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Best Hot Chocolate Songs: 20 Tracks… Every 1’s A Winner
AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Best Hot Chocolate Songs: 20 Tracks… Every 1’s A Winner

The best Hot Chocolate songs mixed disco with rock energy to make them one of the most-loved British pop groups of the 70s and 80s.

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As we celebrate diversity in music, it’s only right that black musicians are championed more than ever before, and yet Errol Brown – legendary frontman of Hot Chocolate – tends to be overlooked in the pantheon of British songwriters. Here, with insight from guitarist Harvey Hinsley, we celebrate his talents by ranking the 20 best Hot Chocolate songs, showcasing why Errol Brown’s band deserves a place among the greats.

20: Mindless Boogie (1979)

Pre-dating the angular funky lurch of David Bowie’s Fashion by a year, Mindless Boogie is a surprisingly cynical disco-inspired cut in which Errol Brown references the Jonestown massacre (a mass suicide event instigated by a murderous cult leader in 1978) and the towering threat of the neutron bomb. “Like clowns and robots that we are,” Errol sings to empty-headed partygoers as if they are dancing in the middle of an apocalypse, “Music is the drug we’re searching for.”

Perhaps due to its sardonic dig at the disco scene, Mindless Boogie only managed to hit No.46 in the UK chart. “It had its limitations,” Hot Chocolate guitarist Harvey Hinsley tells Dig!, speaking about his squalling guitarwork. “I mean, it was all in one chord. So it was a bit limiting to play to.” Nevertheless, it makes for a strangely compelling entry among Hot Chocolate’s best songs.

19: Don’t Stop It Now (1976)

A close cousin to the group’s Top 5 hit You Sexy Thing, Don’t Stop It Now saw Hot Chocolate aim to capitalise on that song’s runaway success by replicating the same magic formula. Though it’s hard to recapture lightning in a bottle, Don’t Stop It Now makes a good effort. While some may dismiss it as a carbon copy, musically there’s much to love – from its undulating bassline to Errol Brown’s trademark yowl (“Keep on giving it to me…”).

While it only reached No.11 in the UK chart, Don’t Stop It Now is just as danceable as its more commercially successful predecessor, with Errol Brown making steamy overtures to his female fanbase, singing: “Baby, your sweet, sweet kind of love, I’ve got to have it.” Clearly, he was keen to embody his newfound role as a sex symbol.

18: I Believe (In Love) (1971)

Following the same strand of post-hippie platitudes as their debut single, Love Is Life, Hot Chocolate released I Believe (In Love) in August 1971; reaching No.8, it gave them their third UK chart success. A calypso-influenced love song, it’s a delicate melody co-written by Errol Brown and Tony Wilson, full of gorgeous orchestral strings and lovestruck lyrics.

Despite his input being uncredited, guitarist Harvey Hinsley says he remembers being approached to help complete the song: “We were sitting in a hotel and Errol said to me, ‘Tony’s got this song and I think it needs a bridge, or a middle eight. It needs something in the middle.’ Hinsley claims he strummed out some chords and came up with the middle part of the song on the spot. Nevertheless, the end result remains gloriously uplifting and exquisitely paced.

17: What Kinda Boy You Lookin’ For (Girl) (1983)

The last Hot Chocolate song to hit the Top 10 – and the latest entry in our list of the best Hot Chocolate songs – What Kinda Boy You Lookin’ For (Girl) wore its Stevie Wonder influences on its sleeve. “I really like the harmonic-sounding riff on it,” Errol Brown later said of the song, outshining its 80s-era production values with his typically sugar-coated vocal.

Guitarist Harvey Hinsley remembers this being a transitional period: “We were starting to use synthesisers all the time,” he says. “The harmonica sound [played by Pete Greenfield] was a mouth-blowing keyboard that sounded like a mouth organ.” Interestingly, keyboardist Chris Cameron, who also played on the song, would later go on to work with pop sensation George Michael.

16: Are You Getting Enough Of What Makes You Happy? (1980)

Buoyed by a yoyo-ing guitar riff, jaunty horns and a fantastic bass groove by Patrick Olive, Are You Getting Enough of What Makes You Happy? boasts a terrific set of lyrics by Errol Brown, painting a picture of a lonely man frustrated by seeing lovers on his TV screen and hearing love songs on the radio. “Is there somebody out there who feels the same?” Errol cries longingly.

“We did the demo at Errol’s house in an eight-track studio he had in the garage,” Harvey Hinsley says. “When we went to re-do it all with [producer] Mickie Most, we obviously did it all over again, but when I listen to it, I can’t hear any difference between that and the demo.” In what was no doubt a noteworthy addition to the group’s catalogue, it became one of the greatest Hot Chocolate songs of the 80s, hitting No.17 in the UK chart in 1980.

15: Love Is Life (1970)

The earliest release in our list of the best Hot Chocolate songs, the 1970 single Love Is Life was Errol’s pop-soul paean to the unity of humankind, and the first Hot Chocolate song to enter the UK chart. Guitarist Harvey Hinsley recalls playing on the demo version of the song in De Lane Lea Studio, along with cockney songsmith Chas Hodges (of Chas & Dave fame). However, with the band relying on session musicians at this stage of their career, neither musician was featured on the studio version.

Shortly after the song peaked at No.6 in the UK, Harvey heard Love Is Life on the radio and received a phone call from Tony Wilson, inviting him to join Hot Chocolate as their full-time guitarist. “That’s how I joined the band,” he tells Dig!, not realising they would be part of his life for the next 16 years.

14: Disco Queen (1975)

Arguably considered as a dry-run for You Sexy Thing, Disco Queen saw Hot Chocolate abandon Errol Brown’s socially conscious lyricism in favour of a more dance-oriented direction, creating one of the best Hot Chocolate songs in the process. The band would rapidly begin to master this new musical style, which would see them find even greater levels of fame amid the popularity of disco.

Though Disco Queen wasted no time in finding its way to No.11 in the UK chart, Harvey Hinsley feels its tempo was a drawback. “It was a bit slow, I thought,” he says. “[Producer] Mickie Most tended to want everything ever so slow, especially in the case of disco. A disco speed is more like 120bpm, and [Disco Queen is] more like 105bpm.” Be that as it may, Hot Chocolate would find themselves at the forefront of the disco scene soon enough.

13: I’ll Put You Together Again (1978)

Before finding success as a Top 20 hit in the UK, it must have seemed like commercial suicide for Hot Chocolate to record I’ll Put You Together Again. A waltz-based showtune penned by Don Black which would eventually be part of the West End musical Dear Anyone, this 1978 single was an uncharacteristic move, to say the least.

Even guitarist Harvey Hinsley was apprehensive: “That was a bit of a shock for us all. It had this sort of Mozart-type piano on it, and I thought, What the hell are we doing this for?” That said, the band had learned to trust Mickie Most’s instincts and the ballad grew to become fondly regarded by fans. “Mickie wanted hits and we would try anything if we thought something would get into the charts,” Harvey admits. “People love that song.”

12: Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac (1976)

Recorded at a chateau in France, Heaven Is in the Back Seat of My Cadillac hit No.25 in the UK in 1976, chugging along to a constant beat while Errol Brown sings of making a hasty retreat with his girl in tow. “Let’s go for a ride out in the countryside,” he sings, pining for escape. “Just me and you far from the city lights.”

Underpinned by a busy keyboard riff by Larry Ferguson, the song almost seems like a playful precursor to Every 1’s a Winner in how it uses a repetitive hook to its foot-stomping advantage. Most notable is its feverish introductory build-up, achieved by Harvey Hinsley placing a guitar on his lap and sliding a plectrum along its neck. “[Arranger] John Cameron overdubbed the same thing on the strings,” he says of its rousing effect.

11: A Child’s Prayer (1975)

Typical of their generation’s love of anti-war, pro-peace anthems, A Child’s Prayer is Errol Brown’s musing on the troubles of the world (“Say a little prayer for all those who are poor”). Evoking the feel of a religious hymn with church bells and choral chants, the song ponders whether poverty and injustice persist because “nobody goes to church on Sundays anymore” and wonders why no one “thanks the lord for what they eat”.

According to Brown, the only glimmer of hope in A Child’s Prayer lies in the eyes of a child who “may grow to see/… the world full of love and harmony”. The spirited string arrangement and spidery guitar riff elevate it to the ranks of the best Hot Chocolate songs, shining with enough musical sincerity to gift the band their tenth chart entry, reaching No.7 in the UK Top 40.

10: You Could’ve Been A Lady (1971)

One of Hot Chocolate’s best songs of the early 70s, You Could’ve Been A Lady was also one of the group’s first Top 40 singles. Though it only reached No.32 in the UK, this groovy pop-rocker served as a promisingly upbeat prelude for the band’s later disco-era conquests. “That was the first one I played on,” Hinsley tells Dig! As prototypes go, it was a tantalising sign of things to come.

The guitarist remembers being convinced of the song’s potential by none other than British guitarist Hank Marvin, leader of Cliff Richard’s backing group, The Shadows. “When we did Top Of The Pops, The Shadows told us, ‘That’s a No.1 record.’ But, sadly, it wasn’t.” Strangely enough, the same melody in You Could’ve Been A Lady could also be heard in The Jacksons’ 1978 hit Blame It on the Boogie, a song which met far greater success. Perhaps Hot Chocolate were seven years too early!

9: Girl Crazy (1982)

With its whistling synth lines, Girl Crazy is an early 80s guilty pleasure continuing the band’s flair for head-boppers. Trying to adapt to the MTV generation, the music video was notoriously cringe-worthy. “It was absolutely awful,” remembers guitarist Harvey Hinsley. “Mickie said, ‘I want you guys to stand right down the road and come walking towards the camera, grooving all the way along. Think of West Side Story. It was really stupid!”

Harvey also remembers the producer being quite particular about how he wanted Errol Brown’s vocals to sound during the recording process. “Mickie wanted Errol screeching at the top of his voice,” Hinsley says. Knowing the strain the UK No.7 hit single had put on their singer, the band decided to drop the song down a few keys from A to G when touring, in order to give his voice a break.

8: No Doubt About It (1980)

In the wake of sci-fi blockbusters like Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, one of Hot Chocolate’s best songs of the 80s, No Doubt About It, was inspired by songwriters Mike Burns and Steve Glen witnessing an alien spaceship in the sky. In retrospect, guitarist Harvey Hinsley tells Dig!, he suspects the story was fabricated for publicity reasons: “I am pretty sure they didn’t see anything and they just said they did to make it more credible and interesting.”

To this day, however, Steve Glen maintains the UFO sighting was real. “It’s a true story,” Steve says, “I nearly drove off the road. It was right above us. It was massive – about four or five houses wide and we got out to have a look, an orange cloud came out of it.” The truth, it seems, is out there!

7: Put Your Love In Me (1977)

From its dub-inflected atmospherics to its Turkish-inspired strings, Put Your Love In Me is a stellar Mickie Most production launched into orbit by Errol Brown’s otherworldly vocals (“Tonight I wanna touch the stars”). A mood-driven and hypnotic tune, the song peaked at No.10 in the UK and remains an eerie but welcome entry among the best Hot Chocolate songs.

By playing in a sonic sandpit that wasn’t entirely out of step with the dub inspirations of the early new wave scene, Hot Chocolate showed they were still striving to be contemporary, but Harvey Hinsley casts doubt on the song’s reggae-esque comparisons. “It was more like a disco sequencer sort of music,” he says. “That was done in a really different way, without a sequencer. I had this Watkins echo chamber, which is a tape echo.” Even so, it was a new sound for the band.

6: Brother Louie (1973)

Considering Hot Chocolate’s standing as a multiracial British pop band, Errol Brown and Tony Wilson’s courageous song about an interracial relationship was a truly powerful statement. Brother Louie features blues musician Alexis Korner as the voice of a father warning his son about dating a white girl, and the song is still painfully relevant today as an indictment of racism in modern society.

“I wanted to show the world that we could work together, whatever our colour or creed,” Errol Brown later said. “It may sound idealistic, but bigotry and prejudice have always offended my sensibilities.” Not only did the song reach No.7 in the UK, but a cover version by American band Stories went to No.1 in the US the following year, confirming its place among the best Hot Chocolate songs. As one of Hot Chocolate’s most socially relevant funk tracks, Brother Louie is a triumph.

5: It Started With A Kiss (1982)

It Started With A Kiss marked a point in Hot Chocolate’s career where Errol Brown and producer Mickie Most were trying to keep abreast of the musical innovations of the early 80s’ new wave. As a bright-eyed and captivating experiment in synth-pop, Errol Brown’s lyrics were inspired by his childhood crush on “a girl in my class in Jamaica when I was nine”.

“Her name was Barbara Blackwood,” Brown later said in an interview. “She would have no idea it had anything to do with her.” Though guitarist Harvey Hinsley agreed it was a brilliant song, he felt this sonic transformation came at a cost: “We started to lose our character by having all these synthesisers on there.” Fans didn’t seem to mind. The song peaked at No.5 in the UK.

4: So You Win Again (1977)

Acquiring a soft rock tune written by Argent songwriter Russ Ballard, producer Mickie Most resisted calls to give So You Win Again to British soul-pop outfit The Real Thing and gifted it to Hot Chocolate instead. Playing the song to the dubious band for the first time, he told them: “If we do this and we get it right, that will be a No.1.” Sure enough, he was right, and the song quickly became Hot Chocolate’s first UK chart-topper.

“We made it more soulful and recognisably Hot Chocolate,” Errol Brown would later recall. Interestingly, Russ Ballard apparently didn’t like Hot Chocolate’s version. “It seemed too slow and too English for me,” he is reported to have said. “I wanted it more like Boz Scaggs, but Mickie was right and I was wrong.”

3: Emma (1974)

Recorded at Morgan Studios, in Willesden, Emma was a spine-tingling requiem written in memory of Errol Brown’s late mother. Telling the tragic story of an actress who aspires to Hollywood stardom but commits suicide when her dreams go unrealised, the song embraces its haunting topic thanks to producer Mickie Most feeding the strings through a Fender amp, giving it a ghostly vibe.

“I remember being very pleased with the guitar sound,” Hinsley says. “When I heard the chorus come in, I used to get tingles up my arms, and I think that says something.” However, Mickie Most wasn’t sure of the song’s hit potential. “It’s too different from what’s going on,” he complained, but he was proven wrong: cementing its status at one of the best Hot Chocolate songs, Emma not only landed at No.3 in the UK, it became the band’s first US hit. Even today, it remains a fan favourite.

2: Every 1’s A Winner (1978)

Based on a cockney idiom barrow boys used to yell on London street markets, Errol Brown wrote Every 1’s A Winner, imbuing the groove with irresistible swagger and funk-inspired charm. However, the fuzzy guitar riff is what makes it so memorable. “I came up with the riff,” guitarist Harvey Hinsley tells Dig! “Basically, it’s a slow trill.”

Recalling how the buzz-laden riff made the song an instant classic, Hinsley continues: “I had just bought a Roland guitar synth – a GR-500. I didn’t really know what it was gonna do, and I plugged it in, and this raucous sound came out of it.” Despite only reaching No.12 in the UK, Every 1’s A Winner was a much bigger hit in the US, where it reportedly sold two million copies and got to No.6 on the Hot 100. Undeniably one of the most iconic Hot Chocolate songs.

1: You Sexy Thing (1975)

Widely regarded as Hot Chocolate’s most enduring single, You Sexy Thing was initially put out as a B-side to Blue Night, but radio DJs flipped the 45 in favour of playing the upbeat disco jam instead. With its loping rhythm and vivid fuzztone riff, the near-orgasmic intensity of Errol Brown’s yelping helped the song peak at No.2 in the UK chart, only to be kept off the No.1 slot by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bongo player Louis Jardine was reportedly shocked by Mickie Most’s suggestion to feed the percussion through a wah-wah pedal – however, this proved to be a sonic masterstroke, as its swirling beat still sounds unlike anything else from its era. Topping our list of the best Hot Chocolate songs, You Sexy Thing later featured in the 1997 movie The Full Monty and became a Top 10 hit again in the late 90s. It remains a bona fide disco classic.

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