“It was the flower-power period. There wasn’t anybody you knew that wasn’t on some form of drugs,” Barry Gibb said in the VH1 documentary Legends: Bee Gees.
As a result, the brothers nicknamed themselves “Pot, Pills and Piss” for their substances of choice.
The Bee Gees Formation
The Bee Gees first formed in 1958 and consisted of three brothers: Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. Born on the Isle of Man, Barry in 1946 and fraternal twins Robin and Maurice in December 1949, the family moved to Manchester, England, where younger brother Andy was born, and later finally settled in Brisbane, Australia.
The brothers started off their career as the Rattlesnakes and performed in local theaters in Manchester. They later changed their name to the Bee Gees when they were living in Queensland, Australia.
Road to Stardom
After signing their first record deal in 1963, their debut single was released, “The Battle of the Blue and the Grey.” Other subsequent songs included “Claustrophobia,” “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “Massachusetts,” which reached No. 1 in the UK in 1967.
Fast-forward 10 years to 1977. Robin had already attempted a solo career, which wasn’t as successful as he had hoped, and the brothers reunited to try being a band again. By this time, it was well into the disco era of the 70s, and the Bee Gees took advantage.
In 1977, their manager asked them if they would record songs for a soundtrack for a disco movie he was producing. The result changed pop music history forever. The album? The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Five of the songs on the album went to No. 1: “Jive Talkin’,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman.”
Saturday Night Fever sold 15 million copies that year and won a Grammy for Album of the Year.
“Looking back, it was an incredible experience,” Barry said in the same interview with Rolling Stone. “But it made us all a bit crazy. It got to a point where we couldn’t breathe. I remember death threats. Crazy fans driving past the house, playing “Stayin’ Alive” at 120 decibels. I really like privacy. I’m just not that good with whatever fame is.”
Beginnings of Addiction
For their next album, the Bee Gees set up a 41-date tour. “We did three nights at Madison Square Garden, and one of those nights we never went to bed,” Gibb recounts. “To this day, I can’t figure out how we did it. Youth, I guess.”
Drugs are a possibility too — the Gibbs have long been fond of substances.
In the interview with Rolling Stone, Gibb says, “The best time in our lives was the time right before fame,” he says. “We could not have been tighter. We were glued together. The following year is when excesses started coming in. Drink, pills. The scene, egos.”
Barry’s Marijuana Use
Upon the Bee Gees’ success, the group worked on a variety of outside projects and reached out to other well-known artists to do collaborations, including Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross.
Barry was also good friends with Michael Jackson. In the Michael Jackson biography My Friend Michael, it’s written that Barry told Michael Jackson about the creative juices that cannabis can awaken, and in the book, Barry insists he wrote the vast majority of the Bee Gees’ greatest hits while under its influence. It’s rumored that the two musicians would drive through the mountains near Neverland Ranch and get high together.
Robin’s Struggle with Amphetamines
Robin has admitted in interviews that he neglected his marriage to Molly Hullis and took refuge in amphetamines. “I took the pills to stay up all night and make records. You had to work through the night because studio time was expensive. I never took serious drugs like LSD or cocaine — I was scared stiff of them,” Robin says. “And I never stayed up all night for reasons of fun, it was always for work.”
While avoiding so-called “harder” drugs like cocaine is a good thing, becoming addicted to amphetamines brings its own set of problems. It affected his relationship with his wife and kids. Divorce eventually resulted, and Molly was granted custody of the couple’s two kids and forbade him to see them because of his instability and drug addiction.
Robin never entered rehab like his brother Maurice.
Maurice’s Drinking and How It Affected His Relationships
Maurice Gibb had a prolonged struggle with alcohol addiction, and it often affected his relationships. In 1969, Maurice wed another pop star, Lulu, but the marriage didn’t last long — they later divorced in 1973 — as his partying lifestyle strained their relationship.
It’s been said that John Lennon introduced him to his favorite drink, scotch and coke. “If he had given me cyanide, I would have drunk the cyanide. I was so in awe of the man.”
It eventually got to the point where Maurice would be unreliable, and in the late 70s, he would have to feel his way along the wall just to make to the stage.
Maurice later entered rehab, but relapsed briefly when his younger brother Andy Gibb died in 1988 at the age of 30. Andy suffered from his own addiction to cocaine, which ultimately derailed his career and eventually contributed to his premature death.
Broken up over the death of his youngest brother, Maurice turned to the booze again. In 1991, Maurice threatened his second wife, Yvonne, and their two children with a gun, which eventually prompted Maurice to recommit himself to getting sober.
He remained sober for the rest of his life. Maurice Gibb died of a heart attack in 2003 while awaiting surgery for an intestinal blockage.
Celebrities and Substance Abuse
While substance abuse and addiction are not problems unique to celebrities or musicians, these individuals often have the means to prolong the spiral. They live a certain lifestyle of excess, and with that comes access to substances like alcohol, pills or drugs.
It’s important for famous people to share their experiences openly because this can help encourage others to seek treatment and assistance.