Ossie Byrne

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Ossie Byrne might never have figured in the history of music much outside of Australia had the Bee Gees not been in need of a recording studio in 1966. By sheer luck, Byrne had a small studio near Sydney,…
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Ossie Byrne might never have figured in the history of music much outside of Australia had the Bee Gees not been in need of a recording studio in 1966. By sheer luck, Byrne had a small studio near Sydney, and had been a fan of the group, based on their releases in Australia. He offered them virtually unlimited recording time for free, just when the trio needed it in order to retool their sound, and they proved to be very fast learners. Byrne and his partner Nat Kipner co-produced the resulting sides, and one song that evolved out of those sessions was their first single to chart internationally, "Spicks and Specks." When the Bee Gees decided in late 1966 to travel to England and try for a new start in their careers, Byrne ended up accompanying them in January of 1967, and subsequently served as producer of their first British single, "New York Mining Disaster 1941," and the accompanying album, Bee Gees 1st. Byrne at that time might have been the only producer who was capable of keeping up with the precocious yet, essentially, neophyte group, who composed spontaneously in the studio; others would later know how to work with them, but in 1967, he was able to stand back, let them work, and then, with the help of the engineers, pull together what they wanted. The resulting debut album, Bee Gees 1st, is still a startlingly great record almost four decades later.

Ironically, this was to be his last work with the group, as they quickly outgrew Byrne's talents. He was never to find another group remotely as promising, though he tried hard, working with various psychedelic and sunshine pop outfits, attempting to emulate the sound he had forged so well on Bee Gees 1st. Byrne produced bands such as the Vertigo Records-based art rock outfit Cressida -- who should have been much bigger than they ended up being -- and the folk-rock group Eclection, whose members included future Fairport Convention alumni Trevor Lucas and Gerry Conway. The Eclection album was finally reissued on CD in 2001, but Byrne's most exalted non-Bee Gees release was probably the single "Exit Stage Right" by Ronnie Burns. Recorded in Australia and featuring all three Gibb brothers backing up the lead singer (and possibly drummer Colin Petersen as well), "Exit Stage Right" was barely a non-Bee Gees record. The song was also good enough to be immortalized in 2001 when it was included on Rhino Records' Nuggets Vol. 2: Original Artyfacts From the British Empire and Beyond box, devoted to psychedelia and psychedelic garage music from other continents. Ossie Byrne faded into the background of the music business, though the Bee Gees acknowledged their debt to him following his death in 1987, by dedicating the E.S.P. album to his memory.