Jun 08

HOT CHOCOLATE – “So You Win Again”

FT + Popular99 comments • 5,852 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. 61
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    That was it – a baffled-looking Cilla Black (whose last Top 40 hit had been in 1974). I do tend to get my veteran British light entertainers mixed up.

  2. 62
    Drucius on 8 Jul 2008 #

    “TOTP Watch: The 14th of July 1977. (Neither The Sex Pistols nor Hot Chocolate were actually in the studio that week. ‘Pretty Vacant’ had been pre-recorded – presumably the dangerous anarchists needed to be closely controlled – and ‘So You Win Again’ was a repeat of the previous week’s performance)”

    I don’t think the Pistols ever played TotP live. Far too dangerous.

    “The Saints,”


    “I can’t find any reference to Des O’Connor appearing on TOTP after he stopped having hits.”

    Not having hits didn’t stop them throwing on Bing Crosby’s corpse every now and then… Baffling.

  3. 63
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    It was definitely Pistols-then-Chocolate! I’m standing my ground here! Also not convinced that Cilla would have been baffled by a promo video that I’m guessing wouldn’t have been screened in the studio.

    More evidence of bunker mentality: I have clear memories of the Dave Edmunds and Saints appearances, but none whatsoever of the Jigaw, Cilla or Real Thing appearances. (Edmunds played with Nick Lowe, Nick Lowe produced The Damned, ergo hey presto, Punk Cred!)

    A couple of years later, HotChoc’s “Mindless Boogie”/”Going Through The Motions” period chimed closely with my own feelings on the Evil Brainrot For The Lobotomised Masses that disco music had come to represent (in my strange little world, that is). I still had a lot to learn.

  4. 64
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Duran Duran doing “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”; I’m writing to my MP.

  5. 65
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Made all the more special by Simon Le Bon’s climactic extemporised breast-beating bellows of “WHO’S YOUR DADDY?!”

  6. 66
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    I think the apposite terminology here is NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST IN ONE SECOND

  7. 67
    Billy Smart on 8 Jul 2008 #

    If the reference book is to be trusted, Mike is correct. Pistols then Hot Chocolate was the climax of that week. Cilla appeared immediately before the Pistols, and immediately following the promo for ‘Give A Little Bit’ by Supertramp – Would that have nonplussed her?

  8. 68
    Mark G on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Would that be her “I’ll take a tango” which a friend told me was actually written by Alex Harvey?

  9. 69
    Billy Smart on 8 Jul 2008 #

    No. “I Wanted To Call It Off”

  10. 70
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Thinking more about HotChoc – despite their long-running TOTP residency, I guess I’ve always thought of them as outsiders in some sense. Never part of any particular scene or genre, no common cause with any other acts, never a band to “define an era” in any way – they just pootled along, changing their style to fit the times, and yet not really being part of any time at all. And I guess I’ve never had any strong feelings about them, either – they were part of the pop landscape before I started paying attention, and it just seemed as if they had always and would always be around. They were never anybody’s favourite, or even fifth favourite band, were they? Did anyone ever meet a Hot Chocolate fan? Did we ever get to read about them in the pop mags? Did we know what made them tick? Could we pick out anyone other than Errol in an identity parade? Did we know anything about them at all?

  11. 71
    Billy Smart on 8 Jul 2008 #

    The one non-compilation Hot Chocolate album that I possess has got two misjudged contemporary cover versions on it (‘Walking On The Moon’ and – bizarrely – ‘Green Shirt’) possibly indicating a desire for rock credibility. Was this sort of thing a regular feature?

  12. 72
    Erithian on 11 Jul 2008 #

    If you’re interested in seeing what covers Hot Chocolate do these days, get along to the Thamesmead Community Festival tomorrow (12 July) in Birchmere Park, where they’re on stage at 3.50. Also on the bill: Jaki Graham, Michelle Gayle, Booty Luv and the bloke who did Lionel Richie in “The One and Only” on BBC1!

  13. 73
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jul 2008 #

    Is Errol actually still in Hot Chocolate?

  14. 74
    Mark G on 11 Jul 2008 #

    of course, they started off their existance with a cover of “Give peace a chance” under the name of “Hot Chocolate Band”

    .. and not “The Plasic Ono Band” as my old copy of Look-in magazine had it.

  15. 75
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jul 2008 #

    And they were christened as such by John Lennon since they approached him (because they wanted to make some minor changes to the lyric) and I think Lennon even arranged for their version to come out on Apple.

  16. 76
    Erithian on 11 Jul 2008 #

    DJP – according to this:
    – Errol Brown left in 1986 and the singer for the past 13 years has been one Greg Bannis.

  17. 77
    Waldo on 11 Jul 2008 #

    Didn’t Marvin Hagler tour with them at about the time he beat the living shit out of Tony Sibson?

    “It Started With A Fist…”

  18. 78
    Mark G on 11 Jul 2008 #

    #75 – Mavis Smith! ‘part from that, yep. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Chocolate

    #77, I guess he wouldn’t sing “So you win again” though.

  19. 79
    mike on 11 Jul 2008 #

    A second chart-topper of for Russ Ballard, then – his first being as a member of Unit 4+2 (although he didn’t compose “Concrete & Clay”). Not a patch on Colin Blunstone’s “I Don’t Believe In Miracles” or the aforementioned “Since You Been Gone”, though.

  20. 80
    Billy Smart on 13 Jul 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: Of course, I’d forgotten, The Sex Pistols did eventually appear live in the Top Of The Pops studio, on the edition of the 28th of June 1996! They performed ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘New York’.

    Also in the studio that week were; Everything But The Girl, The Divine Comedy and Black Grape (featuring Joe Strummer, oddly enough), plus a live performance from Toledo, Spain by Shampoo. The host was Gina G.

  21. 81
    Erithian on 14 Jul 2008 #

    Another favourite Pistols-on-TOTP moment – the video for “Somethin’ Else” showing Sid Vicious motorbikin’ down the Queen’s highway in his punk leathers, standing up on the pedals and looking as surly as possible. Cut to Jimmy Savile saying “of course dear old Sid wasn’t wearing a crash helmet, guys and gals, which you should always do on your motorbike…”

  22. 82
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2008 #

    I can remember an incident in about 1983, when – following a Madness video – Jimmy Saville warned viewers not to play electric guitars in swimming pools.

  23. 83
    DJ Punctum on 14 Jul 2008 #

    Clunk click every dive…

  24. 84
    DJ Punctum on 14 Jul 2008 #

    The Black Grape/Strummer thing would have been “England’s Glory,” their Euro ’96 song, and I believe the only time Strummer ever appeared on the show, miming the football commentary samples very badly indeed.

  25. 85
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2008 #

    That’s a single which I sometimes think that I’m the world’s sole advocate of. “We live in a land of crass hypocrisy. I’m gonna win the National Lottery. Eee-I-adio, I don’t think so”, “My wife’s lactating and I’m spectating. It’s a football thing”, etc

    It’s a precise evocation of what life in England in the summer of 1996 was actually like.

  26. 86
    DJ Punctum on 14 Jul 2008 #

    “England’s Glory”? That was a Max Wall record (on Stiff)! I meant “England’s Irie” *sigh*…

  27. 87
    Mark G on 14 Jul 2008 #

    Darn, could have gottim there….

    JStrummer did ‘appear’ when “Should I stay” made number one, and the performance was represented by a live film version.

    As opposed to a Legs and co performance.

  28. 88
    DJ Punctum on 14 Jul 2008 #

    Who could forget Legs & Co’s typically literal interpretation of “Bank Robber”?

  29. 89
    Chelovek na lune on 26 Sep 2010 #

    This thread has really encouraged me to go through the Hot Chocolate back catalogue – and really appreciate what a very fine band they were, and in fact what a range of styles and moods they had. (Had never heard “Mindless Boogie” before: and allfra I can say to that is: wow).

    As a kid (very late 70s/early 80s) I recall seeing them frequently on TV variety shows; and sometimes I found them a bit scary, almost too primal, too sexual (the kind of smug satisfaction, hinted at above, in that line about “GIVING IT TO ME”, may have been part of it too). But aged seven I found people wearing deely-boppers on Top of the Pops terrifying, if not verging on the satanic. Perhaps I was a strange child.

    But, wow, weren’t they great (and I agree that is not their finest moment) – they really deserve some reappreciation, as apart from a couple of songs, they seem to have been rather overlooked or forgotten.

  30. 90
    wichita lineman on 27 Sep 2010 #

    Hot Chocolate didn’t release an album until 1974 – four years after their first hit! Cicero Park starts with the dark title track – “life is dying out, in Cicero Park it’s dying out” – and is followed by the super-minimal, strings and siren-led Could’ve Been Born In The Ghetto. The first time I played it I thought, well, here’s a lost masterpiece. It doesn’t keep up this standard (at least one weak ballad), but it’s still well worth picking up. I think Cherry Red have been re-releasing their albums.

  31. 91
    Billy Smart on 20 Jan 2011 #

    Not the best-remembered of Hot Chocolate’s many hits, but still really exciting: http://drunkennessofthingsbeingvarious.blogspot.com/2011/01/hot-chocolate-dont-stop-it-now-1976-no.html

  32. 92
    punctum on 9 Oct 2014 #

    TPL arrives at the first of two chart-topping Hot Chocolate compilations.

  33. 93
    Tom on 6 May 2015 #

    RIP, Errol Brown.

  34. 94
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 May 2015 #

    Indeed yes, Tom. It’s farewell to the wonderful Errol Brown. Much beloved by just about everyone in the industry and certainly by me. RIP.

  35. 95
    Paulito on 6 May 2015 #

    Sad news indeed. Errol had oodles of charisma and a voice which could, in an inimitable and utterly convincing manner, convey everything from the sheerest sensual joy to the deepest desolation – sometimes within the same song. (The anguished, lovelorn side of the Chocs’ oeuvre is explored in fascinating – and very funny – depth in Punctum’s TPL appraisals.)

    PS I note from the obits that he was born in 1943, and not 1948 which was always his ‘official’ year of birth. So I’m happy to see that he lived five years longer than I initially thought. Still too young though.

    PPS back in the day we used to refer to Errol as ‘Old Malteser Head’, a nickname which of course was bestowed affectionately but which probably wouldn’t be permissible in today’s more sensitised climes.

  36. 96
    Lazarus on 11 Mar 2016 #

    The Reaper continues on his grim way – as ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ spent a week as runner-up to ‘So You Win Again’ perhaps this is the best place to note the demise of Keith Emerson. 71 (or thereabouts) seems to be a dangerous age just lately.

  37. 97
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Mar 2016 #

    Sad news indeed, particularly as it appears this was suicide. A brilliant musician.

  38. 98
    lonepilgrim on 7 May 2017 #

    Errol Brown R.I.P.

  39. 99
    lonepilgrim on 7 May 2017 #

    “Errol Brown R.I.P.”
    err…….on this day two years ago
    never forget ,man….. never forget
    goes back to bed

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