing?" mum asked as he knelt in front of his toybox, throwing its contents on the floor all around him.

"I'm looking for my gun to shoot you."

The Big Fella was upset about an earlier bathtime incident, where he thought his older brother, The Complicated One, had been unjustly dealt with by his parents, in particular his mother.

So he was springing to his brother's defence and threatening to exact revenge on mum.

Several minutes later he emerged from his room. Fortunately, he was gunless.

"I'll shoot you in the morning," he declared, as he stomped off to his bath.

The next day, as the boys were handing over their Mother's Day presents, The Big Fella remembered his threat of the night before.

"I'm not going to shoot you - because it's Mother's Day," he declared.

The lack of a suitable weapon had averted a Mother's Day massacre in suburban Sydney. Were that Al Capone and Bugs Moran had experienced a similar lack of guns in Chicago, a sad chapter in America history may have gone unwritten.

There's a lesson there for all of us. Disarm The Big Fella, and we can all rest easy at night.