I Started a Joke

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"I Started a Joke"
Single by Bee Gees
from the album Idea
Released21 December 1968[1]
Format7", 45 rpm
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
Bee Gees singles chronology
"I've Gotta Get a Message to You"
"I Started a Joke"
"First of May"
Audio sample
"I Started A Joke"
Idea track listing
Alternative cover
French edition picture sleeve
French edition picture sleeve

"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[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:

"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] Robin Gibb told The Mail on Sunday on 1 November 2009 about "I Started a Joke": "This is a very spiritual song. The listeners have to interpret it themselves, trying to explain it would detract from the song".[7]

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.[8]

Robin Gibb's son played "I Started a Joke" on his phone just after his father died from kidney failure 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.[7]


Cover versions[edit]

Faith No More version[edit]

"I Started a Joke"
Faith No More – I Started a Joke (CD1).jpg
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"
Alternative cover
Faith No More – I Started a Joke (CD2).jpg

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,[21] 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.[21]

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)[22] 58
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[23] 38
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[24] 49

Other versions[edit]

  • Richie Havens on his album Stonehenge (1969) with Havens on vocals and guitar, Eric Oxendine on bass and Bill LaVorgna on drums.[25]
  • Lulu covered this song and released on Lulu's Album in 1969.[26]
  • The Cascades released a version of the song as a B-side of "Sweet America" in 1972.[27]
  • Ronnie Von had a Portuguese version, called Comecei uma Brincadeira and translated by himself, on his album "A misteriosa Luta do Reino de Parassempre contra o Império de Nuncamais" from 1969.
  • Between 1972 and 1974, this song was covered by Singapore-based female singer Ervinna, backing music by The Stylers, on her LP album Top Hits with the local White Cloud Record.
  • Benny Mardones covered the song for his 1978 debut album Thank God for Girls.[28]
  • In 1996, Skibby did a reggae version of this song, which has been released as part of the sampler CD set "It's Reggae" in 1996.
  • Jamaica, a British R&B girl group included the song on their album, Sisters In Pain. Jamaica was Veronica 'Vee' Morris, Joyce Morris and Coral Spencer. The album was produced by Mickie Most.
  • In 1998, Robbie Williams with The Orb released on the Gotta Get A Message To You - A Tribute To The Bee Gees.
  • In 2001, The Wallflowers version was featured in the Zoolander movie soundtrack.
  • In 2001, Shannon Wright covered the song on the EP Perishable Goods
  • Tim Rose on his 2004 album The London Sessions.
  • In 1982, the Mexican band, Pegasso did a cover of this song titled "Yo Comence la broma" from their album "Se Tambalea" (It Staggers) in 1982, which had become a hit all over Mexico and Southern United States.
  • Artists like The Beautiful South, The Dirtbombs, Vonda Shepard, Scarling., indie pop bands The Lucksmiths and Low, British singer Kathryn Williams has also recorded a cover of the song.
  • Low covered the song with Mimi Parker on vocals and released it in the A Lifetime of Temporary Relief boxset
  • There are several instrumental versions with Francis Goya on guitar in his album Romantic Guitar[29] and James Galway on flute in his 1988 Greatest Hits album.[30]
  • Ventriloquist Terry Fator sometimes performs an excerpt as part of his live show, generally following Stayin' Alive
  • Angela Chang, a popular Taiwanese singer, sang a cover of the song in her sixth studio album.
  • Comedian Neil Hamburger released a 7" single of his country-western version of the song, backed by Nashville guitarist Dave Gleason and members of The Tubes. A performance of the song also appears on his Western Music and Variety DVD.
  • Micheal Castaldo recorded an Italian version of the song on his 2010 album Aceto.
  • In the 2010 Academy Award Winning film The Fighter, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) sings this song to try and cheer up his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) after discovering he hangs out in a crack house.
  • Pet Shop Boys covered the song as a b-side for their 2012 single Winner as a tribute to Robin.
  • Barry Gibb featured the song on his 2013 Mythology tour. Barry sang the first verse of the song, then handed the vocal over to Robin, featured in a filmed performance.[31][32]
  • In June 2016, German satirist Jan Böhmermann covered the song live on his TV show Neo Magazin Royale.[33]
  • The Bee Gees version was featured in the 2016 film The Conjuring 2.
  • A version of the song featured prominently in a trailer for the Suicide Squad film and appears on the film's soundtrack album titled Suicide Squad: The Album, performed by ConfidentialMX and Becky Hanson.


"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.


  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. The Bee Gees – Tales of the Brothers Gibb. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b Songfacts.com. "Bee Gees - I Started a Joke".
  8. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles". Cashbox Magazine Archives. 14 December 1968. Archived from the original on 23 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Ultratop.be – Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  12. ^ "Ultratop.be – Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  13. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Bee Gees – I Started a Joke" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  14. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Bee Gees – I Started a Joke". Swiss Singles Chart.
  15. ^ "Bee Gees Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  16. ^ "Cash Box Top 100". Cashbox Magazine Archives. 8 February 1969. Archived from the original on 23 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  17. ^ "RPM Top Singles of 1969". Library and Archives Canada. RPM. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Bee Gees - I Started A Joke". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Bee Gees - I Started A Joke". Dutch Charts. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  20. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1969". tropicalglen.com. Cash Box. 27 December 1969. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Faith No More - "I started a joke"". Mvdbase.com. 8 September 1998. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  22. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  23. ^ "Charts.nz – Faith No More – I Started a Joke". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  24. ^ "Faith No More: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  25. ^ "Richie Havens - Stonehenge". Discogs. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  26. ^ "Lulu - Lulu's Album". Discogs. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  27. ^ "The Cascades - Sweet America". Discogs. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  28. ^ "Benny Mardones - Thank God for Girls". Discogs. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  29. ^ "Francis Goya - The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives". Houbi.com. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 May 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Barry Gibb Mythology Tour Thread (Bee Gees) | Steve Hoffman Music Forums". Forums.stevehoffman.tv. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  32. ^ Video on YouTube
  33. ^ "Jan Böhmermann- I started a joke vom 2.6.16, Neo Magazin Royale #GreatestHitz". YouTube. 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.

External links[edit]