Bee Gees "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (Live in Australia, 1971)
"In the event of something happening to me,
There is something I would like you all to see.
It's just a photograph of someone that I knew.
Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what it's like on the outside?"
-The Bee Gees "New York Mining Disaster 1941"
When I first heard the shocking story of the trapped Chilean miners, the song that immediately popped into my head was that old Bee Gees song "New York Mining Disaster 1941," as it so perfectly fits this, and any similarly tragic scenario. The song was recorded and released in 1967 as a single and was the first hit by the Australian sibling group, then in their Beatles-inspired, harmony-driven, sixties rock band phase. This was a good decade before their phenomenally successful disco phase, spurred by the mega popular Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that they were featured heavily on.
The poignant song's lyrics impressively were written and recorded when the Bee Gees were only in their teens. The lyrics include, "I keep straining my ears to hear a sound. Maybe someone is digging underground, or have they given up and all gone home to bed." Until just two weeks ago, when they miraculously discovered the miners in Chile, authorities in San Jose had actually given up ever finding these trapped men. "Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones," sing the Bee Gees. Their song was actually not about a New York mining disaster but, according to the liner notes for their box-set Tales from the Brothers Gibb (1990), was inspired by the 1966 Aberfan mining disaster in Wales.
The above video is a live version of the song recorded with a full orchestra at Melbourne, Australia's Festival Hall in 1971. An even better (albeit un-embeddable) clip is the original 1967 promo video that Rhino Records/WMG recently unearthed and re-released Ultimate Bee Gees (see here). Originally released as a single and album track on their (confusingly titled) third studio album Bee Gees' 1st (1967/Polydor), most people got the song on the later, 1969 top-selling and widely released Best of Bee Gees collection, which featured their best songs from the previous two years. This LP, later released on CD with some extra tracks, can be found at Amoeba. The song can also be found on several other collections, including the the aforementioned Rhino collection released last Christmas time, The Ultimate Bee Gees, which spans their sixties rock and seventies disco phases.
Bee Gees "New York Mining Disaster 1941" original studio version
Of course, the most gripping part of this real life tragic tale is that it will be an estimated three or more months before the 33 miners can be rescued. So in the meantime they have to keep both their spirits high and their bodies healthy -- something that will definitely be a challenge for the men half a mile below the ground. Yesterday's New York Times ran a pretty good piece on some of the ways the men, who span several decades in age, are going about doing this, including taking group leadership roles & making a videos (see excerpt in ITN news clip below) so their loved ones can see them.
ITN News report on trapped Chilean Miners