The cast

Oral histories



- The Real Thing finally make it big

Jimmy James:
The Real Thing were like Britain's answer to The Temptations, Britain's answer to The Four Tops. That's the sort of stuff they were out there doing live. But put it on record, and it never happened here.

Eddie Amoo:
I remember there was Clem Curtis and the Foundations - Clem's still around - and they had a lot of hits. But basically they used to record them type of bands like white bands. If you turned on the radio and you heard an Equals record or a Clem Curtis and the Foundations record, you'd think you were listening to a white pop band. Eddy Grant didn't really develop his real serious music identity until quite a while after The Equals, and then he really came into his own. But in that era - late 60s, the very early 70s - most black bands in this country that were recorded were recorded like white bands, and they sounded like white bands. They used to record The Chants like a white pop band, which we weren't. We weren't musically adept enough in them days to establish what we really wanted ourselves - we weren't musicians then.

Ken Gold:
['You To Me Are Everything'] was really my first big success in England. I signed my first publishing deal in '71 and I had had a fair degree of success in the US before The Real Thing - I'd had songs recorded by Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson and Eugene Record.
The Real Thing was the only competent group around doing that kind of stuff. So I got to know their manager, Tony Hall, very well, and started taking songs to him, most of which he liked and he was always very constructive. I kind of appreciated his advice.

Eddie Amoo:
The Real Thing started out with three people, then went to five, then they dropped two out and by 1975 they'd become a trio - Ray, Dave and Chris. But by then Chris [Amoo] and I had started to write together. I wrote the first three Real Thing singles. I was still with The Chants, but I was writing for The Real Thing, because The Chants were no longer a vehicle for the songs I was writing - The Chants were doing cabaret, and The Real Thing were able to play these songs live, so I was writing and giving the songs to Chris.
I wrote 'Vicious Circle', then 'Plastic Man', which almost made it, and then a song called 'Daddy Dear', and they're all heavy songs - if you listen to them lyrically, they're all really heavy. And the fourth one that I wrote was called 'Joe McGinty'; really it was called 'Civil War', but our manager made me change the lyric and the title of the song, but basically it was about Ireland.
They weren't soul records, but they weren't rock records - they were somewhere inbetween. I think the best way you could put it is they were too original, too different for the mainstream. Now round about this time the record company said: 'Look, you guys have got to have a hit, you've got to give us something we can sell.' And that's how come we recorded 'Stone Cold Love Affair'.

Ron Roker:
Tony Hall said, 'Look, can you get a song for The Real Thing?' Gerry [Shury] had done the 'Plastic Man' arrangement and said they were great singers, which I knew cos I'd seen them. We wrote 'Stone Cold Love Affair' and said, 'Can we produce it?' So we produced that one song. We got a turntable success and a lot of radio plays. And the next person to come into it was Ken Gold and he came up with that fantastic song, and that was their sound.

Eddie Amoo:
We met up with this guy called Ken Gold, who'd been trying to flog 'You To Me Are Everything' all over London and been knocked back all over the place. And when we heard it, we thought: this is a quasi-Barry White song, this'll keep them off our backs. What happened with Ken was for the first time we worked with somebody who didn't just allow us to throw our voices on the way we wanted to. He wanted it done in a certain way, which caused a little bit of friction in the studio, but it worked.

Ken Gold:
I took the song into Tony Hall and he loved it. He said, 'I wish I could play it to Chris [Amoo]' and about ten minutes later Chris walked in the door - he just happened to be in London - and Tony said, 'Listen to this, it's a smash.' And Chris loved it, so Tony said, 'I love what you've done on the demo, do you want to produce it?' So I sat in his office that afternoon, it was a Friday, and started to book the studio and the musicians, and we were in the studio the following Tuesday recording the backing-track.

Pip Williams:
I remember sending Tony Hall a telegram, I was so overjoyed, when 'You To Me Are Everything' was a hit, because I actually thought that was a great record.

Ken Gold:
Radio just took to it from the day of release, and they were playing it to death, Radio One, and it caught the public's imagination.

Eddie Amoo:
For a British soul group to have a hit in England in the 70s, it had to be a quasi-soul record. It had to sound like a soul record but have a very very strong pop overtone - i.e. 'You To Me Are Everything'.

Ken Gold:
It's that kind of blend of soul/pop and those kind of things for some reason always seem to do well In Britain.

Ron Roker:
'You To Me Are Everything' was very sweet. What Gerry and I were trying to do with 'Stone Cold Love Afair' was to get a commercial song, but also we tried to go to what we thought were the group's roots, which were going towards Levi Stubbs and The Temptations. Our melody and the idea lyrically was to try to echo American soul, but these are British soul singers. You just fell in love with his voice - great voice, gargled in glass and stuff. That song was probably in its approach more soulful than the one they followed it with, which was the better song because everyone could play it.

Eddie Amoo:
'You To Me Are Everything', 'Can't Get by Without You', 'Never Know What You're Missing', 'Love's Such a Wonderful Thing' - they were all sort of aimed completely at radio. They did happen in the clubs, but they were aimed at radio. Which was how everyone was going and making records then.

Ken Gold:
The problem always with The Real Thing themselves was the fact that they really wanted to be a little more hard, a funk group. Which is all well and good, but then they shouldn't really have done 'You To Me Are Everything' because it's a straight pop/r&b track - there's no pretensions about what it is.
I always knew that deep in their hearts they weren't really doing what they wanted to do, even though they'd done 'You To Me Are Everything' and it got to #1. It had given them the success they wanted, but they wanted really to have that success with another type of song. Something a bit less pop.

Eddie Amoo:
Sooner or later a serious black group had to come along and break through, a serious black group that was sellable to a huge white audience. And we were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time.

You gotta have reality

these words were brought to you by
Eddie Amoo
Ken Gold
Jimmy James
Ron Roker
Pip Williams

Gary Glitter
Top of the Pops
'The Funky Gibbon'
Fuck the critics
New Seekers
Gerry Shury
New Faces
'Rock On'
The Sweet
Sparks vs Rubettes
'Under the Moon of Love'
Generation X
Biddu's roster
Crisis, what crisis?
Glam fashion
Rock indulgence
The Drifters
The Real Thing
Bay City Rollers
'I Love To Love'
The death of Arnold