When people typically think of the Bee Gees, they think of the “Saturday Night Fever” era and white suits and disco balls (as we did earlier this year), but the brothers Gibb had a decent career as pop performers before that. On this EHSDA Song of the Week, the Bee Gees weave a compelling tale about a coal mining accident with “New York Mining Disaster 1941.”
The disaster in question didn’t occur in New York, but is based on a real incident in Aberfan, Wales, in October 1966 in which a pile of accumulated waste material slid down a mountain after heavy rains and killed 116 children and 28 adults. The Bee Gees song changed the location to New York and told the tale of a miner trapped in a cave-in and waiting to be rescued.
Released in April 1967, it was the band’s first internationally released single and their first song to hit the charts in the U.S. (#14) and the U.K. (#12). Barry and Robin Gibb’s haunting harmonies proved to be reminiscent of the Beatles, leading some to speculate that the song was actually performed by the Beatles under a different name. And “New York Mining Disaster 1941” was said to be an influence for David Bowie’s first big single, 1969’s “Space Oddity,” which had a similar theme of an astronaut trapped on his ship floating in space.