Words (Bee Gees song)

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Single by Bee Gees
B-side "Sinking Ships"
Released January 1968 (original version)
May 1977 (live version)
Format 7" single
Recorded 3 October 1967 (studio version)
20 December 1976 (live version)
Genre Pop
Length 3:13
4:23 (live version)
Label Polydor (United Kingdom)
Atco (United States)
Writer(s) Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Producer(s) Robert Stigwood, Bee Gees
Bee Gees singles chronology
Music sample
Alternative cover
Live version
Bee Gees singles chronology
"Boogie Child"
"Edge of the Universe (live)" / Words (live)
"How Deep Is Your Love

"Words" is a song by the Bee Gees, written by Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb. The song reached No. 1 in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and China.

"Words" has been recorded by many other artists. Among them are a hit version by Rita Coolidge in 1978 and a version by Boyzone on the 1996 album A Different Beat. This was Boyzone's fifth single and their first number one hit in the UK.

Background and writing

Barry Gibb explains:

'Words' was written by me at Adam's Row when I was staying at Robert [Stigwood]'s place, A lot of people began to cover that song, so over the years it's become a bit like 'To Love Somebody'. I didn't know it wasn’t on an album—that’s strange how it used to work in those days. We used to bang singles out one after another.
— Barry Gibb1

Robin Gibb describes Maurice's keyboard sound on this track:

That’s the IBC [Studios] compression, We discovered that quite early in recording at IBC. They had this incredible limited/compression sound that they pumped the piano through, which really was extraordinary and still sounds good even today.
— Robin Gibb1

It was originally intended for Cliff Richard, but he never got around to recording the track as he wasn't making an album at the time. Rather than wasting the song, the Bee Gees decided to record it themselves.citation needed The vocals feature a very strong vibrato.2 Barry Gibb sings lead vocal and possibly all the backing vocals as well. "Words" is a solo spotlight for Barry Gibb, Robin does not appear to sing on the song at all, and Robin said "'Words' reflects a mood, It was written after an argument. Barry had been arguing with someone, I had been arguing with someone, and happened to be in the same mood. [The arguments were] about absolutely nothing. They were just words. That is what the song is all about; words can make you happy or words can make you sad".3


The recording sessions for "Words" were especially memorable for two members of the group, Barry explained:3

"I remember the [first] session so clearly. Robin and I were in the studios at 9'o'clock in the morning, and Robin kept on falling asleep over the piano. I wanted him to write the piano part of the song and play it because I'm not much of a pianist, but he just couldn't keep his eyes open, so I ended up doing it myself".3

"Words" was also the showcase for a new piano sound, as Maurice explained:

"We accidentally discovered the sound on 'Words'. When we were recording [it], after everyone had gone to lunch, I was sitting at the piano mucking about and I wrote a riff. I went upstairs and switched on the mike for the piano, and then I started playing about with the knobs in front of me. When i played the tape back, I had all these incredible compressed piano noises. Mike Claydon at IBC Studios, who engineered all our records, then said 'What the hell was that?' when he heard the piano sound. 'Come up here and listen to sound'. It was just compression, but he didn't know what to call it then. I think he called it 'limited'. It made the piano sound like it was about 40 pianos playing at the same time and very, very thick. In 'Words' it was very beautiful but that sound on it made it sound like the LA Symphony on it. If you listen to all our records, the piano sound is on it.3

According to sound engineer Damon Lyon-Shaw":

"I was the one that actually devised it, Mike Claydon was the one who took the credit for it, but i was actually piddling around at the time as his junior. On the mixer at the time, we had compressors, Maurice was playing at piano at the time, just piddling around [and] I started feeding the piano into a series of these compressors and then screwed them up until he got his lovely metallic sort of sucking sound, and that was the birth of that sound, Maurice, assumed it was Michael, so he took the credits.3

Another sound engineer John Pantry offered to put things in a proper perspective:3

"Well, Damon didn't make the compressor/limiter, and my memory is that we all used to use that sound once we discovered what it did to piano notes. As to who got there first is open to debate. The sound was unique because it was a home-made device that was made by a guy called Denis King".3

Release and live performances

Barry said in 1996 on the VH1 Storytellers television show that it was written for their manager, Robert Stigwood. The B-side for "Words" was "Sinking Ships", one of the very rare songs by the Bee Gees to feature all three brothers with lead vocals: Barry and Robin Gibb in the verses and Maurice Gibb on the song's chorus. The group performed this song on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968, with Barry Gibb on vocals, Maurice Gibb on bass, Robin Gibb on piano, Vince on guitar and Colin on drums. On that performance Vince is playing Gibson ES-335, and Maurice is playing Rickenbacker 4001. Some backing vocals near the end are heard only on the mono mix used on the single, some compilations, and the Studio Albums 1967-1968 box set.

Mixes for "Words" suffered many different problems. Since it was originally used only as a single, no stereo mix was made until Atlantic wanted one for the Best of Bee Gees album in 1969, where it made its first appearance on LP. For this someone made an extremely bad stereo mix with the piano, bass and drums mixed way down and the vocals pushed forward. Polydor in the UK passed it up and used the mono mix on their version of the album. Once again Bill Inglot saved the day in 1990 by preparing a good stereo mix for the first time and while doing so, he noticed that two short sections of backing vocal near the end of the song are on the mono mix but not on the four-track master, as if Barry added them while the mono mix was made. The Studio Albums 1967-1968 passed up Bill's mix and has only the original mono mix with all the backing vocal. As stated on the Bee Gees single the song was featured in the film The Mini Mob (1968), where it was sung by Georgie Fame in an arrangement by Bill Shepherd similar to the Bee Gees single but recorded earlier.citation needed The very limited distribution of the film and the pre-emptive release of the Bee Gees version eclipsed the Georgie Fame recording.citation needed

The live version of this song was performed was released as the B-side of "Edge of the Universe" released in May 1977 and appeared on their first live album Here at Last...Bee Gees...Live also released in that month.


Chart performance

Chart (1968) Peak
German Media Control Charts 1
Netherlands Dutch Top 40 Charts 1
China Singles Chart 1
Belgian Wallonia Ultratop 40 Charts 4
Austrian Singles Chart 4
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 4
Norway VG-lista Charts 7
Denmark Singles Chart 6
UK Singles Chart 8
French SNEP Singles Chart 9
Italian FIMI Singles Chart 11
Australia ARIA Singles Chart 13
US Billboard Hot 100 15
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart 19
Swiss Music Charts 1

Cover versions

Boyzone version

Single by Boyzone
from the album A Different Beat
Released US: 2 October 1996
UK: 7 October 1996
Format CD
Recorded 1995
Genre Pop
Length 4:02
Writer(s) Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Boyzone singles chronology
"Coming Home Now"
"A Different Beat"

"Words" became the first single from Irish Boyband Boyzone's album A Different Beat. The single was their seventh single overall, becoming their first number one hit in the UK. The song was also the 10th biggest selling boyband single of the 1990s in the UK,citation needed selling 520,000 copiescitation needed and receiving a Gold certification.6 The song was the 16th best selling single of 1996 in the UK.citation needed


  1. Words (Radio Edit) – 3:55
  2. The Price of Love – 3:11
  3. Words (Alternative Mix) – 3:53
CD2 (In Limited Edition Digipak)
  1. Words (Radio Edit) – 3:55
  2. The Price of Love – 3:11
  3. What Can You Do For Me – 2:59
  4. Words (Alternative Mix) – 3:53


Chart (1996) Peak
Australia (ARIA)7 96
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)8 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)9 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)10 16
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)11 6
France (SNEP)12 31
Germany (Media Control AG)14 7
Ireland (IRMA)15 1
Japan (Oricon)16 12
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)17 18
Norway (VG-lista)18 14
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)19 4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)20 2
Taiwan (IFPI)21 4
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)22 1

Year-end charts

Chart (1996) Position
Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chartcitation needed 67
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)23 49
UK Singles Chartcitation needed 16
Chart (1997) Position
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)24 75

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
"Mighty Quinn" by Manfred Mann
German Media Control number-one single (Bee Gees version)
13–27 April 1968
Succeeded by
"Mama" by Heintje
Preceded by
"Mien waar is mijn feestneus" by Toon Hermans
Netherlands Dutch Top 40 number-one single (Bee Gees version)
2–16 March 1968
Succeeded by
"Kom uit de bedstee m'n liefste" by Egbert Douwe
Preceded by
"Judy in Disguise" by John Fred & His Playboy Band
Swiss Music Charts number-one single (Bee Gees version)
12–25 March 1968
Succeeded by
"Lady Madonna" by The Beatles
Preceded by
"How Bizarre" by OMC
Irish IRMA number-one single (Boyzone version)
5 October 1996 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Rat Trap" by Dustin & Bob Geldof
Preceded by
"Setting Sun" by Chemical Brothers
UK Singles Chart number-one single (Boyzone version)
13 October 1996 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Say You'll Be There" by Spice Girls


  1. ^ a b Sandoval, Andrew. "Bee Gees - Horizontal". Album Liner Notes. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Show 49 - The British are Coming! The British are Coming!: With an emphasis on Donovan, the Bee Gees and the Who". Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Hughes, Andrew. The Bee Gees - Tales Of The Brothers Gibb. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Brennan, Joseph. "Gibb Songs: 1967". Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "Svensk mediedatabas". Retrieved 23 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "British single certifications – Words". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Words in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  7. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Boyzone – Words". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  8. ^ "Boyzone – Words – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  9. ^ "Ultratop.be – Boyzone – Words" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  10. ^ "Ultratop.be – Boyzone – Words" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  11. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc (23 November 1996). Billboard. 
  12. ^ "Lescharts.com – Boyzone – Words" (in French). Les classement single.
  13. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc (7 December 1996). Billboard. 
  14. ^ "13/single Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  15. ^ Jaclyn Ward - Fireball Media Group. "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  16. ^ Oricon Singles Chart Oricon Singles Chart (Retrieved 2 November 2012)
  17. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Boyzone search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  18. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Boyzone – Words". VG-lista.
  19. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Boyzone – Words". Singles Top 60.
  20. ^ "Boyzone – Words – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
  21. ^ "IFPI Taiwan - Single Top 10 (1996/14)". Web.archive.org. 1999-02-10. Archived from the original on 1999-02-10. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  22. ^ UK Singles Chart Chartstats.com (Retrieved 23 May 2011)
  23. ^ "Billboard - Google Books". Books.google.ca. 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  24. ^ "Billboard - Google Books". Books.google.ca. 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 

External links

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