The cast

Oral histories




Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers were a nice little band in the 60s. Never really got too far as a recording outfit, but they had a horn section and played good-time soul/r&b, which made them a popular live act. When a couple of hits in the mid-60s were followed by a period of decline, however, Bennett and the group decided to go their separate ways. Which is when Harvey Hinsley got his first break, effectively replacing Cliff Bennett in The Rebel Rousers.

It lasted for about a year of heavy touring before that too fell apart. Hinsley drifted into session-work, forming part of a regular team alongside bassist Chas Hodges (also ex-Rebel Rousers and later to be half of Chas & Dave) and guitar genius Albert Lee; with producer Derek Lawrence, this team specialized in recording demos for songwriters without bands. Amongst those who wandered through the doors in 1969/70 were Errol Brown and Tony Wilson, fresh from a brief and unsuccessful stint at Apple as The Hot Chocolate Band, who had a song called 'Love Is Life'.

The demo secured a new deal for Hot Chocolate with Mickie Most's RAK Records and Harvey got invited to join as the regular guitarist. That was the start of fifteen consecutive years of hits for the band in Britain - as Harvey says: 'People were bigger than us, they were always bigger than us, and we were toddling along in the background, not quite being the big stars. And I remember Errol saying a couple of times, "We're never the big thing, are we?" And I'd say, "But do we wanna be?" And it went on forever.'

There was, however, the occasional failure, like the seldom remembered 1975 release 'Blue Night'. It was one of the few times that Mickie Most's normally impeccable ability to spot a winner let him down - relegated to the b-side was a little song called 'You Sexy Thing'. When re-recorded and pushed as an a-side, of course, it became the band's most famous single, hitting #2 in 1975 and returning to the charts in 1987 and again in 1997. It was a great record, made complete by Harvey's ascending guitar riff. I'm not sure that he's ever been given full credit for this or for his other work with the Chocs (as we don't often call them). Given that Errol was always keen on writing songs with as few chords in them as possible, it takes a pretty hot cookie to create distinctive guitar lines that haven't been used before; but Harvey kept coming up with them, hitting his peak with the riff on 'Every 1's A Winner', which was effectively the chorus to the song.

By the mid-80s the long run of hits was tailing off, and the band were clearly floundering - at Mickie's urging, they tried out a couple of covers, including Elvis Costello's 'Green Shirt' and The Police's 'Walking On The Moon', which convinced no one, least of all Harvey. Even a change of producer to Pete Wingfield did nothing to revive the group's fortunes, and Errol eventually gave up on the whole project.

Presumably the idea was that, like Lionel Ritchie leaving The Commodores, Errol would make it on his own. As it turned out, neither he nor the surviving group found the going too easy on their own, and only the occasional re-issue kept Errol's songs in the charts. Most spectacular, of course, was the use of 'You Sexy Thing' in The Full Monty, which brought Errol back in triumph to Top of the Pops, though sadly without the rest of the band. Meanwhile Hot Chocolate continued as a successful live act.

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Eddie Amoo
Ken Andrew
Dave Bartram
Mike Batt
Wayne Bickerton
David Blaylock
Trevor Bolder
Jacko Boogie
Tony Burrows
Sally Carr
Tina Charles
David Courtney
Rob Davis
Richard Dodd
Patrick Doonan
Ray Dorset
Herbie Flowers
Ken Gold
Graham Gouldman
Dave Hill
Harvey Hinsley
John Hughes
Jim Irvin
Jimmy James
Steve Jones
Lorraine Kelly
Paul Layton
Les McKeown
Russell Mael
Johnny Moore
Mike Moran
Chris Norman
Bill Oddie
David Paton
Lyn Paul
Phil Pickett
Suzi Quatro
Chris Rae
Chris Redburn
Norman Rogerson
Ron Roker
John Rossall
Andy Scott
Eddie Seago
Mat Snow
Chris Spedding
John Springate
Ray Stiles
Alwyn W Turner
David Van Day
Phil Wainman
Johnny Wakelin
Jeff Wayne
Alan Williams
Pip Williams