SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Hot Chocolate: The RAK Singles, 4CD Box Set

THE RAK SINGLES     Hot Chocolate   (4CD Box Set)
Here is the latest in Cherry Red’s 7T’s label series ‘Singles’ collections and what a treat it is. Featuring every single A & B side the boys recorded for Mickie Most’s RAK label this is a 5 star release. The statistics around the band are quite amazing, especially nowadays when ‘sales’ are entirely differently counted. For a decade and a half Hot Chocolate had an unbroken run of chart singles, 29 Top 40 hits, 12 Top Tens and the No 1 ‘So You Win Again’. Looking back and listening to this fine collection i am constantly surprised they only ever made the top spot once. The sheer consistency and quality of their writing and musicianship is quite extraordinary.  Altogether if you add it up the band spent 5 years in the charts making them one of the most successful pop acts of all time. It’s easy to forget just how many great songs they produced, as i’m sitting here listening i keep nodding my head and saying to myself ‘what a great record, forgotten about that one’. You may consider 4 CD’s and 72 tracks a lot to digest but trust me its not. Disc’s 1 & 2 are absolutely essential listening and for me personally contain my favourite tracks right from the opener ‘Love Is Life’ which i so clearly remember getting a promo single of back in 1970 through ‘You Could Have Been A Lady’, ‘I Believe In Love’ You’ll Always Be A Friend’ the memories flood back. However it’s 2 tracks in particular that stand out for their experimentation and boldness ‘Brother Louie’ with its biting social comment on interracial relationships, sadly still relevant in some quarters today. Followed by the epic ‘Rumours’ with its stabbing ‘Shaft’ style guitar riff. Both these songs run for between 4 and 5 minutes which defied the perceived wisdom that anything longer than 2m30s would lose listener interest, well Errol & Co certainly blew that argument out of the water.  And for music trivia fans both Brother Louie & Rumours contained one Cozy Powell on drums. This doesn’t surprise me as Cozy was signed to Mickie Most (owner of RAK Records) at the time and he (Mickie) wouldn’t have missed a chance to employ Cozy on the tracks, no doubt for free….The other highlight of Disc 1 for me is definitely ‘Emma’ another beautifully crafted ‘story’ song penned by Brown & Wilson and featuring my old friend and RAK labelmate on backing vocals Suzi Quatro. Disc2 kicks off with the uptempo ‘Cheri Babe’ which is one of those aforementioned tracks i had forgotten about as is the second single ‘Blue Night’ however the ‘B’ side of the latter song was to become more famous, or should that be infamous? it was ‘You Sexy Thing’. More hits follow with ‘Disco Queen’ ‘A Childs Prayer’ before RAK realised the potential of ‘You Sexy Thing’ and released a newly tweaked version as an ‘A’ side. I don’t know about you but YST is probably my least favourite HC song, nothing wrong with it, but i have listener ‘fatigue’ it remains the most played HC track on radio due to the (mostly) unimaginative minds of station programmers, and sadly will probably be the track the band will always be remembered for, when as already demonstrated they had so much more to give. Disc3 contains another bold move with the 6 minute opener ‘Put Your Love In Me’, classics follow rapidly with ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ ‘I’ll Put You Together Again’ (another personal favourite), ‘Mindless Boogie’ ‘Going Through The Motions’ and as the 80’s dawned a song i’m very attached to ‘No Doubt About It’. In the late 70’s i lived in Finchley where coming home in the early hours of the morning one day i swore i saw an UFO in the sky towards Hampstead Heath (i did honestly!) Remarkably i only learnt years later that the writers of ‘No Doubt About It’ which dealt with an alien encounter were inspired by seeing the same ‘UFO’ i did in the same time and place! Yea, vindicated! Right moving on, other tracks on Disc3 include ‘Are You Getting Enough’ ‘Love Me To Sleep’ & ‘Losing You’. The final Disc4 starts to run a little out of steam, but not by much, biggies still abound with the likes of ‘Girl Crazy’ ‘It Started With A Kiss’ ‘What Kinda Boy You Lookin For’ & ‘I Gave You My Heart Didn’t I’. I’m a big fan of these compilations that run chronologically as they give you the chance to hear whoever the band are progressing and evolving and refining their material. In Hot Chocolate you had a band who never dropped their quality level and achieved massive success in countries all over the world. This new compilation housed in a sturdy clamshell box with an excellent and informative booklet is the best compilation of HC’s work i’ve seen, there are other ‘Best Of’s’ etc but many miss off the early tracks. This is THE only collection you will ever need. Enjoy.
for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time……..stay safe…….Colin

Mick O’Dowd… What a cracker this release is Colin! Always loved them from when they first appeared as The Hot Chocolate Band on Apple Records with “Give Peace a Chance” (Yes that one). I believe there were 2 versions of Could Have Been A Lady. The original was tweaked to make it more funky sounding. So many hits. So many memories. Always remember Centre Page performing Everyone’s A Winner. Like you, Colin, Emma & No Doubt About It were my faves although it’s so hard picking faves from a track list like this.

Colin Bell… Mick, Hi mate, yes there were 2 versions as you say. They had such a consistently high standard its as you also say so hard to pick a fave! This is one of the most enjoyable compilations i have ever reviewed.

Stephen Singleton… One of the best bands ever ! Incredible songwriters and musicians . Also brilliant in concert . I’ll be ordering this monster

Alan Esdaile… Some really great tracks and always excellent live but never seemed to be given the credit they deserve.

Osibisa 12th July 1975 & Hot Chocolate 18th July 1975 – Hastings Pier

supplied by Sarah Harvey

John Wilde….Went to Osibisa and Hot Chocolate. Both excellent though Osibisa take the prize for crowd enthusiasm.

Sarah Harvey….Didn’t they march on and off the stage chanting OS-I-BI-SA OS-I-BI-SA OS-I-BI-SA etc. ?

Phil Gill….And I was part of that enthusiastic Osibisa crowd. One of my favourite ever gigs. They grooved a trench from here to France and made everyone dance and have fun. Even I was dancing – probably haven’t since, so no mean feat, Osibisa.

John Wilde….Yes they were complete with their chant and with the great percussion, voices and instrumentation kept us moving and wanting more.

John Storer…..I just love the last line of that ad …. “Forthcoming attraction …. Marc Bolan & T.Rex … Tickets £1.25 in advance”. Remember getting tickets to see Japan at Brighton Dome in early 1982 and stating “I will never again pay £6 to go see a band”. Ahem!

John Wilde….July 25th 1975. T Rex supported by Stallion. Anyone have a poster?

Mick O’Dowd….I agree with you Phil. One of the best live bands going. Unfortunately they didn’t always transfer that excitement to vinyl. I always said that i’d defy anybody(even if they didn’t like the music) to not, at least, tap their foot!

Eric Cawthraw ….Here’s a story with a different take – no, not about a band, but rather a bizarre incident in the crowd. Before I expand on this – I bumped in to Mick Watson and related the details to him – just to confirm this is as I remember it, as he was also at the same gig – and yes, he remembers it just as I do!
I’m taking you back to the summer of 75 and the good old Pier Ballroom again. The main band that our crew had gone to see was Osibisa – aah, all those naughty pulsating rhythms I here you thinking!
It was back in the days when the ballroom was just one big open space and often there would be seats stacked up at the sides so that anyone could take one and plonk their butt on it at the location of their choice.
To set the scene further, once Osibisa came on, most of us migrated to the front of the stage, so every one was squeezed in at the front and the back half of the auditorium was virtually empty – this was often the format for the audience. I’m sure people could get pregnant in the thrusting throng – and some of them women!
It must have been a cool or wet evening as I do remember everyone had coats – and it’s the coats that feature in this story. Just as Osibisa came on, our mate Malcolm Hutchison said he was going to sit towards the back as he felt pretty knackered, so he got himself a chair and down he sat – OK, we said, you might as well keep an eye on our coats. So we dumped them around him and joined in the melee towards the stage. Once the gig ended [and a great evening it was too], we returned to our coats – and the vision that presented itself still cracks me up when I think about it.
There in front of out eyes, where Malcolm should have been, was just a pile of coats – a small volcano/mountain of coats! It seems that everyone else must have thought – ‘good idea’ – we have a cloak-room attendant! Bit by bit, as people left, they peeled their coats from the pile and slowly the form of Malcolm re-appeared – he was fast asleep! What a vision! How he slept through the gig or didn’t asphyxiate, I have no idea! I’ve never seen the like before – or since. It could only have happened in the Pier Ballroom! So we woke him up and off we went.
As far as I can remember no one went home without a coat – but I still wonder if everyone went home with the coat they arrived in!

Julie Morris… Trying to find if Osibisa are still playing – website doesn’t seem to have anything since about 2015

Alan Esdaile… Had a good search Julie and all I could find was a gig they did on the 7th July 2017 in Sekondi-Takoradi but couldn’t find any further gigs listed.

Mike O’Dowd… Two great band with Osibisa winning by a head!

Pete Houghton… Great memories Didn’t Osibisa support Ginger Baker and they had to play on the Floor

Mick O’Dowd… Pete, Fraid not! I was there. The support band did play on the side of the ballroom because the BGA trio took up too much room

John Wilde… Both gigs were brilliant.

Colin Doherty… Good memories. Only £1 each, bargain!

Hot Chocolate – Aquarius Club Hastings 28th April 1973

28th april 1973 - hot chocolate

hot choc brother

Mick O’Dowd… Good little band. Saw them several times including this one.

Tony Davis… I was the house DJ at the Aquarius on this gig. I remember that the band went on first without Errol who was standing in the wings talking to me. We both noticed that he had missed his cue but he wasn’t bothered commenting they would get back to it in a minute. Nice guy and a good night.

Barry French… Does anyone else recall seeing Hot Chocolate on the Pier in the 70’s or did I dream it?

Alan Esdaile… Yes Barry, July 1975, great night remember it well as I did the disco.

10246537_447963015349161_5648966544186839541_n supplied by Sarah Harvey

Mick O’Dowd… Osibisa were one of the most exciting concerts i’ve worked on. They were absolutely electric. Trouble was they couldn’t transfer this exictement to disc. Great band though.

Leigh Wieland-Boys… I was there at Hot Chocolate that night!

Tony Court-holmes… i think i was there

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Hot Chocolate: Remixes and Rarities, Deluxe 3CD Digipak Edition

REMIXES & RARITIES    Hot Chocolate  (3CD)
Happy new Year to all Smarties and welcome to the first Smart Sounds review of 2020. Ah Hot Chocolate just what we need on a cold January morning! The latest in Cherry Red’s R & R series is a real gem. Few bands can lay claim to the longevity and success, or, the calibre of Hot Chocolate. From their first release in 1969 (Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance) right thru the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s the band had massive success. Charting 29  UK Top 40 singles, a number 1 and 3 US Top 10’s  they were seldom off our TV screens or our radio’s. This comprehensive 3CD set,, as ever housed beautifully in a sturdy fold out digipack with extensive liner booklet, does what it say’s on the tin and brings together 36 tracks of rare,  hard to find remixes, ‘B’ sides and some tracks finding their way onto CD for the first time. The plethora of remixes feature some of HC’s most beloved songs including ‘Everyone 1’s A Winner’ ‘Mindless Boogie’ ‘Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac’ ‘No Doubt About it’ and of course ‘You Sexy Thing’. There are in fact 6 remixes of the latter, some might consider that overkill, but for those completists and collectors out there they will be warmly welcomed. Indeed YST is probably my own personal less favoured track, probably due to its overexposure over the years in films and (extensively) in TV advertising. There are 2 Megamix’s I would have loved to have available all those years ago when I was still doing live DJ shows. you could guarantee that people would get up on their feet to HC. The first of these and in my eyes the best features ‘Emma/So You Win Again/You Sexy Thing/Every 1’s A Winner/So You Win Again/No Doubt About It a sure floor filler.

The last track of the Megamix  ‘No Doubt About It’ is one of my favourite HC tracks and involves a strange and personal connection. In 1978 I lived in London off Finchley Road and coming home from a gig in the early hours I saw what I can only say was a UFO having woken up my flatmate who saw it too and confirmed I wasn’t drunk or dreaming! the sight stayed with me always. Then along in 1980 came ‘No Doubt About It’ co-written by Dave Most (brother of record whiz Mickie) based on the experience of seeing a UFO…which I later found out was seen over…yes you’ve guessed it..Finchley Road! Spooky! Anyway back to earth, this new collection has been remastered from (where possible) the original master tapes and sounds wonderful and has given my speakers a good work out. Hot Chocolate produced some classy and classic material over their peak years and this release adds to that admirably. With new members the band still tours to this day, Errol Brown sadly left us in May 2015 but im sure he’s looking on and busting some moves, no doubt about it. Enjoy.

For more information go tohttps://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time……………..Colin

Monica Bane… Loved Hot Chocolate. Have some of their music!

Mick O’Dowd… Great stuff! They were an excellent band with a terrific singer. Worked with them once and saw them on another occasion. Nice blokes. Sad loss of Errol.

Julie Findlay-Jones… Went to see them with your sister Alan, brilliant concert.

Peter O’Donnell… Talented man.

David Edwards… Great band with Errol’s honey laden vocals what’s not to like about them

John Parnell… Saw them in their very early days in September 1968 at the Narracott Grand hotel, Woolacombe, Devon. Excellent band. I particularly remember Errol’s very energetic performance in addition to his great singing.

 

Cupids Inspiration – Aquarius Club Hastings 11th Dec 1971

11th-dec-1971-cupids-inspiration

cupids-inspiration

Chris van Rock… Was that the club above that arcade …. George’s ?

Peter Fairless… Yes, Chris, later called Saturday’s

Kevin Burchett… was my regular haunt then and i was there at hot chocolate dont remember much about it though pissed lol

Aquarius – Christmas 1971 with Steve Maxted, Hot Chocolate, Arthur Conley & Rock Candy.

10301286_598861603592634_2545306521365655391_n arthur_conley

ad supplied by Sarah Harvey. Arthur Conley photo Atco Records

This is a great Hot Chocolate track that doesn’t get played much…

Mick O’Dowd… Don’t remember Arthur Conley being there but I saw Percy Sledge & Ben E King along with The Elgins & Gene Latter at one point.

Leigh Wieland-Boys…  I was there the night Hot Chocolate was on

Hot Chocolate and Heatwave – White Rock Theatre Hastings 2nd December 2016

hot_choc_lead-2

ticket information… https://whiterocktheatre.org.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=832F6712-A121-40D5-A21C-83B6CC0BF9E7

Hit makers  Hot Chocolate  perform a spectacular soul and disco night performing all their timeless classics. Expect to hear:  Everyones a Winner ,  It Stared With a Kiss ,  You Win Again ,  Louie ,  Emma , Could Have Been a Lady , and the classic  You Sexy Thing , plus many more. 
Support comes from Heatwave who will perform their hits Boogie nights,  Mind Blowing Decisions ,  Always and Forever  plus more, along with DJs playing classic soul and disco anthems, this will be a must see show for any 70s music fan.

Mick O’Dowd… Spotted today poster for Hot Chocolate & Heatwave at The White Rock in December. Anybody know who’s replaced Errol and what the new line-up is or is it another”tribute” type band with no original members?

Jim Breeds… I saw that poster in a few places too while we were driving around. I looked them up to see if there are any of the original members still in the band (there are). Latest vocalist is one Kennie Simon. To me it’s one of those bands that was all about the lead singer and to carry on gigging without him is milking it. Just MHO.

Allyson Breeds… I had a lovely Hot Chocolate at Hanushka in George Street, does that count?

Jim Breeds… Was it during a Heatwave?

Alex Chapman… I knew Eric Johns in the mid 70s and the last that I heard he had moved to Australia. Some of the Original lineup are playing

Matt Thomas… Cant replace the vocals of Errol but they had some great tracks that will probably be recreated perfectly

Tony May… I doubt the ‘Heatwave’ on the bill will have many original members. The history of the band is littered with tragedy and their original lead singer, Johnnie Wilder Jr is dead. The original line up featured Rod Temperton – writer of Michael Jackson’s – ‘Thriller’.