Jun 08

HOT CHOCOLATE – “So You Win Again”

FT + Popular99 comments • 5,406 views

#408, 2 July 1977

Errol Brown brought angst to the dancefloor as regularly as Michael Jackson ever would, but Hot Chocolate’s neuroses were way more effortful, dredged up from some inner coil of dissatisfaction. The rising riff on “So You Win Again” sounds – in the best possible way – leaden, an anchor chain around Brown’s hopes, forever pulling him down. “Here I am again – A LOSER.” It’s not the best Hot Chocolate track – that might be the dystopic “Mindless Boogie”, or the uncomfortably pitiful “It Started With A Kiss”, or “Everyone’s A Winner”, this track’s savage flipside – but what it shares with the band’s best work is the sense of a man wearing a shabby overcoat of disappointment, doomed to misery.



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  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 23 Jun 2008 #

    It seems to be an unwritten law of Popular that you end up talking about some truly great acts through their lesser material. I love Hot Chocolate and could find a hundred things to say about most of their other songs, but this is atypical. Hardly surprising, as its the one that Errol Brown didn’t write, and as songs by Russ Ballard go, its hardly as dynamic as ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

    Tom is right to say that the instrumentation is clever in giving a resonance to the doominess of the song, but that sadly doesn’t stop it from becoming a bit of a plod. I find it easy to become distracted whenever this one is playing.

  2. 2
    rosie on 23 Jun 2008 #

    Billy, I think that law isn’t at all unwritten, I’ve written about it several times and I’m not alone!

    Hot Chocolate could do quite sexy angst, but while I do rather like this one that’s as far as it goes. Could – and did – do better. But there’s the charts for you.

    Tom, what are you doing commenting at this hour? Should you be out painting the town red?

  3. 3
    vinylscot on 24 Jun 2008 #

    I agree with both earlier comments, in that this was not their best – I would go for “Emma”, or “Brother Louie”, but I usually quite liked Hot Chocolate, and as we often say in cases like this, it is only right that they should have had a number one, even if it shouldn’t have been this one.

    No doubt Marcello can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s true that Hot Chocolate were the only group to have a hit in every year of the 1970s!

    One thing we can be eternally grateful to Errol and his chums for, is that this record manged to keep ELP’s execrable “Reporting Scotland Theme Tune” from the #1 spot. Well done!!

  4. 4
    intothefireuk on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Best thing I like about HC is their trademark low pitched (what sounds like) tube compressed guitar lines. I absolutely loved the doom laden ‘Emma’ which should have been a number one but how many times do we regularly say that. I was/am also a fan of Argent so what should be a winning combination turns out a bit of a soggy mess. The guitar is in there but much less effective (although still the best bit) and Errol just sounds sorry for himself. Very much a fixture of the 70s charts (and a few of the 80s) but after their first few hits they started to blow hot & cold although Errol doing his little jig on TOTP was always a warming sight.

    It started with a kiss was forever overwritten in my memory by Alan Partridges epic rendition.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 24 Jun 2008 #

    That’s a great sleeve, by the way. That’s what I think that bands ought to look like – trying to carry off a range of different styles and images with varying degrees of success.

    But why is he wearing a coat indoors?

    Anyone who likes ‘Emma’ should seek out the incredible Sisters of Mercy version. It seems to go on forever, accentuating the doomy and inevitable narrative of decline.

    Am I alone in my great regard for ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’? It sounds vast to me. I particularly like the video of them soundchecking in an empty – and chilly – stadium. And its got ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ on the B-side.

  6. 6
    Tom on 24 Jun 2008 #

    I have regularly played Fanfare when DJing, it rules.

  7. 7
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2008 #

    A hit every year, in the seventies?

    Not Cliff, that’s for sure!

    (good ol’ Edit button!)

    The guinness book counts a hit as ‘in the top 50/75’ as applicable, i.e. in the chart at any place. The online chart archive only does the top 40. So, maybe Cliff, maybe not.

  8. 8
    Erithian on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Billy – now that’s what you call a Guilty Pleasure! I was also quite a fan of “Fanfare” for much the same reason. The video was shot in the Montreal Olympic stadium in early 1977, hence the chill factor. I shouldn’t really have fond memories of “Fanfare”. Billy, you no doubt remember Cameron hall of residence from RHC: a few years on from this period I was in Cameron for my first year, and in the room next door tome was a total slimeball with a state-of-the-art music system. One night he played “Fanfare for the Common Man” on repeat SIXTEEN BLOODY TIMES while I bounced up and down in bed to the bass line (I was on my own, I should add) about to bounce out of bed like in that Tom and Jerry cartoon.

    Now that’s off my chest…

    Hot Choc. One of my earliest memories of them is seeing them on TOTP circa 1972 with my older cousin and a couple of her friends, one of whom said “I wouldn’t want to be in a group with coloured people”. I think he said “coloured”: it wasn’t the N-word and I don’t think he said “black”. Either way, at an impressionable age I still found myself thinking “well, why not?”

    I think that idea was confirmed by their great run of singles in ’73-74, “Brother Louie”, “Rumours” and “Emma”. The first of these, a “well, why not?” story of an interracial relationship, was pretty bold for 1973 and was covered by a US band called Stories and taken to Number 1 in the States. The voiceover was by the massively influential bluesman Alexis Korner. “Rumours” is one that’s never mentioned in the context of political songs but there’s a definite glance over to Watergate – “there was an old man who lived in a house, a big white house… put your ear to the keyhole Charlie boy, can you hear who they’re trying to screw?”. And “Emma” as mentioned above is a death-disc classic.

    Vinylscot is right in that they were the only band to have a hit every year of the 70s (and well into the 80s as well) and their best known song (though only a no.3) “You Sexy Thing” was the only record to reach the Top 10 in the 70s, the 80s and (thanks to a bunch of strippers) the 90s.

    I’ve taken this long to get around to “So You Win Again” and all I can say is… it’s OK. Not one of their best. I like the misheard lyric at the start which goes “This twit made one mistake…”

  9. 9
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jun 2008 #

    There’s a touch of Buggins’ turn about some of these number ones in the sense of Paul Newman finally getting his Oscar, but on the ostensible basis of The Color Of Money. Then again, that’s the occupational hazard of many long-term chart regulars (see also the Hollies, Status Quo and others we’ve yet to meet); almost always in the top ten or thereabouts, very rarely at the top.

    “So You Win Again” was an unrepresentative pinnacle of a long and varied chart career. Broadly Hot Chocolate fell into the category of pop/soul, but the secret of their longevity lay in Errol Brown’s ability to hone in on the minutiae of everyday living and loving; whether in simple ecstatic joy at the wonders of love refreshed or confirmed (“You Sexy Thing,” “Every 1’s A Winner”), the more troubled streams of divorce (“Man To Man”) or the death of childhood/desire (1982’s remarkable “It Started With A Kiss”) or low-budget squalid suicide (“Emma”). Then there were the broader social musings about bilateral racism (“Brother Louie”), Watergate (“Rumours”), and 1979’s astonishing “Mindless Boogie” which finds Brown raving against dancers as “clones and robots,” citing the neutron bomb and the Jonestown massacre as parallels; a strange Brit counterpart to “Life During Wartime.” And there was also the odd bizarre curveball (1980’s “No Doubt About It,” a song about a UFO allegedly seen by Errol while driving down Edgware Road, or possibly Finchley Road, at night).

    Among this gallimaufry lay “Put Your Love On Me,” their other major hit of 1977 and one of the greatest of all singles, a wondrous fusion of Kraftwerk (cold electronics), Bollywood (John Cameron’s mindbending string arrangement), hymn (that sustained organ) and ethereal arousal (Brown’s improvised moans and whoops are worthy of Tim Buckley’s “Sweet Surrender”). But its predecessor, “So You Win Again” – significantly one of only two Hot Chocolate songs not written or co-written by Brown – was their biggest hit. It’s a serviceably midtempo example of lost love bubblegum, with the obligatory marimbas and wah-wah guitars, and only Brown could summon enough emotional candour to make his plight believable (hear how his voice falters, as though suddenly perched on the edge of an Alp the wrong way round, on the line “Will my whole life depend on fading memories?”), but there are at least two dozen better singles by which Hot Chocolate should be remembered, as opposed to the three routinely spun on British oldies radio. “So You Win Again” is a very rare example of the band succumbing to formula – and they were always most comfortable playing the system their way.

    (Footnote: HC were indeed the only act to score at least one hit single in every year of the seventies, though their pair of 1979 entries – “Going Through The Motions” and the aforementioned “Mindless Boogie” – did not progress as far as the Top 40)

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 24 Jun 2008 #

    ‘Going Through The Motions’ is very nearly as good as ‘Mindless Boogie’, though its not difficult to see why either single failed to become a hit.

    I always thought that ‘FEELINGSCALLEDLOVE’ by Pulp owed a considerable debt to ‘Put Your Love on Me’. Both songs have a slightly internal but detached quality to their arrangement, a feeling of something so unexpected having occurred that reality has become slightly askew.

    I sometimes sense a slightly gloating quality in Errol Brown’s vocals, which I find unattractive but compelling – “Now you’re lying next to me – GIVIN’ IT TO MEEEE!” and throughout ‘Are You Getting Enough Happiness?’.

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Cameron Hall, like Williamson and Athlone are now no more – I watched them demolished 2 years ago – and only exist in the memories of those who lived in them, such as Erithian.

    My worst next door music experience must have been being woken up at 3AM by my neighbour playing ‘Killing In The Name Of’ by Rage Against The Machine at top volume. I imagine that he must have been drunk and aggrieved at some girl.

  12. 12
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jun 2008 #

    As with vinylscot, my attitude towards ELP-doing-Copland is irredeemably coloured by its use as the long-running theme tune to Reporting Scotland (whither Mary Marquis and Paddy Christie, if indeed they are anywhere?) though it’s nicely ironic that both ELP and Yes, bands who never released singles, should have top ten hit singles in the year of punk, which in itself is fairly punk rock.

  13. 13
    Waldo on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Bloody typical! Just as I am disappearing up to Wimbledon with Lizzie for a couple of days (today Centre Court, tomorrow Court One), up pops the next number one and I’m away from my work station. D’OH!!! Am writing this at Kingston’s David Lloyd, waiting for madam to get her bum out of the changing rooms.

    My thoughts on SYWA (for which I know you all await with baited breath) should appear Thursday, by which time you guys will probably have moved further on down the yellow brick road. Oh, well!

  14. 14
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Um, Diana Ross’ “Getting ready for love” hit in November. If it spent more than 8 weeks in the chart, it would just qualify as a hit in an otherwise hitless year for her.

    Which would then mean she had hits every year of the seventies…

  15. 15
    vinylscot on 24 Jun 2008 #


    Mary Marquis was on a recent BBC Scotland documentary celebrating x years of Reporting Scotland. She still looks pretty much the same as she did in 1970!

    Paddy Christie, occasionally still appears on TV up here, but has been mostly known recently for having allegedly entered into a relationship of some sort with noted Scottish buffoon (and worse) Donald Findlay QC. I believe she is no longer involved in this ill-advised dalliance.

  16. 16
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jun 2008 #

    He’s right you know…how on earth could I forget her unforgettable 1978 #54 smash “Lovin’, Livin’, Givin'”?

  17. 17
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2008 #

    yay! All hail me.

  18. 18
    vinylscot on 24 Jun 2008 #


    However, Diana Ross is/was not a group!

  19. 19
    rosie on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Waldo, I have a feeling you may miss an ecstatic Tom while you’re off at Wombledown!

  20. 20
    Matt on 24 Jun 2008 #

    I have to agree with those who’ve said they’d rather see It Started With A Kiss, which is a bit odd as I’ve always assumed it was just me who held it in such high regard.

    And Billy Smart, you’re 100% right about Fanfare sounding vast. Although I’m sure the video must have something to do with it, there’s definitely an inherently “stadium” quality to the record even without those visuals.

  21. 21
    Erithian on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Billy (#11) – my memories of Cameron are not particularly happy ones, I had the grimmest year of my three in RHC in that place. A room just up the corridor from mine was once known as “the Suicide Room” after a lad whose body was only found after people started to notice the smell.

    Now Athlone on the other hand – the very name brings back the sexual frisson associated with all those (mostly) unattainable female students. Ahem, just off for a cold shower.

  22. 22
    Billy Smart on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Mm, those warren-like concrete corridors, that humid laundrette, collecting letters in the reception pigeon holes, the glare of daylight through the Athlone dining hall…

    Most resonant Athlone/pop memory. Sitting in the chaotic room of (in terms of intensity of experience, anyway) the great unrequited love of my life and her girlfriend at about half past eleven, a weekday evening circa November 1994. Mark Radcliffe is on Radio 1 and plays ‘If You Could Love Me’ by Edwyn Collins. Rarely has a song seemed so precisely atuned to my feelings at that specific point in time, and all three of us realise this in unspoken embarrassment.

    The building may be gone, but the memory remains!

    Anyway, returning to the subject of Hot Chocolate…

  23. 23
    Erithian on 24 Jun 2008 #

    How many people must have had similar experiences?! Mine was on a dank Sunday afternoon circa February 1981, and I’m in my room with my soon-to-be-ex girlfriend at that moment when you know the spark’s gone out and you might as well throw in the towel. And slimeball next door is playing the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. Bastard.

    So many RHC memories, maybe we should start a separate message board – independent of Friends Reunited obviously.

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Light Entertainment watch: A surprisinly poor showing for such seasoned entertainers;

    EDANDZED! EDANDZED!: with Ed Stewart, Hot Chocolate (1970)

    THE KENNY EVERETT VIDEO CASSETTE: with Kenny Everett, Michael Aspel, Terry Wogan, Hot Chocolate, Hot Gossip (1981)

    THE ROD AND EMU SHOW: with Grace Kennedy, Hot Chocolate, Louise Tucker, Christopher Booker (1984)

    SUMMERTIME SPECIAL: with Tom O’Connor, Chuy Fu Dey, Hot Chocolate, Jade, The Nolans, Adrian Walsh (1982)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Hot Chocolate, Katie Boyle, Stubby Kaye, Eric Sykes (1984)

  25. 25
    vinylscot on 24 Jun 2008 #

    Mark G / DJP.

    Re our earlier question – if we allow Diana Ross, who wasn’t a group, we need to allow Elvis, who had something in the UK singles chart every year of the 1970s, in fact in every year from 1956 to 1985 – 30 years in a row!

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 24 Jun 2008 #

    1978’s hit is only a rerelease of ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, though (Yes, I know that it was only ever a B-side originally), which is technically acceptable, I suppose.

  27. 27
    vinylscot on 24 Jun 2008 #

    “My Way” had only entered the chart in December 1977, so that gave him a few 1978 weeks too!

  28. 28
    inquisitor on 25 Jun 2008 #

    Does the transition between verse and chorus in this song remind anyone else of Dancing Queen? Whenever I hear “you’d be leaving any day” I always imagine it launching straight into the violin riff and “you are the dancing queen…”

    This song is wonderful by the way. It’s the only Hot Chocolate song I know though.

  29. 29
    pink champale on 25 Jun 2008 #

    I think it’s fairly likely that Errol Brown is the only former HM Treasury employee who’ll be troubling Popular. Stafford Cripps, of course, famously lost out after picture disc sales were discounted.

  30. 30
    will on 25 Jun 2008 #

    Personally, I’ve never forgiven Errol Brown for singing at a Conservative rally during the ’87 general election campaign.

    Good singles band though.

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