408. ‘So You Win Again’, by Hot Chocolate

Taking up where The Jacksons left off – I’m sure any DJ worth their salt could spin this and ‘Show You the Way to Go’ together seamlessly – here’s Hot Chocolate with another slice of disco-lite.

So You Win Again, by Hot Chocolate (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 26th June – 17th July 1977

I love the guitar sound on this record. It sounds like a whale bellowing from the ocean’s depths: primal and deep. Is it even a guitar? A synthesiser? Electric violin? Whatever it is, it works brilliantly. It helps create a really thick, sticky sound, as if this whole record has been dipped in a vat of honey.

There’s also a hypnotic bass to drag you along. This record has a pretty sleazy-sounding undertone to it, which the lyrics don’t really justify. It’s a song about a man spurned: Your perfumed letters didn’t say, That you’d be leaving any day… She does sound flighty – can you really trust someone who sends perfumed letters?

So you win again, You win again, Here I stand again… Under all the heavy instrumentation, however, a great pop song lurks. There are plenty of hooks: the do-do-dodoops and a catchy middle-eight in the I can’t refuse her… line. Plus the way lead singer Errol Brown draws out the ‘lo-ser’ in the chorus is great. But I think what makes the whole song complete is the little ‘So’ in the title. It adds weight to the singer’s resignation, to the fact that he’s a schmuck who’s been fooled before and will be fooled again…

This is sophisticated, and layered pop music. There’s a marimba in there somewhere, a horn, and strings, while the rest of the band wrap themselves around the lead vocals. In my last post I mentioned bands whose sole #1 single isn’t their most famous. Hot Chocolate are better known for ‘You Sexy Thing’ (a #2) and probably ‘Every 1s a Winner’ (only a #12!) But, out of these three, I’d say ‘So You Win Again’ is the better record.

This was already their seventh Top 10 hit, though, in a run stretching right back to the start of the decade. They’d have a few more, and are still a going concern, still with three of the members that appeared on this record. Lead singer Brown, he of the velvety voice, left the group in the eighties and passed away in 2015.

Before I finish, can I just give a shout out to ‘Hot Chocolate’ as a brilliant band name? I recently called out ‘Pussycat’ for having a ridiculous name, and there is an even worse one coming up shortly. But ‘Hot Chocolate’ stays just the right side of cheesy, and sums up the group’s sound perfectly.

18 thoughts on “408. ‘So You Win Again’, by Hot Chocolate

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    I’ve always liked this band. My sister had many of their singles. I don’t recognize this one either like the previous Jackson 5 song. I do like this song though…love the bass playing and sound.

    My favorite song by them is Every 1’s a Winner…. but this one is really good. He was a really good singer .

    1. I totally agree…on all points. I’ve never heard this one, either. Every 1’s A Winner is badass…my fave, too. That is the most distinctive guitar playing. What made it sound like that, Mr. Musician?

      Have you seen this from 2018:

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        It’s that sound he got off of that guitar. My guess…and this is just a guess is he ran it through a keyboard.
        No I haven’t seen that. I LOVE that guitar sound.

      2. badfinger20 (Max)

        I forgot about this song until around 2002 and we were in Panama City driving around and I heard it…I went crazy…the DJ didn’t say a damn thing…I wrote down the words and when I got home I figured it out

      3. The riff and bass-line on everyone’s a winner is filthy. I love it. I saw a comment saying that on ‘So You Win Again’ the guitar was fed through a synthesiser for that deep sound.

      4. badfinger20 (Max)

        I think they did that with both songs. That is not a normal guitar sound…
        I got curious and just looked it up…someone said in a guitar forum that he used…a… Marshall 5402 Time Modulator. I never heard of that before….someone else swears it was a Roland guitar synth.

        I’m going to continue to look!

  2. In America, Hot Chocolate are mainly remembered for “You Sexy Thing” which is represented by the charts being their highest-charting single at #3 and even sang the original version of “Louie Louie” that became a 1973 #1 for the band Stories. Hell, the guitars and drums on “So You Win Again” sound a lot like the ones on “You Sexy Thing” so it’s easy to see people liking this song from liking “You Sexy Thing.”

    I think you’ll like today’s Number Ones post that may foreshadow your thoughts on the Stock-Aiken-Waterman chart domination in the late ’80s
    https://www.stereogum.com/2146638/the-number-ones-rick-astleys-together-forever/columns/the-number-ones/

    1. Ha! I’m not sure I’ll be that harsh on SAW… But maybe as I plough my way through the late-eighties I’ll change my tune. I would definitely describe their first ever #1 – Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Right Round’ – as ‘trash-ass’, but would be intending it as a compliment. Then there’s Kylie, Bananarama, the album they did with Donna Summer… All great pop. I’d put Rick Astley way down at the lower end of SAW… I’ve never liked his voice, or understood his hold over pop culture.

      1. I’d disagree. My reaction listening to a lot of these SAW produced songs is that they sound like the most stereotypically ‘80s music you’ll ever hear. Just everything about their sound from the cheap loud and busy synthetic style, jackhammer sounding bass, and tinny drum machine all sound like what people imagine generic ‘80s pop music sounding like. I asked my High School AP Human Geography teacher, a British teen during the late ’80s, about if the SAW chart domination was as bad as the review mentioned and she said, “oh yes – it really was that bad – but fun to jump up and down to when you’re 16!” That’s not to say all they did was crap. “You Spin Me Right Round” is a fun classic though it unfortunately got to #1 in the US thanks to Flo Rida’s stupid interpolation of it on “Right Round.” And like what the Kylie Minogue song says, America should be so lucky that it escaped SAW’s enormous wrath on the charts with only the two Rick Astley songs, “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever” and Bananarama’s “Venus” cover being their #1 hits in America and at least “Venus” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” were good catchy songs that stand out from the repetitive nature of SAW productions. I’m probably more kind to “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Rick Astley’s voice than others. Outside of the whole rickrolling meme, I always liked the song for how unique it sounds for a deep voiced guy singing over an ‘80s dance track. Like what Tom mentioned, it’s at least a style that stood out amid the SAW productions though agree on “Together Forever.” Astley’s voice may have worked for the first song but isn’t enough to elevate the forgettable knock off. And from watching his quarantine video and how he’s managed to live a relatively normal and healthy life considering the fame, I can see why people still like Rick Astley. He just looks like a fun guy to be around.

      2. I do agree to some extent. Any comparison with Motown is at once obvious (three dudes) and ridiculous (The Supremes vs Jason Donovan). Maybe as SAW had less impact on the US, it’s easier to view them dispassionately. To many in the UK – and I’m a bit too young to remember them at the time – they are the 80s, or at least the late-80s, as tinny and cheap as they sound now. Looking through their 13 #1s… the worst are the charity covers (Let It Be, Band Aid II) and I’m sure by the time I get to their 5th chart-topper of 1989 I’ll have had enough! As it is, right now, I can view them benevolently.

      3. Yeah their UK domination brings a strong parallel to how Motown dominated the US charts through the mid and late ‘60s especially with the songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland and all the hits they wrote for the Supremes, Four Tops, and Martha & The Vandellas as well as all the other big stars the label launched. But even with that the comparisons begin and end there. Even with the tight schedule of releases Motown had, they manage to create much more great music with tight musicianship that rise a lot above the cheap SAW productions. Though you do make a point that their lesser impact on the US probably influences my dismissive feelings on them. Just not my thing. They were obviously big here but nowhere near the insane domination they had in their homeland. I even realized that Kylie Minogue’s highest-charting hit in the US is her cover of “The Loco-Motion” which aside from the success of SAW could also be indicative of the ‘60s nostalgia dominating the charts in the ‘80s since it had been #1 twice before in 1962 and in 1974. And even “Venus” was a cover of another US #1 from 1970. The SAW team knew oldies covers were their best best in breaking through in the US.

  3. Brilliant record, brilliant band, so under-appreciated, I loved Errol Brown and caught them in their early 80’s heyday. I totally agree about this being better than their 2 famous songs, although for once it wasn’t an Errol Brown/Tony Wilson song – this was written by Argent member Russ Ballard, who wrote so many brilliant songs like God Gave Rock N Roll To You, Since You’ve Been Gone (Rainbow), New York Groove (Hello), You Can Do Magic (America), I Know There’s Something Going On (Frida)and his own version of Voices.

    Apple Records signed up Hot Choc, then Mickie Most nicked them for RAK Records as they wrote a handful of hits for other acts like Mary Hopkin, Julie Felix, Herman’s Hermits and broke through with the brilliant Love Is Life in the UK charts. When I got back from Singapore, among the first records I went mad on was I Believe (In Love), but they then started to get experimental with their sound like the wonderful sultry soul social commentary of Brother Louie, the dark, dark guitar ballad Emma, before entering a funk/soul period of goodies, the tender showtune I’ll Put You Together Again, the Middle-Eastern-sounding Put Your Love In Me, the UFO synth pop of No Doubt About It, and the pre-teen nostalgic love pop song It Started With A Kiss. They never sold albums much, but they had UK hits every year without fail from 1970 through 1984, mixed with loads of flops. Their Hits compilations sold in bucketloads because each hit was a hit on merit, they were never guaranteed a fanbase hit at any stage of their career (You Sexy Thing was a B side throwaway to flop Blue Night which liked but no-one else did 🙂 ).

    As a determinedly mixed-race band led by two UK-based black songwriters and singers, they should be better appreciated as being ahead of the game at a time when that was relatively rare. And yes, they were rifftastic 🙂 I might be a bit of a fan…

    1. To be honest, for the longest time ‘You Sexy Thing’ was the only song of theirs that I knew. It was on some 70s compilations, and then there was the 90s remix on the back of The Full Monty, which I had on a NOW CD. They sound like a really cool band. Just realised we are in the middle of a run of three chart-toppers by (predominantly) black artists… Not sure if this is a first.

  4. Pingback: 409. ‘I Feel Love’, by Donna Summer – The UK Number Ones Blog

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