Thursday, May 07, 2015

Soulobit: Errol Brown

Errol Brown, lead singer of Hot Chocolate, has died.

Brown can't really be held responsible for one of the most awful things the British Monarchy has done, which was this:

In fairness, had Brown not recorded You Sexy Thing, Charles would have been half-heartedly pretending to be a male stripper to a different song, but it's an object lesson in how a record can be ruined forever.

(As a side note, it wasn't the first Brown-Windsor coup - Hot Chocolate played Charles and Diana's wedding reception.)

Let's instead hail his victory as being the only man ever to take a song about a UFO over London into the top 10:
The writers were Mike L Burns, Steve Glen and Donny Most. At the time the talk was about a close encounter of the third kind taking place at Stonehenge -experienced by one of the writers and his wife. Or as Errol Brown put it in a 2009 interview with The Mail on Sunday (25th of January) "This was written by two guys who thought they saw a UFO over Hampstead Heath".

It turns out the encounter was witnessed by Steve Glen and Mike Burns.

The details are given from the horses mouth as it were in this interview from The Borehamwood Times of March the 11th 2011.

“It’s a true story. I was driving on the Hendon Way with my writing partner Mike Burns and he pointed up in sky and said ‘what’s that up there?’ I nearly drove off the road. I was producing The Toys at the time and the band was following behind us in a van. I veered off onto West Heath Road and stopped by the Leg Of Mutton Pond. It was right above us. It was massive – about four or five houses wide and when we got out to have a look, an orange cloud came out of it.”

“The reason I’ve not talked about it much for 30 years is everyone said at the time we must be on drugs but all six of us saw it. We asked each other ‘did you see that?’ and we all said, ‘yes’. We
went straight back to Mike’s house in Long Elms and wrote the song No Doubt About It. I’d never written one so quick, and it was Hot Chocolate’s biggest seller.”
Making the heir to the throne shake his moneymaker, and taking aliens to the heart of Top Of The Pops. That's a career right there.

But not a solo career - he never managed to carve much space for himself outside of Hot Chocolate. Brown was pragmatic about this, as he explained in an interview with Blues And Soul, which also gave him a chance to take a dig at Ali Campbell:
“It was a very unfortunate thing. My first solo record on Warner Brothers was a song called ‘Personal Touch’. And I guess when things are meant to be, and when they’re NOT meant to be, is a funny thing. One of the things I found out when I left Hot Chocolate was that it’s amazing how you can be in a group for so many years, and people are still not familiar with your name. I mean, I love UB40 and the stuff they do. But I can’t for the life of me remember the guy’s name who sang lead on their hits, though I love his voice. And what I realised was that, when people said ‘Errol Brown’, it just wasn’t immediately obvious to the public that it was the lead singer of Hot Chocolate. So, I guess a successful solo career just wasn’t meant to be! But, you know, it’s OK!”
He might have been surprised over the last 24 hours just how much that name actually did mean to people.

Errol Brown was 71; he died May 5th in the Bahamas from bowel cancer.