First a warning – if you run a Google search for details of Sugar Baby Love make sure you specify it’s The Rubettes 1974 chart topper you want. Let’s draw a line under that one, ok?
Secondly, despite the follies of fading memories, The Rubettes were not one hit wonders (nor at one time were they only one band – an acrimonious law case allowing two versions to tour as long as the band’s name was prefaced or followed with the “original” member claimant’s moniker.
Yes, whilst most if us only remember Sugar Baby Love, the band notched up nine hit singles totalling 68 weeks in the UK charts and one hit album of one week’s chart duration (does a peak of four count as a hit? Yes.).
Sugar Baby Love can easily be dismissed as pure bubblegum pop – but once heard it’s not easy to forget. It comes in the category of “Not Worth Its Salt If You Don’t Join In.”
That’s not to say you needed to buy a white suit and daft flat cap like they trademarked their Top of the Pops debut with – and lifted a dormant single into a rocket speed hit.
No, it’s more up there with the double denim hips and shoulder thrust of just about every up tempo Status Quo song, Michael Jackson’s slithery moonwalk, Rocky Horror’s invitation to do the Timewarp (again), Freddie and the Dreamers’ ministry of silly leaps, or even Bucks Fizz’s memorable Eurovision skirt removal routine.
No, in this case it’s the lead vocalist’s tonsil rattling falsetto we all wanted to emulate. After all they did make Frankie Valli’s contributions to the Four Seasons’ canon of hits seem like a karaoke contestant.
And what about that backing chorus of “bop showaddwaddy” (which is now claimed to be the semantically different “bop-shu-waddy” probably because the rock revival band had actually turned down the chance to record the song in the first place).
Sugar Baby Love was recorded in autumn 1973 and released in January 1974 as the debut single of the previously non-existent Rubettes. Written by Wayne Bickerton (then the head of A&R at Polydor Records) and Tony Waddington and produced by Bickerton, engineered by John Mackswith at Lansdowne Recording Studios, and with lead vocals by Paul Da Vinci, it was the band’s only number one in the UK, spending four weeks at the top (Juke Box Jive later in the year reached number three).
Bickerton and Waddington had been writing songs together since they were both members of the band formed by The Beatles’ original drummer, The Pete Best Four in Liverpool in the early 1960s.Their biggest success had previously been Nothing But a Heartache, a US hit for The Flirtations in 1968 and a bit of a Northern Soul cult hit in the UK.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MUSICAL
In the early 1970s, they came up with the idea for a rock ‘n’ roll musical and co-wrote and produced a demonstration recording of Sugar Baby Love with Tonight (its eventual follow up and number 12 hit), Juke Box Jive and Sugar Candy Kisses (which became a hit for Mac and Katie Kissoon).
They originally intended to submit it for the Eurovision Song Contest but instead offered it to Showaddywaddy and ex-Move member Carl Wayne, who both turned it down..They then offered it to the recording session’s musicians, provided that they would become an actual group. By then the recording’s lead singer Paul Da Vinci had signed a solo recording contract with Penny Farthing Records and only John Richardson, who played drums and spoke the “people take my advice” line would sign up and later become a leading member of The Rubettes live band.
Waddington paired the group with manager John Morris, the husband of singer Clodagh Rodgers and under his guidance, the band duly emerged at the tail end of the glam rock movement, wearing their trademark white suits and cloth caps on stage (hence the name of their first album – Wear It’s At (geddit?)
The song also made the American top 40 as well as reaching number one in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium and number two in Australia, South Africa and Italy.
At the time of recording it they weren’t sure it would be a hit at all. Bickerton said: “We had Paul DaVinci singing in that incredibly high falsetto voice and then a vocal group sings ‘Bop-shu-waddy’ over and over for about three minutes. Gerry Shury, who did the string arrangements, said, ‘This is not going to work: you can’t have a vocal group singing ‘Bop-shu-waddy’ non stop.’ A lot of people said the same thing to us and the more determined I became to release it. The record was dormant for six or seven weeks and then we got a break on Top of the Pops and it took off like a rocket and sold six million copies worldwide. Gerry said to me, ” I’m keeping my mouth shut and will concentrate on conducting the strings.”
The Rubettes’ success encouraged Bickerton and Waddington to set up State Records, so that 10 months after the release of Sugar Baby Love, the fourth Rubettes single I Can Do It was on it.
In 1994, the song’s profile was revived by its inclusion in the hit film Muriel’s Wedding. It was also featured in the 2005 Neil Jordan film Breakfast On Pluto soundtrack, and in a popular Safe Sex commercial directed by Wilfrid Brimo, which was awarded a Silver Lion prize at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June 2006.
On 28 March 2008, Sugar Baby Love was declared to be the most successful oldie of all time by the German television station RTL.
Still better be careful about that Google search though!
|WRITERS:||Wayne Bickerton & Tony Waddington|
|GENRE:||Glam Rock, Bubblegum Pop|