Keppel Road, Manchester (Bee Gees childhood home)

 

The Bee Gees have sold more than 220 million records and here I am on sunny autumn Sunday afternoon outside their childhood home in Chorlton in Manchester. It was here they spent hours practising harmonies that gave them worldwide success and riches galore. They had been born on the Isle of Man but moved to Chorlton in the late 1950s where they formed the group called The Rattlesnakes. The family then moved to Queensland, Australia but after achieving their first chart success they returned to the UK in January 1967.

 

I parked up on the road itself, finding a spare space as there were no garages between the rows of large terraced housed. Many houses looked like they’d been butchered into flats or bedsits. There was a whiff of student city about the place and people who passed were mostly under twenty five. The house seemed a bit overgrown and neglected compared with the photos I had seen of it. The road was narrow so I had to plonk my camera on a low wall across the road - just where a man was welding a van.

   “Don’t worry I’m not nicking anything,” I said, “Just a Bee Gees geek taking a photo. Number 51 isn’t it?”

He barely looked up to confirm it was and said they were used to people taking photos.

   “Not had the road sign nicked yet like the Abbey Road one,” he said before switching on a loud welding machine and halting a verbal response. My legs responded though and I walked up to one end of the road to look at the sign. A jemmy, muscles and time would be needed to get it off the wall so I decided to leave it.

 

I strolled down to the other end of the road to the sandwich shop which they Gibb family had used. Now it’s a pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap booze shop. I walk back to the Bee Gees house where the man was still welding.

 

It was here in December 1957 the boys started sing in harmony. Their dad was a big music lover and they’d formed a skiffle/rock-and-roll group the Rattlesnakes with two friends. One day the boys were going to mime to a record in the local Gaumont cinema (as other children had done on previous weeks) but as they were running there they dropped the 78-RPM record and it broke. They were forced to sing live and received such a glowing response from the audience that they decided to pursue a singing career. Six months later the Rattlesnakes were disbanded and The Bee Gees story started.

 

Some footage of the brothers is here...

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LpQedAoV7I

 

Only Barry remains alive and when visiting Manchester to perform a concert he visited Oswald School Primary School which is about a ten minute walk away. I pulled up outside the main gates of the Victorian pile. I was hoping there may be some kind of event on and the open door would allow me to some snoop around corridors, classroom and toilets seeking out Victoriana but the place was all locked up.

 

I sauntered round the perimeter of the place, high railings keeping thieves and nosey people like me out. Who’d have thought the three brothers who attended this school carrying sugar or tomato ketchup sandwiches would do so well (only outsold by Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.)

 

It must have been bittersweet for Barry to return here alone. Though he married a former Miss Edinburgh on his 24th birthday (they have five children and seven grandchildren) it was those three young kids who struck gold. Sadly none of the brothers lived long lives. Mountains of money and mansions couldn’t save Andy (a musician on his own) who died aged 30 from inflammation of the heart brought on by years of cocaine use, Maurice who died of a blocked intestine aged 53 and Robin who died of cancer aged 62.

 

 

 

Looks a little overgrown since the boys visited…

 

 

 

The house was on the right opposite the van with the doors open…

 

Heading down to the sandwich shop on the corner…now a booze shop…

 

At the end of the road…

 

Outside the school they attended…

 

Looking up at the boys…

 

 

Bye Barry!...

 

You’ve done well Barry…from Chorlton to mansions in Beaconsfield, Buckingham, UK and Miami Beach, Florida, USA…