The death of Robin Gibb last week struck me in so many different ways. I grew up on disco, with sparkling mirror balls, flashing dance floors, the gyrating hips of John Travolta dancing to those rhythmic beats and the high-pitched falsetto voices of the Bee Gees.
The three brothers, Barry, Maurice and Robin created a unique sound that has never been emulated by any boy band since, and their music still stirs the old tootsies every time I hear it. I just want to get up and dance!
Yet after reading an obituary from a wire service, there was absolutely no mention of a movie soundtrack that was just as memorable, though perhaps a bit before the lifetime of that particular obituary writer.
When I was still in high school in early 1971, young Thai teens were caught up in a movie about puppy love that became the rage of the era.
Melody starred Mark Lester and Jack Wild, just after their previous blockbuster Oliver!. The blonde cherubic pre-Macaulay Culkin, Mark, then 13, was paired with the more mature-looking-at-12, Tracy Hyde. They fell in puppy love and planned to get married. But it wasn't just a dream of the future they were talking about _ it was now. The story goes on to tell how the aghast parents did their best to stop this nonsense, while their friends did what they could to help the young couple elope.
Young teens came out of the theatres dreamy eyed, their heads still haunted by fantasies and the strains of Melody Fair, In the Morning, Give Your Best, To Love Somebody and First of May by the Bee Gees.
How many of you haven't ever had a childhood crush, where you'd write your names down on a piece of paper to calculate, according to the spelling, whether you would be a perfect match or not, or tried to match your name with his surname to see how it sounds when (or if) you get married?
Though Melody had its day, as did Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde, the music of the Bee Gees from this pre-disco film has remained among my favourite movie soundtracks. Even today, going back to listen to the songs, I can remember the lyrics even better than I can remember the poems we had to recite for literature class. These songs quickly joined the repertoire for aspiring singers, guitar or piano players (luckily, karaoke didn't exist then).
In a similar genre, the same year in fact, was the film Friends (no relation to the sit-com). This featured a British boy and a French girl who ran off together to "play house", complete with baby and all.
Again it was one of those movies that teenagers just had to see, and although there is hardly anything about the movie that I remember now, the music by Elton John and Bernie Taub (in the early days of their collaboration, and before Elton John became a superstar with his song Rocket Man) are still evocative to this day.
How many of you remember Michelle's Song, Seasons and Friends? They are such beautiful, ageless, songs that you can listen to year after year, unlike the pop songs of today that come and go.
And while we're on the subject of puppy love, the film trend might have started a few years earlier, in 1968, with that ageless story by the Bard, Romeo and Juliet, which became one of my all-time favourite movies starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting.
I can recite much of the play by heart as a result of this film, and the haunting song, What Is a Youth? is another of those songs that linger for the rest of your life.
As a parent now, such scenarios are like a nightmare that you just pray will never ever happen to your own kids, especially if you have a daughter.
In fact, I'm quite surprised my parents didn't stop me from going to see them, considering they did prevent me from going to see Barbarella with my friends!
The genre probably fizzled out with the film The Blue Lagoon starring a young Brooke Shields in 1980 as a castaway who discovers puberty, sex and motherhood on a deserted island. The biggest buzz from this movie was the issue of whether Miss Shields used a body double for her naked scenes, and whether her hair was glued to her nipples or not. Whether there was a soundtrack or not wasn't even in the equation.
What it comes down to, I believe, is the desire for freedom _ freedom from restrictions, from parents, from discipline, from authorities, from social demands. Yet we all know, reality eventually sets in. We breathe a sigh and get on with life.
For we watched as on the skyway
The herons circled slowlyWhile we mere mortals watched them fly
Our sleepless eyes grew heavy
_ Michelle's Song (Elton John)
Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the features editor of the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor