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Baker's Dozen

Composites For A Generation: James Fry's Baker's Dozen
John Quin , September 14th, 2022 08:10

From the hits of Hot Chocolate and the trashy joys of Sigue Sigue Sputnik to the 'death jazz' of Miles Davis and the angst of Portishead, James Fry takes us through his life in thirteen albums


Hot Chocolate – 20 Hottest Hits

It’s one of those records that have always been in my life. The cover is astonishing, it’s a work of art, the kind of thing Salvador Dalí would do. Track wise, well – the band was multicultural and they didn’t appear to let that get in the way of what they were about. The fact they are called Hot Chocolate is quite profound but the subject matter they tackled was never an issue – ‘Emma’ is about suicide, ‘Brother Louie’ is about family race issues. And they were an incredibly sexy group, talking about shagging in the back of Cadillacs. ‘Put Your Love In Me’, which is one of their best songs, is more like an album track than something you’d expect to hear on a greatest hits. You don’t hear that one on the radio but it’s one of their best singles. Then there’s the obvious stuff that was used in movies like ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ and ‘You Sexy Thing’, the clichéd Hot Chocolate if you like, but they should be very proud of the songs they’ve written and responsible for.

This album runs quite deep in a way. Without trying to prove anything to you, the subject matter is effortless done, even though it’s quite tricky in places. We have TV debates about what they were singing now, things that are unpacked in detail by intellectuals, but Hot Chocolate quite casually talked about major issues in a simple pop song.

I’m not going to go on about the good old days or whatever but we know what Hot Chocolate were talking about. I mean I’m a white guy from a Barrett house, I can’t maintain that I fully understand the Black condition in the 1970s. But looking back what’s interesting is that intellectuals can sit and debate about ‘Emma’ and ‘Brother Louie’ whereas they, Hot Chocolate, just threw these ideas into the mix, and you’d hear this in the local youth club. But it wasn’t done in a ‘eat your greens’ way – a ‘you should think this’ diktat. It was like Motown – I love that about pop music, the power of pop music – to be subversive. Hot Chocolate were a wonderful soundtrack to being a young person.