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"Tragedy"
The Bee Gees
RSO 918
March 1979
Billboard: #1    Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

The Bee Geesragedy," an uptempo, passionate song featuring Barry Gibb on lead falsetto vocals, was the second consecutive number one single from Spirits Having Flown, stretching the total of Bee Gees' chart-toppers to eight. It was also the fifth consecutive number one for the Bee Gees, tying them with the Supremes and placing them within striking distance of the Beatles' six consecutive number one singles.

'Spirits Having Flown' - The Bee Gees
Debuting on the Billboard Top 40 pop chart on Feb. 10, 1979, the Bee Gees' "Tragedy" followed the Aussie hitmakers' first single from their album Spirits Having Flown, "Too Much Heaven," to the top of the charts in March. Released one week after "Tragedy," Spirits Having Flown topped the Billboard Hot 200 for six weeks, and spent 55 weeks on the chart. It was certified gold and platinum by the R.I.A.A. on Jan. 30, 1979, twelve days before it was released.
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Karl Richardson, co-producer of six of those Bee Gees hits, described Barry's singing in a Circus interview: "The control of Barry's voice is actually better in falsetto. On a powerful, complex song like 'Tragedy' the lead vocal has to stand out, and a lower range would have little impact and be harder to mix. The first time I heard 'Tragedy' was at Barry's house, with all three of the Bee Gees singing to an acoustic guitar. They even sang the explosion near the end which ended up in the studio as five tracks of Barry cupping his hands over the microphone combined with (keyboardist) Blue Weaver hitting random notes on the bottom end of the piano, run through a product generator."

Spirits Having Flown was the first album on which the Gibb brothers were allowed all the time and money needed to produce exactly what they wanted. In David Leaf's unauthorized biography of the Bee Gees, Robin said, "We work a hell of a lot on our records. We're one of the hardest working teams of people in the business. We work hard to get what we want. We have always had the talent, but we supressed it. We'd convinced ourselves we'd gone as far as we were going to go. Who is to say that you can't shatter barriers and go past the stars? Positive thinking is electric. It makes things happen. In our lives, we feel that there is no such thing as failure."

In the same biography, co-producer Albhy Galuten remarked that the Bee Gees' knowledge of recording techniques "seems to be unparalleled. They're far more talented in their ability to make records and communicate these messages and saying them right than anybody I've ever worked with. The only people who I feel even come close at this pint would be Stevie Wonder and sometimes Paul McCartney. I think they're miles ahead at this point. Saturday Night Fever saw their blossoming as producers. They've always been able to hear the difference, but now they have an active hand in being involved. They've taken the time to really get it right."

"The studio is my spaceship," Barry declared in the Bee Gees' biography. "I lose all sense of the outside world. I just turn into the music. It's a very satisfying sensation. I guess I have the studio personality, the patience and the perfectionism. The joy of writing a song on an acoustic guitar and watching it grow, fleshing it out until it sounds as my mind told me it should, that is what keeps me in there night and day. That moment when the song is realized is my payoff."

- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.

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