Hot Chocolate various venues Sunderland early 1970s

hot 1

Now this really is a guilty pleasure! Hot Chocolate were playing the clubs and ballrooms throughout the early to mid 70s before they broke it really big. I recall seeing them several times at Sunderland Locarno, Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall and possibly Sunderland Top Rank in the period 1971 to 1974. They were already having hits by this stage such as “Love Is Life” and were a great live, fun band. I am sure that I saw them at one of the Fresher’s Balls at Sunderland Polytechnic at one stage.

I found the following biography on the official Hot Chocolate website: “Hot Chocolate formed in Brixton, London, England in 1968. Members of the group included Errol Brown, Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson, Harvey Hinsley, Patrick Olive and Tony Wilson.” Now one of the most fascinating things about writing this blog is that it encourages me to find out the history of the band I am writing about. I thought I knew quite a lot about the beginnings of Hot Chocolate. How wrong I was. The biography goes on to tell me:

“In 1969 the band started working on a reggae version of the John Lennon song “Give Peace A Chance”.  Errol Brown had changed the lyrics for their version but was informed that he could not do this without John Lennon’s permission, so a copy of the demo was sent to the Beatles Apple record label to see what they thought of it.   Fortunately, John loved the version and it was released on the Apple label.” Well, I never knew that and I have never heard Hot Chocolate’s version of “Give Peace a Chance”. So, I looked on eBay and tried to buy a copy, but they are pretty expensive. Then, courtesy of Alexa and Amazon Music, I was able to listen to the track in the comfort of my own home. In some ways, it is quite close to the original; however, it is very reggae oriented also. Listen to it if you get a chance.

The band was apparently named Hot Chocolate by a secretary at the record company and in 1970 they released their first hit single “Love is Life” which reached number 6 in the UK charts. They then went on to have at least one hit a year for the next 15 years, having over 30 singles in the UK charts including massive hits such as “So You Win Again” (which reached number 1 in the UK charts) and “You Sexy Thing” (which reached number 2).

hot 2In 1985, Errol Brown left the band and at that point they disbanded. Hot Chocolate reformed with a new singer in 1992 and continue to tour to this day. Errol Brown went on to have a successful solo career until he retired in 2009.

My favourite song was always “Emma”. I have vivid memories of standing at the front of the stage at Sunderland Locarno watching Errol Brown singing that song just after it had been released. That was probably the last time I got to see them. From then on they moved from playing ballrooms to headlining Newcastle City Hall. I guess, after that, I didn’t see them as a proper rock band and our paths never crossed again. Another thing about writing this blog, is that I am encouraged to buy old LPs of the band’s work and listen to their music again. I bought myself a copy of Hot Chocolate XIV Greatest Hits from eBay (pictured). I must admit I had forgotten just how successful the band was. Looking back, they gave me lots of fun nights in the early days.

Errol Brown sadly passed away from liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas on 6 May 2015. RIP Errol Brown.

8 responses to this post.

  1. “Emma”is my favorite too. Takes me back to a special place and time in my life.


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 23, 2021 at 11:50 am

      Yes music has a way of transporting us back to special times and happy days. I can picture Errol Brown in front of me singing it. A pretty cool guy. Best wishes Peter


  2. Posted by Bryan on August 22, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    Russ Ballard wrote, So You Win Again. It became another monster hit from one of the most successful bands in British music history. Errol Brown was as cool as John Shaft & the great Issac Hayes. RIP Errol.


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 23, 2021 at 11:48 am

      Thanks Bryan. So I learn a little more about Hot Chocolate. I saw Russ Ballard several times in Argent. His guitar with holes in was pretty cool! Good comparison with Shaft. I remember seeing that film when it came out and I thought it was great! Happy days Peter


  3. Posted by Maria on August 22, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    I remember seeing Hot Chocolate in the Raith Ballroom in Kirkcaldy Fife in the 70s, must have been early 70s, as I was under age so shouldn’t have been in there, good memories


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 23, 2021 at 11:45 am

      Happy days Maria. It is so much more fun when you know you shouldn’t be there! Everything seems more exciting, brighter, louder and especially good if it is illegal! Cheers Peter


  4. Posted by Les on August 22, 2021 at 9:15 pm

    Very interesting about the ‘Give Peace a Chance’. Thanks.


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 23, 2021 at 11:43 am

      Yes Les I was surprised about that. As I said, doing these blog posts teaches me about the band and renews my interest in their music. Best wishes Peter


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