Skip to main content

Your free what's on guide to the NT

Colin "Smiley" Petersen

From capturing hearts as a child star in classic Aussie flick, Smiley, to being the drummer in the pop-disco phenomenon, the Bee Gees, Colin "Smiley" Petersen has led a fascinating life. Rita Horanyi had a chat with the veteran muso about his latest show, where he shares captivating stories and performs the mega-hits you know and love, backed by the ultimate Bee Gees tribute band.

It must have been quite the experience to be part of such a successful musical phenomenon. What was the best thing about being part of the Bee Gees?
It’s the excitement of your first breakthrough that really hits home. Having the opportunity to record our first album, Bee Gees 1st – I did four albums, Bee Gees 1st, Horizontal, Idea and then the double album Odessa – it was the excitement of getting halfway through that album and realising that, the team around us, it was all working and we were all so ready for this.

Robert Stigwood … was a very imaginative manager and he got us into the mainstream newspapers. Another key player was Bill Shepherd, our musical director, and he came up with those wonderful orchestrations. So we had a team together … the right people coming together at the right time and everyone having the experience to pull it off. And that’s what it takes for something to become big on that sort of scale.

And looking back at my life, I’m so happy that the experience I had as a pop star happened during the 60s. You have to remember that the 60s in London – it’s hard to describe the excitement and creativity. And as opposed to a lot of people, I actually remember it! [laughs]

How does it feel to be performing the old classics you played with the Bee Gees, with different band members?
They’re extremely competent players and it’s very close to the originals. The vocals are really strong and it’s a lovely atmosphere between us all, which is of number one importance. You can have all the best players in the world put together but if the vibe, so to speak, isn’t there and the comradery isn’t there, then it’s just not really working.

It doesn’t cease to amaze me all these years later that those songs have turned into evergreens, that they’re so revered. We would never have thought that would be the case all those years ago when we recorded those songs.

It’s just a wonderful experience and to have the audience really interested in what I have to say is a great privilege.

Which Bee Gees album or song that you worked on did you love the most?
That’s a hard one! A song that I play in the show, is a song called ‘World’ and it was our fourth single. And that’s a great record in my opinion.

But looking at the Gibb Brothers’ songs … one of my favourite songs is a song they wrote for Dionne Warwick called ‘Heartbreaker’. It just summarises the talent for melody that they had. It’s a stunning melody.

What’s your favourite memory of playing with the Bee Gees?
The first time we got up on stage with an orchestra in London just after the release of ‘Massachusetts’ at a theatre called The Saville Theatre. A really old theatre, and we did a matinee from memory and an evening show, and the crowd went absolutely crazy.

When we went back to the dressing room, there was a whole group of girls in the street, maybe 400 girls in the street, chanting, and Vince Melouney – our fifth member, our lead guitar player – and I went out on the little balcony or leant out the window. It was well publicised that the Gibbs [brothers] had lived in Australia and that Vince and I were Australian – see I’m getting a bit emotional over this, this is such a lovely moment. Vince and I appeared at the window, and there’s all the screaming and all the business, and we gave them a wave, and then spontaneously they all started singing ‘Waltzing Matilda.’ In the middle of London.

The Best of the Bee Gees featuring Colin “Smiley” Petersen
COST $79 | $69 MEMB/CONC

More reads

Advertisement: Join the Team – Assistant Editor