Crying In My Beer Just Got Better

by Bill Tuomala


One Sunday afternoon while watching season one of Wiseguy on DVD, a throwaway moment grabbed my attention. Ever-harried mob boss Sonny Steelgrave, in brief respite from demanding higher-ups and a backstabbing accountant, softly sings two lines of a song: lonely days, lonely nights ... I paused the disc, because I realized that any hopes I had for the day would also be paused until I figured out which tune he was singing. I hummed and hummed those lines until I pinned down the song: "Lonely Days" by the Bee Gees. And I knew I had to hear the song in its entirety over and over and over again.


Soon I was on my bike, peddling to a local record store to score something with that song on it. In my head, I could hear a voice quizzing: Bee Gees? You want to listen to pre-disco Bee Gees? Sure they didn't yet have those creepy white suits ... but what about the high girly voices and sappy sounds? You'll be one step away from Andy Gibb! He chose cocaine over Victoria Principal! C'mon!! But I pressed on and scored a scuffed-but-playable used vinyl copy of Bee Gees Gold Volume One, which collects their hits from 1967-1972. At $2.90 for twelve songs, it was easy to shut up that inner voice. The album truly is gold.


The triumphant "Lonely Days" (anthemic reach-the-cheap-seats vocals during the last chorus courtesy of one of the brothers ... I can't keep their names straight) closes side one, but it is the first song on the album that sums up why the Bee Gees have become a fast favorite of mine. "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" is a gem of a barely-disguised country tune. Simply take out the orchestration and you’re left with the plaintive strum of an acoustic guitar, the sprinkling of piano, and lyrics such as: how can a loser ever win / please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again. It has Jim Reeves written all over it.


Side one also has "To Love Somebody," an oldies staple with sweeping strings and gorgeous horns. It's a gem whose cover by The Flying Burrito Brothers one February single-handedly got me through the days leading up to Valentine's Day. The highlight of side two is "I've Got To Get A Message To You," wherein some guy is on death row, an hour away from his execution, and all he wants is for a certain girl to know he's sorry he broke her heart. That's a country song too, and a damn good one. The rest of the album is full of syrupy harmonies and strings and pop songs that stick in your head the way that great pop does.


Bee Gees Gold Volume One has filled a void in my musical diet. Sure, it's sweet to have on hand a solid selection of classic riffage (Zep, Van Halen) and party music (Motown, seventies funk); but the thing is, when you're feeling great everything sounds wonderful. My collection could use more gorgeous, cry-in-your-beer beauties for the tough times, and the Brothers Gibb now join Hank Williams and Roy Orbison in that department. Because when you’re down and out and have the right music running through your head, it can feel like you're in a movie. A grandiose, woe-is-me melancholy takes over. Repeatedly playing the same song on the jukebox while staring into your drink. Returning the needle to the same track in the dark of your apartment over and over. It's preferable to just your run-of-the-mill blues. And thanks to the Bee Gees, I'm almost welcoming my next bout of lonely days and lonely nights.







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