The Story in The Song The Bee Gees New York Mining Disaster 1941

Posted in: Brass by Arthur Chappell on July 24th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Haunting song about trapped and dying men.

Subtitled ‘Have You Seen My Wife Mr. Jones?’ this is a beautiful, haunting, almost whispered song, addressing a conversation between a trapped miner and a colleague referred to as Mr. Jones, suggesting in the note of reverence and respect that Jones may be one of the supervisors. The song was released in 1967.  The main title does not appear in the lyrics.

There are more than these two men trapped there, as the un-named narrator initially refers to a bigger group.  “There is something I would like you all to see.”

He shows them a photo of his wife, and indicates that he would like her to be informed of his fate if he should die but anyone else makes it out OK.

The time passing is punctuated by the narrator’s growing sense of panic. He twice warns Mr. Jones to lower his voice for fear that he might cause an avalanche. We never actually hear Mr. Jones speak. Just the narrator.

They have heard no sound from above for some time, and the narrator worries that the rescue crews must have given the miners up for dead and abandoned the search for survivors.

As the song progresses, the lyrics slow down and soften, indicating time and air running out for the doomed men. 

The wonderful song only reached number 12 in the UK charts and 14 in the US,It deserved to fare much better.

There was no mining disaster in New York in 1941, though there was one in 1939 in Pennsylvania. Six men were killed there. It’s not likely that the song’s Australian composers, Robin & Barry Gibb knew of this. They admit that the song took its inspiration from a different disaster, that of the Welsh village of Aberfan in 1966 when a coal slag heap fell onto a crowded and busy school killing many children and teachers.  144 died there.

Cover versions were issued by, among others, David Essex and Chumbawumba.

The Bee Gees version is the best and a far cry from the high pitched hysteria of their Saturday Night Fever period in the 70’s and 80’s.

Arthur Chappell

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