This week we travel across the Atlantic again to find our soul. You may recall that not too long ago I featured another great British soul band called the Foundations. This week I bring you Hot Chocolate and their indelible 1975 hit “You Sexy Thing.”
The band got together in 1968 and the original lineup included singer Errol Brown, guitar player Franklyn De Allie, drummer Jim King along with percussionist Patrick Olive and bass player Tony Wilson. One King, Jim, was soon replaced by another, Ian (no relation). The new King left too and was replaced by drummer Tony Connor. There was also a change at the guitar spot when De Allie was replaced by Harvey Hinsley.
They were originally dubbed the Hot Chocolate Band but that was soon shortened to merely Hot Chocolate by producer Mickie Most. Their first record deal was with Apple and it happened in a roundabout way. Hot Chocolate had recorded a reggae cover of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” without realizing that you needed permission to do such a thing. It didn’t take long for Apple to get on the phone to tell Brown that while he needed the ok from them it turned out the Lennon himself liked what he heard and that led to the record deal.
Unfortunately, the Beatles were breaking up at the time and it wasn’t long before Hot Chocolate and Apple Records went their separate ways. Then, in 1970, Most stepped in. He had a label called Rak and he signed Hot Chocolate. They released singles like “Love is Life,” “Emma,” “You Could Have Been a Lady,” and “I Believe in Love” all of which were substantial hits in the U.K.
In 1973, Hot Chocolate released a song about an interracial romance that was written by Brown and Wilson. The original version of “Brother Louie” was a Top 10 UK hit for Hot Chocolate and an even bigger hit when the American band Stories took their cover version to the top of the U.S. charts. Although they were already successful, the dawn of the disco era in the mid-’70s would take Hot Chocolate to the next level.
In 1975, “You Sexy Thing” took Hot Chocolate to the #3 spot on the U.S. charts. Three years later, “Every 1’s a Winner” did nearly as well, reaching #6 in the U.S. Although that was the last U.S. chart hit for Hot Chocolate they continued to have success with Top 10 U.K. hits like “No Doubt About It,” “Girl Crazy,” and “It Started With a Kiss.”
Eventually, chart success began to wane for Hot Chocolate but their music lived on through cover versions that artists like P.J. Harvey, Urge Overkill, and Sisters of Mercy added to their live sets. The writing was on the wall however when Brown and Ferguson left the band in 1986. Brown began a solo career and placed a couple of singles in the U.K. charts. By then, Hot Chocolate had disbanded but they reformed with a completely new lineup in 1992. The band continues to tour the U.K. and Europe.
Original Hot Chocolate vocalist and songwriter Errol Brown passed away in 2015 but not before he was awarded an MBE in 2003 and the Ivor Novello Award for his contribution to British music the following year. The enduring popularity of Hot Chocolate was confirmed when two of the band’s compilation albums reached the top spot on the U.K. album charts.