I Started a Joke
|"I Started a Joke"|
|Single by Bee Gees|
|from the album Idea|
|Released||21 December 1968|
|Recorded||20 June 1968 |
IBC Studios, London
|Genre||Pop, soft rock|
|Label||Polydor (United Kingdom) |
Atco (United States)
|Songwriter(s)||Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb|
|Producer(s)||Robert Stigwood, Bee Gees|
|Bee Gees singles chronology|
"I Started a Joke" is a song by the Bee Gees from their 1968 album Idea, which was released as a single in December of that year. It was not released as a single in the United Kingdom, where buyers who could not afford the album had to content themselves with a Polydor version by Heath Hampstead. This is the last Bee Gees single to feature Vince Melouney's guitar work, as he left the band in early December after this song was released as a single.
The song's B-side was "Kilburn Towers", except in France, where "Swan Song" was used. "I Started a Joke" was written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, and produced by the Bee Gees with Robert Stigwood.
Composition and recording
According to Robin Gibb, the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane:
The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine "prop" jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. So it was decided! We accosted the pilot, forced him to land in the nearest village and there, in a small pub, we finished the lyrics [with Barry]. Actually, it wasn't a village, it was the city, and it wasn't a pub, it was a hotel, and we didn't force the pilot to land in a field ... but why ruin a perfectly good story?
"There was a lot of that in those days" Barry laughed, "There was a lot of psychedelia and the idea that if you wrote something, even if it sounded ridiculous, somebody would find the meaning for it, and that was the truth".
Structure and release
The song was originally recorded in the key of G major and has two contrasting sections. The verse sections consist of a cycle of G Bm C and D chords. The chords for the bridge section are Em Bm C G Bm Em Am D.
The promotional video for "I Started a Joke" was directed by Jean-Christophe Averty. It was filmed in Brussels as part of the Idea TV Special and features floating question marks on the song while Robin sings. In the video, Maurice is shown playing a Rickenbacker 4001 and Vince Melouney playing a Gibson ES-335.
The song reached #1 in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In Canada, it spent two weeks as the number one in RPM charts. "I Started a Joke" debuted at #66 at the United States Cashbox magazine in the week of 14 December 1968.
Robin Gibb's son played "I Started a Joke" on his phone just after his father died on 20 May 2012. Robin-John Gibb told The Sun:
When he passed away we went out, they took the equipment away and we came back in, I picked up my phone and found "I Started a Joke" on YouTube and played it. I put the phone on his chest and that was the first time I broke down. I knew that song and its lyrics were perfect for that moment. That song will always have new meaning to me now.
Cash Box described it as being in the Bee Gees' "softer" style, saying it was more in the style of "Words" than "Gotta Get a Message to You," and said that the "paradoxical imagery offers magnetic charm to mystical interpretation."
Faith No More version
|"I Started a Joke"|
|Single by Faith No More|
|from the album Who Cares a Lot?|
|Released||21 September 1998|
|Songwriter(s)||Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb|
|Faith No More singles chronology|
Faith No More originally covered "I Started a Joke" as a B-side for their 1995 single "Digging the Grave". It also appeared on some versions of their fifth studio album King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime but following the band's dissolution in 1998 it was released as their final single with their greatest hits album Who Cares a Lot?. The music video was filmed on 8 September 1998, after Faith No More had disbanded five months earlier and featured none of the band members. (Some fans claim that Mike Patton is the singer just leaving the stage as the video is beginning.) It was directed by Vito Rocco, filmed by Nick Sawyer with make-up by Julie Nightingale and Dani Richardson with Gabi Norland as the clapper loader. British actors Martin Freeman and Shaun Dingwall both feature in the promo, along with performance artist David Hoyle as the karaoke singer, and also stars Michelle Butterly of the ITV series, Benidorm. Derren Litten, the writer of Benidorm and a contributor to The Catherine Tate Show, is also seen in the video.
Live tracks recorded on 21 October 1997 at the Horden Pavilion, Sydney, Australia by MTV Australia.
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||38|
|UK Singles (OCC)||49|
Other notable cover versions
- In 1969, Brazilian singer Ronnie Von covered it in Portuguese as Comecei uma Brincadeira.
- In 1997, German band Element of Crime took a cover for the tribute-sampler We Love The Bee Gees; they released it also 1998 as own single and another time 2010 on their own album Fremde Federn.
- In 1998, Robbie Williams with The Orb released a reggae rendition of the song and it was included on the Bee Gees Tribute Album: Gotta Get a Message for You as a fundraiser for Live Challenge '99.
- In 2012, the Pet Shop Boys released a cover of it on the single EP of their song Winner.
- In 2014, a cover of the song by ConfidentialMX featuring Becky Hanson appeared in a Comic Con promotional teaser for the 2016 DC Extended Universe film Suicide Squad.
- In June 2016, German satirist Jan Böhmermann covered the song live on his TV show Neo Magazin Royale, commenting on the Böhmermann affair.
"I Started a Joke" was parodied by a Radio Free Vestibule sketch in which a voiced-over commentary takes the lyrics completely literally, appeared on the film Zoolander as covered by The Wallflowers. The song "I Started a Joke" was featured heavily in the ending of the film Penn & Teller Get Killed, which features the two magicians playing a succession of increasingly elaborate practical jokes on each other with a fatal conclusion. "I Started a Joke" was recited in The Fighter, when Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale) sings it in an attempt to console his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) following an attempt by him to hide his crack addiction. "I Started a Joke" appeared in one of the sketches in MTV's The State comedy television show.
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- "Faith No More: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
- "How bleep is your love?". NME.com. 4 August 1998. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
- "Böhmermann steckt in der Erdogan-Falle". www.tagesspiegel.de (in German). Retrieved 11 January 2020.
- D'Angelo, Mike (13 March 2013). "Two magic legends screw with viewers and each other in Penn & Teller Get Killed". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2 June 2021.