Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back, folks – we all made it to Charlene and back with the most of our dignity intact – and hopefully, without any venereal diseases to show for it!

And, you know, we’re not the only ones with a soft spot for Charlene. Mike pointed out this AP article about Shrek The Third. Notably:

Regis Philbin joins the voice cast as Mabel, another ugly stepsister, while Captain Hook, seen briefly singing a Tom Waits song in “Shrek 2,” advances to a speaking role, with vocals by Ian McShane. There are hordes of others, from palace flunkies to medieval Valley Girls to a Wicked Witch singing Charlene’s sappy 1980s hit “I’ve Never Been to Me” as a torch song.

So remember, everybody: when Charlene makes her big 2007 comeback, we ripped her apart first! But now, it’s time to get back to a song that is definitely a strong – and in my mind, obvious – candidate for Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Climax Blues Band – I Love You (download)

Originally formed in 1968 as the Climax Chicago Blues Band, they dropped the “Chicago” in 1970 so as not to not be confused with, um, Chicago. Which seems weird to me. I can’t imagine anybody coming across an ad for “Climax Chicago Blues Band” and think, “awesome, I love Chicago!,” getting there and going, “wait a minute – where the fuck is Cetera? BOOOO!” No, if anything, I’d think the reason for getting rid of “Chicago” would have been the fact that all members of the band were FROM ENGLAND. And what kind of name is “Climax Blues Band,” anyway? Clearly these guys weren’t concerned with getting laid.

Either way, the band was definitely well-versed in the blues; the AMG states that their early work was reminiscent of John Mayall. (I can neither confirm nor deny, as I don’t give a shit.) The band toured and recorded constantly, releasing a staggering eight albums before finally finding chart success with “Couldn’t Get It Right,” from 1976’s Gold Plated. “Couldn’t Get It Right” was the band’s biggest hit, climbing to #3 in 1977. However, in my mind, their best song was this Mellow Gold classic. (I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not I’ve heard any other Climax Blues Band songs.) The song was written by the band’s guitarist (and eventual bassist) Derek Holt, and sung by him as well. We’ll talk more about Holt in a minute, but first, let’s look at what’s so gloriously Mellow about “I Love You.”

What’s not to love about this song? It’s gentle, it’s pretty, and of course, it’s smooth. Listen to those opening keyboards, fluttering in and out of the right and left speakers, only accompanied by the light bass drum and cymbal. Before you know it, these guys have a nice lil’ groove going. And the chorus? Just beautiful. Nice chord choices, with terrific backing vocals and harmonies. The string section is a great touch – never too obtrusive, especially over the simple lead guitar solo.

Lyrically, the song’s not trying to impress anybody. It’s as simple as the title; just a sweet declaration of love. Of course, I love that opening lyric: “when I was a younger man, I hadn’t a care; foolin’ around, hittin’ the town, growin’ my hair.” Something about that third example has always struck me as lame. Growing your hair is a really passive activity. And the other great lyric is found at the end of the same verse: “oooh babe, you got what it takes, so I made you my wife.” Inconsistent tenses aside, this is a terrific lyric. Why? Well, I’m sure Holt wasn’t thinking it at the time, but hello wedding classic! Do those DJs have to pay royalties? If so, Derek Holt is ridin’ high.

The lyrical sentiment of the song, coupled with the gentle music, are perfect Mellow Gold. No talk about sex in a Chevy Van, no Ambrosia-esque seduction, and no Dan Hill weeping: just love, love, love. I mean, listen to those lyrics: he was a freakin’ drunk, she found him, and they went for a walk! That’s it! I mean, I really don’t believe that anything else happened! And after all of this, what does he do? He thanks her for being a friend! (I can neither confirm nor deny a direct Andrew Gold/Derek Holt correlation, to answer your next question.) You can take that Mellow to the bank, baby.

And that’s really all I have to say about the song from the musical/lyrical standpoint. It’s just a simple, pretty, smooth song. Not much snark, I know, but what can I tell you. It’s a great song. I mean, who doesn’t love this song?

Oh, wait. I know who doesn’t love this song: CLIMAX BLUES BAND.

Plenty of bands have sacrificed a portion of their original sound/vibe and headed towards a smoother, pop-friendlier tone. I’m not saying it was always a deliberate move, but it’s happened. My favorite example, of course, is Styx, who had their biggest hit with 1979’s “Babe,” a song that Tommy Shaw has probably hated every single day of his baby-faced life. However, all these years, Shaw accepted it and dealt with being Dennis DeYoung’s bitch, forced to sing backup on it for every concert with the original group. You might imagine that the guys in Climax Blues Band, all rockers, felt the same way about “I Love You.” And you’d be right.

Holt had written the song all on his own, and had recorded a full demo as well to present to the band. The band heard the song and instantly rejected it, as it was pretty much against anything and everything Climax Blues Band stood for. The band had hired producer John Ryan to work with them on their upcoming album, Flying The Flag, and after hearing the songs they were prepared to record, asked the band if they had any other tracks lying around. Holt pulled out “I Love You.” The rest of the band rolled their eyes, and promptly shit their pants when Ryan declared it would be a smash hit.

Well, you gotta hand it to those guys for sticking to their roots, and their guns: they told Holt to go fuck himself. They literally refused to play on the recording. The version that you’re hearing consists of Holt, drummer John Cuffley and, oddly enough, famous session pianist Nicky Hopkins. Holt played the guitar, the bass, and sang all the backing vocals. The guitar solo was written, note-for-note, by Holt, who somehow convinced/forced guitarist Peter John Haycock to commit it to record. Lead singer Colin Cooper was nowhere to be found.

Ryan then added those pretty strings to the record, at which point the other members of Climax Blues Band must have been searching for painless ways to kill either themselves or Holt. And if you thought that this created an uncomfortable situation for the band, you can imagine how things went down when the Warner Bros. execs showed up and ecstatically went apeshit for “I Love You.”

The song, much to the band’s chagrin, was another huge hit (and their first in four years), reaching #12 and becoming a radio favorite. Warner Bros., of course, wanted the band to go out and promote the single. Too bad, so sad: the rest of the band refused to ever play it live. I mean it. EVER. They never once played it in concert. The band would have preferred to remain a one-hit wonder of sorts than back Holt on his pansy-ass tune. And when you think about it, you have to give them credit for at least staying true to what they believed was the true Climax Blues Band sound.

Clearly an event like this caused plenty of bad blood within the band, and a year later, Holt decided to leave and form his own band, Grand Alliance. Who can blame him? It’s hard to say whether his presence was missed, as Climax Blues Band was a revolving door in terms of members, anyway. After five drummers, five keyboardists, four bassists and three guitarists over their career, the only constant has been Cooper on vocals.

If you’re interested in more information on the band, check out their official website, although it hasn’t been updated in a couple of years. However, it’s there that you’ll find their boast about being included in the Guinness’ Who’s Who Of The Blues, although it hasn’t been confirmed whether this is the same as those targeted letters you received during your junior year about being included in Who’s Who Of College Students. You’ll also find a nifty history page where the current members pretend to give a shit about former members. All we know about Derek Holt is that he “runs a pub in Stafford, where he plays two nights a week.” And remember poor Peter John Haycock, the reluctant soloist on “I Love You?” Here’s what we get about him:

The band refuses to comment on events surrounding Pete’s departure at the end of 1984, with the view that websites are no place to get involved in personal differences.

This is kind of like taking the high road, but not really. I was really hoping they would have included, right afterwards, “but Pete’s a cock.”

And with that, I bid you a fond, mellow farewell for this week – see you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

About the Author

Jason Hare

Jason Hare used to love Christmas. He feels differently now.

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