I Started a Joke

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"I Started a Joke"
Standard continental European artwork
Single by the Bee Gees
from the album Idea
Released21 December 1968[1]
Recorded20 June 1968
IBC Studios, London
GenrePop,[2] soft rock[3]
LabelPolydor (United Kingdom)
Atco (United States)
Songwriter(s)Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb
Producer(s)Robert Stigwood, Bee Gees
The Bee Gees singles chronology
"I've Gotta Get a Message to You"
"I Started a Joke"
"First of May"

"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 Robin mainly, with help from Barry and Maurice Gibb on the bridge. It was produced by the Bee Gees with Robert Stigwood.

Composition and recording[edit]

Songs for the Idea album were completed on 20 June. "I Started A Joke" was the last to be recorded.[4]

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?[5]

"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".[6]

Structure and release[edit]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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."[9]


Faith No More version[edit]

"I Started a Joke"
One of artwork variants
Single by Faith No More
from the album Who Cares a Lot?
Released21 September 1998
RecordedEarly 1995
Songwriter(s)Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Producer(s)Billy Gould
Dean Menta
Faith No More singles chronology
"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
"I Started a Joke"

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 a single with their greatest hits album Who Cares a Lot?. The music video was filmed on 8 September 1998,[23] after Faith No More had disbanded five months earlier and featured none of the band members. 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.[23]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one

  1. "I Started a Joke" – 3:03
  2. "The World Is Yours" – 5:52
  3. "Midnight Cowboy" (Live) – 1:01

Disc two

  1. "I Started a Joke" – 3:03
  2. "This Guy's in Love with You" (Live) – 4:20
  3. "We Care a Lot" (Live) – 3:55

Live tracks recorded on 21 October 1997 at the Horden Pavilion, Sydney, Australia by MTV Australia.


Chart (1998) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[24] 58
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[25] 38
UK Singles (OCC)[26] 49

Other notable cover versions[edit]


"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,[29] which features the two magicians playing a succession of increasingly elaborate practical jokes on each other with a fatal conclusion.


  1. ^ "I Started a Joke / Kilburn Towers by Bee Gees (Single, Pop): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music". 8 April 2011.
  2. ^ Dale, Jon (24 June 2015). "Robin Gibb – Saved By The Bell – The Collected Works Of Robin Gibb 1968-1970". Uncut. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Covers Revue, Vol. 25 – The Wallflowers cover "I Started a Joke" :: Originally by the Bee Gees". www.entertheshell.com.
  4. ^ Brennan, Joseph. "Gibb Songs: 1968". Columbia.
  5. ^ Bee Gees Anthology, Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 1991, p. 188
  6. ^ a b Hughes, Andrew (2009). The Bee Gees – Tales of the Brothers Gibb. ISBN 9780857120045. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles". Cashbox Magazine Archives. 14 December 1968. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  8. ^ Songfacts.com. "Bee Gees - I Started a Joke".
  9. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 7 December 1968. p. 22. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Songs Written by the Gibb Family on the International Charts - Part 1" (PDF). brothersgibb.org. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  13. ^ "Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  14. ^ Aktuil (1968). "Aktuil Magazine 22".
  15. ^ "Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  16. ^ "Bee Gees – I Started a Joke". Swiss Singles Chart.
  17. ^ "Bee Gees Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  18. ^ "Cash Box Top 100". Cashbox Magazine Archives. 8 February 1969. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  19. ^ "RPM Top Singles of 1969". Library and Archives Canada. RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  20. ^ "Bee Gees - I Started A Joke". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  21. ^ "Bee Gees - I Started A Joke". Dutch Charts. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  22. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1969". tropicalglen.com. Cash Box. 27 December 1969. Archived from the original on 25 January 2019. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Faith No More - "I started a joke"". Mvdbase.com. 8 September 1998. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  24. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  25. ^ "Faith No More – I Started a Joke". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Faith No More: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  27. ^ "How bleep is your love?". NME.com. 4 August 1998. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  28. ^ Huber, Joachim (25 August 2016). "Böhmermann steckt in der Erdogan-Falle". Der Tagesspiegel Online (in German). Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  29. ^ 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.

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