Nos­tal­gic wan­der along the Bee Gees Way

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA - KATRINA LOB­LEY

My child­hood un­folded in a spot be­tween Bris­bane’s north­ern sub­urbs and the pine plan­ta­tions that once stretched to the Sun­shine Coast, known as the Near North Coast un­til re­al­tors gave it a much more fab­u­lous name 50 years ago.

No such glam­our was at­tached to my neck of the woods, aside from one ex­traor­di­nary fact my par­ents dropped one day. They claimed the Gibb broth­ers, oth­er­wise known as the Bee Gees, grew up in Redcliffe, the very place where we did the weekly gro­cery shop and dug for fish­ing worms in the mud­flats of More­ton Bay.

This seemed un­be­liev­able, as fan­tas­ti­cal as Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. I couldn’t imag­ine a more or­di­nary place than Redcliffe, with its work­ing-class homes, its man­groves and back­yard mango trees, and its so-so beaches. How on earth did the Gibbs — Barry with his leo­nine locks, chest hair and flares, and twins Mau­rice and Robin — wash up on th­ese un­invit­ing shores? To­day, I can find the an­swers to my child­hood ques­tions along Bee Gees Way, a 70m mul­ti­me­dia walk­way that opened in 2013, with fur­ther bits and bobs added in 2015. The walk­way runs be­tween seafront Redcliffe Pa­rade and Sut­ton Street, and it’s best read from right to left as though it’s a Chi­nese scroll.

The ad­di­tions in­clude a copy of the Bee Gees’ first con­tract, signed on the fam­ily’s kitchen ta­ble in 1959, along with a sculp­ture cap­tur­ing the broth­ers in full glory around the time of their 1997 con­cert at Las Ve­gas’s MGM Grand (im­mor­talised on their One Night Only al­bum). The art­work is a com­pan­ion piece to a sculp­ture of the Gibbs as boys in Redcliffe — with bare feet, as re­quested by Barry. The el­dest Gibb, who penned the ob­ser­va­tions posted along the walk­way, says he “could tell you a hun­dred sto­ries about my life in Redcliffe”, in­clud­ing how he went “fish­ing for that elu­sive tiger shark off the Redcliffe Pier at night”.

After the fam­ily re­lo­cated from Eng­land to Aus­tralia, the Bee Gees played their first gig at the Redcliffe speed­way, singing from the back of a truck as the crowd threw coins on to the track. Ev­ery­thing changed for the Gibbs when their break­through sin­gle, Spicks and Specks, hit the air­waves in 1966. After re­leas­ing some of the decade’s most poignant songs — New York Min­ing Dis­as­ter 1941, To Love Some­body, Words and I’ve Got to Get a Mes­sage to You — they went in a new direc­tion, defin­ing the 1970s disco era. The Satur­day Night Fever sound­track was jam-packed with hits such as Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’ and You Should be Danc­ing.

Tragedy has struck, too. Youngest brother Andy died in 1988, Mau­rice in 2003 and Robin in 2012. Stroll along Bee Gees Way as their hits waft through the air and peo­ple talk about those losses as much as any­thing they’re read­ing on the walls. Barry Gibb at­tended both Bee Gees Way cer­e­monies, last time don­ning a ca­sual straw hat. He told the crowd: “[Redcliffe] was par­adise. It’s still par­adise.”

It’s eas­ier for vis­i­tors to reach par­adise th­ese days thanks to a rail link, mooted for 131 years, fi­nally open­ing last Oc­to­ber, con­nect­ing the Redcliffe Penin­sula to Bris­bane’s sub­ur­ban train net­work. Mosey along the penin­sula’s shore­line and, if you re­mem­ber only the Redcliffe of old, be as­ton­ished at the trans­for­ma­tion.

To­day, the fore­shore is invit­ing. In the early morn­ing, gulls wheel above boot camps and pow­er­walk­ers. Jet­ties, such as the one at Woody Point, have had an arty makeover but still reel in an­glers of all ages. Redcliffe still doesn’t sound as sexy as the Sun­shine Coast but it just might be South­east Queens­land’s next big hit. • vis­it­bris­

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