Published on July 15, 2016
“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 Vince Melouney’s last single with the Bee Gees to feature his guitar work as he left the band in early December after this song was released as a single.
The song’s B-side was “Kilburn Towers”, except in France, where “Swan Song” was used. “I Started a Joke” was written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, and produced by the Bee Gees with Robert Stigwood.
Songs for the Idea album were completed on 25 June. “I Started A Joke” was the last to be recorded.
According to Robin Gibb, the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane:
“ 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 that in those days” Barry laughed, “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”. Robin Gibb told The Mail on Sunday on 1 November 2009 about “I Started a Joke”: “This is a very spiritual song. The listeners have to interpret it themselves, trying to explain it would detract from the song”.