Music

The Sounds of the Bee Gees are Stayin’ Alive!: An interview with Peter Mazzeo of the New York Bee Gees

Okee dokee folks… Back in the mid 70’s when I was in high school, the Bee Gees were riding high off the success of Saturday Night Fever. I used to call it Saturday Night Disease! I was one of the “Down With Disco” folks and was not a fan. What made matters worse for me is that at that time in my life my friends decided that I bore a striking resemblance to Barry Gibb. After high school the comparisons waned and then I began working at Rhode Island College where one person in the programming department next door to my office was convinced that I was Barry Gibb’s twin. He would start singing Bee Gees songs whenever I passed him in the hallway. Once I found a Barry Gibb cassette on my desk and immediately knew who the culprit was. As I got older I got over my Bee Gees issues and actually started to like and appreciate their music. In all honesty, I did like them a bit in the pre-fever days but that was eclipsed by the over exposure of their “Boogie Child” style. Their songs “Nights On Broadway,” “Jive Talking,” “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody,” “Fanny,” “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and so many others were hits long before the disco days. In fact I love the song, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” and often cover it when I play solo gigs. The recent Bee Gees documentary rekindled my interest in the trio and when I watched it I gained a whole new appreciation for them. Of course one of my friends watched it and sent me an e-mail telling me that I look like Barry Gibb.

It’s a “Tragedy” that time has taken it’s toll on the Brothers Gibb. Fraternal twins, Robin and Maurice, passed away at relatively early ages leaving Barry as the sole Bee Gee. Like many folks who may have grown to appreciate them later in life I was never able to see the Bee Gees perform in concert other than the PBS fundraising TV specials. Fortunately tribute bands have filled in the Bee Gees void and will serenade you with somewhat similar harmony styles to enable the sound to keep “Stayin Alive!”   

Bee Gees fans are in luck because the New York Bee Gees are making an area appearance at Bally’s Twin River in Lincoln on Friday, February 11 at 8pm. I spoke with Peter Mazzeo, who sings the “Barry” parts in the New York Bee Gees, via phone from his home in Florida about their upcoming show.

Being in a tribute band myself and wondering why other people get into doing tributes, I asked Mazzeo how he wound up forming a Bee Gees tribute band. He replied, “We are in our 7th year as the NY Bee Gees but we have been playing together over 20 years. We performed around Long Island as Peter Mazzeo and the Hit Squad and I was getting tired of that. We kicked around the idea of doing a tribute and discussed who should the tribute be. Many bands were already doing Beatles and Stones tributes. I have a pretty large vocal range so thought we would give the Bee Gees a try. We were playing hits from the 60’s-90’s. The players in the band are very versatile musicians. Our lead guitarist Mike Flyntz is in the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame with his band Riot. Our keyboard player, Manny, has played with Alan Parsons. Tommy, our bass player, looks a little like Robin Gibb so I thought if I put some round rim glasses on him he’ll look more like Robin! Manny wears a hat and has a beard like Maurice. I grew my hair and a beard to look more like Barry. We all dress up, I do all the stuff for the band, I costume them, book the gigs, you know. Our first gig was at BB King’s in Times Square and it just started growing from there.”

With all this prep and time put into this show I inquired as to where they usually bring the show. Peter told me that, “East coast mostly, but we’ve done a west coast tour, Chicago, all over the states really.” I was curious to know if he had ever seen the Bee Gees live or met any of them. His disappointed answer was no, but went on to say, “When we play in Florida there are many people who know Barry or have been to events that he hosts and they are very complimentary to us, the same in NY where we run into people who used to work with the band and they have high praise for us as well.”

Finally, I quizzed him about the content of the show.  Mazzeo filled me in: “We do a 90-minute set but there’s only so much you can do in that time. They want to hear the high notes and the audience wants to be on their feet! We start off with “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman” to give them a couple of big hits right off the bat and then we go back to the 60’s. We also do a couple of Andy Gibb tunes because Barry and Andy were very close and it just seems right. During the performance we tell anecdotes about the songs as well. The audiences are extremely receptive to our show.”

We went on to discuss how we both are about the same age and both sort of look like Barry. We also talked about how we know the music from growing up with it and understand it more than, as Peter put it, “if we were some young American Idol kid trying to learn it in a week.”

They pull it off. They have the look and most importantly, they have the sound. Hear for yourself on their website: NewYorkBeeGees.com Peter added, “We want people to have the best Bee Gees experience they can!”

The New York Bee Gees will be at Bally’s Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Friday, February 11. For more, use these “Words” and get to: BallysLincoln.com

Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

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