446. ‘When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman’, by Dr. Hook

The pre-penultimate #1 of the decade, then. And what’s this…? More country and western?

When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman, by Dr. Hook (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 11th November – 2nd December 1979

At least this isn’t the abrasive, twanging, Lord-have-mercy country style brought to us by Lena Martell. It’s a much softer, disco-edged kind of country. A sort of pop-Eagles. Completely against the grain of what’s topped the charts for much of 1979, but perfectly pleasant.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: When you’re in love with a beautiful woman, It’s hard… (You know it gets so hard…) Well, quite. Stop sniggering at the back, there! Innuendo aside, it’s an interesting concept for a song, and very ‘country’ in the way a good thing – being in love with a beautiful woman – is gleaned for negatives.

You can’t trust your friends around her, you see. You watch her eyes. You wonder who that was hanging up when you answered the phone… Everybody wants her, Everybody loves her, Everybody wants to take your baby home… I like the backing vocalists – You better watch your friends, Watch your friends… – that feel as if they’re whispering devils on the singer’s shoulder.

Actually, though, if you stop and think about it, it’s a little bit sinister. Your lover’s unfaithful, your friends are backstabbers, the world is out to burst your loved-up bubble… Maybe it’s just an ego problem… sing Dr Hook. Sounds like it, yup. It’s a bit of a study in fragile masculinity, really. What’s the solution? Only go for ugly girls…? Be less of a suspicious twat…?

However, it’s easy to ignore the creepy undertones, and to get swept away by this light, fun, fairly inconsequential chart-topper. Dr Hook had been around since the start of the decade, popping up in the charts at regular intervals, before achieving their one and only chart-topper. The band name came from the fact that singer Ray Sawyer wore an eye-patch following a car crash. (Hook – Captain Hook – pirates – eye-patches… get it?)

This was almost their chart swan song – they would have a couple more Top 10s before splitting up in the mid-eighties. And this is almost our seventies swan song: just two more chart-toppers before the decade is out…!

19 thoughts on “446. ‘When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman’, by Dr. Hook

  1. Dr Hook & The Medicine Show were fab, tracks like Sylvia’s Mother were often semi tongue-in-cheek or downright comic, Shel Silverstein, the main songwriter in the early days, had his own style. Once they edited it down to Dr Hook they went more mainstream and hit the jackpot with the terrific A Little Bit More and quirky If Not You. This track was very commercial and pleasant-sounding, but it was a last gasp for me, the blandness after this big hit was just a tad too much. Lead singer Dennis Locorriere left in the 80’s, relocated to the UK, and is a great live draw these days. I got a free ticket to see him a few years back, not expecting much other than 4 or 5 decent tracks and filler, but his own material was pretty rockin’ and the hits sounded pretty good. I’d pay for a ticket next time…! 🙂

  2. I remember when this came out. I was 13 & in 8th grade.

    In the US, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show was hardly “country & western.” They were considered roots rock. boogie rock, pop rock, soft rock and some blue-eyed soul mixed in, despite the writers for Wikipedia. Sure, they did a little disco flair but, it was the late 70s. Out of Union City, NJ, they couldn’t even be classified as southern rock. Out of 36 albums, only two charted in the US Country chart. They did ballads but, so did hair bands. They had a steel guitar player until 1975 but, that puts them in the same category as Lone Justice. And, there is nary a banjo to be found in their sound…or a fiddle. They even had their music played on Soul Train.

    1. To my uneducated, British ears it does sound like a light form of country. Plus the band wore a lot of checked shirts and denim…

      I also think I had a ‘Country Hits’ CD years ago which featured ‘When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman’ so maybe that’s where I got the idea from…

      1. LOL! You’re a Scotsman, Stuart! You are no Brit. I am a direct descendant of the Clan MacPherson. I may have expressed that, before…can’t remember. Luckily, my Clan survived Culloden as it was part of the Clan Chattan Confederation (instead of hiding as Campbells). My state, North Carolina, is a hotbed of Scottish ancestry, particularly up in the mountains:
        https://gmhg.org/
        Largest gathering in the US.

        They were probably trying to emulate Lynyrd Skynyrd (pre-dating Dr. Hook by four years) in dress since they were from the North. They had to look the part even though they came from the wrong area of the US. Jersey doesn’t scream “country.” LOL! Jersey screams “Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.” LOL!

        I suppose, in another country, they could appear “country & western” based upon that country’s view of music. It’s all a matter of perspective. And, curiously, “When You’re In Love…” has that disco flair to it…the dance-able drum beat, synthesizer, horns, the “wa-wa” sound to a companion guitar… In the US, country music never blended with disco. Country music fans would have lost their minds. They can be an angry, vocal lot. Have you heard about the backlash over US country music, now? They’ve blended much of it with rap and country music fans are, in UK terms, “cross.” Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Conway Twitty are spinning in their graves…Merle Haggard, too. LOL!

      2. Yes, I remember the storm over ‘Old Town Road’ not being included on the country chart (or it was and then got removed, I can’t remember…) As far as this Brit/Scot is concerned – he was rapping/singing about his horse. Only one genre where you sing about your horse! Country all the way!

        Also, to me The Eagles are country-rock, and ‘One of These Nights’ is disco-country-rock… an opinion which I realise might get me into a fight in Nashville!

        I do like the way that Scottish-Americans are always so proud of their heritage btw (way more than actual Scots lol)

      3. You have a point there…singing about one’s horse… Reminds me of David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” He said his friend had written the perfect country & western song, mentioning trains, trucks, rain, prison, mama and being drunk. LOL! If you’ve never heard that song, you need to look it up.

        Well, considering The Eagles were formed in California, I don’t think anyone in Nashville would care. Glenn Frey was from Detroit, Don Henley is a Texan, Bernie Leadon is from Minneapolis, Randy Meisner is from Nebraska, Don Felder is from Tom Petty’s hometown of Gainesville, Joe Walsh is from Wichita and Schmit is the only one from California. Leadon was the one that kept The Eagles in the country sound in the early days. His back ground was bluegrass so, yes, they started out as country rock. He left when the rest of the group moved away from the country sound (and sold more records in the process).

        I’m also Welsh (last name is Jones), English, Irish and Norman…with some Native American thrown in. I’m such a mutt. LOL!

        I was teasing you but, are you a Scot/Brit mix?

      4. I’ll have to check that out… the ultimate C&W song. Not sure if I’m ready for it!

        I’m pretty Scottish, though I’m sure if you go a few generations back there’ll be some Irish and English in there. I have family in England and Wales (very few of us are ‘pure Scottish’, whatever that means, as much as that will annoy the more nationalistic Scots out there…) Plus, Scotland for better or worse is still very much part of the UK, so to be Scottish is to be British, for now.

      5. Well, globally, there is a lot of race-blending. I’d like to see some genuine stats on whether there are any pure-blood (breed?) races, left. Maybe Ancestry or 23&Me would have that.

  3. badfinger20 (Max)

    Well…they were pop country really. That is what todays country music is…pop-country but taken to a new level…of badness. I do mean that as bad bad.
    I liked Dr Hook…cool melodies and they always had a sense of humor.

  4. Pingback: 456. ‘Call Me’, by Blondie – The UK Number Ones Blog

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