All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons
By Layne Partin
“He was a very charming, vulnerable, and charismatic performer. He clearly meant well. He wasn’t being difficult. He was going through problems he couldn’t deal with. He wanted everyone to love him. He had so much going for him, and he just couldn’t believe it.” – Brad Lachman, producer of Solid Gold.
“I always knew that one day I’d get a call with news like this. It was only a matter of time.” – Kim Reeder, ex-wife and mother of Andy’s only child, Peta, after receiving news of his death at age thirty.
Few people seemed better suited to handle fame and fortune than Andy Gibb. After all, his brothers were the Bee Gees, already internationally well-known singers in Andy’s youth, and on the verge of becoming disco superstars when he was still in his teens, so it wasn’t like he didn’t have any inkling of what that life would be like. Plus, he had been performing solo and in various bands from an early age. With his brothers as role models, he seemed to have a step up on most. So what happened?
“I didn’t get the chance to know my father as well as I should have,” Peta Weber reflected recently, speaking to Australian outlet news.com.au about her early life. “As I grew, I learned that he was famous and that he had famous siblings, but for me, he was just a guy on the end of the telephone line.”
Her parents had gotten married in Australia but moved to the states for his career. “They were there for about a year when mum became pregnant with me; by then, cracks were already showing in their relationship. My father was caught in the fame and the parties… He couldn’t escape it… I think, basically, mum gave him the ultimatum to get straight, or she was leaving. He didn’t, so she did, and it was messy. There were lawyers involved, and it was all over the press; it was a hard time for our whole family… I knew I had a dad. I knew that he was a singer and that he lived in America, and that’s it, really. It wasn’t until much later that I knew he was famous… I remember mum calling me into a room once, pointing at Solid Gold on the TV and saying, ‘That’s your dad’…I always wished we had more of a chance to get to know each other. I wanted to be close to him like any daughter wants with her father. But outside forces conspired against us…”
Andrew Roy Gibb was born on March 5, 1958, in Stretford, Lancashire, the youngest of five siblings. From an early age, he seemed to be a likable and charming person but already a bit of a rebel. His mother described his childhood thus: “A little devil, a little monster. I’d send him off to school, but he’d sneak off to the stable and sleep with his two horses all day. He’d wander back home about lunchtime smelling of horse manure, but he’d swear he’d been at school. He was a little monkey.”
Tom Kennedy, a film director, and producer, described him similarly after the family moved back to the UK: “Andy was always around—he was this cheeky little lad; Hugh and Patricia [his parents] doted on him, so he would have a limo to go around London with his pals and twenty quid to go to the cinema. It was unheard of in those days! But he was just a cheeky little lad with a heart of gold. He used to try to get me to buy him a beer when he was underage—he would only have been about 11 or 12.”
Andy quit school when he was thirteen and began playing in tourist clubs around Ibiza, Spain, and then later in the Isle of Man, his brothers’ birthplace. At fifteen, he formed his band, Melody Fayre, with fellow Isle of Man musicians John Anderson, Stan Hughes, and John Stringer. Their manager, Barbara, Andy’s mother, had them regularly booked on the islands hotel circuit.
Later that same year, brother Barry convinced Andy to return to Australia (feeling that it would be a good training ground for him as it had been for the Bee Gees), where his sister Lesley and her family lived. Anderson and Stringer followed, hoping to keep the band going there. They recorded several of Andy’s compositions and performed on The Ernie Sigley Show, Andy’s television debut.
But just because his brothers had profited from Australia didn’t mean Andy would. For one thing, Andy was financially independent, largely thanks to his brothers’ support, and he would disappear for periods of time, leaving the other members of the band without income. They ended up returning to the U.K. Andy then joined the band Zenta, and they supported Sweet and Bay City Rollers on the Sydney leg of their tours.
In 1976 he released his first single, Words and Music, in New Zealand and Australia, where it became a top 20 hit on the Sydney music charts. In July of that same year, he married his girlfriend Kim Reeder, and the following year, they moved to West Hollywood, where, according to Reeder, “He became ensconced in the drug scene. Cocaine became his first love.”
All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons
After breaking up with Reeder, Andy was signed by Robert Stigwood (manager of the Bee Gees) to his label RSO after hearing some of Andy’s demos. He then moved to Miami Beach and began working with his brother Barry on songs. Andy’s first album, Flowing Rivers, released in 1977 (which featured Joe Walsh on two songs), went on to sell over a million copies, and the two singles, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” both topped the charts.
His follow-up album, Shadow Dancing, did even better, and the title track became his third (and final) number-one and went on to be the biggest-selling song of 1978. The follow-up singles “An Everlasting Love” and “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away;” both reached the top ten. In 1979 he recorded his final studio album, After Dark, which was released in March 1980 and contained his last top-ten single, “Desire.”
Another single, “I Can’t Help It,” a duet with Olivia Newton-John, made the top twenty. Later that year, Andy Gibb’s Greatest Hits was released; it contained two new songs, “Time is Time” and “Me (Without You),” which were his last top 40 singles. RSO let him go shortly afterward due to alcohol and cocaine addiction and behavioral problems.
In January of 1981, Andy met Victoria Principal and embarked on a high-profile relationship. During this time, he worked on several projects, including the television show Solid Gold, co-hosting it with Marilyn McCoo and performing in Gilbert and Sullivans’s The Pirates of Penzance and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway.
Unfortunately, he was fired from both Solid Gold and Joseph for absenteeism due to his cocaine binges, even though he was, according to Zev Buffman, producer and financier for Joseph, of the five actors to play Joseph, the best. “When Andy was at the theater, he was a joy. But he wasn’t there enough.”
After Andy’s death, he added, “We’d lose him over long weekends. He’d come back on Tuesday, and he’d look beat. He was like a little puppy—so ashamed when he did something wrong. He was all heart, but he didn’t have enough muscle to carry through.” According to a co-star, “I hear he spent most of his time in his hotel room in front of his TV. I guess he was frightened and insecure. That’s what happens when you’re the baby brother of the Bee Gees.”
During his relationship with Victoria Principal, in August of 1981, he heard her singing in the shower and convinced her to go into the studio with him, where they recorded “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” which was his final chart entry when it reached number 51. It wasn’t long before she figured out that he was a drug addict and gave him an ultimatum that either the drugs had to go or she would. Sadly, cocaine was still his first love, so the relationship ended like so many others.
But still, he had opportunities. From 1984 through 1986, he stayed busy, guest starring in roles on the television series Gimmie A Break and Punky Brewster, did an extensive tour of East Asia, performed regularly in Las Vegas and Tahoe, and the historic Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco. During this period, at his family’s urging, he did a stint at the Betty Ford Center for treatment of cocaine addiction. However, it wasn’t until early 1987, after another drug rehabilitation program, that he thought he’d finally beaten his demons.
In January of 1988, after regaining his health, he was ready to begin recording a new album. However, he still suffered from depression over his breakup with Victoria Principal and blamed her for his problems. Brother Barry arranged for him to sign a contract with Island Records in England. Still, Andy suffered from panic attacks after arriving and began missing meetings with the record company, and a deal was never signed.
While working on the album, he celebrated his 30th birthday on March 5. Two days later, he entered the hospital complaining of chest pains. On March 10, his doctor told him more tests would be needed to figure out the cause of the pain. Shortly afterward, Andy Gibb slipped into unconsciousness and died. Though some media reports suggested that he’d died from an overdose, the official cause was listed as myocarditis, a rare viral infection that causes inflammation of the heart muscle, exacerbated, no doubt, by years of cocaine abuse.
Andy Gibb’s body was returned to the US, where he was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. His headstone reads:
March 5, 1958—March 10, 1988
An Everlasting Love.
“The last thing that happened between me and Andy was an argument, which is devastating for me because I have to live with that all my life, and there was a phone call between him and me, and I was, sort of, saying, ‘Yeah, you’ve really got to get your act together,’ and ‘This is no good;’ instead of being gentle about it I was angry because someone had said to me at one point, ‘Tough love is the answer,’ you know? So, for me, it wasn’t because that was the last conversation we had. That’s my regret. That’s what I live with.” – Barry Gibb.
– Layne Partin is a contributor for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at email@example.com
2 thoughts on “An Everlasting Love: Andy Gibb’s Untimely Death”
Probably a good candidate for a faked death.
Such a beautiful person, with a vulnerable and sweet soul and gentle face. Andy died to soon.