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*4.20-RED CHAIR FADE AWAY (Bee Gees)

Bee Gees

LISTEN

Red chair fade away
Bring back memories.
Think of something nice--
Fragrant lemon trees.

     I can feel the speaking sky.
     I don't want to know
     It's filling up the air!

Grandpa's fairy tale,
Red chair round the fire
Rainbows all the time
We're all going higher.

     [Chorus]

Red chair fade away (4x)

[Repeat 1st verse]

     [Chorus]

Red chair fade away (6x)


Bee Gees 1stThe Brothers Gibb were teenagers when they wrote Red Chair Fade Away for their first album as the Bee Gees in the UK. They and Steve Winwood (also a teenager at the time) would come to reflect a slight generational shift from the initial makers of the psychedelic movement in the UK, bringing a singing style that a times moved a bit closer to American Rhythm & Blues. The lyrics suggest a kid’s notion of an LSD trip, but it does turn up the clever chorus about the speaking sky filling up the air. (Claustrophobia is one of the paranoid aspects one can feel when on hallucinogens.) “Rainbows” and “going higher” are no more than echoes of the greater psychedelic aesthetic. The red color insisted upon by the song is the least likely to “fade away” being so intense….And yet, there are lemon trees to think about and grandpa’s fairy tales should you want to divert your mind from the persistent desire at hand to make the red chair disappear, like Lady Macbeth’s Out damn spot! The lyric as dramatic gesture is psychedelic, but the poem is without depth.

The arrangement of the accompaniment to Red Chair Fade Away, its uniqueness of sound, however, is such that I want to commend Phil Denys. At the time, he was certainly in the spirit of George Martin & Geoff Emerick and their work for the Beatles. Denys did further arrangements outside of this album, but I’m not familiar with any of them. Here, however, he uses a mellotron flattening end notes after the second line of each verse (or is it organ?--I can’t find much written about this cut) and percussive string arrangements to create an atmosphere in the ballpark of Strawberry Fields. The synthetic horn sounds after the chorus, the way the melody wanders off for a few measures in the instruments, reminds me of psychedelic Beatles too. In the closing repetitions of the title, the song introduces a mysterious sound that is much like the bleating of a lamb. Various staccato rhythms and flattened notes in the register of flute, string, and horn accompany the fade out until the drum catches the erratic rhythm too and the music ends.

I don’t know how much the Brothers Gibb had to do with this production, or to what degree the song’s success was due to the audio engineers, though group member Maurice Gibb is credited with playing the mellotron. The Bee Gees 1st album is an early album in Robert Stigwood’s career as a producer. Stigwood produced Cream as well for their first album, and orchestrated some sophisticated psychedelic effects with that group. Stigwood had been introduced to the Bee Gees through the Beatle’s manager, Brian Epstein, so there’s no telling how much John Lennon might have helped out. It sounds like Lennon’s sense of psychedelic sound to my ears, but then, the Brothers Gibb may just have learned lessons well by listening to Strawberry Fields.

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