Massachusetts (Bee Gees song)

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"Massachusetts"
Single by Bee Gees
from the album Horizontal
B-side "Barker of the UFO"
Released 19 September 1967
Format 7", 45rpm
Recorded 9, 17 August 1967
IBC Studios, Portland Place, London
Genre Baroque pop, folk rock
Length 2:22
Label Polydor (United Kingdom)[1]
Atco (United States)
Writer(s) Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb[1]
Producer(s) Robert Stigwood, Bee Gees[1]
Bee Gees singles chronology
"Holiday"
(1967)
"Massachusetts"
(1967)
"World"
(1967)


Music sample
Horizontal track listing

"Massachusetts" is a song by the Bee Gees, released in 1967.[2] Written by Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb. Robin Gibb sang lead on this song and it would become one of his staple songs to perform during concerts. It later appeared on their 1968 album, Horizontal. It was their first No. 1 hit in Australia and the UK[1] and eventually became one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling over five million copies worldwide.[3] When the Bee Gees wrote the song, they had never been to Massachusetts.[2]

Writing[edit]

The song was written in the Regis Hotel, New York City during a tour of the United States. The song was intended as an antithesis to flower power anthems of the time such as "Let's Go to San Francisco" and "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" in that the protagonist had been to San Francisco to join the hippies but was now homesick. The idea of the lights having gone out in Massachusetts was to suggest that everyone had gone to San Francisco.

The song was originally intended 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. During a chance meeting in London between the Seekers' lead singer Judith Durham and Maurice Gibb, Durham learned that "Massachusetts" was originally intended for her group and in 2003 the Seekers performed this song as a tribute to Maurice following his death earlier that year. The Bee Gees had never actually been to Massachusetts when they recorded this; just liked the sound of the name.[5] Robin Gibb explained about "Massachusetts" 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." Robin Gibb also recalled to The Mail on Sunday on 1 November 2009: "This was a bittersweet victory. The day it went to No. one it was Bonfire Night and I was in the Hither Green 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."[5]

Recording and release[edit]

Barry feels Bill Shepherd's orchestral score is perhaps the arranger's finest: "We never expected him to do that. Sometimes we would sing what we would [imagine] the strings doing. But in this case he did that himself, and I thought it was great. <<Massachusetts>> was our first #1 in England".[4]

Before the release of this song, Australians Colin Petersen and Vince Melouney were facing deportation, and it appeared that they might be leaving the band sooner than later. On 12 August, British fans staged a protest on behalf of the musicians at the cottage of Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Three days later Bee Gees fan Deirdre Meehan chained and handcuffed herself to Buckingham Palace to protest the possible deportation. Ultimately, the musicians were allowed to stay, and the issue made nary a dent in the band's hectic schedule.[4] When it was released in England, the title was "(The Lights Went Out in) Massachusetts" but was changed later, Atco Records delayed it to release "Holiday".[6]

The song has a minor claim to fame in the history of British radio. While many people know "Flowers in the Rain" by The Move was the first record played on BBC Radio 1, "Massachusetts" was the second.

This single was the first No. 1 hit single by a non-Japanese artist on Japan's official hit chart, Oricon Singles Chart. "Massachusetts" was released as a single in 19 September, and on the next day, it entered the UK chart. The song reached No. 11 in the United States.

Personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
position
Australia ARIA Singles Chart 1
Austrian Singles Chart 1
Belgian Wallonia Ultrapop 40 Charts 1
Canada RPM Top Singles 1
Denmark Singles Chart 2
French SNEP Singles Chart 4
West German Media Control Charts 1
Ireland Singles Chart 2
Italian FIMI Singles Chart 5
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart 1[7]
Netherlands Singles Chart 1
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 1
Norwegian VG-lista charts 1
South Africa Singles Chart 1
Swedish Kvällstoppen chart [8] 1
United Kingdom Singles Chart[9] 1
United States Billboard Hot 100 11

Cover versions[edit]

  • Former Yugoslav band Siluete covered the song in 1967.
  • Ed Ames recorded a version of this song on his album Who Will Answer? in 1968.
  • Also in 1968, Hong Kong female singer Betty Chung covered this song in Mandarin Chinese with Chinese lyrics written by Wei Yin (魏因) and given the title name of <<我祝福他>>, appearing on her LP album Wild Flame (<<野火>>)[10] and released by EMI Pathe Records.
  • Between 1972 and 1974, this song was covered by Singapore-based female singer Ervinna, backing music by the Charlie & His Boys, on her LP album Golden Hits of 20th Century Vol. 6 with White Cloud Record of Singapore.
  • Ylvis published a song with the same title, however has no direct correlation with the Bee Gees song

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 112. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  2. ^ a b "Show 49 - The British are Coming! The British are Coming!: With an emphasis on Donovan, the Bee Gees and the Who". Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  3. ^ Billboard Vol. 85, No. 34. Nielsen Business Media. 25 August 1973. p. 18. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Sandoval, Andrew. "Bee Gees - Horizontal". Album Liner Notes. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Massachusetts by Bee Gees Songfacts". Songfacts.com. 2009-11-01. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  6. ^ Brennan, Joseph. "Gibb Songs: 1967". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  7. ^ http://www.oricon.co.jp/news/13495/
  8. ^ "Kvällstoppen 1966-1969" (PDF) (in Swedish). Hits Aller Tijden. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 211–2. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Last Waltz" by Engelbert Humperdinck
UK Singles Chart number one single
11 October 1967 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Baby Now That I've Found You" by The Foundations
Preceded by
"Romeo and Juliet" by Peggy March
West German Singles Chart number-one single
25 November 1967 – 13 January 1968
Succeeded by
"Der Letzte Walzer" by Peter Alexander
Preceded by
"Yuube no Himitsu" by Tomoko Ogawa (ja)
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart number-one single
1 April 1968
Succeeded by
"Koi no Shizuku" (ja) by Yukari Itou (ja)
Preceded by
"Grocer Jack (Excerpt from A Teenage Opera)" by Keith West
Netherlands Dutch Top 40 number-one single
21 October 1967 – 4 November 1967
Succeeded by
"Homburg" by Procol Harum
Preceded by
"Flowers in the Rain" by The Move
New Zealand RIANZ number-one single
1 December 1967 – 15 December 1967
Succeeded by
"Snoopy's Christmas" by The Royal Guardsmen
Preceded by
"The Letter" by The Box Tops
Norway VG-lista number-one single
1967
Succeeded by
"Önskebrunnen" by Sven-Ingvars
Preceded by
"Mot okänt land" by Hep Stars
Swedish Singles Chart number-one single
14 November 1967 – 5 December 1967
Succeeded by
"Hello Goodbye" by The Beatles