Is she gone, or is she mine?

The first time I heard Bee Gees’ First of May, four lines of the lyrics left a strong impression:

The apple tree that grew for you and me,
I watched the apples falling one by one.
And as I recall the moment of them all,
the day I kissed your cheek and you were gone.

I immediately pictured a scene in which a girl (because the singer was male), who’s been struggling against some terminal illness for many years, finally passes away in her lover’s embrace after one last goodbye kiss. I found “apples falling one by one” a strong hint of death.

But recently I heard another version of the lyrics. Only one word is changed but the story implied becomes very different:

The apple tree that grew for you and me,
I watched the apples falling one by one.
And as I recall the moment of them all,
the day I kissed your cheek and you were mine.

This is a much happier story, now that the lovers are finally together. Still, a darker interpretation is possible: the departure of the girl seals their relationship forever in time and, in that sense, she is truly (and forever) his. Nevertheless, this joyous interpretation is at odds with the rest of the sad lyrics which suggest they once had a happy time, but it’s all over now. Perhaps the girl didn’t die but left with another man, as hinted by the line “Someone else moved in from far away”. But it’s also possible that “someone else” refers to Death himself.

What I want to know most is which version is the original. Note that this song was released in the 1960s, when there was no central source of lyrics which everyone could refer to (i.e. the internet). It’s possible that misheard lyrics were circulated and popularised. But how could anyone confuse “gone” with “mine”, since they don’t sound similar at all? Maybe this someone subconsciously found the story too depressing and, despite having heard “gone”, remembered “mine”.

Update: An attempt to find the canonical version raised more questions than answered. I watched through several youtube footages of Bee Gee’s performance of the song and most are of the “gone” version. Note that the song was later featured in the 1971 film “Melody” and the version used in the film was also “gone”. In one movie forum, however, a poster said “mine” was the Bee Gees version and “gone” was the Sarah Brightman version.

But more interestingly, during the search I came across many more different interpretations. “The day I kissed your cheek and you were gone” can simply mean a girl running away after being kissed, perhaps out of modesty or embarassment, but not a rejection. In other words, a sweet scene of innocent puppy love. I don’t know why I had instinctively jumped to the darker interpretation of death. Also, Barry Gibb, one of the Bee Gees, had said “first of May” was the birthday of their dog Barnaby, and the song was written in its honour. Please also read t’s view from the rhyming perspective in the comments section.

5 thoughts on “Is she gone, or is she mine?

  1. t said: “I think, from the rhyming perspective, GONE is perhaps more suitable, because ONE and GONE are slant rhymes, while MINE may need a little bit more twisting to make it harmonious.”

  2. I think it’s “gone”. I always sing “gone”. Where did you get that poster which said “mine” was the Bee Gees version?

  3. Can’t find what you found. Olivia Ong sings “you are mine”, though. Wonder if it’s because of what you said: the song originally says “mine”.
    Interesting post.

    1. I still can’t find the forum I mentioned. I wonder if there are any Bee Gees forums where someone might know the answer.

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