Jon recalls “I was amazed to discover that the Bee Gees started off as a folk trio – I heard Martin Carthy’s majestic version of this before `I read the sleeve notes and assumed that the Bee Gees bit must have been a mistake. I’ve never tried this in a session but I reckon the chorus could be a belter.”
This is their rather unlikely first hit and a great song. I say unlikely, as the subject of miners trapped underground, with the deliberate slowing of the lines as their chances of rescue expire along with the air, is hardly the stuff of your average Top 20 smash. But an international hit it was, putting the Bee Gees on the pop map in the swinging 60s, although it may well have resulted from the mistaken belief that it was The Beatles operating under a pseudonym. You can Wiki here for more on the song and here for more on the brothers Gibb. I won’t claim to be a big fan, but their early international success did actually produce some very fine songs (really.) I have read somewhere down the (possibly apocryphal) line that they were more or less forced to leave for Australia on the £10 ticket after several brushes with the law. If true it’s almost echoes the transports. Anyway Martin Carthy is Jon’s source for this and his version is nicely stark. Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that it’s followed on the Signs Of Life CD by a version of yesterday’s song, albeit the decidedly English version called Georgie, not that it shares much in common, apart from a similar plotline, with Jon’s take. You may also appreciate a quick read of Martin’s notes at Mainly Norfolk, which also cover Georgie.