February 13, 2011 – 3:46 am

Robin Gibb told The Mail On Sunday November 1, 2009: “This (”I Started A Joke”) is a very spiritual song. The listeners have to interpret it themselves - trying to explain it would detract from the song.”

In 2010, The Bee Gees released a boxset, Mythology, offering one disc each for Barry, Robin, Maurice and Andy. On CD2, Robin’s side, the following songs run in order:

I Started A Joke (1968)
“Till I finally died
which started the whole world living
Oh if I’d only seen
that the joke was on me”

Odessa (City on the Black Sea) (1969)

Saved by the Bell (1969)
“I died for you, I died for two
I’ll live for you, I’ll give to you”

My World (1972)
“If you’re not here by me
Then it’s not worth while

My world is our world
And this world is your world
And your world is my world
And my world is your world is mine”

Run to Me (1972)
“Run to me whenever you’re lonely
Run to me if you need a shoulder

And when you’re out in the cold
No one beside you, and no one to hold
Am I unwise to open your eyes to love me?”

When listened together, they do have a continuity running through them that echoes what Robin said about “I Started A Joke”. These are not typical love songs as we understand them.

The odd song out is Odessa which is about a sailor lost at sea thinking about his wife who has run away with the Vicar.

What was going on in Robin’s world?

+ + + + +

Click here for Contest No. 1

Click here for Contest No. 2

Click here for Contest No. 3


  2. I don’t know what was going on in Robin’s world but those guys sure recorded some great songs.

    By Steve on Feb 13, 2011

  3. I think Robin’s hair loss is the common theme here. This also explains why Robin’s (the sailor) wife ran of with the Vicar. He probably did not suffer from hair loss.

    By frank on Feb 13, 2011

  4. I always felt “I Started A Joke” was about Chritianity as seen thru Jesus eyes.So maybe Robin was questioning religion.Great song!

    By Pete Stoppiello on Feb 13, 2011

  5. The lyrics speak to his deeply held belief that nothing gives succor like lucre and commercial success. The evidence is in how the band abandoned creating quality songs in favor of trendy, ephemeral schlock.

    By Pee 'n' Buddha on Feb 13, 2011

  6. hey bigo, i never was a fan of pop music in general, but perhaps he’s talking about in his past sinning meaning dying like the excess of being a star and if he had problems with substance abuse. then redemption being living and god and loved ones being there for him in this confusing world.

    is that good?

    going to walk.


    By Ed Saad on Feb 13, 2011

  7. “Am I unwise to open your eyes to love me?” - If you have to ask. . . .

    By Leroy Bonafide on Feb 13, 2011

  8. “I started a joke” one of the best songs from all time!

    By Rochacrimson on Feb 13, 2011

  9. It seems that he writes a lot of songs to someone he loves. All GREAT songs.

    By Ron on Feb 13, 2011

  10. can´t tell, robin´s world seems too far out for me…

    By Peter on Feb 13, 2011

  11. made some good stuff,then….

    By paul on Feb 13, 2011

  12. Robin’s comment is spot on - how many songs are interpreted differently by people? We all get something out of music - we should not criticize something most of us can’t do and just listen to what we like and we makes us feel (good or bad)

    By Graham on Feb 13, 2011

  13. Last night. I was just playing music and shaping sounds on my Triton, suddenly the song began to just come together. The sound and the progression triggered the mood and the words came soon after.

    It’s a song. It wasn’t written with intent. I think most music is created this way. It was like the music was telling me a story. Listeners hear songs and make them mean what they wish.

    By frank on Feb 13, 2011

  14. The songs could be taken to reflect a nod towards religious affectations, and sense of worth.

    By Brian on Feb 14, 2011

  15. Most poetry and music relies on the words rhyming, sometimes it doesn’t mean anything but it’s usually good fun trying to work it out.

    By sebrof on Feb 14, 2011

  16. The words mean something to the person who writes them at the time they are written. It may not mean anything to the listener - as long as the words ‘fit’ the song, and the tempo and rhythm is not affected the song will work.

    By Daij on Feb 14, 2011

  17. Don’t know much about the BeeGees or their personal lives. Always enjoyed their music when growing old but never paid much attention to them and their words. But reading your blog; one can only surmise that the message Robin conveyed must have roots in a Christian belief.

    By Jacques on Feb 14, 2011

  18. Sounds like they are all about regret and loss to me. Strange that someone so successful and talented would be so depressing.

    Maybe he just pieced ideas together, like Brian Eno does.

    By psykomyko on Feb 14, 2011

  19. The actual meaning of the song is what Robin intended it to be. He left the meaning open to interpretation by the listener, as many songwriters do. The feelings expressed are there to help the listener connect…

    By TDC on Feb 14, 2011

  20. C.S. Lewis identified four types of love in his book of the same name: Agape (unconditional love),
    Eros (physical love or romance), phileo (friendship), and Storge (affection).

    Across these songs, especially as Robin programmed them, you sense a relationship outfolding from knowing to closeness (”Run To Me”) to love and finally to dependence and sacrifice. The last lines of “I Started A Joke” seem to ask, “Was it all worth it?” something only man could ask as God knew the answer from the start.

    It’s an allegory for love God shows his people: being their confidant, sharing His creation, finally sacrificing Himself for them. This theory makes even more sense when you consider the music itself, ornate chamber pop on the nature of Christmas hymns.

    By trivialtony on Feb 14, 2011

  21. Unhappy with his life. Maybe depression?

    By kleingerd on Feb 14, 2011

  22. I think these are love songs telling us something like “we are one-winged angels, we can only fly hugging each other”, like a writer (more or less) once said. The power of real love, that lies within the soul and has got spirituality in it: with this feeling in mind, Gibb just let the words come out, following his mood, no thought, just heart and feeling, and he let the songs write themselves through him…..

    By frank on Feb 14, 2011

  23. I think that he was laughing at the absurdity of the world, their sudden success and perhaps some overriding personal issues that made the success not as satisfying as he would have thought.

    By Jay Bartlett on Feb 14, 2011

  24. It’s a very deep song which can be interpreted many different ways.

    By Dennis on Feb 14, 2011

  25. I think it’s about Robin leaving the Bee Gees, starting as a joke, being saved by a vicar and his church bells, being happy in his world, and at last running back to Barry and Maurice.

    By Gerard on Feb 14, 2011

  26. a bit off topic but didn’t know how else to contact you…any chance of gettingthis show up in the future?

    By Lou on Feb 14, 2011

  27. I once started a joke, by asking people what they thought of The Rolling Stones song “Honky Tonk Women” being knocked off the top of the radio hit charts, in Los Angeles, California. It was August, 1969. The Stones had just reached number 1, with that tune. The following week, it was bumped by The Archies “Sugar, Sugar”. My little joke evolved into myself & a pal writing up a petition & canvasing people at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. & Vine St. demanding that The Stones be reinstated to no.1. We sent the filed out petition to the leading radio station in L.A. at the time, KHJ/AM. Never heard a thing. Now, THAT’S a joke. NO JOKE, it really happened.

    By Timmy on Feb 14, 2011

  28. don’t know what it means ; it’s not important ; good music . Fine words. That’s all.

    By paco on Feb 15, 2011

  29. His wife didn’t like the joke ? Good music .

    By bruce on Feb 15, 2011

  30. This song is about a man who saw an image of the Virgin Mary in his grilled cheese sandwich. People came from miles around to gaze upon it. The man knew it was just a grilled cheese sandwich, but in it others saw a sign of hope and faith, which the man thought was silly. Eventually, the man tried to tell everyone, “hey, it’s just a grilled cheese sandwhich. I was kidding” For this he was reviled. In the end he realized that once instilled, faith cannot be conquered and he became the butt of his own joke.

    How’s that?

    By frank on Feb 15, 2011

  31. I believe the interpretation to be rooted in Christianity. Great songs whose lyrics are ofter mis-quoted or misunderstood are obviously related to a spiritual belief.

    By RD Stevens on Feb 15, 2011

  32. As it was, Robin survived a horrible train crash around that time, watched people dying around him and saved numerous lives. Quite a fodder for a thought, ain’t?

    By DME on Feb 15, 2011

  33. I think the song is about Derek Zoolander’s fear of being forgotten, as he is forced to face the fact that male modeling is a young man’s game.

    By Esteban on Feb 15, 2011

  34. Robin thinks he is Jesus…NOT!!!!

    Seriously guys, this is really all just part of a general and vague notion of spirituality that was floating around back in those days. If you look at all lyrics from that time you’ll see it.

    By Dick Cole on Feb 15, 2011

  35. I believe those songs are about man’s inhumanity to man….Like when the guy at Mc Donalds forgets to put cheese on your Bic Mac.
    It’s a bloody tragedy, I say.

    By Bob on Feb 15, 2011

  36. I think the songs refer to the Christian faith as in salvation and the forgiveness of sins. All the songs together could have made a rock opera and maybe that was what the intent was at one time.

    By Mackster on Feb 16, 2011

  37. The question asked is: What was going on in Robin’s life? I read a brief bit about Robin and it seems he was living apart from his first wife for much of time these songs were written.

    By steve22 on Feb 16, 2011

  38. Does anyone remember when Faith No More covered this song?

    By Phil on Feb 16, 2011

  39. I like the way you say there’s a continuity to these songs, but don’t say much about what that continuity is. I don’t think they’re really any more related than any two Sex Pistols songs are related. All they have in common is Robin’s tendency to get melodramatic when trying to express emotion. The exception is clearly “My World” which is about colonialism. It’s a message to the indigenous people of Australia: “This world is MY world.”

    By Jim Kneubuhl on Feb 16, 2011

  40. Remember being young, idealistic and introspective? Thinking you could solve the troubles of the world if only someone would listen. Robin had an audience and hoped he could reach them through his pop lyrics. True, he wasn’t of the caliber of a Dylan but we all work with what we are given.All art and music are open to interpretation and often the interpretation is more profound than the original intent.

    I believe Robin Gibb to be the Messiah.

    I believe Stayin’ Alive are words to live by.

    By Sking on Feb 16, 2011

  41. The songs listed were written by a young gifted songwtiter, who in my opion wrote pop love songs with a mature veiwpoint.

    By Bartman on Feb 16, 2011

  42. they were very ahead of their time in production….drum loops, massive arrangements, and excellent song writing!!! YOU should be dancing!!!!!

    By a real mf on Feb 16, 2011

  43. I beleive that what is going on in Robin’s world is that he is a deeply, emotional person, in touch with his feminine side, and that of his female companions… he understands the yin and the yang, the happy and the sad, the light and the dark.

    By Benoit Bollz on Feb 17, 2011

  44. Yes, I remember the cover by Faith No More. I believe they also covered “Easy” by The Commodores, right?

    By Alberto on Feb 17, 2011

  45. My world seems a math proof. you know if A=B and B=C then therefore A=C. Other than that it does seem like commentary on drug use.

    By JN on Feb 17, 2011

  46. Spirituality does not always equate to religion; people are moral or immoral regardless of belief in a higher being.

    By NAMoosedog on Feb 18, 2011

  47. The notion that these allude to Christianity makes about as much sense to me as anything. I’ve always loved the wonderful melody of “I Started a Joke”, more so than the lyrics.

    By MrBill on Feb 19, 2011

  48. It’s easy, Robin’s a narcissist and he’s singing about himself.

    By soldout in San Francisco on Feb 21, 2011

  49. It’s all about how good ideas get subverted.

    By ter kud on Feb 23, 2011

  50. Those brothers wrote some great songs,I’ll put them in the same row with The Beatles and Abba in popular music.
    I saw the Bee Gees in 1968 with a big orchestra and still think it was awesome.

    By Barnestormer on Feb 24, 2011

  51. Hello Barnestormer
    Thanks for your comment but your mailbox is full.

    By bigozine2 on Feb 24, 2011

  52. I love singing ‘I Started a Joke’ and ‘To Love Somebody.’
    My best guess is that Robin was missing someone, truly, deeply.

    By Danelectro67 on Feb 24, 2011

  53. I’m not the deepest thinker on the planet but it always seemed that this cat was depressed. He did channel it well, to creative use and profit but was depressed anyway-
    It’s easy to see the “Christ” metaphor in the music and lyrics but there had to be more to it.
    All the Best & GIVE PEACE A CHANCE,

    By John P McNea III on Feb 25, 2011

  54. I ditto this as the meaning of the song- Good on you Jay!

    I think that he was laughing at the absurdity of the world, their sudden success and perhaps some overriding personal issues that made the success not as satisfying as he would have thought.

    By Jay Bartlett on Feb 14, 2011

    By Diane on Feb 25, 2011

  55. Quintessentially speaking, these lyrics were written about the failed comedian Andrew Dice Clay as a youth, who became one of the most successful comics in the late ’80s, playing sold-out stadiums and attracting a large amount of controversy when being “politcally correct” became the norm. Although he had already acted in a few supporting film roles, it wasn’t until 1990’s classic “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” that he finally peaked and faded into oblivion.

    By verbalosity on Feb 25, 2011

  56. Robin imagines himself to be Jesus.

    By Stu Shea on Feb 25, 2011

  57. Who cares? Music is there to touch our souls, not worry about the woes a writer endures to create the music.

    It’s rather like drowning in the ocean and, instead of grabbing the lifesaver that is thrown to you, taking the time to wonder how a lifesaver was invented.

    That is no BS, my friends.


    By Madelyn Writer on Feb 26, 2011

  58. Thing is, if a song (or any other creative effort) really comes from that inner-most personal part of the artist, NO ONE is going to be able to interpret it as the artist did. That doesn’t mean that it won’t affect the listener/viewer/reader/whatever, just that the meaning will be filtered through their own personal experiences/feelings/personality and will leave a different impression altogether. THAT’S what makes great art. Period.

    By Golgo Hakase on Feb 26, 2011

  59. Robin is correct to say the listener needs to interpret the song based on their own personal perspective. If Robin divulged his interpretation or inspiration it would probably influence and sway the listener’s point of view.

    By Joel Finger on Feb 28, 2011

  60. What makes songwriting such a subtle and wonderful art form is the myriad interpretations that can be derived from the simplest of texts. To me Disney Girls will always be specifically about time travel. I KNOW its not but to me it is.
    The Bee Gees have tended to shy away from the specific and thats why they have been so popular for so long.

    By paul Sullivan on Feb 28, 2011

  61. Robin seems to be writing as a Christ figure feeling spirituality has been abandoned by formal religion with only the trappings of spirituality but no love or compassion.

    By Patrick Edmondson on Mar 3, 2011

  62. I hate competition and contests!

    Wish you well.

    Rijn B

    By Rijn B on Mar 3, 2011

  63. Good songs

    By king69 on Mar 5, 2011

  64. Sometimes a rhyme is just a rhyme. I’m sure Dylan doesn’t even know what half his lyrics mean. And that’s great, because it leaves the listener open to make the lyrics personal.

    By Ra Man on Mar 5, 2011

  65. Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones? The theme of death and despair have run through their songs, as evidenced in M.Y. Mining Disaster 1941 - a song which I still find myself singing from time to time. Is it live or is it Memorex? I’ve just gotta get a message to you!

    By Adam Dean on Mar 7, 2011

  66. I think Robin is still dealing with the death of his brother, Andy Gibb.

    By goldminer on Mar 9, 2011

  67. The key element in all of Robin’s songs is pathos (in the proper sense), real or imaginary. Of the Bee Gees, he always seemed to have the most interesting sensibility. Also, consider that by the end of 1967 (when he was still just 17) he and his brothers had relocated across the world by sea twice, met with success in Australia, then had mass success in the UK, and Robin and his future wife had narrowly survived the Hither Green train crash. The brothers were always focussed on music, very ambitious, and closely bonded; they also grew up with a Christian upbringing. I think it’s just the combination of spiritual melancholy and self determination, coming together in a creative young guy who was having tremendous material success, and how this can conflict with the desire for spiritual love and agape (the earlier comment on this was pretty spot-on, I thought). There’s also a frequent contrast of the temporal versus the eternal in many of Robin’s songs - see just how often he sings about ‘One million years’! Apparent melodrama is often not far removed from a real awareness of tragedy.

    By John Mc on Mar 17, 2011

  68. Nice Bee Gees track at the end of “the Adjustment Bureau,” which is a fine and intelligent film.

    By Randy on Mar 18, 2011

  69. i once went scuba diving with maurice in queensland, a nice guy, and powerful swimmer!

    By Liam NSW on Mar 22, 2011

  70. I guess it’s a mystery.

    By BigLou on Mar 27, 2011

  71. i identify with robin. thats probably why hes my fave bg. his songs tend to be my fave songs. his songs tend to make me stop and cry. when im not sure who wrote the song and it seems to touch me more than other bgs songs do and i look into who had more to do with the creation of that song.. i often find out that it was robins doing. never fails.
    so its not surprising to find that robin seems to share what appears to be a depression and a loneliness. a crying out to be heard and held. he wants to be loved and who doesnt? lucky for robin he has an outlet and his voice is heard by millions where as nobodies like me cry out into the darkness never to be heard by anyone.
    i suppose robin could be speaking from an alternate voice or character inside himself but he very well might not be. he certainly has the face and eyes to go with the character that he exudes in his words and songs.

    By darth on Jun 22, 2011

  72. This will take some thought. Obviously a desire for better communication.

    By James on Nov 7, 2011

  73. pathos would indeed best explain this time period.It was a moneymaker.

    By matt_the_cat on May 16, 2012

  74. “Juliet”, an everlasting harmony

    By mik on Dec 15, 2015

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Jul 15, 2015: bigOfeature » Blog Archive » THE MORE B.S. CONTEST No. 8
  3. Sep 24, 2015: bigOfeature » Blog Archive » THE MORE B.S. CONTEST No. 9

Post a Comment