Alan Williams grew up in the East End of London and founded his first band, The Medium, in the mid-60s; when drummer John Richardson joined the group, it was the start of an association that was to last into the 80s. The two of them later formed a duo called Baskin & Copperfield, who almost had a hit with a cover of 'The Long and Winding Road', before moving into session-playing.
Between them, they played on several hits of the early-70s: Richardson drummed on Biddu's production of 'Kung Fu Fighting' and the two of them were on records by Lynsey de Paul and Barry Blue. The big break from session-work into stardom came with a demo they made of a Bickerton & Waddington song, 'Sugar Baby Love'. Their recording wasn't supposed to be released, but when everyone else turned the song down, Polydor were persuaded to put out the demo with the idea that the session-musicians involved would be invited to form a band if the single took off.
As it happens, it almost didn't take off. For months it was hanging around the breakers chart just outside the top fifty, and it was only when Sparks had a Top of the Pops appearance snatched away from them at the last moment (not members of the Musicians Union, you see), that The Rubettes were given a shot at promoting the song on TV. So striking was the performance that within three weeks 'Sugar Baby Love' had replaced 'Waterloo' at #1 in Britain and was on its way to becoming an international best-seller (it even made the American top forty).
Alan Williams was the lead singer (Paul da Vinci sang the falsetto lead on 'Sugar Baby Love' but was never a member of the band), and he was also the driving force behind turning the group into a viable and durable outfit. Particularly, as it happens, in France, where they were even bigger than they were in Britain.
After 'Sugar Baby Love' and its follow-up, 'Tonight', the Rubettes abandoned the falsetto for a more straightforward rock & roll sound on 'Juke Box Jive', 'I Can Do It' and 'Foe-Dee-O-Dee'. This was the era when glam was on the wane and us pop-kids were looking for something a bit different and for eighteen months or so, the rock & roll revivalism of Mud, Showaddywaddy and The Rubettes provided what we wanted.
Thereafter things got more difficult, which was unfortunate for The Rubettes because this was when they started writing their own singles. The albums had always included a lot of their own work - which was damn confusing, cos their songs sounded nothing like Bickerton & Waddington's stuff - but it wasn't till 1976 that they got an a-side. When they did it was with 'You're The Reason Why', a really lovely bit of country-pop that I've always rated as their best single. There was only one more big hit to come - 'Baby I Know' - but sandwiched between these two releases was the most intriguing of the lot: 'Under One Roof', a song about gay love and queer-bashing, was released almost simultaneously with Rod Stewart's 'The Killing of Georgie' but didn't get the same radio exposure and struggled to make the top forty.
The Rubettes are still going and are still led by Alan Williams, though his closest collaborator John Richardson rejoined in 2000. I've seen them live and I'd strongly recommend them - they put on a great show.
1974 Sugar Baby Love (#1)
1974 Tonight (#12)
1974 Juke Box Jive (#3)
1975 I Can Do It (#7)
1975 Foe-Dee-O-Dee (#15)
1975 Little Darling (#30)
1976 You're the Reason Why (#28)
1976 Under One Roof (#40)
1977 Baby I Know (#10)
1974 Sugar Baby Love (#37)
Sparks vs Rubettes on Top of the Pops