♫ I Started A Joke ♫ (Redux)

The only other time I played this song was in August 2020.  For some reason, as I was working through comments last night, I thought of the first line to this song … “I started a joke which started the whole world crying”.  I have no idea what triggered it, but it came and nearly brought me to tears.  And so, what better way to share whatever demons are bouncing inside my head than to share this song?

I Started a Joke is a song by the Bee Gees from their 1968 album Idea, which was released as a single in December of that year. It was not released as a single in the United Kingdom, where buyers who could not afford the album had to content themselves with a Polydor version by Heath Hampstead. This is the last Bee Gees single to feature Vince Melouney’s guitar work, as he left the band in early December after this song was released as a single.

This song was written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, and produced by the Bee Gees with Robert Stigwood.  According to Robin Gibb …

“The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine “prop” jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. So it was decided! We accosted the pilot, forced him to land in the nearest village and there, in a small pub, we finished the lyrics [with Barry]. Actually, it wasn’t a village, it was the city, and it wasn’t a pub, it was a hotel, and we didn’t force the pilot to land in a field … but why ruin a perfectly good story?

There was a lot of psychedelia and the idea that if you wrote something, even if it sounded ridiculous, somebody would find the meaning for it, and that was the truth. This is a very spiritual song. The listeners have to interpret it themselves, trying to explain it would detract from the song.”

Robin Gibb’s son played I Started a Joke on his phone just after his father died from kidney failure on 20 May 2012. Robin-John Gibb told The Sun:

“When he passed away we went out, they took the equipment away and we came back in, I picked up my phone and found “I Started a Joke” on YouTube and played it. I put the phone on his chest and that was the first time I broke down. I knew that song and its lyrics were perfect for that moment. That song will always have new meaning to me now.”

This was famously covered by Faith No More and released as their last single, after the band already split up. They covered the song in 1995. It was released as a bonus track on the album King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime in Argentina in 1995 and as a B-side of the UK and European Limited edition versions of the “Digging The Grave” CD single, which came out February 28, 1995. London Records released it as a single after Faith No More split up in 1998.  

I listened to the Faith No More version, fully expecting not to like it, but strangely I found it quite good, so I will include it, as well as the Bee Gees’ version here.

I Started a Joke
Bee Gees

I started a joke which started the whole world crying
But I didn’t see that the joke was on me oh no
I started to cry which started the whole world laughing
Oh If I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed hurting my head from things that I said
‘Till I finally died which started the whole world living
Oh if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed hurting my head from things that I said
‘Till I finally died which started the whole world living
Oh if I’d only seen that the joke was on me
Oh no that the joke was on me

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Barry Gibb / Maurice Ernest Gibb / Robin Hugh Gibb
I Started a Joke lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

27 thoughts on “♫ I Started A Joke ♫ (Redux)

  1. Pingback: I STARTED A JOKE (REDUX) |jilldennison.com | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  2. I bought Idea when it came out, but this wasn’t my favourite track and I probably wouldn’t have got it as a single even if I had been allowed to! We were rather short changed on that album, as the US version included I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You, but it wasn’t on the UK release. We had to buy it as a single – and took it to #1. I can see this song’s relevance and meaning to many, including you, especially at present.

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    • Odd that — I always figured that an album had the same songs in all countries, that it was the same everywhere. I learn much from you! Yes, this song does have numerous meanings and I think we each read something different into it based on our own circumstances. But then … music is like that, isn’t it? We all take away something different from it.

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      • I don’t know whether they still do it but it was very common back in the 60s. For example, many of the Beatles albums released over there are nothing like the ones we got here. Record companies deciding what their audiences want and will buy!

        The infinite possibilities of music are part of what attracts me to it.

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  3. Jill, I have always preferred the earlier Bee Gees, when Robin and Barry competed for lead singing their songs. Some of the best ballads came out of that period. Of course, they wrote great songs for themselves and other folks – Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Dion Warwick, et al – after that time, but I am partial to that late 1960s work. Keith

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  4. Until they went disco, they were one of my favourite groups. Their music slways touched my spirit, and their lyrics challenged the mind. Tgey contributed much to the zeitgeist of the 60’s rock era.

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    • I didn’t like the other version as well, but it wasn’t bad. Glad you enjoyed the song … I still can’t figure out why it suddenly popped into my head, but then my mind is short-circuiting half the time …

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