First of May was but a minor hit in the late 1960s, then enjoyed renewed popularity in 1971 when it was featured in the soundtrack to Melody, a British motion picture about puppy love. The lyrics are largely symbolic, but there is no mistaking the melancholy of lost love. Like most Bee Gees recording prior to the Main Course album, the vocal styling fits easily within the genre of popular song, and the orchestral arrangement is top notch.
Although obviously not a USA-penned song, it nonetheless claims a place in the annals of American pop. The Bee Gees’ later music that was so successful in the late 1970s was written while all were residents of Florida, where the surviving members continue to make their homes, so it is not at all a stretch to include this British/Australian/American family in this month’s version of PopularSong.org.
One of the reasons we wanted to feature this song is to give USA fans exposure to a British video made shortly before Maurice Gibb’s untimely death. It is an extremely touching duet by Maurice and first wife Lulu, known of course for the #1 To Sir, With Love. The affection between the two is obvious, despite what was a messy divorce 27 years earlier. Pay close attention to Lulu just before they begin, when she coyly asks Maurice if he “got the music I sent you? Did you learn it?” Their feelings and caring are unmistakable, and they then launch into the most sincere version of First of May you’ll ever hear.
Editor’s Note: First published in 2007 shortly after Maurice Gibb’s passing, this article was one of the first “Forgotten Gems” to appear as part of our online magazine. The brevity reflects the fact that the editorial board had not yet defined the scope of this feature. While “First of May” is not exactly in step with the Great American Songbook, the Bee Gees did define pop music a few years after this recording, and at the time we felt it was a respectful and deserving tribute to Maurice.