Oct 07

THE RUBETTES – “Sugar Baby Love”

FT + Popular61 comments • 8,919 views

#349, 18th May 1974

“Sugar Baby Love” has been ruined for me – actually, no, I don’t know if ruined is the right word – it’s been colonised by The Auteurs’ 1999 single “The Rubettes”, which hollows it out from the inside like some evil necrotising virus, reducing the original to a malicious husk. One subtext of “The Rubettes” is that if you’re the kind of boy who spends long lonely hours in your bedroom listening to the Top 40, you’re likely to grow up disappointed: the emotional cheques pop writes you will always bounce, because pop is what happens to other people. Another subtext is that while the seventies were horrible, things have only got worse. (By the Auteurs’ standards it’s a pretty cheery record, mind you: at least nobody gets murdered.)

The misanthropy in “The Rubettes” may not impress you, but Luke Haines found a great record to pick on. “Sugar Baby Love” – by a studio act put together as a glam cash-in – is impeccably generic and a total candyfloss rush all at once: the rock’n’roll revival in a bubblegum pile-up. Its fabulous urgency is considerably amped by Paul Da Vinci’s lead vocal – falsetto shrieks, crazed pleadings, “Love her anyway! Love her anyway!” – he’s desperate to get his message over. And the message is – don’t worry about the mistakes, seize life, seize love. Whereas the Auteurs reply – already too late, sucker. Sometimes I don’t know which I believe, but I know which I want to.



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  1. 31
    fivelongdays on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Regardless of the original track (I’d give it a 6/7 borderline), I have to thank Tom for the tip off about “The Rubettes” by The Auteurs.

    Bloody hell, it’s a corking song. Damn you!

  2. 32
    intothefireuk on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Now if you are going to have a blue print for ‘pop’……….this would be pretty damn close. Hard to dislike and near impossible to forget. Excellent production and great soaring vocals – I attempted it as well – unsuccessfully. Am I right in thinking Da Vinci never appeared on TOTP it was Alan Williams ? And live did he reproduce the falsetto ? Anyway they also followed up with some great singles ‘Juke Box Jive’ & ‘I Can Do It’ although I don’t recall ‘Under One Roof’ at all (maybe if I heard it I would – the link please Tom ?).

    The only problem with it is that it competed with (and beat) ‘This Town…’ which was a crying shame as it was so freaky and wildly wonderful and their TV performances were so out there (although I actually prefer the less quirky more melodic ‘Amateur Hour’).

    Great slew of singles in the chart at this time as well, some already mentioned in other posts (‘There’s A Ghost…’ ‘Beach Baby’ ‘Judy Teen’ etc. the summer of ’74 was one of my favourite times for pop. It’s difficult to imagine, for instance, why the sublime ‘Summer Breeze’ wasn’t a huge hit for the Isleys.

  3. 33
    Snif on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Another boffo tune that had me ostracised by America and Supertramp-loving friends. Philistines. And to these tiny ears “Your Baby…” was even better. And as for “This Town…” the entire Kimono My House album is a goldmine of poptasticness.

  4. 34
    Caledonianne on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Gosh. Think I’m on my lonesome on this one. I loathed and detested it in 1974, and a quick listen courtesy of Youtube confirms that I haven’t changed my mind.

    It makes my teeth hurt! Hated the song, hated the production, hated the white suits (and the stupid hats even more).

    In fact I think I may – gulp – hate this more than anything we’ve had so far (with the possible exception of ‘Grandad’).

    My dislike of this is visceral!

  5. 35
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Oct 2007 #


    Yes it was Alan Williams on TOTP, but he mimed da Vinci’s vocal, about which da Vinci was very brassed off.

    “Summer Breeze” didn’t do too badly here (#16) though its chances were probably hindered by another of Pan’s People’s “literal” dance routines.

  6. 36
    Rosie on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Alan Williams, perhaps the only chart topper ever to come from Welwyn Garden City!

  7. 37
    Waldo on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Didn’t George and Andrew come from rural Hertfordshire? Not that I care particularly.

  8. 38
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Bushey, if we’re talking Wham! rather than Hinge and Brackett.

  9. 39
    Mark G on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Hurd’s group includes Paul Prewer, a session musician who sang the original version of Sugar Baby Love.

    As opposed to the opposing Alan Williams’ Rubettes.

  10. 40
    crag on 24 Oct 2007 #

    have just got a hold of Sugar Baby Love and i’d give it a 6. The spoken word bit reminds me more Viv Stanshalls recitation on the Bonzo’s Canyons of the Mind. Check out the clip on youtube featuring the drummer performing the narration complete w/ flashing bowtie!

    Enjoyable enough as SBL was though what i REALLY want to hear is the very interesting -sounding Footsee and Your Baby Ain’t Your Baby Anymore which of course i cant find anywhere
    Damn you Popular- dangling these enticing musical sweetmeats under my nose when i have seemingly no way of locating them!
    Can anybody offer any tips?

  11. 41
    Marcello Carlin on 25 Oct 2007 #

    Footsee periodically turns up on sundry Northern Soul compilations, e.g. Wigan Casino Soul Club: 30 Years Of Northern Soul Memories which is still available.

    Your Baby… is a trickier one to pin down; I have it on one of those no-frills 8CD Various Artists sets from Holland’s indispensable Disky label (More Greatest Hits Of The ’70s) which is available but pricey unless it’s sale time.

  12. 42
    crag on 26 Oct 2007 #

    thanks for that- much appreciated

  13. 43
    Billy Smart on 27 Oct 2007 #

    If Crag has a turntable, Your Baby is featured on the 1974 K-Tel compilation ‘Music Explosion’, which can frequently and inexpensively be found in charity shops or at Music & Video Exchange.

  14. 44
    stewart on 12 Jan 2008 #

    i still love the song ‘sugar baby love’

    like many i have got it on a few CD’s and an MPG file.

    however, i do remember the origional Top of the Pops clip had the lead singet (Alan Williams ? ) jump up and lay across the arms of other members of the group in one shot.

    anyone else remember that one?

  15. 45
    tim davidge on 4 Mar 2008 #

    It always struck me that the true antecedent to this record (even down to the name of the group) was “Little Darlin'”, a half-spoof by a Canadian outfit called the Diamonds. The release date? 1957.

  16. 46
    Marcello Carlin on 4 Mar 2008 #

    Which was a cover of the original by the Gladiolas, who later became Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs.

  17. 47
    tim davidge on 1 Apr 2008 #

    That explains the ‘M.Williams’ author/composer credit on my Mercury 78 of ‘Little Darlin” Talking of things falling into place, this (the Diamonds’ Little Darlin’) must have been issued on a 45 but my copy is an ‘unbreakable’ 78, made of a similar material to the then relatively new 45rpm discs. Apparently, this idea was once presented to the assembled ladies and gentlemen of the Press and, by way of demonstration, a record was dropped on the ground. Dear readers, I think I need not continue…

  18. 48
    wichita lineman on 26 Jul 2008 #

    When Britain’s original shock-jock Brian Hayes was the Radio 2 breakfast show dj he’d play Sugar Baby Love frequently and say that – even though friends and colleagues always thought he was winding them up – it was one of his favourite records and he couldn’t find any fault in it.

    Me neither. A friend who now manages the Chemical Brothers once confided that Mouldy Old Dough had a ‘holy shiver’ moment for him which would make him well up involuntarily. I once had to cover my face listening to Sugar Baby Love on a train from London to Cambridge for similar reasons – the EXACT point being on Paul Da Vinci’s high note after the pleading “love her anyway” part.

    This was introduced on TOTP after MFSB’s TSOP with the words “from the sound of Philadelphia to the sound of London”. Which, for some years afterwards, I assumed Sugar Baby Love was. Why wouldn’t I believe DLT?

    All things considered (yes, even the white berets), a 10.

  19. 49
    Tracer Hand on 18 Apr 2009 #

    I have never, to my knowledge, heard this song.

    I had always thought my birthday song was “The Streak”! (In America it’s “Half Breed” by Cher.)

  20. 50
    Conrad on 1 May 2009 #

    This is the greatest pop single ever released.



  21. 51
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Nick Coler recently confessed over a shandy that he only did one gig with the Rubettes, but did work on an Alan Williams solo album. The Rubettes were SO BIG in Germany in the nineties that Williams still had a private jet.

    Re 47: Little Darlin’ was only released in the UK on a 78 and as an EP track, Mercury being a late adapter of the new fangled format.

    Re 50: It’s between this, Public Image, and Keith West’s On A Saturday.

  22. 52
    punctum on 1 Apr 2011 #

    I’m always very careful to distinguish between “greatest” and “favourite.” Couldn’t begin to pronounce upon the former; the latter for me is “Everything’s Gone Green.”

  23. 53
    wichita lineman on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Yes, I wasn’t being entirely serious, but EGG is up there too (though being a screaming rockist I still think Ceremony is their ‘best’ single)

  24. 54
    DanH on 19 Jan 2013 #

    I do not know what to say about this one. On one hand, it really is one of those ‘pull out all the stops’ pop singles, which is admirable. One the other hand, i can no longer listen to the song for personal reasons. And it kept one of the best songs ever recorded at #2 (yes, Sparks), so there’s more trouble. Oh wel;

  25. 55
    Larry on 2 Nov 2014 #

    I don’t think the Auteurs song (which is great, thanks Tom!) vitiates “Sugar Baby Love.” You don’t make an answer record to a record you don’t care about.

  26. 56
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Funny you should comment on this (I’ve been enjoying your occasional comments on the readthrough, by the way!) – as the blog is now up to the release era of “The Rubettes” and there will be an Auteurs cameo of sorts in a few entries time…. (a link existing only in my brain, I don’t want anyone to go looking for it)

  27. 57
    wichitalineman on 4 Nov 2014 #

    I always thought the Auteurs’ The Rubettes was so conceptually close to Denim’s The Osmonds that I couldn’t really listen to it. Surely not a coincidence given that Lawrence is literally the only person to come out of Bad Vibes without so much as a withering glance. I’ve still never heard it!

  28. 58
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2014 #

    I admit I fell for Luke’s Rock and Roll Animals, particularly when they were Jimmy Pursey the Fox, Nick Lowe the Badger, and Gene Vincent the Cat. Well, I bought one. I played it at least once anyway.

  29. 59
    weej on 2 Dec 2015 #

    RIP Wayne Bickerton, A&R&Songwriting mastermind behind The Rubettes, ‘Sugar Baby Love’, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ and lots more.

  30. 60
    lonepilgrim on 21 Oct 2019 #

    I couldn’t bear this at the time largely because the whole group seemed to treat the whole thing as an in joke with half-hearted formation dancing, ironic headwear and a winking delivery. There was a similar attitude from Les Grey of Mud and Gary Gl*tter – as if they considered their audience saps for falling for their schtick.
    Listening now without visuals I can admire the craft and the unearthly falsetto but as someone who doesn’t care for The Four Seasons I can’t enjoy this pastiche

  31. 61
    Gareth Parker on 11 May 2021 #

    I have to say I find this one irritating. 2/10 for me.

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