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!….
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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.