418. ‘Figaro’, by Brotherhood of Man

Deep breath… here we go again. For their final chart-topping trick, the Brotherhood do Boney M!

Figaro, by Brotherhood of Man (their 3rd and final #1)

1 week, from 5th – 12th February 1978

Boney M, with a dash of oompah. To tell the tale of a Spanish love-rat. Every morning when the sun is dawning, You’ll see him down on the beach… He’s a lothario, a sleazeball, maybe even a gold-digger… He’s out to make a killing… And baby if you’re willing, He’s gonna ask for more! He sounds a bit like Mozart’s philandering ‘Figaro’, which gives us perhaps the most unlikely musical comparison ever.

This, in case my little taster there didn’t spell it out clearly enough, is tremendous trash. They’ve done it again, Brotherhood of Man: taken the poppiest sounds of the day, and made them even poppier. They did it with bubblegum (‘Save Your Kisses…’), they did it with ABBA (‘Angelo’), and now they’ve done it with disco. To think this knocked off Althea & Donna’s impossibly cool ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ off top spot! Mind you, ‘Angelo’ kicked ‘I Feel Love’ out the way, so they have form in that regard…

Does this mean, though, that I dislike this record? Well, um… no. It’s catchy, dumb, and a whole lot of fun. In fact, I think this is the best of the Brotherhood’s three #1s. And it’s all down to our inveterate shagger. Uh-ho Figaro… He’s got magic-o woah… Playing guitar at the disco bar, he has his pick of the girls. What I don’t understand is why the band are making out that this is a bad thing? Why else do you have a holiday in Majorca, if not for a no-strings roll around with a Figaro?

Before doing this countdown, I of course knew Brotherhood of Man for their Eurovision-winning, million selling ‘Save Your Kisses…’, which still gets a fair bit of play today. I had no knowledge of their two follow-up number ones. I’m amazed they got two more number-ones, to be honest, and suspect that they sneaked these two one-weekers when sales were low. Still, you can only beat what’s in front of you. They remind me of Bucks Fizz, another poptastic Eurovision act who are remembered for their winning single, despite having big follow-up hits. They’ll be along soon enough…

As for Brotherhood of Man, they are still a going concern, despite a brief hiatus in the eighties. All four of the original members are there, in ‘great demand on the nostalgia and the gay circuits’… (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) Add to this the fact that there was a completely different version of the band floating around in the early ‘70s, that had scored a #10 hit in 1970, and there you go. They’re indestructible! Nothing breaks the Brotherhood…’

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/3sSYyPEUCTyMjMlN55z8SX

410. ‘Angelo’, by Brotherhood of Man

You’ve got to love how arbitrary the pop charts can be. How utterly unconcerned they are with what came before. From Donna Summer’s thrilling vision of the future; to this. The Brotherhood have returned, whether you wanted them to or not…

Angelo, by Brotherhood of Man (their 2nd of three #1s)

1 week, from 14th August – 21st August 1977

In my post on their 1st number one, ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’, I suggested that Brotherhood of Man had a whiff of ABBA about them. Two boys, two girls, a Eurovision winning song… Well, here they’re not even trying to hide the similarities. It’s ABBA-lite, Bjorn Again with an original song. (And it’s not even that original…)

Can you guess what ABBA song this is heavily influenced by? Long ago, High on a mountain in Mexico… Cue marching drums and folky guitars. We meet a shepherd boy called Angelo, who met a young girl and he loved her so… It’s a Romeo and Juliet story. She’s rich; he’s not. They run away together, forever, avoiding danger, strangers… (the lyrics read like rhyming 101). Until life catches up with them and they kill themselves. Meanwhile the darting pianos from ‘Dancing Queen’ turn up for the chorus.

It is actually quite a brutal topic for a very throwaway song. They saw them lying there, Hand in hand… (They run all the way from the mountains to the sand, just so they have something to rhyme with ‘hand.) I wonder if it was shocking at the time, for a basic little pop group to sing so flippantly about suicide? We had ‘death-discs’ a-plenty in the early sixties, but they all died in car wrecks and plane crashes, not at their own hands…

‘Fernando’ is far from being my favourite ABBA song, so this dodgy knock-off was never likely to grab me. What I will give it is that the female leads – in contrast to the male-led ‘Save Your Kisses…’ – give it their all. A song can be complete crap, but at the same time redeemed by a singer who sounds as if they believe wholeheartedly in said crap.

Amazingly, Brotherhood of Man will be back shortly, for their third and final #1. They really got some mileage out of their Eurovision fame. Equally amazingly, that disc will also be named after another Spanish-sounding hombre, ‘Figaro’. I have never heard it, but will be shivering in anticipation until we arrive.

387. ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’, by Brotherhood of Man

Oh Lordy, it’s Eurovision time again. Our 5th Eurovision chart-topper. (We need some kind of advance warning system – a Eurovision siren that I can sound to prepare you, dear listeners, for what you are about to hear…)

Save Your Kisses For Me, by Brotherhood of Man (their 1st of three #1s)

6 weeks, from 21st March – 2nd May 1976

Not that every Eurovision entry is terrible, of course. For every ‘All Kinds of Everything’ (shudder) there is a ‘Waterloo’ (hurray). ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ is, though, more towards the Dana end of the Eurovision-ometer. It is the easiest and the cheesiest slice of seventies pop-pap. I think this might actually be the very pinnacle of the genre, and that’s not a compliment.

Though it hurts to go away, It’s impossible to stay… We’ve got all the sentimental schlager themes going on here: separation, a man doing a man’s work, a cute woman pining at home… I’m getting whiffs of ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’ and ‘Billy, Don’t Be a Hero’, minus all the war and executions. I’m also getting more than a whiff (an almighty reeking stench, to be honest) of Dawn’s ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon…’ The melody is uncannily similar, and lead singer Martin Lee’s ‘tache and chest-hair combination is veryTony Orlando.

Save… Your… Kisses for me, Save all your kisses for me, Bye-bye baby, Goodbye… You don’t have to dig too deep for other chart-topping comparisons, either. The ‘bye-bye baby’ line sounds mighty familiar, while Brotherhood of Man’s two boys-two girls line-up was clearly following ABBA’s successful formula from two years earlier. And it worked. Not only did ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ win the contest, it was the biggest single of 1976, and is still one of the biggest selling singles of all time in the UK…

There are a few things to like about this record. There’s a barroom piano, which always sounds good in singalongs like this, and some ridiculous trumpet flourishes. And at least it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which would be a disaster. I’m about to admit that I’m warming to this silly little record… Until, wait a moment. There’s a plot-twist in the very last line.

Won’t you save them for me… Lee croons… Even though you’re only three… The song ends as you’re still wondering what the hell just happened. Ah, of course. He was singing to his daughter all along. Awww… Actually, no. If I were scoring each #1, then that would have just knocked five points off this one’s total. And not because it’s unintentionally creepy – making you think he’s singing about his girlfriend only to find out it’s a toddler – but because it’s dumb. And it’s been done before. Gilbert O’ Sullivan did it in ‘Clair’ four years ago, and it annoyed me then, while Chuck Berry did it in ‘Memphis, Tennessee’ way before that… It is the pop song equivalent of a TV show playing the ‘It was all just a dream…’ card.

Whatever the reason, people clearly dug this kind of cute trick in the seventies. They launched this record to the top of the charts for six long weeks. And they launched the chart-topping career of Brotherhood of Man, who managed something that not many Eurovision acts (ABBA excluded) manage… follow-up hits. Follow-up chart-toppers, even. Save your kisses until then, then, as the Brotherhood will be back. I’ll have my siren up and running by then, to give you plenty of advance warning…