Apr 10

BEE GEES – “You Win Again”

Popular62 comments • 7,583 views

#599, 17th October 1987, video

A scrap or two of memorable chorus, great thunking drums to cover up how negligible the verses are, mostly exhausted vocals, plenty of repeats to try and bang it all home. A weak song, and an ugly sounding, hollowed-out record – the big thin sound of “Chain Reaction” imploded like an squashed plastic bottle. Every time I play it I want to unpop my ears and check I’ve not got a 64kbps bitrate version by mistake. If “You Win Again” had be their only number one you could approach it with sadness and affection as a long-service medal. Instead I know how much better they can do: this is the dust at the bottom of the Bee Gees cereal packet.



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  1. 31
    MBI on 11 Apr 2010 #

    I see people talking about the lyrics and the melody, and I kind of feel like there’s no point in doing that. The entirety of the song, in my mind, is THONKBONKTHONKBONK and the rest is extraneous details. I literally cannot recall anything about this song after multiple listens except that.

  2. 32
    Ian on 11 Apr 2010 #

    This must’ve been one of the first pop songs I was aware of as a young child. To me, this song is recorded from a badly tuned radio onto an old worn-out cassette tape. Thinking back on it, I didn’t remember the drums, it was the vocal melody which I was able to hum before actually playing the song despite not having heard it for years. Actually playing it, it’s pretty ordinary stuff and doesn’t deserve more than a 5.

  3. 33
    LondonLee on 12 Apr 2010 #

    I liked this a lot and was very happy to see them back at the top. I don’t remember the drum sound ever bothering me that much at the time but now that everyone has been, um, banging on about it that’s about all I can hear now. You’ve ruined it for me!

  4. 34
    Matthew H on 12 Apr 2010 #

    I think it’s a good, shivery chorus – no great surprise from the Brothers, granted – but it always sounded empty, “hollow”, and now even worse with the iPod’s laissez-faire sound scheme. Bless them though, they can have as many long service medals as they like.

  5. 35
    Mark G on 13 Apr 2010 #

    “la la la dum doo be doo You Win again sha la la la la lee.”

    I do home in on lyrics in general, but this seems to be all I can remember of it.

    Plus, the kettles/drums!

  6. 36
    DV on 14 Aug 2010 #

    This always had a certain “No restraining order is going to stop me loving you” vibe to it.

  7. 37
    wichita lineman on 14 Aug 2010 #

    Re 25: I’ve been pondering this for four months now… Odessa invents New Pop??

    Speaking of which, can anyone recommend some New Pop reading for me? Just got the Dave Rimmer book.

  8. 38
    punctum on 16 Aug 2010 #

    If you can find it, Paul Morley’s Ask: The Chatter Of Pop compilation of interviews, observations, digressions and mournings is about as good as New Pop field reports and modest proposals get.

    If you’re patient, and presuming Zero Books or anyone else is prepared to publish it, you can read the definitive history of New Pop which Lena and I are about to begin writing.

    For my thoughts on Odessa scroll about halfway down this ancient manuscript.

  9. 39
    wichita lineman on 16 Aug 2010 #

    I’m impatient, but just found a copy of Ask for $20 at abebooks – thanks!

    Oh, and if you get zero books to publish your “fuller article on the Gibb brothers’ work” I’d be very happy.

  10. 40
    Billy Hicks on 7 Oct 2010 #

    Good grief, I’m in the minority here…I adored this so much, it was the first song I ever downloaded on mp3. The day of Maurice Gibb’s death in January 2003, VH1 played all the Bee Gees songs non-stop, and until then I’d only known them as those high-voiced ‘Staying Alive’ people from the late 70s. No idea they’d had more of a career than that, and this grabbed me – although the OTT drums are an irritation to most, they make the song even better for me. It’s like a slowed down ‘True Faith’.

    So in the pre-iTunes days, I searched a million pages on Google before finding a website with this on. The previous Christmas I’d tried to find Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ to no avail, this was my first success. For the first song I *legally* downloaded, we have to wait until 2006…but you’ll find out which when it gets its own Popular entry.

    I’d definitely give this a high mark. One my faves of a great year for number 1s (PSBs/Whitney/MARRS/Mel & Kim/Steve Silk Hurley included). I also quite like later Bee Gees tracks like Secret Love and For Whom The Bell Tolls…

  11. 41
    lonepilgrim on 21 May 2012 #

    Robin Gibb – R.I.P.

  12. 42
    Lazarus on 21 May 2012 #

    Yes, not unexpected but sad news. Tributes from Mike Read and Paul Gambaccini on the Beeb this morning. Seems to have come too late for most of the dailies. The group had a few number 1s didn’t they, Robin’s tremulous voice being much more suited to the sixties hits. He can’t have been comfortable with the switch to the falsetto disco style which made Barry (the only looker in the group, tbf) effectively the front man. For Robin it was almost as inappropriate as wearing his hair shoulder-length, Clifford T Ward style.

  13. 43
    Jimmy the Swede on 22 May 2012 #

    Wardy has long been back in the pavilion himself, of course.

    Yes, very sad to lose Robin. But any of you who saw he and Read on “Celebrity Millionaire” a short while ago would have seen how dreadful he looked.


  14. 44
    Moarie on 3 Jun 2012 #

    “Strangely enough, though, one of my moments of “Gasp!” was when I first heard a much later work, “You Win Again”.
    To me it’s a modern masterpiece of production – devastating simplicity executed with devastating subtlety.
    What a wonderful wall of sound, yet what sensitivity! ”
    — Brian May


  15. 45
    speedwell54 on 26 Oct 2012 #

    Re Brian May above. Well not really. I was in Oxfam today and this well to do lady brought in a very old looking, rather large red box, which neatly contained a book and a pair of “viewers” that had to be folded from flat to form a triangle. Said book had pages of what appeared to be two identical pictures, side by side. When looked at though the “viewers” gave a 3d effect. Hope that makes sense. “Brian May from Queen collects these” said the lady. “Wow” said the assistant, doing his best Jimmy Savile. Too soon, I thought.

    Small world, coincidentally I had seen one of these devices for the first time in the London Film Museum a couple of days earlier. I’ll be writing a short story about Brian May and the badgers in my garden shortly!

    RE “You Win Again”
    No, it’s not up there with their best.
    Yes, the drum(?) sound is a bit annoying, now.
    Overall I think I’m with the 7 group.

    Billy Smart and the No 2 watch (upstream) mentions “Faith” and “Crockett’s Theme”, but I have to add “Full Metal Jacket (I Wanna Be Your Drill Instructor)” by Abigail Mead and Nigel Goulding (the guy out of XTC!?!) was also kept off the No 1 spot by YWA, and we should ALL be grateful for that.

    Chart watchers note, the singles immediately before and after this No1, both missed the top 40, which I’m guessing must be a relatively rare feat. A little challenge there if anyone’s biting.

    Finally when YWA hit the top spot, it rounded off a rather tidy mnemonic/acronym to remember-in order-the Bee Gees No1 hits in the UK.- ‘MINTY’

    Massachusetts ’67
    I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You ’68
    Night Fever ’78
    Tragedy ’79
    You Win Again ’87

  16. 46
    Mark G on 27 Oct 2012 #

    The guy out of XTC was Colin Moulding. Which rhymes, but.

    A quick addition to your flop,No1,flop series.. John Denver

  17. 47
    hardtogethits on 27 Oct 2012 #

    #45, #46. Phil Collins (YCHL), Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross (Chain), Chris De Burgh, Elton John (S/HH)

    Diana Ross particularly remarkable as it came in the middle of 9+ failures to reach the top 40.

    It’s not like I make the rules, but I’m fascinated by the question. It MIGHT not be difficult to think of examples where either the preceding single or the follow up failed to trouble charts at all. eg Nena, Smokey Robinson, Don McLean, Kenny Rogers, I think.

  18. 48
    speedwell54 on 27 Oct 2012 #

    Forgot to mention Abigail Mead went on to win BBC’s Any Dream Will Do and married Denise van Outen.
    Sorry for the “‘Gouding/Moulding’ above MarkG, was trying for humour.

    Re hardtogethits. Diana Ross must have the gold medal with that one! Amazing stat.

    Interesting that they are all old, 60+,solo artists apart from Nena (who’s a grandma and a group)

    I agree, possibly quite a few in the “not a hit at all” camp, and quite time consuming to check if they did actually release something. Lee Marvin (didn’t- so not in the list), Joe Dolce Music Theatre (did). I think it could get a bit messy. Sak Noel, etc

    Moving on, if I am making the rules, I would say all releases have to chart. I wonder if “Rage Against the Bunny” or the “Bluebunnies” will reform to join the list?

  19. 49
    Kinga Stinton on 21 Sep 2013 #

    @MichaelH You’re a f**king idiot. Wtf is “heritage rock”? You must be really old. Say that stupid phrase again, you might convince yourself. I am not from the 70s and I loved that song as a kid. I never once thought they “didn’t belong” in the 1987 charts, because they did. Just goes to show how ageist you are. The Bee Gees were always welcome in the charts and they got to number one because they had a classic pop song, no other reason at all to explain it. If it was for any other reason smart ass, why did their next two singles from the same album stall at the other end of the top 75? They were VASTLY inferior. The public are not stupid, well not then anyway.

    @thefatgit I love the way pretentious twats like you (and the vast majority of others on this board) like to sit there and criticize a record that sold over four million copies. No one on this board has ever written a hit in their sorry lives and never will. What a sad state of affairs that is.

  20. 50
    Izzy on 21 Sep 2013 #

    Good points, though you seem very aggressive and angry. I wonder why you thought abuse was an appropriate means of discourse? Nobody else is deploying it. You don’t know anyone here. Would you behave that way in real life? You would? Oh, you must be a real joy.

    This board is indeed full of criticism, some pretentious, though you’re actually wrong to say that no-one here has ever written a hit because I know of at least one poster who has written several dozen. However, I am interested in the implications of what you write – specifically that only those more successful may criticise. This thread would be rather short, wouldn’t it?! It would be just you and Paul McCartney, and that’d be nice.

  21. 51
    Mark G on 23 Sep 2013 #

    Wrote something, then found point already made. Nowt else to say to substitute, so, um, nice here, innit?

  22. 52
    thefatgit on 23 Sep 2013 #

    #49 er…thanks for the input. Glad you “loved” it. I re-read my original post on this thread and found nothing “pretentious” at all (unless you count the use of the “pseudo” prefix). Does the nasty man on the internet annoy you so much you have to call him out on his temerity to even dare say something by the BeeGees wasn’t art of the highest calibre?. If you think that massive sales figures must put anything beyond criticism (‘it must be good because “everyone” bought it’), then I hope you’re happy in your Big Mac-eating, VW Beetle-driving world. Stick around, because I’ll have plenty to say about a record-breaking bunny looming on the Popular horizon.

  23. 53
    swanstep on 24 Sep 2013 #

    @Kinga Stinton, 49. If you read around, even in this thread, it should be obvious that the brothers Gibb are consensus revered as both songwriters and performers around here. (And check out the Barbra Streisand, Women In Love thread and the Take That, How Deep Is Your Love thread for more evidence of this.) The somewhat cool reception here for YWA (much of which is traceable to its production) is just a matter of people trying to be relatively objective and proportionate in their appreciation. For all your huffing and puffing and umbrage on behalf of this single, you don’t consider it in the same class as prime Bee Gees material either. And if you tried to assign grades to all the #1s there have ever been in a way that’s consistent with all of your most settled comparative judgements, and then tried to explain your reasoning, I dare say you’d probably end up sounding a lot like typical, reasonable commenters here.

  24. 54
    iconoclast on 24 Sep 2013 #

    Millions of sales doesn’t necessarily automatically guarantee quality either. The point is that we know the Bee Gees are capable of so much better, QED.

  25. 55
    Patrick Mexico on 24 Sep 2013 #

    As in “You Could Have It So Much Better.. With Franz Ferdinand?”

    Is that pop’s answer to waving the white flag?

  26. 56
    flahr on 25 Sep 2013 #

    They really should have stuck with that title, it’s ace.

  27. 57
    23 Daves on 19 Oct 2014 #

    I’ve started listening to this one again quite heavily, and that prompted me to remind myself of what kind of reception it got on “Popular” – and God, it’s not a winner, is it? A curt dismissal from Tom, a lot of agreement from everyone else, plus a few half-hearted comments about it being a good single but not up there with their finest.

    Confession time – this is probably my favourite Bee Gees single. I even love the sledgehammer drum patterns, which are a solid foundation for the slightly obsessive, psychotic lyrics, and the various different elements that weave their way through the track. I find the whole single compelling, from the slightly understated vocals at the beginning, right to the almost festive trumpet fanfares towards the end. It’s richer with detail than I think a lot of the commenters have given it credit for, certainly inspired by ZTT (which other people have mentioned), and none the worse for it. I’m a sucker for tracks which convey conflicting emotions, and they do it perfectly here. This definitely tugs in a lot of different directions at once, and still hangs together for me, though clearly not for everyone on this forum.

    I don’t particularly feel that The Bee Gees were at the height of their creativity at this point in their careers, but nor do I think that this hit number one as a charitable gesture from their fans and the public. A 9 from me.

  28. 58
    Mostro on 16 Apr 2015 #

    I would have been 11 when this came out, and though I’d probably heard *of* the Bee Gees- by name if little else- by then, I’m not sure I knew any of their songs and certainly not of their reputation as once-cool-now-laughable disco gods. (*) Ironically, in this sense, the fact they hadn’t had a hit since 1979- long before I was actively paying attention to music- let me judge it on its own merits.

    Unlike the “back to basics” moves that a lot of 60s artists started making at the tail end of the 80s (i.e. ditching the synths and 80s production they’d been using to sound contemporary), this did *not* sound “legacy” in any sense to my unprejudiced ears.

    So this didn’t come with any baggage and… I thought it was great then and still do.

    I’m not a huge fan of male falsettos, and I’ve never been able to take to the Bee Gees’ late 70s heyday disco tracks for that reason, regardless of their merits. When I was in my teens or thereabouts (early 90s), John Travolta doing that finger pointing dance to Staying Alive was a shorthand for 70s naffness. (**) And I think those falsettos didn’t help.

    But, as I said, You Win Again came out before I was really aware of the Bee Gees’ baggage, and importantly… no falsettos! It just sounded like a catchy melodic 80s synthpop song to me.

    I don’t recall noticing the supposedly overbearing percussion at the time- I just remembered the melody. Listening to the intro again, it does sound like it’s threatening to be massively over-dominant, but once the song itself comes in, it’s fine.

    So, yeah. I’m not the greatest Bee Gees fan in the world, but I really like this song and think it’s melodically much stronger than others here seem to consider it.

    (*) Wasn’t this more an American perception anyway, where disco was more dominant in the first place and experienced a much greater backlash?

    (**) OTOH, I was already aware that ABBA were meant to be unfashionable when I got into their music during the 1980s, but (e.g.) “Gimme Gimme Gimme” still sounded like a great song to me when I first heard it in 1982 on the “Greatest Hits Vol. 2” tape I bought with my Christmas money, not a relic of a past age. (***) Ditto the “disco gods” photo on that tape which looked impressive to me, and still does. ABBA’s visual image wasn’t always taken as seriously as their music deserved, but that photo was a very successful exception.

    (***) Three years might not sound much, but it’s a long time in pop, especially when you’ve just turned 7. I’ve seen bits of late-1970s “Top of the Pops” repeated on BBC Four, and they only date from three or so years before I started watching. Yet they’re quite definitely not *my* Top of the Pops- the sound is different, the look is different and most of the songs (and some of the artists) I *now* know I found out about much later. It’s someone else’s show. A lot of (pre-1980) disco would have sounded like something from another era to me, even just a few years later.

  29. 59
    Andrew on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Love the stompy beat and the gold-plated chorus.

    Most Bee Gees songs are (or would be) far more palatable to me an octave lower, and preferably not sung by the Gibbs.

    In this case, I don’t mind the vocals at all, but a sharp lyrical rework would have been prudent to say the least. They cross over from ‘a bit on the creepy side’ to outright inexcusably gross in the second verse – what were they thinking?!

  30. 60
    Gareth Parker on 30 Apr 2021 #

    The drums are distracting, but I still think this is a good uplifting tune. 7/10.

  31. 61
    Gregormax on 8 Sep 2021 #

    This song is a masterpiece, the lyrics are genius. 4/10? Yeah, right… It’s a 10 and always will be a 10. Everything about this song is perfect.

  32. 62
    Gareth Parker on 13 Sep 2021 #

    I would be more inclined to downgrade my mark here from a 7/10 to a 6 for the Bee Gees.

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