Monday, May 21, 2012

I Started To Cry, Which Started The Whole World Laughing

At the Sony Awards last week, the acceptance speech of the night undoubtedly went to BBC Radio 5Live's broadcasting legend and top chap Danny Baker, who thanked the station for 'giving me a blank sheet of paper every Saturday morning. Just for two hours and once a week, but it's still a risk! I am sorry if I frightened the life out of them for tweeting earlier on that, if I didn't win, like Joey Barton I was going to take some people with me.' Guest presenter of the night was, frankly, anyone but stand-up comedian Rhod Gilbert, who took to the stage and told the Speech Personality of the Year nominee Richard Bacon, before any of the awards had been announced: 'Richard, I love you, but you haven't got it, I am afraid.' Rather took the excitement out of the subsequent announcement. Not least for the Bacon himself.

Now let's talk about the - supposed - power of the press. Here is a rather chastening example from everyday life, and one without any obvious of politics on display except that it features everyone's favourite right-wing shitrag, the Daily Scum Mail. You know them: obsessed with house-prices, virulently anti-BBC, loathsome, bigoted jackbooted bully boy thugs, ban this sick filth? Them? Well, anyway, let's begin at the end of March as Britain's Got Talent and Wee Shughie McFee the sour-faced chef from Crossroads appeared to be caught in the headlights of a supposedly omnipotent Daily Scum Mail. Look back and see  ratings for The Voice from the BBC 'soaring' as BGT fails. Oh what 'a blow for Cowell'! crowed the Mail who, as much as they hate the BBC, have also displayed a pretty strong dislike for yer actual Wee Shughie McFee the sour-faced chef from Crossroads in the past. His 'reign as the king of Saturday night TV' is looking vulnerable, they opined. Maybe 'Television's Mr Nasty has a made a fortune but lost his soul.' Maybe his 'botched botox' job is the final humiliation. 'Will Simon Cowell have the courage to put himself out of his misery?' they asked. As May crept into our lives, the Scum Mail's diagnosis couldn't have been clearer. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced chef from Crossroads was all washed-up and ready for the knackers yard. His show was getting spanked in the ratings by this chippy newcomer from Auntie Beeb. His new press adviser (hired from the Daily Scum Mail, as it happens) didn't stand a chance. The Voice was the winner, loud, clear and thumping. Which, at that stage it was. Except that, of course, after three weeks on top, things suddenly changed. The Voice's audience gradually fell to below six million whilst Got Talent wound up on more than eleven million for its final. Hell hath no more - rather fluffy and sycophantic - fury than a British tabloid forced to publicly change its prejudice. 'If there's a happier, more family-friendly TV show, then I missed it,' gushed the Scum Mail's odious resident (alleged) homophobic bigot Jan Moir. God bless Simon, and that nice Alesha (whom, dear blog readers may remember, the Scum Mail - and, specifically, Moir herself - once considered 'about as much presence as a Miracle Whip') and David Walliams, and, especially, the incredible dancing Pudsey. It's a one hundred and eighty-degree turnaround and didn't even involved any details of house prices. And it was caused, power-mongers please note, by nothing more complex than 'ordinary viewers' in their millions flicking a remote from one channel to another. The people have spoken. And the Scum Mail, for once, have noticed.

Just in time for the autumn party conference season, the BBC's notorious Tory slaphead political editor Nick Robinson is to publish Live from Downing Street, the 'inside story' of the seventy-year relationship between TV and politicians. If that idea rings a faint bell, this might be because it's remarkably close in both title and the concept of Live from Number 10, a book by the veteran political documentary-maker Michael Cockerell chronicling, well, essentially the 'inside story' of prime ministers and TV, from Churchill onwards. Let's hope there are no unseemly squabbles or scuffles in the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall in the run-up to publication.
And, speaking of the unhealthy combination of the media and politics, key former aide to Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has been appointed as head of News International's communications team to help the beleaguered media company attempt to restore its reputation in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. The decision to appoint Guto Harri, a former BBC political correspondent who had served as Johnson's director of external affairs for four years until less than two weeks ago and was widely seen as the Tory mayor's most trusted adviser, will surprise many at a time when the close relationship between senior Tories and News Corporation has become a source of severe embarrassment for David Cameron. Harri confirmed that he had turned down offers from a 'luxury manufacturing company and a large public affairs firm' in favour of working for News International, a company which he praised as delivering 'first class journalism' and whose staff, he believes, have been 'unfairly tarnished' because of a 'few rotten apples.' A few? Not a single 'rogue' rotten apple? Harri, a Welsh speaker born in Cardiff, said he was 'totally reconciled' that his move to News International, after four years with Johnson, would be seen in the media as 'part of an irresistible geometrical pattern' between the Conservatives and News International. Harri's appointment at News International comes five years after he narrowly missed out on becoming David Cameron's director of communications when the then Tory opposition leader opted to give the job to Andy Coulson, the former editor of the Scum of the World. Coulson quit the Downing Street post last year amid pressure about phone-hacking at the newspaper on his watch. Harri joined Johnson at city hall in May 2008 after being one of the Conservative mayor's first appointments on winning office. He said that he had 'never been a card carrying member of the Conservatives' or 'any other' political party. 'So I'm not a senior Tory who is suddenly jumping ship choosing, you know, "one evil man over another."' In his new job, which starts on Monday, Harri said he intended to 'combat some of the hysteria that is rife in British public life. Not every politician is corrupt, not every banker gets an enormous bonus and doesn't think they give a monkey's for anything, and not everyone who works at News International was involved in phone hacking,' he said, adding: 'I know very good people who write for The Times and for the Sun and they are first class journalists and very decent people and again one of the reasons why I am more than happy, I'm delighted to take the job, is that those people cannot be tarred with the same soggy brush as just a few people who were either involved in criminal activity, which is a matter for the courts, or you know, were seemingly out of control.' Harri was head of Johnson's media operation when the mayor dismissed allegations of widespread phone-hacking at News International as politically motivated 'codswallop' in September 2010. He insists that statement was just Johnson's own colourful way of repeating the 'cold blooded advice' he received at the time from the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police Champagne John Yates. Harri, who spent eighteen years as a journalist and did a brief stint in public relations before joining Johnson in city hall, said that he was first approached for the NI job by a headhunting firm over Christmas but made it clear he had no intention of leaving Johnson until he was re-elected this month. He said 'no one in Conservative circles' had sought to dissuade him from taking up his role at News International in the light of the continuing revelations about the party's close links to the media firm, saying he had confided in only a handful of friends. 'Boris was more preoccupied with preventing me leaving city hall than trying to dictate to me where I should choose to ... the only issue for him was whether I was at city hall or not, it's my professional choice for better or worse to choose one company over another.' Harri, a married father of three, replaces Andrew Honnor, who held the position in an interim capacity, and will answer directly to NI's chief executive, Tom Mockridge, to whom Harri paid tribute on the eve of joining the company for his handling of the phone-hacking scandal. 'I would not be joining this company myself if I thought that they condoned, and were actively involved in, any of the practices that they have rightly been condemned for and I cannot think that the people I have met and the man I will be reporting to is I think without doubt the person most determined to clean up any lingering odour of bad practices. I cannot think of any company in history – and this does go to the very top from the man himself in New York – that spends millions of pounds employing people to trawl the bowels of their own servers in order to find evidence to hand over to the police to actually convict their own staff.' Well indeed. Although, to be honest, it's hard to think of any other company that would have to. 'They are being extremely robust and arguably brutal about cleansing up the past, and they are not only disciplining people internally, they are handing over evidence to the police.' Speaking just before flying to New York on Sunday evening for a two-day visit to company headquarters, Harri dismissed the findings of the Commons culture and media select committee, which concluded this month that Rupert Murdoch was 'not fit to run an international company', as a 'political point-scoring exercise' by the Labour members on the committee. Harri, who is expected to meet Murdoch during his trip, said: 'If he's not fit to run a company than I'm sure the board or the shareholders would have something to say about that, and they didn't. Share prices went up that week and the board gave its unanimous support for him.' In a swipe at Tom Watson (power to the people!), one of the Labour member of the culture and media committee and a vocal and powerful critic of News International and its parent company, Harri said: 'Let's call it exactly what it was, is a political point-scoring exercise that was not endorsed by the Conservatives on the committee so it was not the view. Select committees rightly carry weight when they give all-party consensus on the basis of a near-judicial or near-professional judgment call. This was not that. This was a very effective Labour politician harnessing the committee and the opposition majority upon it to make a statement that was disowned by the Conservatives on the committee.' Harri was speaking at his West London home in a room where a crate of Châteauneuf du Pape was stored, sent as a private joke by Johnson together with a lengthy thank you note for his four years of service. Harri said that he had 'never doubted' Johnson would win a second term as mayor, but in a veiled swipe at election strategist Lynton Crosby, who spearheaded Johnson's re-election campaign, he said he believed Johnson's majority of fewer than sixty three thousand votes could have been a more comfortable win if the campaign had not chosen to take the 'bubbles out of the champagne. It's fair to say that Boris came across in the campaign as a little less charismatic, a little less broadminded and a little less attractive even than the Boris most of London has seen over the past four years.' Harri hinted at a difference of opinion over strategy which saw the mayor appeal to the core Tory vote during the seven weeks of the election period after four years of work to make him attractive to people 'who generally would not vote Conservative.' This had involved authentically 'pitching out in all directions', from supporting an amnesty for illegal immigrants to engaging with Muslim communities, black churches and the gay community, while at the same time also batting for core Tory issues such as calling for the top rate of tax to be reduced to help the business community in the capital. 'That was almost the danger of the campaign, that he became more Tory at a time when being Tory seemed to be more of a liability than an asset.' While the campaign was 'quite right' to focus on Johnson's priorities of creating jobs and growth in the capital 'maybe they didn't quite have the confidence in Boris that I have that the more people see the real Boris, the more they like him, not the other way around.' Harri paid tribute to the campaign for its 'enormous energy and commitment' and to Crosby personally for being a 'strategic and logistical genius,' but went on to say that while he has 'huge respect for the core Tory vote, it's not enough to win an election. In the end Lynton Crosby is extremely experienced and capable and has fought elections all over the world and you can't deny that he has been campaign manager twice now and Boris has been re-elected so I pay tribute to his enormous skills, but I still think that Boris was undersold. It's not that the core things they focused on are not important, it's just not there are other things that are important to.'

Communities across South Devon turned out to welcome the Olympic flame on the second day of the torch relay ahead of the London 2012 Games. Dozens of individuals, nominated for their achievements, helped to carry the torch from Plymouth to Exeter. The relay started just after 8:00am, heading along the coast passing through the towns of Modbury and Dartmouth. The flame also returned to Torre Abbey, which it visited in 1948 when Torquay was the Olympic sailing venue. During the day, one hundred and twenty one people carried the torch before an evening celebration at Exeter Cathedral. Crowds gathered at Plymouth Life Centre where the first torch was lit for the second day of the relay. Taking the flame on the first leg of its eighty eight mile journey was Jordan Anderton from Ivybridge. Wearing the number 001 he said: 'It is such a great honour to have the opportunity to carry the Olympic torch and be a part of history. It feels unreal really as I was watching it on TV yesterday and I'm here today in front of all the crowds.' Meanwhile the last runner in Plymouth, Mark Ormrod, was given a special ovation from the crowd. He lost both legs and an arm on active service with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan. Ormrod, who now works for the Royal Marines Association, said: 'It is a humbling experience and hopefully I'll do Plymouth and England proud.' The streets, some decked out in flags and bunting, were packed as the runners passed through villages and towns along the route. As the torch passed through Yealmpton, Becky Martin said: 'It's brilliant. The crowd is going ballistic.' A torch to be used on day three of the relay appeared for sale on eBay by lunchtime on Saturday, prompting criticism on social media platforms and calls for 'action' to be taken to stop such sales. And at 11:00am on Sunday bids for a torch, which the seller claimed would be used in the relay on Monday, had reached over six thousand smackers. A London 2012 spokesperson said: 'The torch and uniform are the torchbearer's to do what they want with, we hope they find a good home.' After making its way passed a packed waterfront in Dartmouth the flame was carried to the naval college where cadets had lined-up to welcome it. A total of eight thousand people will carry the flame on its eight thousand mile mile, seventy-day journey to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27 July. Each of the torchbearers runs with the flame for about three hundred metres before lighting the next bearer's torch. Officers from the Torch Security Team, co-ordinated by the Metropolitan Police, are accompanying the runners throughout the relay. Large crowds gathered on Saturday to see the first day's relay through Cornwall. Triple Olympic gold medallist sailor Ben Ainslie was the first to carry the flame at Land's End. It passed through towns and countryside and visited the Eden Project, where it took a ride in a balloon in the rainforest biome. The relay then crossed into Devon and ended its first day with an evening celebration on Plymouth Hoe. Devon and Cornwall Police said about fifty five thousand people enjoyed the Olympic torch celebrations in the city.

The Surrey town of Staines - aye - has officially changed its name to Staines-upon-Thames in an attempt to boost its riverside image. Councillors voted for the change last year after the town became synonymous with Sacha Baron Cohen's spoof rapper Ali G. The name officially changed at two o'clock on Sunday and followed a day of celebrations, including a regatta, in the town. Critics, including the town's football club, have labelled it 'pretentious.' Spelthorne Borough Council hopes the change will attract more business to the town, which sits on the banks of the River Thames. Councillor Colin Davis, who was behind the name change, said that the town's image had 'needed help for some time. Ali G may have had a role, but I think it goes back further than that,' he said. And, he said the new name would help people from outside the town understand its riverside links. He added: 'I regard Ali G as someone who put Staines on the map, we're just telling people where it is.' However, Steve Parsons, who is the club secretary of Staines Town Football Club and campaigned against the change, said: 'The council have decided they don't want to be linked with The Ali G Show. But the one they need to worry about is Keeping Up Appearances, where Mrs Bucket changed her name to Bouquet. I think it is as pretentious as that.' Alex Tribick, chairman of the Spelthorne Business Forum, defended the change as 'progressive.' He said: 'It's not pretentious, it's progress and the fact of the matter is there was a public consultation that returned with a two to one majority in favour of a change.' The Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad, was responsible for officially changing the name.

Bloomberg reporter Sara Eisen was left red-faced last week after being caught with her skirt hitched up around her thighs on live TV. Colleague Sheila Dharmarajan was having sound issues, so the camera suddenly panned across to the financial expert, catching her off guard. Eisen, who appeared to be adjusting her microphone, quickly pulled her skirt down. She laughed off the wardrobe malfunction and blamed it on 'technical difficulties,' quickly continuing to deliver a report on the eurozone crisis. The clip has since become a hit online.

Gordon Taylor has strongly condemned arch psycho nutter Joey Barton, claiming the QPR captain 'fully deserves' a lengthy ban for his crass and violent antics during and after last week's defeat at Sheikh Yer Man City. Barton's future at QPR is in doubt after he elbowed Carlos Tevez geet hard in the mush, kicked Sergio Aguero and appeared to headbutt Vincent Kompany during the game and then took to Twitter to launch an expletive-and-innuendo-ridden attack on Match of the Day duo Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker afterwards. The Strangers skipper had until midday on Thursday to decide whether to appeal two charges of violent conduct, and the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive said: 'If you come out with stuff like that you are going to deserve to be heavily sanctioned.' He added: 'He is his own worst enemy when he says stuff like that and he has been upsetting a lot of people in the game with good reputations. We try to deal with Joey Barton and it is not getting any easier. I just feel sometimes like it is pushing a boulder up a hill, it slips back and you decide whether to go again. It has certainly been a backward step for him and his future in the game. There are people that seem to be improving and then slip back, it is a human condition. No one is perfect but you only have one career.'

We end with some sad, if not entirely unexpected, news. The Bee Gees' singer Robin Gibb has died aged sixty two after a lengthy battle with cancer, his family said. They added that they were making the announcement with 'great sadness.' Robin's musical career began when he formed The Bee Gees with his brothers Barry and Maurice as a nine year old in 1958. The group went on to become one of the biggest-selling of all time with hits spanning across five decades. Robin's family said in a statement: 'The family of Robin Gibb announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery. The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time.' Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini described the singer as 'one of the major figures in the history of British music.' The Gibb brothers were born in the Isle of Man (Barry in 1946, the twins Robin and Maurice in 1949) but grew up in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, later moving to Australia as their father, Hugh, sought work. (Robin was later the subject of an excellent edition of the BBC genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? first broadcast in September 2011 in which he traced the lives of some of his ancestors. His paternal great grandfather was born into poverty in Paisley and went on to become a decorated soldier and his paternal great grandmother was a midwife.) The Bee Gees notched up sales of more than two hundred million records worldwide since their first hits in the late 1960s. 'Everyone should be aware that The Bee Gees are second only to Lennon and McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music,' said Gambaccini. 'Their accomplishments have been monumental. Not only have they written their own number one hits, but they wrote huge hit records for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, Destiny's Child, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, the list goes on and on. What must also be said is Robin had one of the best white soul voices ever. He was singing lead on his first number one when he was just seventeen.' Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read, who was a family friend of Robin, said: 'Robin had the voice, the pathos, and he was a great writer. He had a gift for melody and a gift for lyrics and left a phenomenal legacy, a phenomenal catalogue.' Referring to The Bee Gees, he said: 'They had every award, every gold disc, every platinum disc, the Grammys the lot and had been doing it so long but were still so good at it.' A statement from Sony Music on Twitter said: 'Rest in peace, Robin Gibb. Thanks for the music.' Robin had battled ill health for several years. In 2010, he cancelled a series of shows after suffering from severe stomach pains while performing in Belgium. He went on to have emergency surgery for a blocked intestine. His brother Maurice died in 2003 aged fifty three following complications from a similar intestinal condition. Robin cancelled a series of shows in Brazil in April 2011, after again suffering from abdominal pains. Later that year, he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon after having surgery on his bowel for an unrelated condition. He was later also diagnosed with cancer of the liver, and underwent chemotherapy and surgery. His increasingly gaunt appearance prompted morbid press speculation that he was close to death. But in February he told the BBC that was making 'a spectacular' recovery and he was 'feeling fantastic.' Last month the singer fell into a coma after contracting pneumonia. After twelve days he regained consciousness and his son Robin-John said that his father was 'completely compos mentis. He has beaten the odds. He really is something else.' Over a period of forty years, Robin - alongside with Maurice and Barry - racked up a string of hit singles and LP. From their early incarnation as a teenage novelty act, to their first taste of international fame as pop troubadours, to their dramatic reinvention as the Kings of Disco in the mid-1970s, they notched up more than two hundred million LP sales worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. But it was a bumpy road with sibling rivalry and internal tensions in the band causing a brief split. The Gibbs also had to deal with the pain of losing their younger brother Andy at an early age and the death of Maurice. Robin Gibb was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man on 22 December 1949, just thirty five minutes before Maurice. Music was an early part of his life as the boys' father, Hugh, was a drummer and bandleader. The family moved to their mother, Barbara's, home town Manchester in the 1950s, before undertaking the long journey to Australia. There, they settled in one of Brisbane's poorer neighbourhoods, Cribb Island. The brothers listened to the harmonies of the Mills Brothers on their parents' radio and Elvis Presley and other early rockers on their older sister, Lesley's, record player. Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb began honing their three-part vocal harmonies at a young age and performed in minor venues in England and in Australia, as a schoolboy singing trio under a variety of names before settling on The Bee Gees, and made their TV debut in 1960. In 1963 their first single, 'The Battle of the Blue and the Grey', made the charts in Sydney. They continued to play and record, having several hits in Australia, and in 1966 the Beatlesque single 'Spicks and Specks' gave them their first Australian number one and a sniff of wider recognition (it was their first record to be released in the UK). Frustrated by the limited potential in Australia, the band moved back to Britain during the winter of 1966. There they were auditioned by impresario Robert Stigwood (then Brian Epstein's partner) and signed to NEMS. Sitgwood got them a recording contract with Polydor and their first major hit followed in early 1967 - the stunning 'New York Mining Disaster (1941)' which reached the top twenty in both the UK and America - helped on its way by rumours that the record had actually been recorded by The Beatles. (Robin's vocals do sound uncannily like John Lennon.) Stigwood, cleverly, sent out the demo singles in white covers with just the title of the song on the label increasing the mystery about the record. Their second single - 'To Love Somebody', co-written by Robin and Barry - became a pop standard and over the years was covered by hundreds of artists. Although Robin's quivering, vulnerable, achingly sad voice was featured prominently on several of the group's earliest and most Beatleseque hits the lead vocals on 'To Love Someone' were taken by Barry and this led to considerable tension within the band, with Robin accusing Stigwood of favouring his brother. Although he looked and sounded like the meekest Bee Gee, Robin grew into the family rebel. By 1969, he and Barry were feuding over whose song should be singles, and Robin, then twenty, was declared 'a ward of the state' by their father when his drinking and partying seemed to take over his life. 'It happened so fast that we lost communication between us,' Gibb later recalled. 'It was just madness, really.' The band (at this stage a five-piece, the Gibb brothers supplemented by drummer Colin Petersen and guitarist Vince Melouney) achieved more chart successes, including two British number one hits - 'Massachusetts' and 'I Gotta Get A Message To You'. Some of their best known songs -  'Holiday', 'Words', 'Melody Fair', 'I Started A Joke' (astonishingly, the latter was never released as a single in the UK, although it was a top ten hit in America) - come from this period. Anyone who only knows The Bee Gees through their later material are advised to get themselves copies of their first four Polydor LPs (First, Idea, Horizontal and Odessa). You will, trust me, never hear The Bee Gees as merely a disco band again! Not long after returning to England, Robin met Molly Hullis, who worked at NEMS, and became his first wife. Both of them were involved in the Hither Green train-crash in south-east London in November 1967 when returned from a trip to Hastings, a tragedy in which forty nine people died. The desolate 'Really and Sincerely' ('My mind is open wide/I'm on the other side') was the first song that Robin wrote after the crash. 'I just wanted to escape,' said Robin. 'At the same time I made a mental decision that it wasn't going to affect my life, so I shut it out.' But, when Robin's song 'Lamplight' was relegated to the B-side of Barry's 'First of May' in early 1969, Robin quit the group in disgust. He had one massive solo hit single, 'Saved By The Bell' a few months later, but was unable to follow it up and decided that he was not cut out for a solo career. In 1970 the brothers reunited as a three-piece and achieved an immediate chart hit in the US with the complex and brilliant 'Lonely Days', which they followed up with 'How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?' in 1971 and 'Run To Me' the following year. Then, they had a dry-spell until the band started working with noted R&B producer Arif Mardin on their 1975 LP Main Course. The single, 'Jive Talkin', saw them make a chart comeback in both America and Britain. The following year, the Children of the World LP and its single, 'You Should Be Dancing' cemented their reputation as the Kings of Disco but the real turning point came when they produced the soundtrack for the film Saturday Night Fever, which turned them into international superstars. It spawned the singles 'How Deep is Your Love?', 'Stayin' Alive' and 'Night Fever'. Despite the band's success Robin continued to pursue an occasional solo career, but his music enjoyed more success in Europe than it did in either Britain or the US. He also continued writing songs for other artists, co-writing four of the songs - among them hit song 'Woman in Love' - on Barbra Streisand's Guilty LP with brother Barry. Robin also co-wrote material for Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers. In 1988 the Gibb family was hit by tragedy when Andy, their youngest brother and a solo star in his own right, died at the age of thirty from myocarditis - an inflammation of the heart muscle. One, the Bee Gees' 1989 LP, featured a song dedicated to Andy, called 'Wish You Were Here' as well as yet another worldwide number one hit, 'You Win Again'. The Bee Gees continued to record and perform and achieved some chart success. But Barry had been suffering from a number of health problems including arthritis, while in the early 1990s Maurice sought treatment for his alcoholism. In 1997 they released the CD Still Waters, which sold more than four million copies, and were presented with a Brit Award for their outstanding contribution to music. In 2003 tragedy struck again with the sudden death of Maurice. Following his death, Robin and Barry disbanded the group. Robin continued to tour and record and reunited with Barry in Miami in 2006 for a charity concert, prompting rumours of a possible reformation. In 2008 he was at the forefront of the campaign for a permanent memorial in London to the men of Bomber Command. Two years later he sang the Bee Gees hit 'I've Gotta Get A Message To You' with a group of soldiers in support of the Poppy Day appeal. In 2008, Robin performed at the BBC's Electric Proms, marking the thirtieth anniversary of Saturday Night Fever topping the UK charts. But ill health dogged him. In late 2011 it was announced that Robin, at the age of sixty one, had been diagnosed with liver cancer. However, he went into remission and had been in recovery in recent months. 'I feel fantastic,' he told BBC Radio 2 in February. 'I am very active and my sense of well-being is good. For more than eighteen months, I had lived with an inflammation of the colon; then I was diagnosed with colon cancer, which spread to the liver. I have undergone chemotherapy, however, and the results — to quote my doctor — have been "spectacular." It's taken a toll, naturally, but the strange thing is that I've never felt seriously ill. I've mostly felt great. There have been many false claims around, which I'd like to dispel. I am not and have never been "at death's door." Nor do I have a team of alternative doctors working on my health. That's not true, although I'm not averse to healthy remedies for any illness. I feel they can go together with conventional medicine. I do eat health foods and drink herbal teas made for me by Dwina, my wife.' His final work was a collaboration with his son, RJ, on The Titanic Requiem, to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the naval disaster. Robin Gibb was a talented singer and songwriter whose best work came from his collaboration with his brothers. Together they sold more records than The Rolling Stones, ABBA or Elton John, but Gibb always felt - perhaps rightly - the band had not received the recognition or respect it deserved. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has opined this before, I know, but it bears repeating dear blog reader; it might sound a somewhat ridiculous thing to say about whatever it was that they were, the seventh - I think - biggest selling act of all time worldwide, but I've always thought The Bee Gees were really under-rated. 'There are songs we wrote in 1968 that people are still singing,' Robin told one interviewer in 2008. 'There's very few artists with that kind of history.' Quite right. Robin is survived by his second wife, Dwina Murphy Gibb, four children, Spencer, Melissa, RJ and Snow, his mother, Barbara, and his brother Barry and sister, Lesley.

So, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's Robin, Maurice and Barry and a couple of their twenty-four carat masterpieces.