SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Rubettes: The Singles 1974-77, 2CD

THE RUBETTES     The Singles 1974-1977  (2CD)

The latest band to feature in Cherry Reds 7T’s label ongoing ‘singles series’ release programme is those cheeky chappies in the White suits and caps The Rubettes. There is no doubt whatsoever, they will always be known for their 1974 No 1 European wide hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’. A record that divides most people between those who love it and those that loathe it! Whichever camp you were in at the time you certainly couldn’t ignore it! it was played constantly everywhere. The song actually had quite an interesting background. Written by established songwriters Wayne Bickerton & Tony Waddington it was originally intended as a possible GB entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. It was offered to both Showaddywaddy and ex Move lead singer Carl Wayne who both passed on it. So Wayne & Tony took a bunch of session musicians into the studio and recorded it. The distinctive and remarkable falsetto was provided by singer Paul Da Vinci. When the record subsequently took off (in it’s demo form) with a TOTP performance (with the band a last minute substitute for a planned Sparks slot) the band was shown with Alan Williams (one of the aforementioned session players) performing as lead singer, miming to Paul’s vocal, Paul due to contractual reasons,  having already signed a solo deal with another Record Company (Penny Farthing). Alan would subsequently re-record the single with his (very similar) vocal and mime to that (as was BBC policy at the time) on further TOTP appearances. That is the SBL story and one i have a bit of an issue with, of which more later! It’s easy to think of The Rubettes as a ‘one hit wonder’ but it shouldn’t be forgotten that although SBL was an immense hit, they followed it with 3 more Top 10 hits ‘Juke Box Jive’ (No 3) ‘I Can Do It’ (No 7) & ‘Baby I Know’ (No 10) plus another 3 Top 30 entries with Foe-Dee-Oh-Dee’, ‘Little Darling’ & ‘You’re The Reason Why’, a respectable, if not lengthy chart history. Away from the hits the other tracks spread over this 2CD set don’t settle down into any particular ‘style’ for the band or direction’ as they wander from soft pop ballads, to several Country-tinged numbers, Doo Wop & Sha-Na-Na inspired rock & roll. It’s this lack of any discernable established solid style & progression that the listener/buyer can follow that probably formed the reason that saw their recording career stall within a couple of years. The material chosen to record is pleasant, yet unremarkable and somewhat random. Included are 3 solo singles issued by Alan & John Richardson (the bands drummer) which include a rather fetching version of the Goffin/King classic ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’ originally a big hit for Bobby Vee, which stands out and could have stood a chance of success with some good promotion. Without going into protracted reasons which space doesn’t allow, the band have had acrimonious falling out’s over the years resulting in Court appearances and 2 versions touring, one led by Alan Williams and the other by Bill Hurd. Disc2 of the set contains tracks featuring Bill such as ‘Fools And Lovers’ & ‘Everybody Knows’ which offer an interesting contrast to Alan’s vocals. The compilation concludes with ‘Cherie Amour’ (not the Stevie Wonder song) with vocals traded between Alan & John and of all the later tracks that followed after their hit period this is i think the strongest example, with shades of SBL and proof that Alan can deliver a good falsetto. Which leads me to conclude this review with that ‘issue’ i mentioned earlier. As is the case with many groups of the 70’s & 80’s The Rubettes are often called on to make guest appearances on TV in Europe on ‘Retro’ shows, especially in Germany, Holland & France. Naturally the producers of these shows want them to perform SBL. So why nearly 50 years on do these TV performances ALWAYS have Alan STILL miming to Paul’s original vocal every bloody time?! Stop it Alan, use your own vocal or credit Paul! My old friend & stalwart member of many years of Manfred Manns Earth Band, Steve Kinch was a Rubette for 3 or 4 years in the late 80’s early 90’s. Steve if you happen to read this review….thoughts on this please? As ever, the compilation as you might expect from 7T’s, comes in a sturdy clamshell box complete with an interesting booklet full of info and photo’s. Enjoy. All together now….Ah…Ah…Ah…Ah…..La!…La!…La!….
for more information go to
Til next time….take care & stay safe….Colin



Gerry Fortsch… I remember my mate Graham playing the drums and singing the high bit and he was so loud that he never needed a mike. Keep on Rocking in the Free World.

Merv Kennard… I seem to remember that Sugar Baby Love was written for Showaddywaddy but they turned it down.

Colin Bell… Yes true, full story in my review

Mick O’Dowd… Had a lot of respect for these guys. Made a few floor-fillers in their time!

Steve Kinch… Hi Colin, I think you’ve very accurately summed it up. Re: the “issue” – As you know, much of what the public sees and hears in the pop world is not entirely honest😲 I don’t think The Rubettes are any worse than many other “pop” artists. I did quite a few TV shows with the Rubes… I don’t think TV producers would be interested if the band said, “We want to use this new re-recording”. It’s a sad fact of life that with manufactured pop groups, it’s all about the money and little to do with musical integrity😞.

Colin Bell… Hi Steve, thanks for the reply and insight about The Rubes, yes it’s a sad fact as you say regarding ‘manufactured bands’ It so happens i knew Paul Da Vinci back when SBL was recorded & he was a helluva nice guy who deserves his due recognition.

The Worrying Kind & The Confederates – Sat 17th Oct 1964 by Andre Martin





supplied by Andre Palfrey-martin collection

Andre Martin… Something is going to happen – I just know it will, but until then, we find ourselves in the Happy Ballroom on Hastings Pier, on Saturday17 October 1964, and what a month this has been, do you realise that we have just had a General Election? Thursday last, when Harold Wilson and the Labour Party won, buy a whisker – if I recall only a 3 seat majority. But enough of that, the first thing I want to address is about last week, several people have asked me, did I have the correct listing, based on the Pier advertisement in the Observer, I would have said yes, but on further research, I do feel they were wrong and it should have been Guy Darrell & The Midnighters as top of the Bill. But that will remain one of life’s little mysteries.
This week should be clearer – Top of the bill – from the North-East – The Worrying Kind, supported by our own The Confederates, 7.45pm – 11.45pm and all for 5/- – what value.
The Worrying Kind had made several visits to the Happy Ballroom in the past, the last was in July of this year, and they had been well received with their mix of Soul, R&B and what we would today call chart covers. The group had been known at one time a Brian Howard & The Silhouettes but changed to Worrying Kind a couple of years ago, they had had a couple of releases and it was rumoured that a Jimmy Page had played on these sessions, although there is little mentioned, he glosses over many of the bands he played sessions with in his autobiography so we can neither confirm or deny. The Confederates, a likely bunch of local lads, under the watchful eye of “ Spike “ Millington – that Pete’s dad, if you did not know, giving their best for the patrons of the Happy Ballroom. So this was another good night, OK not any name attractions, but good all-round entertainment and giving the patrons just what they wanted. Rumour was that Spike and Bob Knights – The General Manager of the Pier, would spend most of the evening putting the world to rights in the Long Bar !
So let’s have a look at what else is keeping the young people of the town entertained during this week, we would have had Friday nights – Ready Steady Go which this week included an interview with – Mick Jagger by Ellen Grehan. Scheduled guest:–Dionne Warwick – “Reach Out For Me. Obviously Mick Jagger was being given plenty of air time on that Night.
At The Witch Doctor – on Saturday Night it was 4+1 backed by Second Thoughts, Sunday Club that week would have been a cracker featuring Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames. And to end the week – Friday nights offering – Shane & The Shane Gang.
I thought that I would also have a quick look at what was on BBC – Saturday Club [BBC Light Programme] Matt Monro, The Pretty Things, Inez and Charlie Foxx, The Rockin Berries and Spencer Davis Group – all introduced by Brian Matthews. Sunday Swing [2.00pm] features Lulu & The Luvvers, Clinton Form, Julie Grant and The Fortunes.
BBC TV that Saturday night on Juke Box Jury Des O’Connor, Mary Wells and Jimmy Young plus one other panel member, and in the chair David Jacobs.
Later that evening – The Billy Cotton Band Show – featured Matt Monro and Gerry and The Pacemakers.
And not to be left out – Radio Caroline was flying the Pirate Radio Flag out there off the Frinton Coast, with at least one household name having survived the weather, after 3 months Tony Blackburn was still broadcasting – it was believed that he had taken a break at some point to gather breath !!
So you can see it had been a interesting week. One thing that I have forgotten to mention, is that the Pier is starting to run generic advertisements for the Ballroom being available for Hire…………so what have they up their sleeves…..time will tell.              Andre Martin

Jim Breeds… Always fascinating 🙂

Peter Millington… Remember it well