Web Exclusive! Bee Gees Guitarist Alan Kendall Recalls His Audition

 After his band Toe Fat got off the road opening for Derek & the Dominos in the early ’70s, Alan Kendall needed a gig. He got a call to audition for a reformed Bee Gees. He got the job, and played with the Brothers Gibb until the death of Maurice in 2003. See the July 2009 issue for more of his story. Here he talks about the lighter side of the audition process and his subsequent years with the group. —Matt Blackett

 I got the gig with the Bee Gee’s around 1972. I’d just finished a U.S. tour with Toe Fat, who had been opening up for Eric Clapton’s band “Derek and the Dominos”. Toe Fat had a couple of albums out but hadn’t achieved much commercial success, so the management company let us go. At that time the Bee Gee’s were getting back together after a pretty contentious break up, and were planning a 10 day U.S. tour in support of a single they had out called Lonely Days. Robin Turner of R.S.O. Records called me and said the B G’s were looking for a guitar player who could also play bass to which I replied “I would love to try out for the gig, but unfortunately I can’t play bass”. He then said “Just say you can play bass and come down for the audition” As you can imagine I was pretty nervous about this , but desperately needed a gig and went along with it. Fortunately I had a few days before the audition to do some woodshedding.
The drummer (who was also auditioning that day) and myself went into the pub next door to the rehearsal hall for a bit of Dutch courage, and who should walk in but Maurice Gibb, with what looked like briefcase in his hand. “Hey you must be the drummer and guitar player. Let’s have a drink before we start playing”. “Hmm! this gig is looking pretty good already,” I thought to myself. After a quick tipple we strolled next door to the rehearsal place, and the next person I saw was Barry wearing a huge fur coat, talking to his very glamorous wife Lynda while holding onto a large Afghan Hound, and smoking a huge spliff. He walked over, said hello, shook our hands, and offered us a toke. “Better and better,” I thought, “and we haven’t even started playing any music!” Maurice had been noodling about on his beloved Rickenbacker bass and doing a line check. Seemingly satisfied with things, he wandered over to where we were all chatting and opened his briefcase, which turned out to be a portable bar!
After getting the gig, I played on all the records and live gigs as well as TV stuff until the early 80s when I quit playing music altogether. By this time I had become a complete basket case, hopelessly addicted to alcohol and drugs but fortunately got sober in 1984. I became a boat captain for a few years and then they asked me to go back with them in 1989. I played on pretty much all their records and live dates until Maurice died a few years ago. I’ve done a couple of things with Barry since then, but that’s about it. I am currently living just outside Nashville and am devoting my time to playing steel guitar and hope to get a road gig at some point.

The “Stayin' Alive” Lick
This is how I remember it. The producer, Ahlby Galuten came up with the idea of having a repetitive bass line running through the song, but at some point decided to make it a guitar line. He came up to me and said, “Can you play something like this?” For one reason or another, I had a hard time copping exactly what he wanted, and I basically came up with my version of his idea.
They were writing stuff at that time which everyone called “Blue Eyed Soul.” They really started that style of writing with songs like “Nights on Broadway” and “Fanny Be Tender (With My Love)” on an earlier album called Main Course, which was produced by the late great Arrif Mardin. The Saturday Night Fever stuff was just an extension of that, and only got the disco label after the film came out. I do remember them sitting on these stone steps in the Chateaux when they were writing the song, but before they had the finished lyrics, and they were singing “Saturday night, Saturday night” instead of “Stayin' alive, stayin' alive.”
I thought the “Disco Sucks” thing was totally f***ing stupid. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. It’s only music. The truth is, they wrote some brilliant songs that fit the movie perfectly and that was that. I felt bad for them because it really made their career grind to a halt for several years. Admittedly some of it was there own fault for going with the tight pants, open shirt, medallion thing, but let’s face it: They were not the only ones who dressed like that.