Hello again, RPM-people, it’s been a while. A limited skirmish with a failing hard drive meant that I lost the first attempt at this article for the cultured readers of this fine web-based tome and, as with all tortured artists, I found myself shaking a fist at the Gods of technology rather than simply getting back on the horse and writing it again while the effortless cool (possibly) was still fresh in my mind. This article’s featured item was going nowhere, however, so new words about old stuff came easy.
Now, if you’re hitting up this webzine regularly then I would imagine that you are well-versed in all forms of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion; trouble is, many of those rebels that litter our record collections are now asking for new dress socks on gig riders or peddling butter on shit TV channels. With that in mind I have had to roll back the decades to find, not only a true rebel of the music business, but also an item of music memorabilia that is as decadent as it is delicious.
And that’s where Andy Gibb comes in.
“Andy Gibb?!” I hear the RPM head honcho exclaim as this hits his inbox like the late Scott Columbus hit those cymbals in Manowar’s ‘Blow Your Speakers’ music video, the Double Diamond tearing at the neck of his Maiden shirt, Ozzy-style. Hear me out: Andrew Roy Gibb was a true rock ‘n’ pop tearaway, and the ultimate piece of merchandise released to tie-in with his all-too-short career is collectable excess par plastic excellence. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Andy Gibb was the youngest of the Gibb kids: brother to Barry, Robin, Maurice, and forever-forgotten sister, Lesley. He was born in Manchester, was raised in Australia until the age of eight before the Family Gibb returned to the UK. When his brothers were looking nailed-on for pop stardom, Andy was looking for trouble: he quit school at the age of thirteen and, armed with an acoustic guitar given to him by big bro Barry, he toured the clubs of Ibiza and the Isle of Wight (both places where his parents lived at some point). He was married, divorced, and had fathered a child before he was even out of his teens. Minor pop stardom came a-calling when he returned to Australia, but it was when Bee Gees manager, Robert Stigwood, signed him to his label and persuaded him to relocate to Florida that things really started to take off for Andy Gibb.
With Barry producing, and Joe Walsh guesting on guitar for a couple of tracks, Andy’s debut album, ‘Flowing Rivers’, sold over a million copies and, by the time the lead single from his second long player, 1978’s ‘Shadow Dancing’, hit the top spot, he had become the first male solo artist to have three consecutive Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He dated Dallas star, Victoria Principal, starred on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, sang with Queen (on a version of the song, ‘Play The Game’, which has never seen commercial release, with some believing that a recording doesn’t actually exist), and co-hosted American television music show, Solid Gold. He would, however, be fired from both the television and Dreamcoat gigs due to absenteeism, with the blame laid firmly at the door of his cocaine binges. The fall was rapid. Guest appearances on US shows Gimme A Break! and Punky Brewster followed, as did gigs in Vegas, but Andy was now tabloid fodder; the Betty Ford Center now a date on his tour itinerary.
In early 1988 it was announced that Andy would become an official member of the Bee Gees – the six-legged tooth machine mutating into quite the quartet – but it was never to be: just two days after his thirtieth birthday in March of that year, Andy was hospitalized in Oxford complaining of chest pains. He died on March 10th as a result of myocarditis; an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by years of cocaine abuse.
Dying young is a sad by-product of rock ‘n’ roll excess the history of which many of you are well-versed in, I’m sure; but I am here to wax lyrical on music-related memorabilia (I had to get there eventually!) so I have to roll everything back to 1979, when Andy was on the covers of teen magazines, on the walls of pop-smeared children’s bedrooms, and on the Toy Fair brochures of the Ideal Toy Company.
Now, there’s a saying amongst the elite of vintage toy collectors that goes, and I’m paraphrasing here, “buy mint and you buy once, buy not mint and you buy many times.” I’m not sure of the exact words because I always scoff when I hear it as, in my humble opinion, it is utter bollocks. Who wouldn’t pick up something über-cool for their shelf because some bloke on the internet has one in better condition? Not me, and that’s why I back-flipped all the way to Nerdtopia when I found myself a vintage Andy Gibb doll.
In 1979, Ideal graced the toy shelves of the coolest US stores with the Andy Gibb ‘Disco Dancin’ With The Stars’ doll. There is, in collector circles, many a debate over whether a toy is a doll or an action figure: never call a middle-aged white guy’s Action Man a doll for Gawd’s sake! Well, let me tell you, the Disco Dancin’ Andy Gibb toy is a doll. He came packaged in neon-littered box art with the supreme tagline: “move him to a disco beat on his dancin’ disc!” Yes, the disco dance stand that came packaged with the doll would actually move mini-Andy’s feet so that it looked like he was actually disco dancing. Sublime Seventies innovation, right there.
Thing is, I don’t have the box. Or the stand. Forgive me, men in sensible footwear in village hall toy fairs the length and breadth of the UK. I do have a mint condition Andy Gibb ‘Disco Dancin’ With The Stars’ doll still attached to its original box inlay, though, so I guess I’m still a winner at life. Also, someone, in their confused wisdom, decided that penning “one of the Bee Gees” on the back of said box inlay was going to help with the identification of this toy. All it did, however, was make me love it even more. Who needed to read that curious inscription anyway? The doll is wearing a lurid pink waistcoat with the “Andy Gibb” logo printed on it!
So let’s recap: a mint condition (save for a few age-related garment marks) Andy Gibb doll, still attached to its original cardboard inlay, wearing a white jumpsuit and pink waistcoat, and with a piece of inked graffiti completely lacking in irony administered to its forever home? Who the frig wouldn’t want one of those?! Not me!
This toy sits happily in my collection alongside the Sonny Bono, Cher, ABBA, KISS, Boy George, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Sex Pistols, and Elvis toys and, do you know what? They all get along. Now, if we all just got along a little better then this revolving rock that we call home would be a little easier to negotiate. Not those people who told me not to buy the Andy Gibb doll because it didn’t have the box, though – they can fuck off.
I’ll be back as soon as possible, technology permitting, with more curios from the Pop Culture Schlock collection. I might even get my studded wristband back out for the next installment. Thanks for reading, keep watching the skies and, most importantly, don’t be a twat!