Nostalgic wander along the Bee Gees Way
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. • visitbrisbane.com.au