WITH the death at the weekend of Robin Gibb, following a long illness, many Memory Lane readers will recall September 1, 1995, when the Bee Gees – brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice – were in town to switch on the Illuminations.
That event has gone down as probably the best showpiece launch of the attraction, one easily summed up as Friday Light Fever!
Millions of people around the country tuned into BBC Radio One’s first ever live nationwide broadcast of the ceremony, which in those days was still staged in Talbot Square.
Some things end on a high note, but that night definitely started on one. Those distinctive falsetto voices were in full flow, as the Isle of Man-born Bee Gees performed two of their hit songs, For Whom The Bell Tolls and You Win Again, before pulling the famous lever.
Among the entertainers were teenybop favourites PJ and Duncan (these days better known as Ant and Dec), and N-Trance, with their wickedly-funny and funky version of the Bee Gees’ disco anthem Stayin’ Alive.
Even the Mayor, Coun David Owen, got into the act, by having his LP copy of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album signed by the brothers.
Speaking for the trio, Barry Gibb, who filmed the crowd with his camcorder, said: “We are slightly overwhelmed. We came to Blackpool hoping to enjoy the honour of turning the Lights on and we are proud to have done it. It has been a stunning day.”
And, having made their only UK appearance before flying back to the United States on the Monday, Barry promised: “We’ll be back.”
By the time Robin did return, to perform solo as part of the 2003 Switch-On concert, his younger twin brother Maurice had died earlier that year of complications resulting from a twisted intestine.
Coun Lily Henderson, who was Mayor when those Illuminations were launched, said: “I was over the moon when I heard Robin was coming to Blackpool to perform at the concert during my mayoral year. I wanted to meet him not just because I was Mayor, but because I was a fan of his music. He was fabulous, and he said he was happy to be in Blackpool because it held so many memories for him. I was very sad to hear of his death.”
Robin had surgery on his bowel 18 months ago for an unrelated condition, but a tumour was discovered and he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and of the liver.
The singer fell into a coma last month after contracting pneumonia, but his family later said he had “beaten the odds”, just days after doctors said he “was in God’s hands” and had a 10 per cent chance of survival.