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Apr 08

TINA CHARLES – “I Love To Love”

FT + Popular78 comments • 5,943 views

#386, 6th March 1976

I get the strong impression that whoever wrote this came up with the line “I love to love but my baby just wants to dance” and then wrote a lyric around it – which is fine, it’s a great line, but it leaves Tina Charles in the position of having to sell a song around the idea of a boyfriend who never wants sex because he’s always out disco dancing. Maybe there are deeper issues, Tina. Just saying, like.

Anyway, this is British disco, not as tight as the American stuff or as futuristic as the European, with an arrangement that sounds like it’s been built from a “disco sounds” checklist, but a singer who gives it a lot of welly. Charles may not be the greatest vocalist but she actually does sell the song, or at least give you permission to howl along with it. It wrings a good deal of enjoyment out of some fairly ropey raw materials and you’d never begrudge it its success, but I end up wanting to like it more than I actually do.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 27 Apr 2008 #

    The verses are pretty good in their own right, though, and do a little bit more than merely supporting the chorus. The dynamic of emphasis and rhyme (MIN-ITT! SWING IT! DIG IT! etc) makes the song something that you follow along with all the way – and Tina Charles has a vibrant voice that you’re always happy to hear.

    What lets it down is the lack of much of a narrative. Having set up the character of the dancing boyfriend from the get-go, I’d like a bit more of a story about how the quickly established situation is then dealt with.

    And if you contrast this with ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ by Sister Sledge, both as music and as a song (in which the sexuality of the desired dancer is a bit clearer), you realise what you’re not getting here! So six or seven is about right.

  2. 2
    DJ Punctum on 27 Apr 2008 #

    Well the whole song is an extended metaphor really (“I Love To Come But My Baby Just Wants To…” and you can fill in the rest)…

    She sang lead on the late ’75 European hit (and “Black Is Black” ripoff) “I’m On Fire” by 5000 Volts and was understandably narked at Luan Peters appearing as the public face of the band, miming to her vocals on TOTP etc. However, it was all good publicity and she got signed up in her own right to CBS where she was mentored by Biddu, who thus scored his second UK number one as producer (“Kung Fu Fighting,” as you may recall, was the first).

    All bouncily harmless – it’s a sort of Home Counties “Rock The Boat” – but at least she sounds as though she’s having fun (her “Whoo!”s towards the end don’t sound forced) and Biddu was never going to be Nile and Bernard but he doesn’t do a bad job here, and the various pings of syndrums and the vague angularity of the string arrangement certainly put me in mind of the young lad, just down from Durham, who at the time was putting in the hours as trainee tape op/engineer/producer under Biddu’s tutelage and also played bass in Tina’s touring band – although he was a little peeved since he was basically a Yes fan and wanted to be Jon Anderson. His name was Trevor Horn.

    This is also the moment where the first of my previously mentioned “phantom” number ones occurred – the one which was top at lunchtime but demoted to #3 by teatime when the BMRB remembered to include the missing day’s sales data – so a word for the late bandleader Geoff Love, who under the moniker of “Manuel and his Music of the Mountains” spent four hours at number one with his interpretation of the second adagio movement from Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto d’Aranjuez, which was to the Miles Davis/Gil Evans version as “I Love To Love” is to “He’s The Greatest Dancer.”

  3. 3
    intothefireuk on 27 Apr 2008 #

    I don’t have any significant memories associated with this song except that, IIRC Ms Charles sported an interesting line in voluminous flouncy dresses. The song itself wasn’t that substantial and I didn’t particularly enjoy Tina’s shouty, shrill vocal. It has endured though and strangely enough I enjoy it now a lot more than I did then (here we go again, another GP ?). I can appreciate the Brit Disco angle though apart from Tina’s vocal it doesn’t really have any balls.

  4. 4
    rosie on 27 Apr 2008 #

    I’m feeling a bit like death warmed up this morning (usual thing, slight cold turns to chest infection turns to all sorts of respiratory problems) so anything that cheers me up in an undemanding way goes down well. This manages it rather well, if you don’t listen too closely (and it’s clearly for dancing to after all, not for semiotic introspection, and the actual words don’t matter much. It would work just as well if Tina were singing in Swabian, and the important thing is that she sounds like she’s having a really good time, and it’s infectious. You can’t not feel happy.

    Sketches of Spain is indeed a little musical miracle and as the version of the Concierto d’Aranjuez contained therein isn’t performed on guitar then it should be jusdged as sui generis, perhaps. Certainly Geoff Love’s rendering doesn’t bear serious comparison with a performance by, say, John Williams (the real one, not the Hollywood hack composer).

  5. 5
    Doctor Casino on 27 Apr 2008 #

    Decent composition, well-performed, but I’m with Tom that the lyrics are kind of letting this one down. Either the situation needs to be fleshed out more or it needs to be reversed, where the protagonist just wants to dance and the boys are getting in the way with all their winks and come-ons.

    The production also feels a little off/thin, but that might just be the version I’m hearing.

  6. 6
    rosie on 27 Apr 2008 #

    The reverse situation appears in Jim Steinman’s Dance In My Pants:

    I’m a lover not a dancer
    Don’t want to be on my feet when I can be on my back

    While his girl just wants to dance. In a real Vertical Expression Of A Horizontal Desire way.

  7. 8
    jeff w on 27 Apr 2008 #

    Tina was a RUBBISH dancer I seem to recall, so I’m not surprised her baby was always out dancing alone. I quite like the song though. 6 is about right, maybe I’d go 7.

  8. 9
    LondonLee on 27 Apr 2008 #

    Never been too fussed about this one really, it’s OK but she’s no Teena Marie.

  9. 10
    vinylscot on 27 Apr 2008 #

    Was the song not deliberately unsubstantial? It was, IMO, supposed to be a bit of throwaway pop, with a nod the the European end of disco rather than the American end.

    Tina herself was one of these unlikely popstars who certainly didn’t have “the look” and would never be cool, but who would no doubt have had a decent session career anyway. In addition to the 5000 Volts song, she had also been (with Linda Lewis) a backing vocalist on an earlier no1 – Steven Harley and Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile”.

    I don’t particularly like her performance of the song, but it does have some significance to me because of its connection to later pop/rock/mad superstar Bjork.

    Legend has it that she got her first break at age 11 after her teacher sent a recording of her singing this to an Icelandic radio station. They played it; she got picked up by a record company, and made her first album at age 12.

  10. 11
    rosie on 28 Apr 2008 #

    One point already made about Tina Charles is that she’s not the greatest singer ever but her voice with all its energy is more than adequate to carry this song. I’ve always known that, I think, but until yesterday I hadn’t a clue what she looked like, not any idea of whether she could dance or not. It never seemed relevant.

    By 1975 I’d long left Top of the Pops behind and I’m still a radio person having given up on keeping a televisual device ages ago. So I suppose the visual aspect of a performance has never been of great importance to me. But we do seem to have got into a situation where the quality of a singing voice is of marginal importance. Because I’ve never seen any of these Pop Idol type programmes I have only anecdotal evidence, but isn’t there a cult, with Mr Simon Cowell at its head (I believe there are two Simons, I hope I have the right one) of humiliated perfectly good singers who don’t look right, or move right? What I did hear some years ago was a young woman from Glasgow who appeared on Woman’s Hour who had gone through that humiliation. When she sang in the studio she had the kind of beautiful, smoky, bluesy voice that makes your scalp tingle. I wish I could remember her name – I’d buy her records!

    I have a nasty feeling that Alison Moyet, whose time can’t be far off now, will pass us by. Now there’s a singer with ooomph who didn’t look glamorous and never, I think, even tried to dance.

  11. 12
    Mark G on 28 Apr 2008 #

    There were a sudden spate of songs where people decided they wanted to go out and “DANCE” and not “fuck” in very small lettering.

    Nolans, GMichael/Wham, ooh….

  12. 13
    Tom on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Rosie – it’s true that the Pop Idol programmes tend to bring up conveyor belt voices but in terms of looks/images there’s a wider variety than you might think: Michelle McManus, most famously, won Pop Idol despite being pretty enormous; Andy Abrahams the singing binman has done well for himself – and then away from the reality TV world someone like Adele is closer to the Alison Moyet template (though not half as good) than she is to the Aguilera one.

  13. 14
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Strangely enough, yesterday’s Capital Gold retrochart show, which I always try to catch since they are good enough to play the WHOLE Top 20 rather than a sanitised “Pick,” David Jensen was doing the chart from March ’76 (they don’t strictly go by the “this week x years ago” rule) and the studio guest was – Tina Charles!

    She still sounded pretty keen on Trevor – at the time this hit number one, they did have a thing going on and were living in a little flat in Streatham – and also confirmed that Geoff Downes was her touring keyboard player, so basically this was where Buggles started!

    She’s now a grandmother, which made me feel even older than I normally do!

    About PopIdol etc. I have nothing to say at the moment except that it’s a major tragedy that Alison Moyet will play no direct part (and only one indirect part) in Popular whatsoever.

  14. 15
    Mark G on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Indirect? Um, as she was the lead vocal in (BUNNYSTAMPED), it can all go there surely?

  15. 16
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    I’ll go on strike if it doesn’t.

  16. 17
    Snif on 28 Apr 2008 #

    “John Williams (the real one, not the Hollywood hack composer).”

    Any man who does the themes of “Lost In Space”, “Time Tunnel” and “Land Of The Giants” is no hack in my book.

  17. 18
    Mark M on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Presumably it was Michelle McManus that Rosie heard on Woman’s Hour. I would say that the combination of the emphasis on powerhouse ballads plus the underdog factor actually makes reality TV pop friendlier to a wider range of types than the 1990s music industry (as well as those mentioned by Tom, I’d add the mountainous American Idol winner Ruben Studdard). It’s after the contest is over that singers face the pressure of bullying management and the press.
    Also, as Tom says, the Brit school bunch include the likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse, who was never a living Barbie even before the tats and permanently tired-and-emotional state.

  18. 19
    mike on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Back in March 1976, this struck me as a fairly inconsequential piece of pop-disco fluff, and I didn’t have particularly strong feelings about it in either direction. However, twelve years later, I found myself playing the 1987 Sanny X/DMC remix week in, week out to my mixed gay club crowd, where it slotted in neatly next to “Shame Shame Shame”, “Rock The Boat”, and similarly mid-BPMed chix-cooed chugging bouncers (pace James Hamilton). It was a bit of a naff old remix – stuttered vocal samples, and a notable upping of the “WOO!” factor – but something about it worked, and I ended up feeling a good deal more fondly about the song as a result.

    I’d also like to think that the Trevor Horn factor is what lifted “I Love To Love” above the usual schlock churned out by the Biddu factory. I’ve got loads of his early 1970s productions on promo 7″, and they’re a dreary old bunch…

  19. 20
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    See also second John Howard album which involves both Biddu and Horn and is markedly better than other Biddu things like “Summer Of ’42 BUT DONE DISCO STYLE”…

  20. 21
    rosie on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Michelle McManus it was. Thank you. I didn’t realise she’d actually won, despite the bullying. My estimate of reality TV voters has just risen!

    Amy Winehouse I like to think of as the British Billie Holiday. It’s such a shame that her personal failings are eclipsing an amazing talent in the public eye.

  21. 22
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    I think more of Amy W as a noughties version of Carmel, if anyone remembers her.

    Perhaps if she engaged the services of decent writers and producers rather than singing over old Helen Shapiro backing tracks her talent might become more apparent.

  22. 23
    Matthew H on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Mark/Punctum, #15/16 – you’ve got me confused, and I’m not even allowed to ask.

    As for ‘I Love To Love’, songs like this and ‘Baby Love’ used to make me feel a bit funny in my tummy when they were played on Radio 2 when I was a wee lad. The Three Degrees too.

  23. 24
    mike on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Butbutbut surely Duffy = The New Carmel? (BTW, it was good to hear this year’s Norwegian Eurovision entrant covering Carmel’s “More More More” at The Scala on Friday night.)

    My opinion of Amy changed after seeing her live last spring (we were lucky enough to catch her on a relatively straight and sober night), and was further reinforced by her stunning performance of “Love Is A Losing Game” at the Mercurys. Up until then, I’d found her second album far too self-consciously mannered to sound convincing. But now, I don’t.

  24. 25
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Vocally Duffy is more like the new Billie Davis, except I like Billie Davis since at least there’s some oomph in her voice rather than the thin Costcutter string cheese incident that is Duffy’s larynx.

  25. 26
    Erithian on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Mike, you beat me to it re Duffy as Carmel! I caught a few minutes of Duffy being “interviewed” by George Lamb on T4 yesterday – blimey, who gave him a job?

    Re Amy’s personal failings – you’re right, Rosie, and she’s being helped on her way by some of the most intrusive papping anyone’s ever had. Slebs falling out of nightclubs is fair game, but who wants to see her buying chocolates at the all-night store or trying to open her garage while looking dog-rough?

    Anyway, re “I Love to Love”: can’t agree with Doc Casino (#5) that the situation needs to be reversed – in itself it’s a nice reversal of the usual scenario, set out in previous Popular favourite “Come Outside” among others, where the girl wants her pleasures vertically and the bloke wants them horizontally. Beyond that it’s a nice little disco number, nothing special. GRRR books’ (Gambaccini, Read and the Rice brothers) tome marking the 500th number one observed that Tina Charles was possibly the shortest adult ever to top the UK chart, taller only than Little Jimmy Osmond who would now tower over her!

    But it was good to see Tina get recognition after her uncredited appearance on the 5000 Volts record. It’s as if Loleatta Holloway had had a solo number one after a certain infamous 1989 hit which the producers couldn’t be arsed to spell properly (bunny says to stop there). The singer who appeared on TOTP, doing “I’m On Fire”, Luan Peters, had made a few flop singles beforehand but is probably best remembered as the guest whose breast is hilariously mistaken for a light switch by Basil in an episode of “Fawlty Towers”.

    Number 2 Watch – Tina denied us the joy of seeing CW McCall’s “Convoy” reach number one!

  26. 27
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Surprised that “Convoy” did anything in the UK, to be honest, but CB did catch on here pretty quickly. These days the record sounds like some creepy far right call to arms but if nothing else it’s better than Red Sovine’s HIDEOUS, similarly themed “Teddy Bear” which waited until 1981 before invading our top five (bet Dale plays THAT one).

    In the Fab 208 chart not only did “Convoy” hit number one, but also the sidesplitting “Convoy GB” performed by DLT and Paul Burnett under the pseudonym Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks (only #4 on the BMRB list, mind).

  27. 28
    Mark G on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Just a thought, as someone mentioned Grrr books…

    When did they stop publishing? I was wondering if they ever did a ‘nineties’ volume, and how late did the ‘hit singles’ go up to?

  28. 29
    DJ Punctum on 28 Apr 2008 #

    I know someone did a book when the 1000 mark was passed but I can’t remember who published it (I don’t think it was GRRR) and it wasn’t very good either.

  29. 30
    Mark G on 28 Apr 2008 #

    Just went to Amazon. Someone called David Roberts seems to be ‘authoring’ the books now, and one came out in July last year.

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