by Kristin Battestella
Well I’ve somehow begun a Year of the Compilation here, so to vary that, let’s talk about Keppel Road. I was fortunate enough to get this DVD in the universal Region 0 format. My honey ordered it from somewhere in South America, Brazil I think. The cover and menus are in Spanish, but hey I can read it. Even if one couldn’t, the Gibby treats inside are worth the oddity.
I first saw Keppel Road on PBS around the time of This Is Where I Came In, even though the film dates back to 1997. The shortened version isn’t as long or in depth as the three hour Biography, but the extended DVD adds a half hour of concert footage performed by the Boys exclusively for Keppel Road.
Keppel Road wastes no time and jumps into a set rendition of Still Waters. I think the video was actually made at least year before the Still Waters release, but Keppel Road takes the boys full circle-from the sweet Still Waters sound to Barry, Robin, and Maurice singing Lollipop thru their old Manchester haunts. Barry’s impromptu reminisce of All Things Great And Small is a treat as well.
Gibb friend and fan David English interviews the boys and narrates The Bee Gees musical rise. The ‘triplets’ (“Something went wrong with Barry!” jokes Maurice) follow the path to where they dropped their miming records, and Barry and Robin argue if they were called The Rattlesnakes or Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats! Barry, Robin, and Maurice share their in depth feelings on the impact of The Beatles, and Sir George Martin appears several times to analyze the genius of the Gibbs at work.
The studio sessions I find particularly fascinating, namely the first full length set of New York Mining Disaster 1941. The genesis of this song a well to do Gibber has probably heard before. During the studio set, however, listen and observe carefully-only Barry and Robin are singing. Watching Keppel Road with a post Maurice view is eerie. He is constantly referred to here as The Man In The Middle, and Moby’s interviews are more about him being caught in the middle or him talking about his brothers rather than himself. If Barry and Robin ever perform Disaster live, this minus Moby version is how it might sound.
My father would be amiss if I didn’t mention the Top of the Pops footage of Massachusetts, but the next Storytellers type session hails To Love Somebody. Gibbologists will enjoy the intimate feeling, especially the snippet from Barry’s 50th birthday party. Oddly enough, Maurice talks about To Love Somebody as if he was a part of the initial writing, yet the song’s credit is only Barry and Robin. Go fig.
When confronted by English about his early melancholy songs, Robin laughs but seems to skirt the issue. I found it amusing, but alas still no answer to I Started A Joke. We do get a damn (not dang mind you-damn) spiffy rendition and music video of I’ve Gotta Get A Message to You. I love Barry’s story about the birth of this one.
The boys are quite candid about their infamous split before we get to How Can You Mend A Broken Heart. The video seamlessly shifts from the exclusive concert session to old school footage and back again. Excellent.
Do to the excellence of the Message update, I suppose I can let the live set of Jive Talkin’ pass. It’s kind of funny to see the boys rocking for themselves. There’s no audience to rev up here. It’s the most I’ve seen Robin move on stage since he tripped over the microphone during One Night Only. The best part of this one is when the boys actually mess up the stilted Somebody! and giggle.
We have the obligatory Fever footage and chat, but I do so love Robin’s confession that he’s never seen the movie all the way through. Sir George Martin gives a very extensive musical analysis of Staying Alive. I had a tough time, however, understanding his pronunciation of macho.
After about twenty minutes of dialogue, Keppel Road jumps into another exclusive performance, this time of Tragedy. Despite the paired down band and set, the feeling here is electric. Even the big bang inside works-better even than the Nueve Philharmonic Orchestra’s weak pop.
Begrudgingly Barry and Robin mention Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Barry refers to the it as, “The film that should never have been made.“ Oiy. I enjoyed the post Fever sequence more so for its insights into the Boys’ writing-for-others career. Details about the Diana Ross collaboration are few and far between, and Eaten Alive is one of the Gibb works absent from my collection. Ha! Moby doesn’t like Ernest Hemingway either!
One of the pieces unique to Keppel Road is the set in progress. Barry, Robin, and Maurice trial and error their way to the song we know as Just In Case. Some of the words are different than the This Is Where I Came In version, but Barry explains the core of the song. We even learn a smidge of Robin’s songwriting process. Fascinating, Mr. Spock.
Although High Civilization and Size Isn’t Everything aren’t even mentioned, footage of the boys Hurricane relief rendition of One made the cut. Much more time is spent on You Win Again. Now that was a video in eighties mastery. Only 7 minutes is devoted to Andy‘s death, and most of that is footage from the Spirits tour. There are telling insights, however, from Barry, Robin, and Maurice on the subject.
The one slight against Keppel Road is its rushed ending. We get brief glimpses of the Boys’ homes, and an even more brief look at Linda, Ally, and Barry’s boys. I don’t much mind, though, since the film closes with complete renditions of I Could Not Love You More and I Surrender.
I must mention a few standouts from the documentary itself. The still photographs presented are nothing new, but the archival footage is fascinating. Not just of our boys, but their idols The Mills Brothers and later Dionne Warwick and a live show of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Footage of the Brothers singing and music video pieces are all almost full length inclusions. It’s the closest thing to having a DVD of all the Gibb music videos. (Hint hint, Barry and Robin!)
Some of the stories and tales from the Brothers are very similar to other DVDs, but there are a few curiosities here. Barry perhaps for the first and only time speaks with complete honesty about the disco albatross. He is not angry or offensive, just sincere. Robin also confesses his feelings on Andy Gibb’s death, and even chipper Maurice shares his humble existence pre Main Course-having no heat and living next to a fish and chips deli. Still, my favorite new moment
has to be Mo’s deadpan about being kicked out of the school choir, “They didn’t like us harmonizing to God Save The Queen.”
English brings a home movie style-Keppel Road has a thoroughly British feeling-and Barry, Robin, and Maurice are totally at ease talking about the music. Again this makes the quirks on the DVD tolerable. There are no special features but for a small photo gallery, biography, and discography. The subtitles of the song lyrics come in English, but otherwise I’m stuck with Spanish, French, and I believe Portuguese. The segments are kind of long, but where other documentaries focus on the boys problems and lives and such, Keppel Road does so in relation to the music. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Part documentary and part music video, Keppel Road is not just for Bee Gees fans, but any budding music historian. Keppel Road is just the right length and just difficult enough to obtain to declare it a must have.